Explore the Arches - Meet the Researcher
Professor Alan Deidun
Festival Area: Meet the Researcher
The Mediterranean Sea is warming up! And, alien species are coming in, along with more jellyfish blooms and other changes detected by Professor Alan Deidun, citizens of Malta and other experts. During the festival, beautiful videos of Malta’s waters produced by Professor Deidun’s team were shown, coupled with a q&a session with the researcher.
Filfla - An Incredible Malta Diving Experience
Clips from this documentary created by Shaun Arrigo, Pedja Miletic and Professor Deidun, where showcased during the festival. It takes viewers closer than they have ever been to the enigmatic island of Filfla and is significant in light of the fact that Malta’s rich marine environment attracts around 110,000 tourists to experience scuba diving each year. The issue of preserving and protecting this marine habitat is of crucial importance both in terms of our collective heritage and our tourism product.
During our virtual webinar with Professor Deidun during the festival we discussed issues which were creatively produced into animations across his teams earlier on!
We normally associate alien species with extra-terrestrial life from outer space…. However, aliens are actually closer to home. Biologists use the term to refer to species which are dispersed outside their native range due to human activities. Most alien species populations never actually reach concerning numbers, but a small fraction, the invasive species, are more insidious. Under the right conditions their numbers explode.
The Mediterranean is a biodiversity and invasion hotspot, due to the world’s largest shipping canal – the Suez Canal – providing a short-cut between regions by connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. As a result, large numbers of species are finding their way to the Mediterranean. Close to 1000 marine alien species have already been recorded from the Mediterranean so far, and the number is increasing each year.
Some invasive alien species are notorious, including the feared lionfish, the toxic silver-cheeked toadfish, the nomadic jellyfish and the killer green alga. These species are having significant negative impacts on fishers, tourism and public health. Many species also impact marine ecosystems by competing with native species and altering local marine habitats.
Citizen science is a useful tool in monitoring the spread of invasive alien species. Formulating effective policies, such as trade bans, is also essential to reduce the problem. The project HARMONY in the Malta-Sicily Channel, has collected data so policy-makers are better informed to manage the challenge. A citizen science campaign conducted in the Maltese Islands is the Spot the Alien Fish one, which is coordinated by Professor Alan Deidun’s team at the University of Malta and the International Ocean Institute. The ERA is the national authority in Malta responsible for the management of invasive alien species.
HARMONY aims to suggest a set of monitoring and control measures between the two cross-border regions of Sicily and Malta. The project will work on the integrity of marine seafloor and the inhabiting species. The effects of habitat fragmentation in facilitating the diffusion of Non-Indigenous Species (NIS) will also be investigated. By integrating these two aspects, HARMONY will reach a better understanding of marine ecosystem functioning in a cross-border context and will directly contribute to the monitoring obligations for Descriptor 2 (Non-indigenous species do not adversely alter the ecosystem) and for Descriptor 6 (The sea floor integrity ensures functioning of the ecosystem) within the MSFD (Marine Strategy Framework Directive).
BYTHOS (Biotechnologies for Human Health and Blue Growth) is a project funded within the framework of the Interreg Italia-Malta 2014-2020 Operational Programme I. The project brings together six partners from Sicily and Malta, with the Maltese partners being the University of Malta, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the SME Aquabiotech Limited.
Professor Deidun’s aim with this project is the isolation of BAMs (Biologically Active Molecules, such as collagen, for which there is a high market demand) from waste fish biomass which is normally discarded.
Such waste fish biomass could originate from bycatch, from the processing of fish sold at markets, restaurants and shops or even from the offal (the interns of butchered animals) of caged fish.
The Spot the Jellyfish campaign is a vital part of Professor Deidun’s push for public involvement in citizen science. The project is intent on educating the public on the varieties of jellyfish experienced locally and involving them consistently within the data collection process.