A seminar on the introduction of a new analytical tool for local scientists was recently organised by the University of Malta and Aquabiotech.
The seminar, which focused on potential ecological applications of Stable Isotope Analysis (SIA), was held at the Aquabiotech premises in Mosta. Representatives from the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) and the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture (DFA), as well as by a number of University of Malta students and academic staff, attended the seminar.
This seminar was supported within the ambit of the project ‘Stable Isotope Analyses (SIA) for marine applications – developing a national capacity’ funded through the Internationalisation Partnership Awards Scheme (IPAS) scheme. Prof. Alan Deidun, resident academic within the Physical Oceanography Research Group of the Faculty of Science, had successfully applied for the IPAS grant, launched by the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST), in 2018.
Speakers at the SIA seminar included Dr Brian Hayden, who heads the SINLAB (Stable Isotopes in Nature Laboratory) at the University of New Brunswick in Canada. The SINLAB is the oldest and largest stable isotope analysis facility in Atlantic Canada. It has been in operation since 1998 and analyses 18,000 – 20,000 samples annually for national and international clients including government researchers, academics and environmental consultants.
Prof. Alan Deidun delivered a lecture on the ecology of two locally-recorded Invasive Alien Species (IAS) – the blue swimmer crab (Portunus segnis) and the red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) – two potential case studies from local marine and freshwater ecosystems for the application of SIA.
Dr Alexia Massa-Gallucci gave an overview of the applicability of SIA in freshwater and marine ecology.
Stable isotopes are increasingly being deployed to unravel complex ecological conundrums. SIA is increasingly being implemented to shed light on feeding relationships within an ecosystem as well as to identify feeding grounds of migratory species.