Laura on the left, Amelia (head coral biologist) right, plus Eygan, our Four Seasons apprentice
As the new assistant coral biologist, I have had many first time experiences this month… my first turtle hatchlings, my first coral spawning, my first night-snorkel with guests, my first time driving a whaler, my first flight on a seaplane, and my first teaching experiences (for students of the Baa Atoll internship and Kinolhas school).
From the moment I set foot on Landaa Giraavaru, I immediately felt warmly welcomed by everyone in the Reefscapers team. In no time, I was collecting corals on exciting reefs around Landaa and Voavah islands, taking monitoring pictures of frames in our house reef, and building different sizes of frames with guests.
Laura Alonso Diaz
Assistant Coral Biologist, Landaa Giraavaru
Her Master’s in Marine Systems & Policies at Edinburgh University (Scotland) studied coral bleaching projections on Indonesian reefs. After studying, Laura built on her marine skills, earning PADI Divemaster (in Indonesia) and learning coral restoration techniques in the Seychelles.
Laura was excited to join Landaa’s Reefscapers team in April 2023. “Ultimately, I’d like to contribute in strengthening the important connections between fieldwork, research, outreach and policy, to respond timely to the environmental changes happening to reefs worldwide.”
Before I arrived, many colonies on our coral frames at the House Reef were ready to spawn after the full moon. This enabled the Reefscapers team (with the help of Dive colleagues) to collect thousands of coral gametes from different colonies, to be mixed in the lab on a quest to prevent early mortality (when first released, the spawn attracts many predators).
Building a frame with our internship students from Baa Atoll
coral team ready to drop a large frame at Voavah’s reef
Coral biologist Amelia and I are currently researching the growth rates of the baby corals that managed to settle in the Fish Lab’s tanks using different substrates (natural coralline-covered reef rocks and ceramic nubbins) and comparing growth differences in feeding and control tanks. Since the start of May, we have already observed successful pigmentation (zooxanthellae algae enter the coral’s tissue for photosynthesis) and some of the polyps in the feeding tank are now budding, meaning that our corals are already starting to grow into young colonies!
Night snorkels, checking for signs of coral bundling
monitoring frames at the coral trail
During this first month, I visited all the different frame sites around the island, and I was surprised to learn that our team is capable of monitoring and maintaining more than 5000 coral frames! And I quickly realised the importance of physical location for the coals to thrive, so it’s important for us to relocate frames if necessary.
We also recycle frames by attaching new fragments if some didn’t survive. There are many reef areas where frames are thriving, and the fish and invertebrate biomass and diversity are incredible. That is what excites me the most about our coral propagation program and Reefscapers frames… seeing first-hand how we are making a difference to Landaa’s reefs.
thriving Acropora digitifera colony
a settled Acropora digitifera juvenile from the feeding tank
Something I really love about my new job is the way we support and encourage each other in the team, meaning there’s never a dull moment as there is always something to do, not only for corals!
Looking forward to telling more stories about the Reefscapers endeavours!
See you soon👋