I am writing as my adventure here comes to its end after almost 3 months. I’ve had a marvelous time in these amazing islands both during work and days off. Seychelles is a beautiful country with breath-taking beaches and landscapes. During my stay I had time for a short trip to Praslin and La Digue. Definitely worth the visit to the Vallé de Mai UNESCO site and Anse Lazio in Praslin and so much fun cycling around La Digue, exploring its stunning white sand beaches decorated by huge granitic boulders. Lots of fun also on Mahe, where you can jump in waterfalls/pools, snorkel, hike and surf at the southern beaches.
It was a great experience working for the CICP on Cerf Island. Here I had the opportunity to spend most of my time snorkeling on our reefs, carrying out monitoring, doing some beach cleaning or taking clients for some fun time in the water. Since June I have been responsible of a new task we decided to introduce here at CICP. I’ve been monitoring 47 coral colonies among our three snorkeling trails to assess their resilience to the latest bleaching event that struck. So far, around 30% of the colonies have been showing signs of recovery, about 10% died while the rest is at the same state as at the beginning of the monitoring. We also found two Favia colonies affected by Black Band Disease of which I have been recording the progression. The speed at which the disease is growing is surprisingly fast with an average 5 cm increment in diameter per week. Warmer waters affect basic physiological responses corals, making them weaker and more susceptible to infections. Indeed, the outbreak of some coral diseases, such as the black band,can be associated with increased seawater temperature.Therefore, it’s really important to keep track of the status of the corals to understand the response of the reef to the pressures that can impact on it.
My work here allowed me to expand my expertise in tropical marine ecology, especially in Indo-Pacific fish, coral and invertebrate identification, gaining more competence in reef surveys, conservation and restoration techniques. Furthermore the opportunity to interact with clients and to supervise other volunteers enhanced my interpersonal and public relation skills. Hoping that my presence here left a positive footprint, I hand over my work to Margaux as it is time for me to move to my next adventure in Saudi Arabia!"
You left many footprints here Sara and we appreciate all of your hard work. Thank you for your time and best of luck in Saudi!
Its been a rather busy time here at CICP. Have a read below to get a perspective of our work through Sara's eyes.
"Here we are with another post! It has already been a month since I arrived in Seychelles. Time is flying! So far I enjoyed very much my time here, except for an ill-fated weekend!
The weather is changing; currents, rain and winds are bringing cooler waters and hopefully this will help our corals, which have been hit hard by this bleaching event. I do my best to explain the present situation anytime I take clients on our snorkel trails, showing them the effects that climate change is having on our oceans. It’s encouraging to see that some of them were already aware of this issue and having the chance to raise their knowledge on this topic is of great motivation for my role here.
In the first two weeks I learnt how to identify the various species of corals, fish and invertebrates that inhabits our reef. There’s a lovely heart shaped brain coral (Platygyra sp.) just in front of Cerf Resort :D. During my snorkels at Cerf Island I’ve had lucky encounters with stingrays, a moray, a puffer fish, flatworms, nudibranchs, lionfish, barracudas, lots of reef fish and turtles!
Speaking of turtles, we managed to use the I3S (Interactive Individual Identification software) to create a database with the photos of individuals of turtles encountered around Sainte Anne Marine National Park. The scutes on the turtle’s head (left and right) act the way a human’s fingerprint does. We can use the software to point out the patterns, the software then runs an algorithm based on the fingerprint file created, and we then visually compare the results to see if there is a match or a new individual.
Last week we took part as the MCSS team at the International Day for Biological Diversity Exhibition in Victoria, in collaboration with UNDP, GEF, GOP and ICS. It was very inspiring to look at the presentations and drawings of the local primary and secondary school kids on their perception of the ocean and what we can do for its conservation.
What else? We have been also busy with the beach cleanings, the coral nurseries maintenance/monitoring and with the reef surveys to assess the substrate composition of Cerf Island reefs. Last, but not least, we are very excited to announce that we built our first rebar frame and we can’t wait to place it in the water for our coral reef restoration project! "
"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.