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!
My name is Cynthia, 23 years old and I’m French! I’m enrolled in an International Master’s degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (EMBC+), and I joined CICP for a credited internship, for the end of my first year. I don’t have a broad background in Marine Biology, as I’ve only started last September. It was kind of a dream since I was young and I finally took the leap, which is so far the best decision I’ve ever made!
I didn’t do any internships, or volunteering program before now. Although I traveled a lot around the world, first with my family, then with friends, and now through my master’s degree. I was studying in the Algarve, in Portugal for the last 7 months and will continue in Ireland next September! But then, I had the opportunity to do an internship. So I was wondering first “what would you like to study on the long-term, after the master?” My answer was either cetaceans, or coral reefs. Then, I decided I’d rather go a bit away from Europe. I got to know the CICP through the MCSS, which is a partner of my master program. My choice was set!
I just arrived here on Cerf Island and started to get trained on coral identification with Savi. He took me snorkeling onto one of the reefs for the first time yesterday and I already found it amazing. A lot of beautiful corals and their colorful reef fish wondering around. If you’re lucky you can even see cute squids, waiting for you to take a picture of them! But corals are sensitive organisms, and suffered a lot from last year’s bleaching event, and one can notice that very easily on the reef… It’s sad, but then it’s also another motivation to try and get to know more, to protect them better and raise awareness.
When Savi went through the first part of the coral identification training, I was a bit scared by all those genus-barbaric names! How was I supposed to remember those and recognize them underwater?! Even as a biologist, those names are never easy to remember. But the next day, after working a bit on my own identification support, I could actually recognize them quite nicely (not perfectly yet of course!). My little favorites so far are Pocillopora, Acropora and Physogyra! But it will probably change as I’ll learn to get more of them! I now just started using a software which will allow me to help monitoring the growth of the baby corals that Savi settled on artificial frames.
Tomorrow two other interns from my program will arrive and stay on Cerf for two months as well. That’s a big army to learn about the reefs! Follow us and you’ll get to know them too and follow our adventures within the CICP! And know how the baby corals are doing of course!
Just a few farewell words from our Seychelles Maritime Academy work attachment student Farah.
"My two months here at the Cerf Island Conservation Program has come to end, I had such a blast while working with everyone here. I’ve learned so much about the reefs, conservation efforts, and also more coral identification and other marine life. Now that I have learned corals from over 50 genera, I don’t think I have a favorite anymore, I like them all! I’ve also learned to recognize reef fish such as parrot fish, angel fish, butterfly fish, rabbit fish and their important roles to a reef’s ecosystem. Now that I got the chance to experience working in marine conservation; I think that it would be something I’d like to pursue as a career. Hopefully I can visit the program again soon!"
It was a pleasure to have you!
Farah's 8 week work attachment is already halfway finished and in this blog she updates us on her progress here at CICP.
"It has been four weeks now that I am here at the MCSS/CICP. I have learned quite a lot I must say, I definitely learned more about the corals and the importance of marine conservation. I Have got a lot better at identifying the corals now and also some of the threats to the corals such as anchors that damage the reef and being kicked with fins while snorkeling. I’ve got a few more favourite corals from the other workshops that I’ve learned like Pavona, Acanthastrea and hynophora I did my coral test which I did pretty good!
I recently learned how to use Interactive individual identification system (I3S) to identify the turtles we encounter on the reefs. I also did some transect surveys on the reefs with Savi to assess the health state of the reef, and on most days I go snorkelling with clients and show them around the snorkelling trails.
We have beach cleaning every Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. We pick up plastic bottles and cans so that it can be recycled and also pick up the trash that has been washed up on the shore and left behind from picnickers such as broken glass, juice boxes, tin foil, plastic bags and mostly Styrofoam lunch boxes.
When we don’t go snorkeling I stay in the office and measure coral fragments or rename some coral photos that we have taken on the reef to help me identify them. Its been a great 4 weeks here especially when its sunny and the sea is calm. I hope the rest of my attachment stays this exciting. "
Trust us when we say we will make sure it will stay exciting as we still have much to share with you!
We have had a new recruit arrive from Europe and I'm sure he's pleased that the rains have ceased and the sun shines on. Read below to meet Mr. Rene from Belgium!
