Guess who’s back?!
After my return in La Réunion for my Master’s certification and my trip to Madagascar, I have decided to come back in order to work alongside the MCSS and CICP crew! It’s really great that I am able to help and be involved again in the work conducted here. It will also enable me to gain even more professional experience and further my knowledge on tropical marine ecosystems and especially coral reefs.
Carla and I looked after CICP during Savi’s absence and I’m really happy to work with her, as I’m sure the next weeks will work quite well! And the best thing is she can teach me the Créole Seselwa hehe ! I got my bearings again very quick! Savi introduced me to two new tasks of CICP which I’m really excited about! Their new coral monitoring enables to study the recovery capability of some colonies by taking a picture of them once a week, and their turtle identification project which intends to build a catalogue of all the turtles encountered on the reefs of St Anne Marine Park and further follow the population.
Remember that bleaching event that happened the last few months? The water temperature reached 32° in April!! The damages were very severe on the reef itself and on our nurseries, especially on the branching colonies of Acropora. Now, only a few fragments of Stylophora are remaining alive on our nurseries, as soon as possible we will transplant them on an artificial reef made of Rebar! If you can’t tell, I can’t wait!! The bleaching events show the vulnerability of coral reefs and the limit of such actions of active restoration. Even if our means of action are small, we can’t relinquish to do nothing to help our reef to cope with their changing and challenging environment.
"It’s been over month since I’ve volunteered with CICP and its been one of the best experiences I’ve had so far! We’ve been monitoring the corals, hiking, beach cleaning and snorkelling. I’ve learned quite a lot about coral life forms and the scientific names of different corals and I’ve been able to identify some of them while snorkeling together with Margaux. I’ve also been learning about different fish, and I’ve encountered quite a few that I’ve been able to identify them very easily.
Just last week, we came across a Hawksbill turtle which was resting on the corals while having a little snack. We took loads of pictures of it so we could then come back to the office and observe the picture of the turtle by looking at its different scute (scales on the face) patterns and identify it through the use of Interactive Individual Identification System (I3S). This program allows us to identify each encountered turtle and allow for a turtle adoption program as we track their moves and behaviours around our reefs.
I also came across a baby eagle ray which was swimming past me very fast but I managed to get a good look at it and it was very beautiful. I’ve also seen three feather tailed rays which camouflaged very well as they were about the same colour as the sand but as we got closer they got up and left as we snapped a few pictures of it.
That week we also had clients who were very interested in the sea and really enjoyed and appreciated our company while snorkelling as we showed them some of our beautiful corals such as Pocilliopora, Platygyra, Acropora and much more. After the snorkel the clients came to thank us and started sharing stories about their underwater experiences which was very interesting to hear as I always love talking about the ocean and sharing my love for it with other people; it’s a great satisfaction to know that other people share the same love for it as I do.
I’ve also come across quite a few other animals such as squid, barracuda, which didn’t look very friendly, and even a lion fish which was very beautiful, but of course I couldn’t go very close to it. On some days the weather here on Cerf wasn’t very good, but we don’t let that stop us! Just the other day we were able to finish the hike together with clients who were really determined and quite satisfied by the mesmerising view at the viewpoint staring at the beautiful islands such as Moyenne and Sainte Anne and the clients really enjoyed it! I am very eager to keep coming to Cerf and to learn so much more about the corals and fish!"
Chloe's time here with us on Cerf has run out. 6 months has flown by but it is time for her to return to Reunion to complete her Master's thesis and present her finding at the end of June. Here are a few parting words...
