Selene & Mario – Raja Ampat Project Co-Managers
With our pleasure we share our first quarterly report as Raja Project Co-Managers, with a huge thank you to the amazing Mette Carlsen, previous Manager of the Raja Project, we assure you that we will take good care of your “baby”. We are thrilled to be back with Indo Ocean Project after graduating ourselves from the Penida Project in 2021 and returning to Indonesia after a year teaching diving in Thailand.
A lot has been happening since the new location opened, we are happy to be here to see all the amazing improvements happening in the jungle.
We are proud of all the new divemaster rock stars that are spreading the passion and care for our oceans. Congratulation to our graduates the past three months: Anindita Chatterjee, Greta Cwikla, Douglas Fraser, Giorgio Montoli, Anne van den Boomen, Victoria Phung, Pascal Steiner, Rachel Gray, Wilkie Wai Kiu Tong. Other beautiful people came here already as experienced divers, taking part in the 6 week research program: Michelle SeowShee Teng and Johnathan Zong Da Lim and of course, Michael Van Zyl, who didn’t have enough of the jungle life and came back in August to spend more time with us.
We want to wish the best luck to Douglas and Michelle who have already continued their journey to instructor level and Michael, unfortunately leaving us at the end of the month, but to step in the next challenge: Instructor development course with Purple Dive Penida!
A big thank you goes to all the amazing interns that have been in the front lines with all the roving surveys, BRUVs, benthic survey, dive against debris, coral restoration and all the rest of the amazing science activities happening daily here in Raja Ampat!
We have been lucky to have both Pascal and Serena visiting us in August from head office, we could not be happier to have them joining workshops and sharing their knowledge with interns and staff. Serena joined us as our logistic mastermind and helped us to better understand how to organise our daily duties, connect with the local staff as well as bringing us delicious food, games and nudibranch knowledge. Pascal has a deep love for corals, and with him we held great brainstorming sessions in order to plan what we could improve in our coral restoration site. We decided to move the nursery tables to a lower risk and healthy environment, with less overgrowing algae and sediments for our baby corals to thrive. We are enthusiastic about the new structure for the Raja Project; hexagon, next to a healthy Acropora sp. colony, this structure is going to be part of the coral reef ecosystem, helping the nubbins to grow faster and better. Serena joined us as our logistic mastermind and helped us to better understand how to organise our daily duties, connect with the local staff as well as bringing us delicious food, games and nudibranch knowledge.
After the relocation of the coral nursery we proceeded to plant in a propagation effort the coral nubbins that had grown to a self-sustainable size, waiting to see if a new Acropora sp. colony will establish from the ropes that have been moved onto the fixed wooden poles.
Creating dive professionals is not our only mission. During our time here, we have been conducting marine research to reach our monthly scientific goals. We have completed 9 surveys, 5 BRUVs and 4 benthic in August and 13 surveys, 7 BRUVs and 8 benthic just in the month of September the science targets have been surpassed.
Blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) and whitetip reef sharks (Triaenodon obesus) are a regular appearance in our BRUV deployments and roving survey dives, with many sightings of dolphins, turtles and other elasmobranchs and marine megafauna outside of the survey dive or the camera frame.
We had other interesting sightings in the past three months, even if the high season hasn’t hit yet: thorny whipray (Urogymnus asperrimus) and a new record of 23 shorthorned pygmy devil rays (Mobula kuhlii) during one dive in Batu Lima. Amazing time with black tip and grey reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus and Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) circling us for 20 minutes at the famous dive site, Blue Magic. We also can’t help but mention the cutest Convict Blenny (Pholidichthys leucotaenia) sighting at our house reef!
The amazing Shae (Shaelynne Trunk) rejoined our team as Program Coordinator in September. After graduating from the Raja Ampat Project as a divemaster intern earlier this year, she could not say no to coming back to such an amazing place. We are happy to have you back Shae and looking forward to working with you as we navigate the complexities of running a research and conservation project in remote West Papua!
