Mette Carlsen – Penida Project Manager

I am delighted to share my first quarterly report as project manager of the Nusa Penida program. As project manager in Nusa Penida I am replacing Michaela who has been in this role for two years! She is, however, not leaving IOP and moving into the head office as Chief Financial Officer and into the brand new office along with Serena, Pascal and Lauren. I want to give a personal thank you to Michaela for aiding my transition with working with Reeflex and passing on all your experience and expertise for this new chapter. Furthermore, we give our warm goodbyes to Sigrid, who has been program coordinator for the past year. Thank you for all your hard work and wish you the best in the future. Sigrid will soon be replaced by Anne Van Bommen as new program coordinator, an IOP intern alumni from the Raja Ampat Project and my exceptional divemaster student from earlier in the year. 

In the past three months 15 new SSI and PADI dive masters have graduated in Penida and we would like to give an additional congratulations to Sudhira Subramaniam, Constanza Maturana, Anindita Chatterjee, Nathalia Guiraud, Lachlan Nicol, Harry Longin, Tanmay Robert Kharmabha, Sherly Tham, Mia Talbot, Katie Lizza, Vittika Lalwani, Maleah Steward, Emily Nicolella, Natalee strong, Virginia Viola Paglia. 

We were happy to host a recent graduate from the Raja Ampat project, Anindita Chatterjee for two weeks as she joined the Penida project. She was incredibly enthusiastic and helpful to the staff here and as always we are happy to welcome interns from across our locations. Furthermore, we welcomed previous interns Rosie Bancroft, Lauren Wise, Marianna Varga, Chris and Leander back on the island for a visit. It is always lovely to see students again and hear about their endeavours and updates from around the world. 

The mola (ocean sunfish) season has been booming in Penida this year. Up to 5 individuals have been seen in a single dive and sightings were reported multiple times a week by different dive groups. They even saw a mola on one of the deep scenarios in August! A group of interns got the exciting opportunity to create a mapping project of one of our dive sites that have not been mapped before and helping future interns with understanding the dive. Furthermore, the interns have joined in freediving workshops at Freedive Nusa as well as IDC workshops as Purple Dive Penida and Blue Corner Dive, teaching how to do cannonball and make bubble rings, essentials for any future instructors. 

My arrival in Pendia marks the end of the dry season and some much-needed rain is finally starting to arrive, bringing lovely warm water and greening the island. The long dry period meant that the mangrove nursery needed some extra attention this year. For that reason, we manufactured a new compost for the seedlings to increase the growth rate in the harsher months and prepare them for our next planting event in East Nusa Penida for early December. 

For the first time since covid, we have had an education day at the Penida Project. On the 15th of September 5 staff went with the interns to the coconut forest and spent the day with the a local afterschool program lead by the incredible eco warrior and original member of CorAlliance, Barik. Ages 5 to 14, the kids introduced themselves in English and the interns in Indonesian. We spent the day doing different exercises and educating them on the importance of the coral reef and how they can contribute to protecting it. This day marks the beginning of a community outreach in Penida with plans to become a monthly event held at the new Indo Ocean Research and Education Center in Toya Pakeh. 

A big thank you goes out to the interns for all the dives against debris, community cleanups, coral watch, BRUVs and Roving surveys that have been done in the last few months. We are very grateful for this wonderful team effort contributing to science and local engagement in conservation.  

Rinaldi Gotama – Marine Biologist and Data Analyst

Biodiversity report

Penida has been experiencing an extended cold season this year! Even though we expected the water temperature to rise to a comfortable range (26-28 degrees C) in September, the water remained quite cold until October especially in our Southern sites. During some days, the water could be as cold as 17 degrees! We always persevere despite our frozen fingers because we know that the cold water, which is brought by the currents from nutrient-rich depths, often brings the most interesting creatures! For example, our mola season (Mola alexandrini) was also extended, and our interns enjoyed multiple sightings of these gentle giants in the past three months. We also saw several other rare megafauna, including whitetip reef sharks (Triaenodon obesus), Indonesian wobbegongs (Orectolobus leptolineatus), spotted eagle rays (Aetobatus ocellatus), and marbled stingrays (Taeniurops meyeni).

Science report

The Penida team just hit an incredible milestone in October: we have officially dropped 200 BRUVs in Penida! BRUVs (Baited Remote Underwater Video) are not only an important technique to monitor predator abundance and diversity, but it’s also one of our interns’ favorite activities, as dropping BRUVs allow them to improve their buoyancy, air consumption, and various other diving techniques. We are thrilled of this achievement as this symbolizes our hard work since the inception of IOP, and we are eager to share the results and data we have collected with you. Stay tuned for more information in the upcoming quarter!

Besides the 12 BRUVs we dropped this quarter, we have also done 36 roving survey dives and 15 benthic survey dives. We conduct these long-term, regular scientific activities in our beloved marine protected area (MPA) in order to monitor the health of the reef as well as the abundance and biomass of highly-important fish and megafauna species. In the long run, we want to be able to draw the line between human impact toward the MPA, coral and benthic biodiversity, and fish and megafauna biodiversity.

New collaboration

In August, we welcomed Professor Sai-kit Yeung from my alma mater, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), to the Penida Project! Professor Yeung’s research focuses on developing novel algorithms for 3D reconstruction, modeling, and image detection. IOP and Professor Yeung’s lab are teaming up to develop new methods to detect corals and fishes from videos and images using an underwater ROV. This project has a strong potential to automate one of the most challenging jobs of a marine biologist: watching hours of BRUV videos and annotating hundreds of benthic photos. We are excited to test the newly developed AI technology in our reefs, and aid in the advancement of technology in solving various marine-related problems.

