Pearl - WiseOceans Marine Scholarship Programme 2024

Student Blog – Pearl

My name is Pearl Faure, I am 19 years old and I am taking part in the WiseOceans Marine Scholarship Programme which enables young Seychellois to gain skills and knowledge in marine conservation at various organizations in that field. Read on to learn more about my experience, including my recent placement, with The Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF).

Dive Training

In September 2023, I started to intern at Global Visions International (GVI) where I completed my PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water dive certificates and gained skills and confidence in coral reef and fish survey methods. Following the placement at GVI, I got the unique opportunity to join the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), a non-profit organization established as a public trust by the Seychelles Government in 1979), for their marine monitoring of Aldabra.

SIF’s Aldabra Reef Monitoring (ARM) Programme

SIF’s Aldabra Reef Monitoring (ARM) programme was established in 2013 and surveys are conducted every year at 12 permanent monitoring sites at Aldabra’s outer reefs and inside the lagoon. My role is to conduct the benthic photoquadrat surveys, whilst my teammates are doing reef fish and coral juvenile surveys and download data from the in-situ temperature loggers that are placed at several survey sites.

The benthic photoquadrat is a squared tool used to capture images of all the organisms that are attached to the substrate such as corals, sponges, algae, and many more. For the survey, I take photos along three 10-meter sections on both sides of a 50-meter tape measure – and end up with about 100–120 images per survey dive.

Doing the survey was challenging at first, as I had to learn how to control my buoyancy while carrying the quadrat. I must be patient and careful when placing it on the ground to avoid damaging the corals or blurring the picture, all while fighting current and swell. In the beginning, I made some mistakes, such as turning the quadrat the wrong way, but although it is still difficult at times, it has become much easier now that I have more practice. During the surveys, we see incredible species, such as turtles, sharks, rays, and various reef fish.

Data Analysis

I am also learning to analyse the benthic photos I am collecting. We are using Coral Point Count with Excel extensions (CPCe), which is an easy-to-use software that enables us to calculate the percentage cover of the various benthic organisms within the pictures. With CPCe, we randomly assign 16 points to each image, and I identify the organism underneath each point. Once all photos are analysed, these records are then used to calculate the summary statistics of the percentage cover of corals, algae, sponges, etc.

My impression from using CPCe and analyzing multiple of these images so far is that there are a lot of different coral genera, e.g., Porites, Pocillopora, Goniapora, and various coral growth forms. Rhytisma is the most popular soft coral from what I have seen in the images.

The continuous practice of the photoquadrat survey is an important method that allows us to learn and understand why corals bleach.

During my coral survey, I gained a deeper understanding of the significance of corals in the reef ecosystem. It plays a vital role in protecting the coastal line by reducing the strength of waves that could otherwise cause degradation or destruction. Additionally, corals provide essential shelter and nutrition for various marine species. Neglecting the protection of these living organisms can induce alarming problems for the ocean’s ecosystem and its inhabitants. It is important to recognize that corals are not just rocks to step on or break but an integral part of our ecosystem that requires our attention and care.

There are other surveys that I am taking part in such as the fish survey whereby we use two cameras to film diverse types of species of fish in front of it while someone lays the tape on three different transects.

Final Thoughts

I am amazed by the work I have been doing for the past three months with various organisations through the WiseOceans Marine Scholarship Program. I cannot wait to continue to have a positive impact and achieve even greater things in the future!

The Marine Scholarship Programme (MSP)

Offering in-depth practical and theory training centred around the marine environment, participants will develop skills to increase opportunities for employment. The Programme, based across Mahé and the inner islands, includes six months of core training delivered by WiseOceans and GVI Seychelles and three months of placements with our partner organisations in both the public and private sectors. These placements will be tailored to participants’ individual interests and skills, helping to build connections and experiences in the workplace.

Thank you to SeyCCAT for funding the Marine Scholarship Programme

Learn more about our Marine Conservation work here

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