Hello everyone! I’m Grégory and I’m the new marine biologist intern at the Marine Discovery Centre, Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru. I’m 23 years old, and currently in my first year of a Master’s degree in the ‘Biology of Organisms and Ecology’ at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium. My decision to study this was prompted by my love for the biodiversity of our world and the passion I have to try to understand its complexity.
When I heard about the bleaching event of 2016, I felt completely powerless and didn’t want to just sit back and wait for the coral ecosystem to disappear from our planet. I therefore decided to work on coral bleaching, specifically trying to understand why some corals had survived these events whilst others didn’t.
That’s where I got the chance to enter the world of Reefscapers, who lead various marine biology initiatives including their exciting coral propagation project. In an attempt to understand the reasons why certain corals survived the 2016 bleaching event, I’m working with two types of corals (genera Acropora and Pocillopora) in two areas:
- Genetic – I am taking samples of living colonies and sequencing the DNA in Belgium. Using the results of a pre-bleaching sampling conducted in a previous study, the project is aiming to look at the population’s individual repartition to see if there’s a difference to the pre-bleaching population. A survival in greater number of a distinct population could indicate an adaptation to a bleaching event, whereas an equal repartition could indicate that the bleaching resilience is at random.
- Environmental – I have placed a number of temperature recorders on living and dead coral colonies in close proximity to each other, to see if some small differences could have made an impact. Statistical tests will be done to try to discriminate if, at small scale, some micro-environmental changes could have occurred to explain the survival of one colony compared to the death of another one in close proximity. I am also measuring nearby water flow to see if currents should be considered an important environmental factor.
One month has passed by already and my life here is going well – the time flies as I experience the tasks of a Reefscapers employee. I’ve met so many nice people and learnt so many things. What I especially enjoy are the small talks with guests about turtles or corals, raising awareness about our projects and the opportunities they have to take part.
As a marine biologist, I’ve had the chance to work in the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and take care of our injured turtle residents. I’ve especially enjoyed taking care of Ossy, one of our oldest residents who was very cute and who we were eventually able to release because of the progress she made! After living in our recovery pool for so long, it was truly an amazing moment to see this turtle able to dive and swim underwater for a long time.
There are so many things to do here at Landaa Giraavaru that a small report would never be sufficient to explain them all; but now that we know each other a little bit, I will make sure to tell you all about my experiences here in full detail in my next report.
See you next month!