We are currently managing 9 ongoing projects at our headquarters in Nusa Penida; BRUV’s, roving survey dives, coral restoration, behavioural analysis of blue spotted sting rays, turtle ID, mangrove restoration, the Indo Shark Log, Micro Plastic/Marine Debris surveys, and Coral Biodiversity Mapping. Learn more about these our current projects here…

  1. BRUV

Popular with the interns and part of Indo Ocean Project’s ongoing research with Florida International University is our regular BRUV drops. BRUV stands for Baited Remote Underwater Video and consists of a GoPro mounted onto a frame and deployed at depth across our local reefs. It is a relatively simple and non-invasive technique to gather footage that is then used to determine the number of elasmobranchs or commercially viable fish species present in the area.

1 kilogram of bait is put into a wire cage and attached to a pole in the camera’s field of view. BRUV sampling is done throughout the Marine Protect Area (MPA) that surrounds Nusa Penida. Locations for deployment are scientifically chosen at random to avoid site bias and placed during daylight hours. We drop them between 4m and 30m of depth, with a flat bottom to maximize line of sight. Special care is taken using SCUBA gear and lift bags to avoid live coral and to orient the BRUV facing down current. The BRUV is left for an hour while other activities such as survey or training dives, are conducted.

Before and after each deployment environmental variables are measured including water current speed, salinity, bottom depth, visibility, and water temperature. To record the data each video is viewed twice by trained volunteers so that every elasmobranch or commercially valuable fish species present in the field of view is counted.

If you happen to see our BRUV whilst diving in Nusa Penida PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH IT, if possible try to swim past and BEHIND so that you do not come into view of the GoPro, thank you!

Locations: Penida, Komodo, Bunaken, Bira

2. Roving Survey

Being able to conduct rapid species assessments is becoming increasingly more important as a conservation research tool. Our research team uses the ‘Roving Diver Technique’, a visual surveying method designed specifically for actively seeking out and positively identifying indicator species. Data on species composition, sighting frequency, and abundance of all fishes are collected using this survey method.

The survey team consists of a minimum of 2 researchers and a dive guide. Lead by our resident marine biologist and certified dive instructor, the research team records all correctly identified indicator species over 30cm for the duration of 30 minutes. The size is confirmed using an L-Stick device that is 1 meter by 30cm and data is recorded on slates including species name, number of individuals, size, sex, time, and depth.

Once on the surface the group’s data is compared and combined into one data set per survey dive and is inputted into the databases every afternoon. Each assistant is provided with a Fish Identification pre arrival study guide. They also undergo a thorough training upon arrival and must pass a fish identification test with a minimum of 90% for their data to be counted.

The data is submitted into various online databases including eOceans, SharkBase, and Reef.org. By submitting the data onto these platforms we contribute to marine conservation efforts worldwide. Furthermore we input into our own free and open access database. This data is shared with Indonesia’s Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Affairs as well as used for our resident scientists research.

Locations: Penida, Komodo, Bunaken, Bira

3. Coral Restoration & Nursery

Nusa Penida boasts some of the most unspoiled and bio diverse coral reefs in the world. We are lucky to have such a rich baseline to be working from, but conservationists are concerned for the future of our reefs. The island is developing quickly and with it we can expect some impact on our coastlines. Recent bad weather also damaged much of the beautiful coral in Crystal Bay, one of our most popular dive sites. Indo Ocean Project is in the process of developing and installing coral nurseries in 2 targeted areas to help regenerate the areas, Crystal Bay and SD point. 

Interns collect naturally occurring fragments from the surrounding areas and attach them to a fixed rope structure in water between 12m-5m as well as to fixed nursery structures. As the fragments grow large enough they are then out-planted to nearby reefs at similar depths of water via the hitching technique.

Our friends from New Heaven Reef Conservation in Koh Tao have had enormous success in the ability to regenerate degraded areas using this method. In October 2018, two of the New Heaven staff members visited Indo Ocean Project to help us build and install our first coral nursery. 

Locations: Penida, Bira

4. Behavioural Study of Blue Spotted Stingrays

Indo Ocean Project is also in the process of prosing an exciting initiative to study the behaviour of a local species of stingray. Over the years a large number of Blue Spotted Stingrays have regularly been observed by divers at 20m of depth off Manta Point. Blue Spotted Stingrays (Neotrygon kuhlii) are listed as “Data Deficient” on the IUCN Red List indicating more research into the species is needed. We are conducting a behavioural analysis to determine whether these congregations are seasonal and what is causing this gather at this specific location.

We use a Remote Underwater Video (RUV) at one specific location and record up to four times per month and record 60 minutes. We are installing a permanent mount structure for 3 GoPro’s for consistent 360 degrees filming, easier video comparison across RUV drops, and to mitigate any negative impact we may have on the surrounding environment.

From previous casual observation and footage viewed it is expected that the data collected will show a seasonal pattern of aggregations. Behavioural analysis of the footage is expected to show pre-mating or mating behaviour.

We are collecting footage for 1 year for an initial phase of the study launching in January 2019. With this information we plan to publish our findings in a scientific journal for peer review on matting behaviours of Neotrygon kuhlii and push for further protection of this site as a key habitat (mating ground).

Locations: Penida

5. Shark & Turtle ID

Effective marine conservation and management practices for threatened species rely heavily on an in-depth knowledge of population dynamics. This includes abundance and distribution, habitat use, and life history parameters. In the past this information has been collected using a capture-mark-recapture technique. However with the advancement of photographic and identification technology we are not able to collect the information suing a non-invasive method. Photographic identification is the method of using photographs of an animal’s natural markings for individual identification, and has recently been used increasingly as a reliable tool to track individuals over time. The us of photo-ID offers many advantages over the conventional tagging methods, as it is non-invasive, low cost, and has proved to be reliable over long periods of time. However identifying individuals using photo-ID may become time consuming as the number of photographs in the database increase. Additionally, intensive training is required to become familiar with the characteristics and the population features in order to obtain correct matches.

