Special Report written by Adrelia, our marine biologist intern

Being a part of the Marine Savers team in the Maldives is more than just swimming with the fishes and being surrounded by beautiful reefs! A major role here at Landaa Giraavaru’s Marine Discovery Centre is spreading awareness to the public about the importance of preserving the immense yet finite Maldivian marine biodiversity. I spent my first week learning from Frédéric Ducarme, visiting marine researcher who has been creating an illustrated Wikipedia inventory of the diverse marine life of the whole Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This was a great start to my internship, as I was introduced to the art of taxonomy and learnt how to recognise the different species of marine life. Due to the wide inventory, a helpful tip from Fred was to take note of unique characteristics and adopt favourites in order to remember the name of the species. The Maldivian coral reefs form the heart of the country. Unfortunately, increasing development can damage the fragile reefs, and rising ocean temperatures cause coral bleaching. The Reefscapers coral frame propagation project was established to safeguard and enhance the coral reefs around the resort. As part of our guest sponsorship programme, I have been assisting Alexia in collecting coral fragments and attaching them to frames. We continually monitor coral growth by photographing each frame on a central database, and carry out re-transplantation when necessary (replacing dead corals on existing frames).

Maldivian Clownfish

Most marine research happens in the Fish Lab, where the clown fish breeding programme resides. The Blackfoot anemonefish (Amphiprion nigripes) and Clark’s anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii) species are bred under controlled conditions and regularly cared for by Aku and Ammaday, our resident fish biologists. The main diet of the clown fishes is zooplankton (Rotifers, Copepods and Artemia) which are produced here in the Fish Lab and represent our live food stock. The objective of this program is to create a captive cultivation technique for the expanding ornamental fish trade. This way, the marine life in the wild is preserved and an alternate source of income is provided to local communities by adopting this new skill. I was lucky enough to witness the egg spawning and hatching process of a breeding pair of Maldivian Blackfoot clownfish.

The Maldives National Sea Turtle Identification Programme (MNSTIP) is another core project that consists of rehabilitation, nest protection and rearing, photo ID and monitoring and satellite tracking. Here in Landaa Giraavaru, I worked closely with Sarah at the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, caring for the Olive Ridley turtles that have been rescued. This includes pool cleaning, turtle feeding, carapace grooming and constant monitoring. Most of the turtles here are victims of fish net entanglement, which often results in a missing flipper or two. Some even develop “Buoyancy Syndrome” – accumulation of gas in the body cavity, causing positive buoyancy and rendering them unable to dive. Prolonged floating, inability to forage, risk of predation and physical trauma can eventually lead to death. I got to perform a coelomic tap on one of our buoyant patients (‘Ossy‘) where we attempted to aspirate and remove gas from the cavity in the hope of lowering her buoyancy. This process, however, does not guarantee immediate results, hence daily monitoring following the tap is essential. On a happier note, one of the rescued turtles (‘Lefty‘) that was transferred from our Kuda Huraa centre has made a great recovery and can now dive again. With much care and monitoring, Lefty can soon be part of a successful release!

Volunteering with Maldivian Sea Turtles

I also get to assist Sarah on guided Snorkel Adventures around nearby islands. This gives me a chance to take ID pictures of wild sea turtles as part of the national Maldives turtle ID monitoring programme. Each individual has a unique pattern of scales on the side of their face, just like human fingerprints. Using a special computer programme, we generate a unique code for each scale pattern for identification purposes. We have now identified more than 1,000 turtle individuals around the Maldives, and can study their population, distribution, migration and feeding behaviours.

Raising Environmental Awareness in Schools

A very enjoyable part of my job is being involved in spreading awareness to the public, to promote better understanding and appreciation for the marine ecosystem. We recently organised a school excursion from the local island of Maalhos, in which we educate the students from grade 3 & 4 about environmental conservation. We also gave them a tour around the Marine Discovery Centre and built a coral frame with them. Seeing these enthusiastic children learning about the environment brings me joy and hope. My time here so far has certainly been an amazing experience! During my remaining weeks, I hope to learn even more from the wonderful Marine Savers team, and play a part in saving and conserving the marine biodiversity of Maldives! A big thank you to Adrelia Teo, who worked with us from September to November 2014.

Do you want to experience life as a marine biologist
here in the Maldives ?

Head over to our Employment page to read about the different ways you can work with us - full time, apprentice, intern or volunteer.
And see more from our Interns and Volunteers in their very own words & photos as part of our Diary / Blog series.

The Seamarc team were excellent teachers (thank you!) and everyone was very patient so I learnt very quickly.
I will always be eternally grateful for this opportunity ... A very sincere thank you from the bottom of my heart for everyone’s encouragement, hard work and dedication. My short time here has allowed me to learn so many things that otherwise might not have been possible.
The memories I have forged here will always have a special place in my heart ♡ … what a wonderful country!

Janice (Singapore) 2017

From literally stepping out of the airport and onto the resort speedboat, I was completely blown away by how amazing the Maldives is; hot sun, blue skies, and crystal-clear waters … paradise!
In my first week, I spent a lot of time learning about and working with the resident sea turtles ... Caring for these turtles has been great fun and each one has its own personality.
... we were lucky to encounter a large pod of false killer whales, which was an incredible experience!
The teams at both resorts are a fantastic group of people and I enjoyed every moment working with them all.