I’m the new volunteer on Cerf Island for the Cerf Island Conservation Program.
My name is René, I’m originally from Belgium. I’m 22 years old. My mother tongue is french but I also speak and am working on my english.
I’m studying agronomy in Belgium and I would like to do a Master’s in biology. I’m in my last year of agronomy and I’ve come to the Islands for an internship. I arrived on the 11th of February and will be here for three months in which I will be working on the growth of the corals on the artificial reefs. I learn a lot about corals everyday and it’s very exciting. Savi teaches me how to recognize the different families/generas of corals; though it was difficult at first it’s much easier now. If you want to see my favourite corals, you can google this: Tubastrea, Leptoria and Physogyra.
I work everyday on the measurement of the corals using Coral Point Count (CPCe). I love my new work and I think that the two next months will go quickly.
I saw my first turtle yesterday and it was incredible.. We swam with it for 10 minutes and then we let her disappear. The people are very nice with me on Cerf, the food is good, I’m in a nice room and I sleep well."
This young lady sure has been busy with the conservation world and we foresee amazing things from her. Its nice to see the young minds of today fully immersed in their environment and community as they learn how they can help as well as enrich themselves. We usually make volunteers choose a favorite coral but Jaymee simply replied with, "they're all my favorite". Read below to catch up on her quick yet jam packed adventure with us.
"My name is Jaymee Clarisse and I am a volunteer at the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA). I am working with the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS) for 8 days. I am interested in conservation and have participated in a few marine education programs such as the Academy by the Sea, which was a one week program to educate youths about the importance of conservation. There, I learnt about the different threats to marine life and how we could help to reduce those. We also learned about the importance and the threats to mangroves. We learned about the different reef fish found in Seychelles and snorkeled at Beau Vallon, Port Launay and Cap Ternay! I also went to Darros with the academy for a week, where we learned more about the marine environment from the different people working there. We learnt about sea turtles, manta rays, corals, and much more in the presentations which we had every day. We studied the different birds and plants found on Darros and each planted a tree from their nursery on the island. I also volunteered at the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) for 3 weeks. There, I worked in the lab to collect samples of fish for research and I learned to use excel to input data about the fish samples we were working with.
While on Cerf Island I have learnt about certain species of hard corals through four workshops about different hard corals found here around Cerf Island. Learning these has made snorkeling much more fun as I can now identify the corals I come across. I have also learned about the different types of fish found on the Cerf Island reefs, such as butterfly fish which are corallivores, parrotfish, which have beak like mouths and rabbit fish which have flared and forked tails. I was taught to use a program called Coral Point Count with Excel Extensions (CPCe) to measure coral fragments from the artificial reefs. This helps keep track of the growth of these corals on a monthly basis. On our daily snorkels at the habitation reef, Savi and Chloe point out different corals to Farah, a student from the Seychelles Maritime Academy (SMA), and me, to see if we are able to identify them. This has made remembering the different corals names much easier. While snorkeling we sometimes see octopus, feathertail rays and hawksbill turtles. I also learned about the importance of sea urchins on coral reefs. They are grazers and so clear out space for coral recruits to settle and grow.
Today I was able to help Savi with the line transect at the Habitation reef which was very exciting. We measured out 50 meters on the measuring tape and checked what was underneath it every half meter. This is done to know what is present on the reef. For example if there are lots of hard or soft corals, algae, sand or coral rubble. This transect is done several times a year to monitor the changes to the reef. A positive change would be if there were more corals and a negative change would be if there were less corals than before and more algae. Today I also did a coral test which was really fun. It was to see how well I am now able to recognize the corals I have learned about while here. I am proud that I was able to recognize most of them as there were a few tricky ones.
My experience here on Cerf Island with MCSS has been amazing. I have learned so much and I have had lots fun. Next week I will be going back to SNPA but I hope to come back here again sometime and learn even more."
Thanks for volunteering with us and we look forward to having you again. Best of luck on your exams!
Meet Farah! A student from the Maritime Academy who will be working with us for two months as she learns more about the reef, its threats, how we can help and identifying the little (and big) critters under the sea. Last week was her first with us and lets see what she has to say.
