Astonishingly it turns out getting hold of a life-sized model sunfish is not a simple task… but life has ways of surprising you!
Perhaps I should start this again. As you may know, I am attempting as part of my PhD to create a belt-like harness system to fasten data-loggers to ocean sunfish which will pop off after 2 hours, whilst avoiding invasive attachment methods (such as inter-muscular t-bars, fin punches etc.). This will serve the dual purpose of improving animal welfare standards and increasing the quality of data collected (as we suggest that the fish will demonstrate more natural behaviours when less stressed).
This section of my PhD is based on the work of Houghton et al., 2009 who first built a similar harness system, and whose work I hope to build on by assessing and reducing any drag caused by the harness and which may affect the fish.
However, before we go into any detailed hydrodynamics (eek!) we first need a model sunfish. In essence I need to test how the harness fits the fish in differing water conditions, and as I cannot do that to a living fish, I need a static model to test my prototype harnesses on in wave tanks… and for that I need help!
Luckily for me, Irish artist Ben Reily (no not the Spiderman one that Google offers… try this link http://www.benreilly.ie/) has worked with my supervisor in the past and in 2007 made a cast of a dead sunfish that washed ashore. He was able to find the casts, patch them up and create me two beautiful wax and fibreglass models with incredible detail!
Sunfish ‘Kate’ modelling the prototype harness
These two lovely sunfish models, named Kate and Cara (Moss & Delevingne obviously!) are now awaiting their cue, to strut their stuff on a watery catwalk where their every move will be closely monitored. All going well, this will ensure that I can record every detailed movement and behaviour of their living fishy counterparts, without the harness flapping around or restricting their swimming!
So after a quick weekend trip to the Backwater Artists Workshop in the lovely city of Cork, I have my two leading ladies, now back in Belfast ready to test my gear in Italy this summer field season. Watch this space!