            Our team of researchers seeks out profile pictures either taken during survey dives or submitted by local divers voluntarily. We use a non-subjective computer assisted process using coding of the facial profiles of turtles on the i3s identification software. Data is collected and shared with our friends at YKK Nusa Penida – Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Centre to help monitor our population of turtles and track any recovery information.

            The identification of individuals within a population and the collection of reliable information on distribution, habitat use, and life history traits are the minimum requirement for behavioral and ecological studies of a species. Therefore, this long-term project is designed to provide valuable information to marine biologists around the world to help create better management strategies and educational outlets on the marine mega fauna in Indonesia’s top diving destinations.

Locations: Penida, Bunaken, Bira

6. Mangrove Restoration

Mangroves are arguably the most diverse and important habitats on the planet. They are a nursery ground for most reef fish, creatures, and corals, and provide essential support to other near by marine ecosystems. They are also one of the best ‘Carbon Sinks’! In essence, mangroves are nature answer to climate change and contribute towards the global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

1/5th of the world’s mangrove population disappeared over the last decade. The primary threats to mangrove destruction are coastal development, their use as a rubbish dump, and overexploitation. Protecting these vital ecosystems has become more important than ever.

Our interns regularly go out to collect mangrove propagules (seeds) along the coastline of Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan. These seedlings are brought back to headquarters, cleaned, and planted in a salted soil compost mixture and kept in our mangrove nursery for optima growth. With daily watering from our recycled wash bins, the propagules are ready for transplanting after 3-6 months along predetermined locations in Nusa Penida. Once that have been transplanted, their growth and success rate is monitored with weekly visits to the replantation zone.

All guests diving with Nomads Diving can ‘Adopt A Mangrove’ by donating 20,000 IDR ($1.50 USD) after a dive to their care and upkeep. With a simple equation we can determine a diver’s carbon footprint versus the amount of mangroves needed to make their dive trip carbon neutral!

Locations: Penida, Bira

7. The Great Ocean Log

The Great Ocean Log is a global initiative designed to tap into the invaluable data source of divers and citizen scientists around the world. It creates one comprehensive survey database combining standardised practices for a complex understanding of coral reef ecosystems across regions of study. This data is managed and analysed by the Indo Ocean Project team and shared with various global and local sources.

We encourage any diver traveling in Indonesia to submit their sightings online or through our off line-submitting app due to launch in April 2019. Through education and awareness we encourage the dive community of Indonesia to engage their customers in becoming citizen scientists and shark advocates.

Data and information manuals are provided on the App or through our website. The Indo Ocean Project team monitors our e-mail address sightings@indooceanproject.org and updates any sightings into our data log.

            This is our outreach program attempting to standardize a nation wide shark and ray survey to provide insight on various species, sighting frequency, population, and key habitat areas to assist in the fight for blanket protection across Indonesia. With the prototype used at the Penida Project, Bunaken Project, and Bira Project in 2019 and other involvement across the region in 2020.

Locations: Penida, Komodo, Bunaken, Bira

8. Micro Plastic & Marine Debris Survey with Save The Plastic Foundation

Indonesia is a large tourist destination with SCUBA diving activities being a large part of marine tourism. Its popularity has led to a massive amount of waste being produced per day. Paired with terrestrial development and poor waste management plastics and other debris has been exposed to the marine environment.

With tourist numbers continuing to grow annually and a changing climate expected to increase regularity of severe weather patterns and precipitation, the problem of marine litter and its impacts is also expected to increase. These compounding factors create major challenges requiring equally sizeable changes to management and policy in Indonesia to reduce the negative impacts of marine debris.

In January 2019, the island of Bali banned all single use plastic bags and utensils. Although this will take several months to implement and enforce, it shows that steps are being taken by the government of Indonesia to create a plastic free paradise. Our plastic survey will contribute to a local and global effort in ocean plastic analysis to create better management strategies for local businesses, consumers, and governments.

In collaboration with Save The Plastic and 5 Gyres, this project has two sampling strategies to create a comprehensive understanding of marine debris and plastic use in the area.

1)  We run 2 beach clean ups per week along the same 500m stretch collecting all foreign debris. The debris is taken back to for sorting, counting, and weighing and is inputted into a data sheet

2)  A ‘Manta Trawl’ is attached to the side of the boat and dragged slowly during a slack tide to collect micro plastics and other surface debris. A manta trawl is made up of a pole and mesh net to filter the water and collect micro plastics. The collection is sorted weighed and measured and inputted into the data sheet.

Locations: Penida, Bunaken, Bira

9. Coral Biodiversity Mapping

            As the dive industry increases on Nusa Penida, the biodiversity and general reef health becomes increasingly economically valuable and potentially at risk. In order to better understand the biodiversity of the region and the impacts of tourism over time, we aim to produce a high resolution map and inventory on the overall biodiversity of selected sights. Special emphasis will be placed on the reef crest through algal plain. We will identify benthic sessile organisms and cryptic invertebrates to the lowest possible classification. Additionally, we will survey benthic and mesobenthic fish species through a stationary fish census. This data set will provide a detailed picture of the local biodiversity and will set the base for future research both at Indo Ocean Project and within the community at large.

This project was developed by intern, Nathan Montgomery Smith, as part of his University’s internship program. The project was such a success we have adopted it full time and implementing the methodology across our study areas

Locations: Penida, Bunaken, Bira