'Time went so fast during these 6 months spent among Seychelles coral reefs and islands. The coral nursery project was a wonderful experience, and I could never thank enough all the people involved directly or indirectly. Each single person that helped us, even for the smallest tasks, has made this project happen. This project has been possible because of the partnership established between all the stakeholders of Cerf Island and I think it is an essential starting point for any restoration program. We succeeded in the construction of both our nursery designs from cheap materials. For weeks, the corals on the reefs and our nurseries on Cerf Island have suffered from a very severe bleaching event, and unfortunately a lot of them died, especially those at the shallower depths. However, we have started to observe some Porites and Stylophora fragments returning to their natural colour, which is a sign of their recovery! Coral reefs are facing a rapid decline worldwide and considering the global impacts, the successful recovery of degraded reefs is uncertain. Unfortunately the reefs of tomorrow will never be the reef of yesterday. The “gardening” approach of corals is a promising tool for coral restoration as nurseries can be easily established and have already proved their efficiency by enhanced survivorship and growth of nursery farmed transplanted corals. Also this restoration strategy might be considered as a climate change mitigator. It is still a relatively recent field of research and many aspects could continue to be studied such as nursery types, location, maintenance/monitoring protocols, coral species, genotypic considerations and economic consideration among others. A lot still has to be done This first coral restoration experience has aroused a very high interest for my future professional aspirations, and I look forward to learning and gaining even more experience to be part of the restoration of coral reefs. I hope these incredibly vulnerable ecosystems will benefit further consideration from people and that the reefs of Cerf Island will flourish with life thanks to the work conducted here.
Long live the corals!"
Good luck on your masters and thanks for all the effort for our corals!
We have waved a very sad farewell to smiling Natalie as she has returned to her homeland for just a bit before travelling to Madagascar continue her love for conservation there. We love and miss you Nat-Nat.
We've been keeping busy with the regular beach cleans, snorkel trips and guided hikes no matter how persistent the rainy season has been but now its time for some new faces and new updates!!
Say hello to our longest volunteer yet who is here to work on her Master's thesis. Read on to find out more about our coral loving guest!
"Hi I’m Chloe,
I’m one of those lucky persons who have always known what I wanted to do in my life. I’ve always been passionate by natural sciences and the amazing biodiversity richness of our planet. I was born in France, far from tropical waters and coral reefs. I’ve spend a part of my childhood near the Mediterranean Sea where I’ve discovered scuba diving and sailing that triggered my fascination for oceans and seas. So far I’ve always been fascinated by marine wildlife, but I would never have known that I would aspire to be a marine biologist.
Last year, after finishing my degree in Biology of Organisms, Populations and Ecosystems in Toulouse, in the south-west of France, I decided to move to Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean; a volcanic island between Madagascar and Mauritius to study for a Master’s degree in Biodiversity and Tropical Ecosystems. This decision has changed my life. Not only was I instantly captivated by the wonderful marine wildlife and beautiful tropical waters, I had amazing experiences as my first encounter with a humpback whale and her calf, an engraved memory for ever. In Réunion, I started to practice scuba and free diving, and get even more fascinated by the subaquatic world and sensitivity to marine animals. In addition to my courses at university, my diving and involvement in different associations, such as my outdoor sports student association Grand Air with which we do cleaning dives, I know from now that I want to commit myself to the development of science knowledge and the conservation of island ecosystems.
I’m now in my 2nd year of my master’s and my degree will be validated with a 6 month internship…and here comes my work at Cerf Island in Seychelles not far from my volcanic island. I’ve discovered the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles at a workshop at my University in Réunion where David had presented their work. Naturally, I sent him an e-mail for joining them in their research and conservation projects. I had the opportunity to be welcomed at Cerf Island to work on the brand new coral nursery project of the Cerf Island Conservation Program.
Restoration measures on coral reefs, and especially active actions such as transplantation or nurseries, has drawn much attention in the past decade as it become evident that coral reefs are often unable to recover naturally from anthropogenic stress without manipulation. My work here consists in the construction of two different in-situ nursery designs, a tree and a mini-floating nurseries, and the evaluation of their efficiency, in terms of survival and coral growth. We will also conducted an ecological assessment of the coral reef site intended to be restored. This project is perfect because it fulfils my aspirations as a research scientist as I can elaborate and conduct my own experimental protocols and at the same time offers me the opportunity to develop my skills in field study. And what a dream to conduct a scientific work on a tropical island! My presence here further enables me to raise awareness of the visitors of the island on the need to protect coral reefs and their marine biodiversity with snorkeling trails. I hope that my work here will enable an effective ecological restoration of the Cerf Island’s coral reefs and that people will be more aware of the importance of these essential endangered ecosystems.
The nurseries are now almost ready to be settled underwater and news of our little reared coral colonies will come soon :) !!"