Hello again, everyone!
Following my successful 3 months as the marine biology intern with Seamarc, I am delighted to have been offered a 3 month extension, so will be posting more blogs for your enjoyment. 🙂
March began with some busy Easter celebrations. The resort is at full capacity, with high turnout for guest activities and snorkelling. On Easter Sunday I assisted with an egg hunt at the kids’ club, helping the little ones find as many eggs as they could. The ‘Easter Bunny’ even paid a visit too!
Within the first week of returning to Kuda Huraa, I was hoping to be able to witness some evidence of coral spawning around the island. Every year, around March/April, the corals around Kuda Huraa undergo an annual ‘mass spawning’ event, whereby eggs and sperm are released en masse into the water column in order to form tiny coral planula larvae. The event occurs in response to numerous environmental cues such as water temperature and the lunar cycle. The timing of this event is highly important as male and female corals cannot move to make reproductive contact.
The spawning is also an intelligent evolutionary strategy (on the corals’ part) as the large numbers of planulae produced compensate for the vast amount of predators in the water column at the time of spawning. If favourable conditions for settlement are present, the larvae find suitable substrate and settle, then undergo metamorphosis to turn into a tiny individual coral polyp, only millimetres in diameter! Evidence of the spawning can sometimes be seen the next day in the form of a thick red slick on the waters’ surface, owing to the red colouration of the coral gametes. Sadly, I did not see any spawning occurring although I organised a presentation about coral reproductive strategies for guests in order to inform them of the event.
My Coral Growth Project
My project is going well, and I will now have 6 months’ worth of measurements by the time I finish, which means the fragments will hopefully show more noticeable growth. All three fragment sizes are showing signs of growth, with the 3cm fragments showing the fastest growth rates (increasing by 0.5cm).
Unfortunately, due to the water temperature increasing drastically this month, we have seen many signs of bleaching around the island. Bleaching is the process whereby corals lose the symbiotic algae (known as zooxanthellae) within their cells, as a result of stress. The ‘stress’ can be caused by a number of factors including high temperature, high light intensity, sedimentation and pollution. Bleaching is a reversible process, so if the stressful conditions do not persist for an extended amount of time, the coral can regain its symbiotic algae and recover. We are carefully monitoring our frames for signs of bleaching at all the sites around the resort. In the coming months, it will be interesting from a scientific perspective to investigate the numbers of coral mortalities, with the hope that both the wild reefs and our frame colonies will be able to recover quickly.
Our frames and some wild house reef colonies have also been largely affected by an increased amount of COTS predation. The Crown-of-Thorns starfish (COTS) eats live coral tissues and in large numbers – like the ones we are seeing around Kuda Huraa – can decimate entire reefs within weeks. We are combating the issue by collecting COTS from around Kuda Huraa as frequently as possible. The dive centre has also been instrumental in organising ‘mass COTS hunts’ over the last month.
I have been leading many of the guest snorkels, which has been incredibly enjoyable and rewarding. The shark and turtle safaris in particular have been incredibly interesting and the other day we spotted a 3m-long nurse shark resting under a rock! I have also had more opportunity to complete some ‘reef health assessment’ dives on the local reefs in the North Male Atoll. Every week, each of the MDC staff (in respective buddy pairs) go on dives in order to make a visual assessment of the health of the reefs in the North Male Atoll. So far I have been to four different sites and have had the opportunity to see some amazing coral formations, in addition to seeing napoleon wrasse, eagle rays, white-tip reef sharks, spinner dolphins, pilot whales, moray eels, lobster and a small porcelain crab.
One experience with some eagle rays at Aquarium dive site has stuck with me in particular. The current that morning was incredibly strong and so once the rays had been spotted, we all latched on to nearby rocks in order to witness the rays hovering in the mid water column. After a few moments the rays drifted toward me and went directly over my head, hovered for a moment and then passed on by. It was truly a magical moment and one that I will not forget in a hurry.
On 30 March, two of our Green Sea Turtles were released on our turtle adventure safari: Tommy and Lalu. Tommy was born on 2 February 2015 and Lalu was born on 17 March 2015. At just over a year old, both turtles had reached a carapace length of more than 30cm and weighed approximately 5kg! They had certainly out-grown our turtle pools and it was time for them to be released onto the beautiful reef of Makoonadhu. With 2 full boats of guests watching, both turtles swam onto the reef, exploring their new environment.
Life on a Maldivian Resort
The island life is continuing to both surprise and impress me and I cannot wait to see what the next 2 months will bring!
I recently volunteered to be an Island Spa model for natural facial treatments, to assist the marketing department in making a promotional video. Things like this are nice to be involved in and have made my time here even more varied and enjoyable.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my adventures, and I look forward to updating you again soon.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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 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