Jeffri Heong – Bira Project Manager
Since the last quarterly report, the Bira project has seen Caitlin Engberg, Amy Heinemans, Toby Wright, Imogen Lovell, Carlo Gargioni, Lucy Gohm, Celine Maitrel and Dana Grad graduate from our divemaster program. We were proud to see these names join our program as most of them had new jobs waiting for them as soon as they finished and utilize their experience with IOP to full use. With the going of old faces, we also welcomed new faces such as Sebastian Kipling, Zak Hindley, Leonard Bechem, Rhys Woollard and Federico Buda. Country of origins vary from the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.
So far, we have conducted 27 ecological workshops which encompasses our marine ecology, coral, sharks, rays, mantas, mola, turtle and nudibranch workshops which allows our intern to gain in-depth knowledge of these fascinating marine creatures. We have also conducted 17 diver development workshops which has allowed our interns to hone their diving and professional skills both on land and on the surface to get them ready for the professional diving industry.
The Bira project has seen exponential growth during these past few months as our projects such as our mangrove nursery, coral nursery, community outreach and data collaborations has all flourished . Our community outreach program has now expanded to working with the disabled and disadvantaged women of the local community through local community cleanups. This outreach has allowed us to interact with those of most need as they also try to contribute to their community in a productive way. Our school program has also flourished as we have made school visits a routine on every Fridays for the interns and staff and some of the kids have even started drawing their own marine life and learning about the marine ecosystem.
We also have exciting news for the science part of our project as we have started the initial stages of constructing a memorandum of understanding with Hassanuddin University, a publicly funded university in Makassar , for future collaborations to protect and establish a marine protected area around the waters of Tanjung Bira. Our lead marine scientist, Pascal Sebastian, and Bira project manager Jeffri Hoeng were invited to give a presentation of our project and present an outlook on the marine ecosystem in Bira and the challenges it currently faces. We are hopeful that this memorandum of understanding will be expanded in the future and we could train several students from Hassanuddin University on our methods so that we could the train the future generations on the threats facing their country.
On the diving side of our update, the past few months have seen the waters around Bira decreasing to an average of 27 degree celcius from 28 and this has brought our project a lot of surprises. To start off, we headed into August with our first sighting of the tiger shark in the waters around Pulau Kambing. This individual would be seen one more time before departing the surrounding waters. Colder waters also brought in another surprise, the bumphead mola which was again seen around Pulau Kambing. To cap off our amazing month, our interns also had the chance to spot two whale sharks in one week during their surveys dives in the house reef. We have also started spotting pregnant white tip reef sharks, mating moray eels and a mating train conducted by the marbled stingrays that inhabit the waters around Pulau Kambing
Although we hope this trend to continue, we do expect the water temperature to rise in the coming months as the season is changing. As the wind has started to blow East, we also do expect the warmer currents to be more prevalent in the changing of the season. With the changing of the season, this would also mean our lovely boat, the Oro Jackson, would have to be moved into the harbour to protect it from the large swells that are looming.
With the past few months having provided us with a lot of pleasant surprises, we cant wait to see what Bira has in store for our project as we approach the end of the year. As we welcome the last batch of interns for 2022 before the project takes a break for one month due to the windy season, we will also be working on making sure the project will have a smooth reopening in February 2023.
Elise Dixon and Qinthan Aulia
Data and Science
During this quarter, the Bira Research Team has (as always) been very active with scientific diving! In the water, the team has deployed 17 BRUVs, undertaken 35 Roving Survey Dives, completed 4 reef health monitoring surveys of our CoralWatch site, completed 6 coral restoration and maintenance dives at the restoration site at the house reef of our partners Blue Planet Dive Resort. From the land, the team has analysed & recorded data from 15 BRUVs and undertaken water quality analysis for every BRUV drop and visit to the coral restoration site.
With a team of epic divers and scientifically inclined minds, it is unsurprising that everyone has done a brilliant job at overcoming challenges that naturally come about when performing tasks underwater. Exceptional underwater navigation and search patterns have been put into action by the interns to recover lost BRUVs in challenging currents; planning and undertaking full search & recovery dives at a moment’s notice (every dive is a training dive!). Great control and teamwork have allowed deployments and retrievals in such conditions to be very efficient. It’s awesome to see everyone embracing challenging conditions and using every dive to refine and perfect their diving.
