Hi! I’m Ellie, the marine biology intern at Landaa Giraavaru. I have recently graduated in Zoology from the University of Exeter, and I’ve taken a year out to gain work experience before starting my Master’s. Working here has been an incredible experience so far and there’s so much more to learn about the turtle, fish and coral work that is undertaken here. Of course, the internship is made even better by the fact that the team is amazing and it’s a tropical paradise here!
For my first month, I’ve mainly been helping Jas (turtle biologist) with turtle care and feeding. The turtle care work reveals insights into the unfortunate consequences of human activity on marine life, as the majority of our turtle patients have been involved in accidents relating to industrial fishing and boat traffic. Most of the turtles at our Centre are Olive Ridleys, despite rarely being found living in the Maldives. This species of turtle is prone to entanglement in discarded fishing gear (ghost nets), which are used by surrounding countries, and tend to drift into Maldivian waters on ocean currents.
Normally the turtles arrive at our Centre with several problems, including missing flippers, buoyancy syndrome and cuts in their carapace. Despite their weak state, they are surprisingly resilient and often improve considerably in health after receiving care and medication. One of the most rewarding parts of this role is being able to see these improvements and then releasing the rehabilitated patient back into the ocean!
In February, the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Centre hit a special date, celebrating 10 years of turtle rescue. To mark the anniversary, we released two of our turtles, Conna (our smallest and only hawksbill turtle) and Lenny (a female Olive Ridley). Luckily, both of these turtles recovered very quickly in our dedicated recovery pools, and soon started diving and resting at the bottom, so it was a lovely experience to see them released so soon!
February has also been an exciting month because we celebrated the International Day of Women and Girls in Science! There was a photo shoot held for the female marine biologists working at Marine Savers and the Manta Trust… if only we actually emerged from these crystal blue waters to start each work day. 😊 We have also been busy with ocean clean-ups, and our marine apprentice, Yaniu, organised a Dive-Against-Debris event. It’s saddening to witness how much litter and plastic pollutes our ocean, even affecting somewhere as remote as the Maldives (our results). These are really rewarding dives to be a part of, and more are planned for the next couple of months.
I’ve also had the chance to work in different marine areas, and have been helping Louise (assistant coral biologist) with the Reefscapers coral monitoring work. It’s pleasing to see so many of the coral frames are healthy and growing well, with flourishing coral colonies attracting large varieties of fish!
I lead some of the daily guest excursions, which is a really cool way to explore the reefs around different local islands, where each one is unique! I’ve seen a variety of interesting species on these trips including porcupine fish, eagle rays, turtles and sharks. The dolphin cruises are also a personal favourite as sometimes we’ve spotted up to 150 Spinner dolphins swimming in a single pod, with many of them riding the waves, leaping and spinning from the water behind our boat.
There are lots of activities to get involved with after work finishes too, including volleyball, paddle-boarding or simply relaxing at Coco Loco (the authentic beach lounge handmade by the talented Gaetan). You also get the chance to sign up to dive boat trips on your day off; one of my highlights was seeing sleeping sharks, sting rays soaring above us and octopus on a night dive at an incredible site close to Landaa.