"Hello my name is Sara, I am 25 years old and I am from Italy. I am an open-minded person that loves nature and the cultural exchange. I enjoy travelling and exploring new cultures. So far I visited many European and International countries with abroad living period in Australia and Scotland.
I am a marine scientist with the passion for corals and nudibranchs. Having recently graduated with a Master’s degree in Marine Resources Development and Protection at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, I am now looking to orient myself towards a career where I would be in charge of an innovative project in coral reef ecology, research and conservation. I first developed the passion and curiosity about coral reefs as a diver. I began diving at 17 years old, trained by my father, a certified dive instructor and I am now a Rescue diver. When I first dived in the Red Sea, I was totally fascinated by the coral reef and the marine life surrounding this underwater ecosystem. My passion for diving and interest in discovering more about marine life has grown year after year influencing my life choices and travel direction. I have dived in the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, in Australia, Indonesia and Maldives, also developing my skills in underwater photography. This passion has driven my study choices and it is stimulating my interest in research related to this important ecosystem and how its resources can be sustainable developed for the future benefit of mankind.
I have direct experience in testing how coral respond to rapid change in confined and unstable environments. I conducted a research project at Heriot-Watt University focused on the time related gene expression profile of HSP70 in the tropical coral Stylophora pistillata. In this study I detected a rapid response to thermal shock never observed before, which suggest that corals can respond through biochemical defense mechanism in a very short time (within 1 hour of the exposure). The results of this study have been presented at the MASTS Annual Science Meeting 2015 in Glasgow and are being prepared for publication in the journal Coral Reefs. The above-mentioned project provided me with relevant expertise in coral biology, coral maintenance, coral propagation, molecular analysis and working in wet and dry labs. During my MSc I also participated in a field trip on Magoodhoo Island (Faafu Atoll, Maldives), where I learnt about tropical corals and fish biology, coral reefs ecology and geology, the effect of climate change and human induced impacts that are threatening the reef ecosystem in relation to the local awareness and perception.
At the moment my plans for progressing my career in marine sciences involve refining my experience and expertise with specific internships or volunteer programs. The Cerf Island Conservation Programme offers an excellent opportunity for those who are willing to get involved in coral reef research and conservation projects. I am thrilled to be part of this program, being able to get in the water everyday and to interact with the visitors of the island. So far it has been a full immersion start, getting familiar with the three snorkel trails set along the west reef of Cerf Island and diving with Chloé for checking and cleaning the frames of the coral nursery. The reef here has much diversity; inhabited by several species of corals, reef fish, turtles, stingrays, nudibranchs, sea urchins and many others. The reef is also sustained by an extended seagrass bed, which is an important biome for juvenile fish recruitment and feeding habitat of many species. The sad part is seeing that most of this reef is becoming monochromatic because of the current coral bleaching which is spreading quickly across the Indo-Pacific Region. It’s very important to raise awareness and start taking action as a single and as a community in the hope that this fragile ecosystem will be able to recover again!"
Thanks Sara! Welcome aboard and we look forward to having you here. Check out all these captures by Sara herself in her first couple of days with us.
Two months already? Richard has flown the coop but he leaves CICP with these words...
"Hello everybody. Today is my last day in Seychelles! So let me tell you about my experience with the Cerf Island Conservation Programme.
I went to Seychelles because I thought it would be a really nice place to learn about marine biology and take a break from uni to relax. When I heard about the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS), I sent them my CV and after being accepted I arrived on Cerf Island.
I’ve learnt about corals, fish and invertebrates but also those organism interactions on the reef such as the crown of thorns (Acanthaster planci) which eat corals. Though it sounds terrible, it allows the trimming back of faster, more competitive branching corals to give other, slower growing corals a chance on the reef. However, too many on a reef ecosystem (more than 30 per hectare) can yield devastating results such as the outbreak on Beau Vallon Reefs. I've also learned about the corals and their zooxanthellae, anemone fish and their anemone and cleaner wrasse!
Every day I took part in beach cleans, snorkeling/hiking with guests, learning about the reef ecosystem, and maintaining the snorkel trails. On other days I helped maintain the nurseries as they need to be cleaned to remove fouling organisms. I’ve learned about the future reef surveys that will take part to assess the substrate and the biomass of fish, corals, invertebrates along certain sections of the reefs. Not only that, but I’ve been able to dive into Coral Point Count with Excel extensions (CPCe) which is a computer program used to determine coral cover using underwater images as well as measuring coral growth.
I also took a large part in maintaining the hiking trails. Not only did Aisha, Michel and I clear the paths, but we also made new hiking signs so the guests may follow the paths without getting lost! The wooden signs were a nice touch but I’ve also cleared a second trail which leads to a fantastic viewpoint of St. Anne’s Marine Park. It took a few days in the hot sun with a GPS and Machete but now clients can visit the view point and even make a new friend! Thanks to Aisha (Seychelles Maritme Academy), Michel and Cheril (MCSS staff) for helping us along the way with any assorted tasks that needed to be done.
On the weekends, I was able to branch out and dive, visit Mahe, Praslin and La Digue! For sure my two months with this crew was very interesting, fun and most importantly educational. Thank you CICP!"
Thank you Richard for all of your hard work, dedication and enthusiasm with this project. We sure have made some headway on this project during your stay here. We'll miss you!