Our team here have made some lasting memories during their internship with us; some good and unfortunately some bad.
In this three part series of blog updates, let Cynthia, Gabriel and Merijn recap their time here on Cerf Island since we last left off.
"It’s almost the last day of May already, and it’s been a little more than a month since we first arrived here on Cerf Island. In the meantime, we have made ourselves useful to the CICP, but of course we also had plenty of time to enjoy ourselves!
When we arrived, the priority was to learn all the corals present here in the Indian Ocean and focusing on those present/surviving at Cerf. Remember the nasty-barbaric genus names? Well, now thanks to Savi’s teaching skills, we know them all and we did great on our coral ID final test! Little coral nerds we became, yes. My definitive favorites are the valley-forming corals, Platygyra and Leptoria, also known as Brain Corals. But we also learnt about some of the reef fish, so ask us whatever you want about the butterfly fish (our BFFs yep!), triggerfish, angelfish and parrotfish! I especially like to put all we learnt into practice during the guided snorkel tours. Most of the people seem to be very interested on it.
Most of our time goes into raising public awareness on the importance of coral reefs and their biodiversity, the dangers of marine pollution, and other threats. We do this by snorkeling with visitors who ask for a guide to teach about the things they can encounter underwater (not in the least the artificial reef frames!), but also by being available for questions when we are in the Cerf Island Resort office. People can also see us beach cleaning every day, so we carry out the message of keeping the beaches clean and placing your litter (as tiny a job as it is, taking away a white plastic bag that resembles a jellyfish, can save a hungry turtles’ life) in the appropriate locations.
When in the office we spend quite a lot of time measuring the coral fragments of the artificial reef frames. Pictures of them get taken on the same day every month, and by analyzing their dimensions with a piece of measuring software(ImageJ and Photoshop), we can see how much they’ve grown (or diminished!) over the past months. It seems like the Acropora genu is far ahead in terms of growth and survival (which is to be expected). Those colonies are doing great believe me! Except when a tourist decided to go coral shopping on the frames and detach some of the fragments to bake them in the sun hoping to bring them home…The corals had been out of the sea an hour and they were quickly rushed back to the reef.
Speaking of which, we are getting a new frame ready as I write! More stable substrate to place corals on, yay! We´ve started working on the artificial frames as we are preparing the welded rebar frames which will set on the reef pretty soon. First we have to cover the iron structures with resin and sand. Once they are dried and ready, we´re going to swim them to the designated location and we´ll attach some fragments from the nurseries and fragments from colonies on the older frames. Sounds pretty exciting!"
More helping hands from Europe!
"Hi everyone! I´m Gabriel, a Spanish student who is on the first year of a Master´s program called “Marine Biodiversity and Conservation” at Ghent University, in Belgium. Thanks to this Master, I had the opportunity to collaborate on an internship with MSCC. Concretely, I joined Cerf Island Conservation Program, on Cerf Island.
As a nature lover and a big fan of every kind of species that might exist, I decided to do my bachelor in Biology, in the Autonomous University of Madrid. Once I got my diploma in Biology I asked myself “Ok Gabri, so what´s next?” I´ve always been very interested in the marine world, so I decided to enroll the Master program in Ghent.
Since I was a child the underwater world always held a great fascination for me. Especially, I was very interested in coral reefs. I was captivated by the huge diversity that you can find of them underwater. Corals of multiple colors and shapes, building up together an entire ecosystem, hosting an immense variety of species and playing an important role on the well-functioning of the ecosystem, it´s literally amazing.
At present, our oceans and seas have been heavily affected and negatively impacted by human activities. Climate change, and his consequent increase of temperature, is threating these ecosystems. This fact is having sad consequences in our precious corals reefs, which get very and most of them finally die. Thus, when I saw the opportunity to collaborate with MSCC regarding “Coral´s restoration” in Cerf island, I didn´t hesitate and I decided to join the group.
I´ve just arrived on Cerf Island and started to work on the project. Normally during the mornings I walk along the beach with my mates Merjin and Cynthia, trying to pick up the trash that sometimes appears on the sand and then we try to separate them to bring them lastly to a recycle spot. Later, we usually go for snorkeling if there are some guests interested in take a tour around the coral reefs. Also, we´ve started with the first workshop of coral identification. Savi is teaching us the great diversity that you can find on Cerf Island. It is very nice but sometimes is difficult to remember all of them…they are super diverse!!
Today, we were enjoying putting in practice what we learnt so far going for snorkeling. It was very nice and we enjoyed a lot now that we know some of them (I think my favorite coral by now is Montipora).
To be honest, this is my first week here and I really feel that it´s started perfectly. I´m willing to learn more about these fantastic corals and enjoy my time with my friends. This project makes me enthusiastic about contribute in a certain way to alleviate the situation."
"I am Merijn van den Bosch, a 23-year old student from Ghent University in Belgium.
Just as Cynthia and Gabriel, I will be staying at Cerf Island for the next two months to help out with the CICP-project.
I have a rather unusual background, and not long ago I wouldn’t ever have guessed that I would ever be in the tropics working on coral reefs. I started out as a student at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, where I did bachelor and master studies in philosophy, combining my love for nature with my studies, in the form of a specialisation in environmental philosophy and conservation philosophy.
I then studied animal behaviour and welfare at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where I learned a lot about animal husbandry, and the problems and solutions within this field.
Now I have ended up at Ghent University at Belgium, as a participant in the European Masters in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. We had a few interesting lectures on coral reefs during the lecture periods in Belgium, but it’s hard to really get a grip on the subject of tropical warm-water corals while you’re in a classroom and it’s cold and rainy outside.
This is why I decided to apply for an internship with CICP, and I’m happy I was accepted. I have only arrived last Thursday evening, yet I have already learned a lot. Since we usually go snorkeling in group, we can help eachother to identify marine species, and this morning we had a crash course on coral identification with Savi. I feel like I’m already getting a feel for separating some of the families. Hopefully, by the time I’ll leave identifying corals will go relatively smooth. So far, my favorite corals are the flashy blue-tip acroporas, although I’m also very eager to learn about the ‘brain’ corals with their labyrinth-like appearance.
My little wildlife guide of the Seychelles has also proven to be useful, in letting me identify the many terrestrial animals on Cerf Island, but also on Mahé - where we went over the weekend, and I hope to return to soon!
Overall, it’s a completely new experience for me to be here, for several reasons:
firstly, I have never been in a tropical place like the Seychelles, so it somewhat feels like being on a different planet. Both the tropical terrestrial and marine environment are completely new to me, until last week I’ve only experienced them through pictures or documentaries. Secondly I never really snorkelled before coming here, but it’s pretty much all we’ve been doing over the weekend, and it was both learnful and fun. Thirdly, this Sunday I’ll be having my first experiences as an open water diver, something I’ve been looking forward to for a while. Let’s hope everything goes well!"
Don't y'all worry, we have lots planned during your stay to keep you educated, entertained and elated!
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