From our scuba diving conservation holiday with whale sharks and coral reefs of the Maldives (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

By Monday 11:00 the team had already completed an invertebrate test and a substrate test, and dived to complete the third underwater ID test when Rex said: “This is like that advertisement for the U.S. Army – We do more before breakfast than you do in the entire day!” How true!  By 19:00, we had gone on to complete a full Reef Check survey on a site that was pristine before the big bleaching event in 1997/8. Now, 17 years later, it was entirely colonised by corallimorphs (not corals). We also completed a final test (with 100% pass rate).  As a reward, everyone got a lie-in for Tuesday – until 06:30.

DSC02586

On Tuesday a beautiful full moon set as the sun rose over the ‘yoga deck’, and a few early risers dutifully saluted it. The calm was not to last, however, as the current on the first dive, coupled with the shallow gradient of the reef caused a few problems, though not insurmountable and the quality of the reef lifted everyone’s spirits. The second Reef Check survey was equally as successful and the day rounded off nicely with a beautifully relaxing night dive. More Reef Check surveys today with the boat slowly waking up as I type this at 05:50….

Continue reading “From our scuba diving conservation holiday with whale sharks and coral reefs of the Maldives (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)”

From our scuba diving conservation holiday with whale sharks and coral reefs of the Maldives (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

Yesterday, on Saturday the expedition team met in Male’, and after a short trip on our dhoni (transit and dive vessel for the week), we arrived at the MV Carpe Diem in all its splendour.

carpediem

Following some safety and other briefings, an excellent lunch and passage to Baros, a resort island whose house reef will serve us as a training ground, we completed a successful check dive, spotting octopus, lobster and a myriad of other reef dwellers. Now the work begins…

After identifying the conservation aims of Reef Check and the environmental challenges facing the reef ecosystem, Dr. Jean-Luc Solandt, Biosphere Expeditions’s scientist from the Marine Conservation Society and co-ordinator of Reef Check here in the Maldives, embarks on the methodology. All in all a very busy day!

Today, Sunday, the team knuckled down to hard work with lectures, snorkels, dives (and more lectures!), bringing the reality of conservation fieldwork to the forefront. With a blacktip reef shark circling overhead, we learned to identify the complexities of marine flora and fauna, and now with tests looming, everyone is revising hard.

revision

Good luck everyone!

Continue reading “From our scuba diving conservation holiday with whale sharks and coral reefs of the Maldives (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)”

From our scuba diving conservation holiday with whale sharks and coral reefs of the Maldives (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

We, your Biosphere Expeditions staff, have arrived safely and have had very successful meetings with both Hussein Zahir from LaMer, and with Shiham Adam from MRC (the government’s Marine Research Centre).

In a nutshell, both are very happy that we are continuing our collection of Reef Check data here in the Maldives. Hussein feels that it is very valuable data and can be added to the National Coral Reef Monitoring Framework protocols. Also, there is a desire that our data collected up until now are included in the National Status Report Assessment, currently being compiled by MRC. Both see our placement programme of local Maldivians coming with us on the boat, as they will be this year too, as an excellent way to increase capacity and raise awareness of conservation issues facing these threatened islands.

We are meeting with Shaha from Gemana, a local reef conservation NGO, in an hour or so, and with Gabriel Grimsditch of IUCN and Rafil Mohammed from the Maldives Diving Association tomorrow.

See you in a couple of days. Safe travels.

Catherine

Continue reading “From our scuba diving conservation holiday with whale sharks and coral reefs of the Maldives (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)”

From our scuba diving conservation holiday with whale sharks and coral reefs of the Maldives (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

Welcome to the Maldives diary.

My name is Catherine Edsell and I will be your expedition leader for the Maldives; also coming along from Biosphere Expeditions will be Dr. Matthias Hammer, our executive director.