"My name is Farah and I am a student from Seychelles Maritime Academy (SMA). for the past year, I have been learning about the fisheries industry and all about the fisheries act and legislation. I was on attachment at the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) where I learned about different illegal fishing methods in Seychelles such as trawling and spear fishing, and also about the closed and open season for sea cucumbers. I also did a bit of fish packaging.
This year I decided to take an interest in conservation, as I am on attachment with the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS) at Ile Aux Cerf where I believe they can help me learn more about the different marine species, to recognize them and be more aware of the protected areas. My first day at the MCSS was quite interesting with my supervisor Savi as he took me snorkeling on one of the reefs to work on coral identification. The rest of the time I’m given lectures about the reef life we are likely to encounter, safe snorkeling practices, and work on learn more corals from the coral workshops. My favorite so far is galaxea (shooting star coral) and some days we make time for recycling.
I have been doing a lot of coral identification from the presentations that I was given by Savi on the fist day I got here which has helped me to recognize the corals better. I managed to memorize the corals from workshop 1! I also learned how to measure coral fragments using Coral Point Count (CPCe) with a volunteer from the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) Jaymee. It is basically just to measure the coral growth from those on the artificial reefs as part of the Cerf Island coral restoration projects.
My first week has been very interesting and fun, I have learned so much and I’m glad I got the opportunity to be a part of their program. :)"
Welcome aboard our team and we look forward to transforming you into a fellow coral nerd.
My name is Samuel Marie I’m 17 years old. I live in the Seychelles with my parents and I have five brothers. I like to do sports like volleyball, football etc… Once I tried to do high jump because my dad complained that I never do athletics but that ended badly for me. For now I’m concentrating on my studies and then maybe in the future I’ll go back to sports depending on what I’m doing in the near future, and I am also doing my studies at Seychelles Maritime Academy. I’m doing the Advanced Certificate in Fisheries Science and Fishing Technology. I’ve just finished my exam and I’m still waiting for the results to see if I get to the second year .The reason I chose to do my work attachment at MCSS on Cerf island is because first of all I love the sea and I think its the most beautiful place there is on this Earth. I know some parts of it might be dangerous but that’s what makes it more exciting and another reason is I want to learn the development that’s happening in the marine life. I’m very excited to learn about the types of corals, their names, their different ways of living and how some of them can survive stressful events such as coral bleaching. I know it won’t be easy to remember the names, shapes and sizes but like my dad always says, “try your best”. I haven’t really decided on what I want to be because I’m still thinking of going back to school when I finish my two years at SMA because there always something new to learn. So that’s a bit about me. Thanks for taking a minute of your time to read this.
After four long weeks today is my last day here on Cerf Island. It was a challenging task but it has been a different adventure from my own perspective to what I was expecting. In these past weeks I have learned about the coral reefs here on Cerf, their genus and their family and I have also encountered different marine species.
In the beginning I was overwhelmed because the names were new to me but in time I understood and started to enjoy the ocean more now that I have new information about the different corals. I also learned about the different butterfly and angel fish found all around the inner islands of Seychelles. They are mostly colorful creatures but there were also further unpredictable approaches from other creatures. For example I saw lemon shark pups occasionally in the shallow parts of the reef, they are adorable. I also encountered many feather tailed rays and once a sting ray beautiful flawless cartilaginous marine organisms. Not to forget the diverse variety of corals found on the Cerf reef. Every day we would go out and have a snorkeling session (which is great if you’re a fanatic and an ocean lover), I participated in the construction of the coral nurseries and artificial reef projects. They are still a work in progress as it will take a while before we see the results but in time we will find the greatness in this smart project.
Mainly CICP is focused on re building the reefs and making it healthier which is important since the Cerf reefs have been under the influence of the several EL NINO events, the Tsunami a few years back, and many negative human impacts (such as boating, illegal fishing, anchoring, etc…). Our economy not only depends on tourists but on the ocean as well this is one of the reasons why people go through great lengths to come and visit our diverse oceans and to explore and savour its natural beauty. So to be fair in order to keep a balanced and eco friendly environment for both human activities and marine life we must stop our bad habits and help protect and preserve our oceans not only for this generation but for our great grand children as well.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.