Outreach Support

Working on science is cool, but what’s just as important is to share our data to our peers and general public. Pascal (IOP’s scientific director) and I have been busy attending and speaking in conferences in Bali. I attended the 4th International Conference on Integrated Coastal Management & Marine Biotechnology hosted by IPB university (Bogor, Indonesia) and presented my talk titled “Utilizing citizen science participation to monitor fish and megafauna assemblages in Nusa Penida MPA”. In my presentation, I shared with the audience about our ongoing research and the biodiversity of our reefs. It was a very fun experience meeting and sharing with other scientists coming from all over the world, and we’re looking forward to attending other conferences in the near future!

Citizen science report

Our interns have also been busy learning and contributing with our citizen science efforts. In total, we have conducted 32 citizen science dives, 6 CoralWatch dives, 5 Dive Against Debris dives. In total, we have collected a whopping 30 kg of trash from Crystal Bay! It is imperative for us to keep Crystal Bay clean and healthy, as we use the surrounding habitat for many divemaster-related activities, including all our skills training dives. 

Coral restoration report

Speaking of Crystal Bay, I am pleased to report that we have completed 3 more coral restoration dives this quarter. In October, we also completed a census of all Acropora muricata fragments we are growing in our nursery. Cumulatively, we have 1,028 live fragments thriving in our table, with only 5 of them dead (99.52% success rate)! This is an incredible number and it is not a small feat — so we are relieved that our biggest problem with our coral nursery is that we are running out of space in our tables! We will be working on transplanting some of our larger fragments out of our tables to repopulate the reefs in Crystal Bay. I will keep everyone updated on the status of our coral babies in the next quarterly report.

Sigrid Van den Stock and Michaela Dudasova – Program Coordinator and Dive Instructor

The past three months in Nusa Penida Project were nicely busy since it was our first full high tourist season since the pandemic. We have welcomed champions around the world to join our dive family; Sherly Tham, Emily Nicolella, Virginia Viola Paglia, Vittika Lalwani, Natalee Strong, Peter Owen, Sebastian Navarro, Arantxa Pagonabarraga Altisen, Manon Gibbs, Miriam Villaneuva, Ellie Donaldson, Joyce Choi, Felix Laroche, and Joshua Brown.

When interns arrive, it can be an overwhelming experience, however our staff members and senior interns are helping to ease the nerves. Your first day as an IOP intern at the Penida Project starts early in the morning with a welcome from our reliable driver, Imam, in the Toya Pakeh harbor. Then you are on the last stretch of your long journey to Reeflex Divers and greeted by our program coordinator. After a short tea break and introduction, we introduce you to our facilities where you are going to spend most of your time during the internship. Then we head into your first (of many) workshops all about your induction. It will help you to understand what to expect throughout your stay. After completing your paperwork, Reeflex manager Iyaz will kit you up with your dive gear and show you where to store your equipment. After trying on the gear and getting a detailed explanation about it, it’s time for a lunch break. Indonesian food gives you plenty of power to complete the afternoon’s refresher program. We are going to refresh your dive theory and conduct basic skills in the natural swimming pool. At this time your fellow interns will be finishing up their daily schedule and will help to bring you to your accommodation at Namaste Bungalows and perhaps for a nice local dinner. Yea, the first day is done. 

This time of year the most common question we get is “ what does the cold diving season looks like in Nusa Penida?” Our answer… It’s cold but magical. 

The last 3 months are the peak of our cold water season, and this year was some of the coldest water temperatures on record, fluctuating between 14 – 25 degrees Celsius. When our interns experience those temperatures for the first time, they are a bit shocked but adjust to the conditions as they gain more experience. We say, “there is no bad cold water diving, just unprepared divers”. You need a 5mm wetsuit, a thermal rash guard, and a hooded vest or a diving hood to feel more comfortable diving in these conditions. Those amazing cold currents and thermoclines are bringing in creatures that we don’t see rest of the year, such as bumphead molas (Mola alexandrine) and the Indonesian wobbegong shark (Orectolobus leptolineatus). These megafauna sightings definitely spice up our deep scenario, mapping, roving survey dives, assisting courses, and BRUVs!

The joy on interns faces after seeing a bumphead mola for the first time is priceless and it always warms my heart when they tell me about their experience. Such a special marine animals only found in a handful of locations in the world, and Penida is lucky to have several diveable cleaning stations.

September took us to a new adventure. We have re-launched our education program after the pandemic.  No classroom was needed, just 15 local kids  that are eager to learn. They were between 5 to 14 years old coming from Prapat village in Nusa Penida.  They were accompanied by 5 smiley staff members and local superstar Barik. Our interns fully participated in developing the program and executing it. We have started with a warm up session and group exercises. Our interns introduced themselves in Bahasa Indonesia and the kids in English. Then we talked about the marine ecosystem and played some ocean themed games.  It was a day full of joy and laughter.

Marine Debris Assessments

On bi-monthly dives against debris we have conducted 5 dives collecting 29.4 kg of debris. We have found the usual items amongst most common fishing lines tangled around the reef and unfriendly food packaging. Our team conducted also 2 community clean ups collecting a total of 10.5 kg of trash

Want to join the team?

We are always seeking hard working and enthusiastic ocean lovers to join our award-winning and innovative divemaster and research diver internship. Contact us and apply online today!

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