Being a Rescue Diver, I was excited to be able to help them in their coral restoration work. They explained the work program and showed me an informative presentation which outlined the past, present and future work of the Reef Rescuers project.
On our first dive we gathered temperature data. They collect temperature data every month and input the data into an excel spreadsheet. They then collate data into a graph, which illustrates the temperature fluctuations over the past months. This is important as coral health is related to temperature. Increased temperature over extended time periods leads to coral stress resulting in coral bleaching.
The Seychelles has had high coral morality resulting from extreme temperatures over extended time periods in the past year. The temperature data is used to predict future El Niño events and to relate past coral mortality to temperature fluctuations.
My other dives with the Reef Rescuers team focused on maintenance of the underwater coral nursery. The coral nursery is a rope system holding around 2000 “super coral” fragments which the Nature Seychelles team has discovered. Once the fragments reach a suitable size, theyare transplanted on a reef that previously had coral coverage. This is done using a special formula of marine cement developed by the Reef Rescuers.
Maintenance of the nurseries involves the removal of algae, barnacles, and other fouling organisms. These dives normally take around 100 minutes. During the dive I observed “mega fauna” swim under the ropes, which is really exciting. These have included stingrays, hawksbill turtles, bumphead parrotfish, batfish, guitarsharks, and a lot more marine wildlife.
During the dives we monitored fish population, distribution of invertebrates and coral recruits. The data is then analysed to provide a detailed overview of the coral reef state and to determine recent trends in coral reef recovery and fish population growth.
My part in the marine monitoring focused on the coral recruits. Two different survey techniques were used to assess the coral. Three sites are monitored annually. Within the site area, the inner and outer reefs are both monitored. Two other sites are currently being assed for possible monitoring in the future.
My dive buddy was Cheryl Sanchez, Nature Seychelles’ Science coordinator working on Cousin Island Special Reserve. While diving with her, my job was to photograph any coral recruits.
My first monitoring dive was a bit of a learning curve. I did not finish monitoring the whole inner site as I was adjusting to the conditions, survey technique and equipment. But the subsequent dives were very successful and generally monitoring took around 45 minutes. I found these dives really enjoyable as seeing the coral recruits is always promising and seeing the marine wildlife is amazing.
I have really enjoyed volunteering with Nature Seychelles as it has allowed me to see a quite unique and different side of conservation.. It also has taught me marine survey techniques which I found really useful to learn and fun to participate in. It is also great way to get away from the heat and mosquitoes for a couple of hours! If you can dive I think taking part in Nature Seychelles’ marine conversation work is an unforgettable experience.
By Emma Bell
(See more photos below)