I will arrive a couple of days in advance with Dr. Jean-Luc Solandt, our scientist from the Marine Conservation Society and Reef Check’s Maldives co-ordinator, to set up and meet our local partners. As soon as I get my mobile phone connected in the Maldives, I will email you my Maldivian number (to be used for emergency purposes only, such as missing assembly).

I hope all your preparations are going well and that you’ve had a chance to study all the Reef Check material and whale shark info available on the website. We have a packed schedule planned, so please arrive rested and ready to go. And talking about schedules, our expedition route is below.

All subject to change, of course. So anyone thinking they are coming on a cushy dive “holiday” to go deep, please wake up 😉 After our week with us, you’ll never look at a reef the same way again.

My next missive will be from the Maldives. Until there and then!

Catherine Edsell
Expedition Leader

Continue reading “From our scuba diving conservation holiday with whale sharks and coral reefs of the Maldives (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)”

Update from our whale and dolphin volunteer vacation / conservation holiday around the Azores archipelago (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/azores)

Slot 3 participants proved to be a terrific team in the last two days. Despite the rough seas and strong winds on the Atlantic, and an ever-bouncing Physeter, we recorded data and captured ID pictures on several loggerhead turtles, fin and blue whales. It was quite gratifying to see team members helping each other, particularly when Friday’s photographer Olga began bounding around the front deck and Yvonne helped by holding her in place on the railing during the animal encounters.

Thursday we were treated to two schools of striped dolphins North of Faial, and numerous sperm whale sightings. Again we were treated to calves suckling on the female whales. Friday brought us two large blue whales swimming together, and then the unusual (yet not unheard of) experience of a fin whale and blue whale swimming together. And to complete the blue whale experience for slot 3, we were able to make quality ID pictures on a blue whale swimming with an adolescent, most likely a calf from last year.

Sightings for team 3: sperm whale – 27 encounters, 55 animals | minke whale – 1 encounters, 1 animal | blue whale – 4 encounters, 6 animals | fin whale – 1 encounter, 1 animal | common dolphin – 10 encounters, 158 animals | bottlenose dolphin – 1 encounters, 4 animals | Risso’s dolphin – 5 encounters, 25 animals | striped dolphins – 2 encounters, 55 animals.

Thanks to all the team members who made this research possible by donating their time, energy and money. Thanks to you all, we were able to make several sperm whale matches to whales seen here in the Azores in previous years. Slot one identified a whale also seen here in 2010. In slot 2 we matched two: one to a whale seen in 2004 and another in 2010.  Slot 3 matched whales to 2005, 2007 and 2008.

We also were able to match two blue whales – Slot 1 matched a whale to 2006 and slot 2 matched one to 2010. We don’t have any information as yet on the blue whale matches from slot 3 because the registrar is currently out of the lab.

Lisa also sent off the Rissos dolphins photos, and from slot 3 the mother and calf from the North are recognised animals. And another group of 4 known animals and had been seen further down the coast of Pico the day before.

Thanks as well to Lisa and our skipper Nuno for helping us take part in this important research. They are some of the best cetaceans spotters in the North Atlantic and their expertise led us to seeing more animals than anyone else in the harbour – including other research vessels!

Thank you and I hope to see you again on expedition.

Alisa Clickenger
Expedition leader

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Update from our whale and dolphin volunteer vacation / conservation holiday around the Azores archipelago.

Update from our whale and dolphin volunteer vacation / conservation holiday around the Azores archipelago

The weather remains challenging as is the visibility and wind, and the team members have had to remain flexible. We had an unusual – and sad – sighting on Sunday when we saw a dead common dolphin. It was missing its tail, and we assume it got caught in a fishing net even though the tuna fisherman here in the Azores use hooks and not nets. Monday was the best day on the water for this slot so far – we saw Risso’s dolphins breaching, a giant sun fish, a loggerhead turtle, and a group of fourteen sperm whales with calves!

