Bira Project Manager
sSince the last bimonthly report, we have welcomed our last batch of interns for the year of 2022 before the project closes for a period of 6 weeks. During these last few months, we have had Sebastian Kipling from Denmark, Zak Hindley from the UK, Federico Buda from Italy, Leonard Bechem from Germany, Ethan High from the US, Agathe Poignant from France, Natalie Choo from Canada and Sarah Foudrier from France graduating from our program. Most of them would be continuing on with their university degrees or conducting their IDC programs.
All the above interns are Bira’s last batch of interns for 2022. We look forward to welcoming the future batch of interns arriving in February 2023 to continue with our research and conservation efforts here.
A total of 32 interns have arrived and completed their program in Bira in 2022 and we are excited to continue to educate the future batch of dive professionals with our ever evolving workshops and activities that enhance our interns program experience.
Year in Summary
The past year has been a year of growth for the Bira project as we have currently established collaborations with the the local schools, the management committee of the Luppung Mangrove forest, establishing our memorandum of understanding with the University of Hassanudin and establishing further connections with the local community to educate and establish a longer and lasting effect on our conservation efforts in Tanjung Bira.
In total for 2022, we have conducted 115 surveys and successfully deployed 53 BRUVs around Bira. 124 ecological workshops and 115 diver development workshops have also been given by our instructors while 32 interns have been fully certified as IOP surveys divers and have wholly contributed to the collection of data around Bira.
To cap off the year with some of our more exciting sightings seen during our surveys and BRUVs, we have seen Tiger Sharks, Whale Sharks, Zebra Sharks, Brown Banded Bamboo Sharks, Coral Cat Sharks, Silky Sharks, Short-Finned Pilot Whales, Bottlenose Dolphins ,Blue Marlins, Oceanic Mantas, Marbled Stingrays, Tahitian Stingrays, Bumphead Molas and of course our resident reef sharks (Whitetip reefs, Blacktip reefs and Grey reefs). It has been an outstanding year of diving and research in Bira and we are excited to continue our efforts moving forwards into 2023.
Surveys and BRUV’s
For the period of October, November and December, we have conducted a total of 34 surveys and deployed 15 BRUVs. During this period, we have sighted Oceanic Mantas, Grey Reef Sharks, Bumphead Parrotfish, Napoleon Wrasses, Spinetail Devil Rays, Spotted Eagle Rays and Green Sea Turtles. We have started to diversify our survey and BRUV sites as the weather condition has allowed us to travel to previously unreachable dive sites located east of Bira.
Currently, the water temperatures around Bira has increased by an average of 1°C as we are experiencing an average minimum of 29°C and 31 °C maximum. With this change in temperature, we have observed plenty more jellyfish blooms around Bira and coral bleaching events infront of our house reef. The wind has also started to blow from the West which means waves and strong winds are becoming a regular occurrence in our house reef. To protect our coral nursery in the upcoming months of December and January where winds will pick up substantially, we have moved some of our nursery tables to deeper depths to prevent any damages during our break period.
Compared to the extravagant month of diving in August and September where we saw Whale Sharks, Tiger Sharks, Silky Sharks, Bumphead Molas ,Grey Reef Sharks and our dive sites being immersed with megafauna, the past few months have been a tad bit milder. Although sightings of the Bumphead Mola , Tiger Sharks and Silky Sharks have been absent since October, we have sighted another surprising newcomer in the waters of Bira, the elusive Oceanic Manta and the Zebra Shark. Bira continues to surprise us pleasantly and we are eager to see what it has in store for us in 2023.
Some of our interns have also conducted their Deep Specialty courses with our partner, Blue Planet Dive Resort, for the opportunity of experiencing new dive sites such as Cape Bira and Neptune Point where the reefs and drop offs start at a depth of 30m. Our interns have also gained much experience diving in the current and familiarizing themselves on the procedures in diving pinnacle diving sites as they have gone on to dive the famous Fish Market dive site where their learned knowledge on how to prepare, plan and conduct themselves in challenging conditions are utilized.
Our first mangrove planting at Tanjung Bira in the Luppung Mangrove Forest was a resounding success as we have successfully planted 283 new baby mangroves. New mangrove propagules have also been planted in the nursery for future activities which are currently being managed by Qinthan, Elise and of course our interns. With our ongoing collaboration with the mangrove forest, we hope to assist their restoration efforts and contribute to the minimization of land erosion in the village of Tanah Biru.
This bimonthly update will be my final update as the Bira Project Manager. This year has been an invaluable experience for myself and for the rest of the IOP team and we look forward to the upcoming year. With various new activities, collaborations and data sets put in place and new dive sites discovered , the Bira project is establishing itself comfortably and the year ahead looks full of promise.