Mark (UK) 2016

The first week was a busy one as three new rehab turtles turned up in three consecutive days. I have also been busy with guest snorkel trips, dolphin cruises, scientific projects, coral reef monitoring and surfing world class waves at the local breaks!
I have been here for the last five wonderful weeks ... such great fun and every day is so varied ... to learn all I can about the amazing marine life in the Maldives.

Adam (UK) 2016

Each morning I caught the local 8:15 ferry boat … much better than the bus in Germany!
One day we went to a nearby uninhabited agricultural island, to collect some turtle hatchlings and release them out in the open water. Another great experience was the manta boat-trip ... for one whole day we searched for mantas in different sites around Baa Atoll.
All in all I can say that my 6 weeks’ volunteering ... was a great experience, I met a lot of nice and very friendly people and I learned a lot about turtles, fish species and corals in the beautiful tropical waters around the Maldives.

Nicole (Germany) 2016

The Marine Savers team is great fun to work with, and I couldn’t have asked for a better location to gain some experience in environmental conservation.
It was wonderful to be around so many people who share my passion for the underwater world, and I hope it’s not too long before I’m back beneath the waves in the Maldives!

Dhiya (Sri Lanka) 2016

Every day was a different adventure, with turtles to treat, corals to transplant, talks to give and dolphins to spot. It is always a thrill to (see) the juvenile Spinner dolphins, who stick very close to their mothers but are often the most acrobatic jumpers, putting the ‘spin’ in Spinner. Sometimes we were lucky to spot manta rays too.
I am very grateful to the Marine Savers team ... It has strengthened my desire to work in marine conservation and I hope to be back in the Maldives one day!

Roz (UK) 2016

You can see some breathtaking marine life here in the Maldives, and every time I’m in the water I feel constantly in awe of my surroundings ... 2 mantas at a cleaning station swam through our dive group, getting extremely close!
These activities, along with the people I have met along the way have ... made the experience so enjoyable and memorable.

Emily (UK) 2016

I had never seen a turtle this large before, which was a whole new experience for me in itself ... It took 6 people to get this amazing turtle out of the water and into the boat.
I have even started leading some of the snorkel safaris around nearby reefs, an incredibly rewarding experience to be sharing information and experiences with people. My favourite moments have often been on our dolphin cruises, the incredible spinner dolphins never cease to amaze me as they throw their bodies high above the water surface. That is certainly a sight I will never get tired of!

Sophie (UK) 2015

Taking time off work to travel all the way to the Maldives to care for sea turtles might seem a crazy idea to some; for me, however, it was the chance of a lifetime. This was the perfect opportunity to leave my office desk in the concrete jungle of Hong Kong and take part in something meaningful in a unique part of the world.
I have had a tremendous time, and have made friends with a lot of lovely people from around the world. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would definitely like to come back some day to visit everyone… and the sea turtles too, of course!

Keith (Hong Kong) 2015

Winy and Hazel had a very busy and enjoyable time, working with our turtle care patients and the Reefscapers coral propagation programme.
They also helped with an important reef clean-up, and had a memorable day releasing baby turtle hatchlings into the ocean.

Winy & Hazel (Hong Kong) 2015

Every day since I have arrived has been an adventure!
I am witnessing new and amazing things every day, from sunsets to 'Spanish Dancers' ! It’s a wonderful experience as we share underwater marine life encounters, and I have actually lost count of how many sharks, dolphins and turtles I’ve encountered since I arrived ... and it’s magical every time.

Cath (UK) 2015

The care and rehabilitation of the turtles here is very satisfying work.
In just a short few weeks, I have seen Spinner Dolphins, Hawksbill Turtles, Black Tip Reef Sharks and of course lots of colourful and varied marine life ... a wonderful moment each time!

Mailis (Belgium) 2015

All of the experiences have allowed me to make many new friends and gain knowledge and memories that will never be forgotten.
Thank you to everyone for making my time here so enjoyable!

Beth (UK) 2015

A very enjoyable part of my job is spreading awareness to the public, to promote better understanding and appreciation for the marine ecosystem. We recently organised a school excursion ... seeing these enthusiastic children learning about the environment brings me joy and hope.
My time here has been an amazing experience ... more than just swimming with the fishes and being surrounded by beautiful reefs!

Adrelia (Singapore) 2014

Frédéric was a PhD student and lecturer at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, specialising in ecology and tropical marine biology.
During his time with us, Frédéric researched indigenous Echinoderms, and possibly discovered a previously undocumented new species of sea cucumber.

Frédéric (France) 2014

Glen worked with us in 2014, developing a shark population survey to study local populations of Blacktip Reef sharks using a variety of survey methods including underwater camera traps, and snorkel surveys.

Glen (UK) 2014

One of our first interns, Dylan (from Singapore's Temasek Polytechnic) had an amazingly unique experience with us.
Firstly, he helped with the rescue of a stranded false killer whale 'Haita' (although she sadly did not survive rehabilitation).
And then he was invited to the “Marine Mammal Stranding Symposium” (February 2013), to present our work and findings to fellow marine biologists.

Dylan (Singapore) 2012

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