Risso's dolphins
Risso’s dolphins
Sperm whale
Sperm whale

Update from our whale and dolphin volunteer vacation / conservation holiday around the Azores archipelago

Update from our whale and dolphin volunteer vacation / conservation holiday around the Azores archipelago (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/azores)

Team three has arrived, and with them has come the stormy weather. The seas are too choppy to go out, so today was a slide show and data entry day at base camp. We did do the on-board briefing and familiarized ourselves with the boat and the equipment, and now we wait for the wind to die down.

PS: I forgot to publish the slot 1 sightings, so here they are: sperm whale 12 encounters – 21 animals – 6 calves | common dolphin 22 enc – 603 animals | bottlenose dolphin 1 enc – 2 animals | false killer whale 1 enc – 4 animals | sei whale 6 enc – 20 animals | fin whale 15 enc – 17 animals | blue whale 2 enc – 2 animals.

Bad weather moving in :(
Bad weather moving in 😦

Update from our whale and dolphin volunteer vacation / conservation holiday around the Azores archipelago

Update from our whale and dolphin volunteer vacation / conservation holiday around the Azores archipelago (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/azores):

Slot two has completed their last “turtle time”, and yes, we finally spotted a turtle within the designated turtle time thanks to Sylvia. Lisa bought us a round of drinks and Nigel bought us a round of desserts and it was quite sweet, on all accounts. Just as we finished that celebration, yesterday we finally caught and tagged a loggerhead turtle, so we are quite happy with the turtle sightings this slot.

The second team had a week of terrific weather (Beaufort=1-2, wind=1-2) and once again we had a great variety of animal sightings and made quite a few matches to animals Lisa has previously matched up here in the Azores.

Thank you team 2 – roll on team 3!

Sightings for team 2: sperm whale – 28 encounters, 51 animals, 7 calves | minke whale – 3 encounters, 3 animals | sei whale – 1 encounter, 3 animals | blue whale – 2 encounters, 2 animals | fin whale – 5 encounters, 6 animals | common dolphin – 21 encounters, 800 animals | bottlenose dolphin – 4 encounters, 238 animals | Risso’s dolphin – 5 encounters, 31 animals | striped dolphins – 2 encounters, 230 animals.

Turtle tagging
Turtle tagging
Turtle tagging
Turtle tagging

Update from our whale and dolphin volunteer vacation / conservation holiday around the Azores archipelago

Update from our whale and dolphin volunteer vacation / conservation holiday around the Azores archipelago (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/azores)

Our second group of volunteers has brought very nice weather and some incredible luck for us in our sightings. We continue to have the excellent problem of data coming in so quickly that at times it is difficult to keep up with recording them. A new species for us was sighted on Tuesday when we saw a minke whale.  We also had the opportunity to see eleven sperm whales swimming abreast on the surface. Tuesday we also had eight random sightings, which kept Cornelia and Sylvia quite busy on the POPA paperwork.

After a well-deserved shore day on Wednesday, we continued to be lucky in our animal sightings on Thursday and saw striped dolphins swimming in their carousel fashion and a leatherback turtle. We also saw sperm whales exhibiting unusual behavior by sticking their noses out of the water to take a look at neighboring whale watching boats. Both days we sighted the strange and wonderful sun fish. Also on Thursday, several of us on the Physeter had the remarkable good fortune to see a sperm whale breach. We’ll see if we can top that in our last two days.

Common & Risso's dophin
Common & Risso's dophin
Sperm whales
Sperm whales

Update from our whale and dolphin volunteer vacation / conservation holiday around the Azores archipelago

Update from our whale and dolphin volunteer vacation / conservation holiday around the Azores archipelago (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/azores)

Our research team for slot two has arrived, and we are coming together nicely as a research team after our first (half) day at sea. We all got a chance to practice our spotting skills with a fin whale with the unusual habit of diving for more than twenty minutes at a time. We also spent some time with the largest grouping of common dolphins to date, a group of 200+.

Fin whale
Fin whale
Common dolphins
Common dolphins

Update from our whale and dolphin volunteer vacation / conservation holiday around the Azores archipelago