Detecting respiratory diseases in dolphins, knowing the language of belugas or helping to reduce the impact of fishing on sea turtles are some of the recent achievements that have placed the Oceanographic Foundation of the Valencian Community in the forefront of international research and conservation of the marine ecosystem with more than a hundred projects -80 research and 25 conservation- developed during its five years of existence.
The great diversity of animals that inhabit the Oceanogràfic and the ease of accessing them is an element and an opportunity that attracts the scientific community, making it possible for researchers from all over the world to study species and execute projects that would otherwise be impossible to complete.
An immense part of the research carried out at the Foundation is carried out in collaboration with public and private entities and institutions of an international nature. In addition, many of these studies have made it possible to apply the knowledge acquired with the Valencian aquarium animals in their natural environment, such as dolphins and belugas.
The Oceanogràfic Foundation celebrates its fifth anniversary this year and the work of its researchers has resulted in the publication of 145 articles in scientific journals specialized in the marine field, 15 doctoral theses -5 completed and 10 in progress-, more than 15 final degree and master’s projects, the development of 30 lines of research and 25 of conservation and the realization of 78 interventions in congresses, activities training courses, courses and international meetings.
In the same way, the Oceanogràfic Foundation’s conservation program has made it possible to serve – within the framework of action of the Valencian Community Stranding Network – 366 turtles and more than thirty animals stranded between cetaceans and sharks since 2016.
Some works that are completed with the frenetic informative activity that is carried out both in the aquarium itself and in the immediate environment, with awareness-raising initiatives for the conservation of the seas and oceans.
Animals trained for science
With the birth of the Oceanogràfic Foundation in 2016, research, conservation and dissemination efforts were increased with the aim of expanding the Valencian aquarium’s mission of protecting and conserving the seas and oceans.
A sample of these studies carried out in recent years is the neurological study in dolphins. That is, how these animals perceive and integrate the whistles of other individuals of their species into their brains. A project of great importance to know the language in dolphins and study your cognitive abilities.
Pulmonary research is another of the priority lines at the Oceanogràfic Foundation. In recent years they have carried out respiratory studies with the walruses that lived in the Oceanogràfic – and that currently inhabit the Pairi Daiza and Tierpark-Hagenbeck Zoo within a European breeding project – to understand their diving capacity; an essential behavior to obtain food in this species classified as vulnerable according to the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Learning the language of the belugas
Kylu, the baby beluga whale that, like the Oceanogràfic Foundation is five years old, has been a gift and an opportunity for science and researchers, since this exceptional circumstance has made and makes it possible to carry out scientific projects such as monitoring of their vocalizations to understand how you communicate with your mother, Yulka.
A research project that consists of more than 300 hours of conversations between mother and child to understand their language, help its conservation and understand if the noise from boats in the Arctic, increasingly abundant, covers the contact call of the young to their mothers, and as a result of that noise the little ones can get lost, increasing the risk of death.
Diver’s disease in turtles
Another area of important scientific relevance has been the physiological study that protects large divers from decompression effects, as in the case of sea turtles. Studies at the Oceanogràfic have pointed out that, during immersion, their lungs have mechanisms to prevent the formation of nitrogen bubbles in the blood – the diver’s disease – but when the animals are trapped by a fishing net, this system could become altered and, consequently, favor the appearance of these dangerous bubbles and, eventually, cause their death.
A discovery that has had a great impact on the world scientific community, since it implies that many turtles captured in nets and returned to the sea they could die shortly after. That is why the Oceanogràfic Foundation maintains a close collaboration with the fishermen of the region who, when they find a turtle among their nets, facilitate the work so that they can be treated at the Oceanogràfic Foundation before returning to the sea. .
The recovery of these animals in the Area of Recovery and Conservation of Animals (ARCA) del Mar -created in 2007- is possible thanks to the Stranding Network of the Valencian Community, made up of the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Climate Emergency and Ecological Transition and the University of Valencia, who centralizes 112 calls and alerts according to the established protocol.
The Foundation’s conservation experts also carry out breeding programs in a controlled environment of endangered species such as the European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) and gallipat (Pleurodeles waltl) and others such as the dogfish shark (Scyliorhinus canicula) of which have been introduced to the natural environment about 600 copies.
Know, love and protect the sea
The third fundamental pillar of the Foundation’s activity is outreach. During these five years, numerous actions have been developed to make society aware of the magnitude of the problem with the oceans and their inhabitants.
Proof of this has been the “Turtles in the Mediterranean” awareness campaign, promoted by the Foundation for two summers in collaboration with the autonomous governments, town councils, FGV and municipalities of the Valencian coast, Balearic Islands and Murcia, with the aim of raise awareness that a call to 112 can save nests, hatchlings and sea turtles.
In collaboration with Paradores de Turismo, Lanjarón and various municipalities, actions have also been launched to try to reduce the volume of waste under the slogan “For a sea without plastics”. In addition, volunteer training programs have been promoted for beach cleaning campaigns and since 2016 we have collaborated with 85 national and international companies, associations and institutions.
Although scientific activity was promoted with the creation of the Oceanogràfic Foundation five years ago, the commitment to science and research has been present at the Oceanogràfic de la Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències since its opening in 2003.
Proof of this are the numerous research studies that have been carried out since 2003 and 2016 amounting to 87 projects developed within 44 lines of research and conservation, 35 collaborations with entities and institutions and 30 published scientific articles.