I am Ellie and I am thrilled to be able to introduce myself as a new volunteer with MCSS, joining the team to work on the Regional Coral Reef Restoration Project for the next three months.
Having worked in the Maldives as a Marine Biologist for the past 5 years prior to reaching the Seychelles, it has been easy to settle back into the tropical climate and the familiarity of the Indian Ocean. My role in the Maldives involved educating guests, monitoring the islands fauna and flora, and working on various conservation projects; including a coral restoration project consisting of around 2,500 fragments using the mars assisted reef restoration system. This method is best applied to large-scale restoration projects of heavily degraded reefs of a rubble-like nature, such as those impacted by dynamite fishing. It was for this reason that I was extremely interested to learn of MCSS’s varied work with coral restoration; utilising a variety of methods which differs to those I was already familiar with, and that could be applied to restoration sites of a different composition, such as rocky substrate.
I have now been here with MCSS for almost two weeks and have dived (literally) straight in. I was delighted to be involved in the out-planting of 60 Pocillopora corals on my very first day! Grown in the rope nurseries in the Ste Anne Marine National Park to a size of approximately 15cm, we transplanted the colonies onto a
marked out restoration plot of 50m2 using marine cement to ensure that the corals were securely held in place and would not be swept away by any strong currents. Each plot when complete is made up of 200 transplanted corals. The following days of fieldwork were no less exciting and involved: cleaning the impressive rope nurseries which house around 6,000 colonies, transplanting more colonies of Pocillopora using small pieces of rebar hammered into the rubble and secured with marine cement, and assisting Agathe, a masters student with her thesis fieldwork, who is investigating the success of using steel frames on coral survival and structural complexity of the reef. Back in the office, I also had the chance to get involved in analysis of the growth of the restoration sites using photogrammetry images and QGIS which was also a fascinating new experience for me.
Aside from the technical aspects of the work, I have already had some great encounters of marine life. The most memorable was, when engrossed in the work on the reef, the sunlight streaming down from above suddenly disappeared. Looking up in surprise, we found ourselves enshrouded in a school of mackerel, circling around and around with a bunch of hungry giant trevally in close pursuit. Just before that, a small whitetip reef shark had cruised in, seemingly to observe the new structures which we had been placing onto the reef.
I am extremely grateful that I have the chance to be involved in this important project with MCSS, and I am looking forward to continuing to learn more during my time here!