Throughout the quarter, the Unite Bira database has been updated with 1108 individual sightings of marine megafauna seen by the Research Team while diving, doing current checks, snorkelling and from the boat. With the water temperatures and conditions having changed recently, some very exciting species have been made seen the last quarterly report!
Sightings include frequently spotted White Tip Reef Shark (Triaenodon obesus), Black Tip Reef Shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus), Spotted Eagle Ray (Aetobatus narinari), Marbled Stingray (Taeniurops meyeni), Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Grey Reef Shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos), infrequent sightings of Tahitian Stingray (Himantura fai), Mangrove Whipray (Himantura granulata), Short Horned Pygmy Devil Ray (Mobula kuhlii), Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus), Bottlenose Dophins (tursiops truncatus), 2 sightings of a mature TIGER SHARK (Galeocerdo cuvier), and a Bumphead Mola (Mola alexandrini)!
Armed with GoPros and cameras, the Research Team has been actively seeking out megafauna to take ID shots of sharks, rays and turtles; contributing to citizen science on both Indonesian and global databases. Interns have been doing an awesome job with their buoyancy and environmental awareness to get really good ID shots. Our inhouse database of ID shots is growing by the day, and some of the interns have been uploading shark & ray shots to Elasmobranch Project Indonesia, and turtle ID shots to Marine Megafauna’s database Internet of Turtles. Lots of new turtles are being identified to science here in Bira through the hard work and scientific passion of our dedicated interns at Indo Ocean Project.
Coral Restoration Project
Coral restoration has been conducted regularly and we are continuing to see great success with the colonies we have propagated. Mortality rates in our coral nurseries are now at less than 2% across the 370 nubbins that have been propagated; including 118 new nubbins that have been added throughout this quarter. The team has been continuing to conduct regular censuses, which have produced promising results; demonstrating very low bleaching rates and exciting growth within the nurseries. Our restoration site now consists of 3 tables using the floating rope method, including 2 that have recently been deployed; along with experimentation using in-situ metal structures. Through being involved in our restoration project and undertaking Ocean Gardener’s Coral Diver course provided as part of their research internship, we now have 12 new Ocean Gardeners proficient in coral restoration, coral ID and coral ecology.
Ocean Gardener is an NGO founded in 2016, and dedicated to coral reef education and restoration. We proudly partner with them across all our locations to provide up to date and accurate information when developing and managing our coral nurseries.
This quarter, the team continues to conduct regular marine debris clean ups; including 4 Dives Against Debris and 4 beach cleans. The total marine debris pulled out from the reef and off the beaches has been 400kg by our team of dedicated Ocean Warriors! Outside of this, the interns continue to treat every dive as a Dive Against Debris, filling their pockets with trash they find along the way on almost every dive! The majority of marine debris comprised of fishing line, fishing net, plastic bottles, footwear and glass. Big thank you to all the research team and others from the local community who have been making big efforts to ensure we are protecting the marine environment through these clean ups.
I am excited to share that in the last quarter the mangroves in our nursery have been growing exceptionally well with the hard work in maintaining the mangrove nursery and watering the mangroves on a daily basis. The soil composition being used is proving to be beneficial to the mangroves; they are developing brilliant roots and leaves, and they will soon be ready to plant out at Luppung Mangrove Forest. Through the hard work of our interns and the local crew, I am pleased to share that we now have a large new (and very strong) mangrove nursery, replacing the one that I previously reported on collapsing in my last report.
Mangrove Luppung Manyampa
Day to day at Indo Ocean Project
The interns we have welcomed in the last 3 months have been (as always) exceptionally passionate divers, conservationists and lovers of the natural world. It is so awesome for myself, Jeffri and Qinthan seeing the interns, who are from far and wide, enjoying all aspects of their training and focusing on the areas they have become especially passionate about on their fun dives and in their spare time, notably: underwater photography, coral ID, fish ID, citizen science, videography, and nerding out over dive theory. The team has been making the most of their time underwater, working on their buoyancy, propulsion, situational awareness and teamwork on every dive they do, growing as both divers and scientific divers every single day. The educated discussions, as well as personal jokes developed between the interns is amazing to see develop, with everyone learning from each other and growing as a team. Out of the water, the team has been enjoying watching both diving and conservation documentaries in their spare time and as part of the schedule. In spare time, interns have been enjoying each other’s company in and around Bira through climbing, beach fires, snorkelling and sight-seeing.