Program Coordinator and Research Assistant
Since the past-end quarter, the Bira research team has been through an amazing scientific diving experience! Exploring the biodiversity of Bira, the team has deployed 16 BRUVs and completed 34 roving survey dives. The research team has completed 6 CoralWatch monitoring dives, and 4 coral restoration and maintenance dives at our beloved House Reef site with our partners Blue Planet Dive Resort.
The team has shown incredible passion to the oceans by doing an outstanding job during their dives and on land activities. Every person in the team is handling any stress with patience and always takes care of each other. The atmosphere at the project is filled with joy and happiness as we work together as a team to accomplish our research and training goals each month.
I have watched these interns grow and learn. We remember the words “every dive is a training dive” by Elise Dixon (now moved to the Raja Ampat Project). They also remember my own words “there is no perfect in learning, but improve”. The staff are always so excited to teach and share while the interns are always ready to gain as much experience as they can. This has created an incredible team work environment that has grown into our IOP family.
Coral Restoration and Nursery Project
Coral restoration and nursery site has been expanding and restoring the habitat. This increases the biodiversity at Blue Planet House Reef by securing coral rubber and promoting new croal growth. Not only have we put the new structures, but the team is also monitoring from the previous tables installed; coral measurement has been conducted regularly to track growth rates and overall success of our restoration strategy.
The team also conducts regular coral census surveys, to monitor the coral disease, bleaching rates and mortality rates within the nurseries and surrounding area. Throughout this quarter, our beloved coral restoration site now has 3 metal tables used as a nursery and 9 metal spiders for direct restoration and reef building. The team has propagated 216 coral nubbins on the new 9 metal spiders this quarter.
All of our interns completed an Ocean Gardener course as a part of their research internship program. We now have 4 more new Ocean Gardeners proficient in coral ecology, coral ID and coral restoration. They are now capable and experienced in coral reef restoration, and have the ability to go on to become a coral restoration expert!
Being involved in CoralWatch citizen science program is one of our efforts to track climate change. There are 20 individual corals, including 4 different types of corals: boulder, branching, plate and soft coral. We preformed some maintainance on the coral tags with updated bamboo markings, which has less of an environmental impact as they are biodegradable. The CoralWatch site is located at the House Reef, in between 6 – 11 meter of the depth. In the last quarter we conducted 6 CoralWatch monitoring dives. Using a specialized chart, our coral samples are tracked over time and the data is shared on a global database.
CoralWatch is a not-for-profit citizen science program based at The University of Queensland working with volunteers worldwide to increase understanding of coral reefs, coral bleaching and climate change.
Dive Against Debris is one of the citizen science programs we use to raise awareness for marine plastic polution, made by PADI Aware Foundation. Divers worldwide can get involved by joining in on a dive against debris on your next diving holiday and inputting the data into the global database.
We regularly schedule dive against debris dives and in the last quarter have collected a total of 28,21 kg of marine debris, including fishing lines and nets, fishing gears, plastics packaging, and other various items. It was a sad moment every time we see how waste smothers or entangels the corals which can decreases their zooxanthellea to produce photosynthesis and can have a lasting harmful effect.
Although it’s a lot of work, all the interns have been very passionate about joining in on Dive Against Debris dives in this quarter time and made an “every dive is a Dive Against Debris dive”. Yep, almost every dive the team collected trash with their mesh bags or stuffing their BCD pockets.
A small step for a bigger impact! We are facing the end of the year, where the weather is also changing from the East season to the West season. We have a lot of trash that washes ashore along our beautiul beach, Panthi Putih. This trash is not always from our community, but is brought to our beaches by run off and ocean currents. The waves then bring this debris to shore. We have done 5 Beach Clean-up in this quarter, all conducted along the beach in front of the Blue Planet Dive Resort, with an incredible total of 204,31 kg collected! We are sorting the collected trash into plastic bottles, plastic fragments, flip flops (maybe one of them is yours?!), glass and aluminum.
Education Project: Visit Tanjung Bira Kindergarten School
We are very happy to feel such a warm welcome to the Bira Kindergarten School every Friday. Interns lead a series of activities including exercise in the morning, English classess, alphabets and numbers. The kids are very welcoming with smiles on their faces when they see the “blue shirts” coming. It is not as easy as it looks, but lots of fun and very rewarding for myself and the interns! The children continue to learn and show progress in english and social skills.
This quarter we did more arts and craft activities, such as introducing them with printed pictures of marine animals, drawing, painting and raising awareness about single use plastic. They learned about sharks and their favourite food with a game called “Feed The Shark”. In this game the children cut out and colour different kinds of food and try to feed it to our shark board, and intern is hiding being the shark and if it is fed something it doesn’t like it will spit it back up, and the kids love to laugh and learn.
We also donated reusable tote bags for each student to replace their plastic bags. They were able to decorate their own bag and were so proud to show off their new craft. We are hoping that these continued efforts will help to motivate the next generation to take ownership over their environemtn and the oceans. Because we believe a better world comes from educating our children.