Maldives: Trained and ready to survey

Over a two-day in-depth and hands-on training on substrate, fish, invertebrates and impacts, a new team of eleven Reef Check citizen scientists has been certified! We have a great group on board; eight nationalities, ranging from 26 to 63 years old, some very new divers, others quite experienced and with different backgrounds. What they all have in common is a motivation to go beyond recreational scuba and wanting to dive with a purpose and do their bit for the protection of coral reefs.

It has been a steep learning curve with lots of new information to process and even the occasional ‘information overload’ in our liveaboard classroom. However, once in the water during our test ID dives, the corals and fish were quite cooperative providing more clarity, while the invertebrates decided to stay away. A never-ending fish diversity became more familiar and easier to remember when our trainee citizen scientists started to attribute personalities to them, such as the grumpy grouper, the sexy sweetlips, the snobby emperor and the angry-eyed snapper. The latter one being the main cause of confusion. Aidan described it being just what a classical fish would look like and Greta wisely concluded ’ When in doubt, it is probably a snapper….’ The combination of science and storytelling clearly worked somehow, because everyone passed the test and with good scores! Congratulations and thanks for putting in the effort.

We are very fortunate to have Farish and Hassan (Beybe) on board, two experienced Maldivian divers passionate about marine biodiversity and determined to protect their reefs. On this expedition, they are being trained by our scientist Jean-Luc to become certified Reef Check Trainers so that they can in turn train local Maldivian divers further to increase Reef Check input and ensure local long-term monitoring efforts, which is much needed.

On top of this, we have been blessed with good weather and calm winds, the currents are a bit tricky at times and the ocean-atoll views when cruising from one site to the next are quite breathtaking, reminding us to enjoy this slice of paradise in between surveys. The liveaboard staff takes good care of us and in the scarce moments of downtime our team has been enjoying sunset views on the upper deck, nocturnal observations of zooplankton and cuttlefish coming up to the light at below deck and just getting to know each other better.

Now that everyone is fully certified, we will focus on in-water data collection in several new locations. Stay tuned for more and to find out what these new sites will reveal about the health of the Maldivian reefs. .

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