Next we hear from Shaelynne to discuss some of our programs in more detail.
Shae – Program Coordinator
Coming back to the jungle after spending 7 months back home for work, it was such a sight to see that our Raja Ampat base has kept the same energy and high spirits, all the while improvements such as a new jetty, deck, designated classroom and office space for interns and staff alike being in the works, and a fresh team of inspired divers have continued to amp the moral to a new level. With dive boats getting major updates and bungalows spiffed with new features, the days in and days out of life on the sea hold a new twang. It has been an incredible community to get to know learning more every day of all our eager interns with arrivals from all over the world: Morgan Shaw (USA), Sina Scheckenbach (Germany), Anine Bjerg Jørgensen (Denmark), Tyla Sullivan (South Africa), Blanca Gimeno (Spain), Marina Lee (Germany), Sabrina Tu (USA), Vincent Duchemin (Switzerland), Nicole Egloff (Switzerland), Ahmad Hatta Kamaruzzaman (Malaysia), Amanda Rose (USA), Derek Phillips (USA), David Wende (Canada), Matthew Malmgren (USA). Each and every intern brings to our base a new perspective of the world and offers our team a never ending array of stories and nights of learning the many paths everyone has taken to end up here together, sharing moments on the jetty under the stars and breaths underwater observing the unsurpassable wonders of a place like Raja Ampat.
Days with little wind and warm sun are met with afternoons of quick lived rain showers and the jungle seems to cool off and waves seem to lay down with the dynamic cloud cover. Perfecting our giant stride demonstrations off the jetty and honing our skills at the Scuba Republic House Reef, we have noticed a few residents around the reef that we have named and often find excitement in spotting. Our Broadclub Cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus) friends Panchito, Ted, and Bruce are often mingling with the local reef fish communities, and our White Tip Reef Shark (Triaenodon obesus) buds Nick and Tobias who call a table of Acropora coral their cozy hide out have grown familiar to our presence. As we continue to call this space on land our home, our efforts in science, conservation, and education becoming better divers everyday keeps our passions fueled to staying present and invested in the many tasks we do to support and sustain our healthy waters here in Raja Ampat.
Survey’s & BRUV’s
Our interns have hit the ground running these last few months reaching our data collection targets, smashing our goals for survey and BRUV deployment dives out of the park, completing 22 surveys while mastering the art of our positioning in current. This experience has trickled into 11 successful BRUV deployments using current and dive site topography to our advantage. Atop the incredible work underwater, interns have invested an impressive amount of independent study time completing their BRUV viewing analyses committing evenings to dissecting hour long recordings being very meticulous in identification efforts and have more in the works being analyzed currently. One of our newly implemented survey tactics is our Benthic studies and with kinks being ironed out we have started to expand our understanding in benthic biodiversity with coral species and invertebrate species as our focus. as we upload our collected data to a citizen science data base that uses computer vision methods in conjunction with human experts. We have collected data from 12 different benthic survey dives, covering depths from 25 – 5 meters of benthic structures
Since the last quarterly report we have successfully completed:
- 12 benthic
- 11 BRUVs deployed
- 4 BRUV Viewings done with more in the works
- 22 Surveys
Recent Survey Publication in Penida
Our sister project in Nusa Penida recently published their results on roving survey data. We are currently finalizing the draft to publish Bira’s results!
Coral Reef Health Monitoring
With monitoring methods kept consistent, we collect data from 20 designated corals on our house reef, consisting of 5 species of boulder, branching, soft, and table corals. Conducting 3 Coral Watch Survey dives since our last update, we found that the tags on our specific colonies have begun to show signs of wear and committed a dive to restoring them. Taking interns on a new type of restoration dive, we cleaned off the tags from encrusting algae and replacing ones that have been lost or broken off from weathering. Maintaining this monitoring of specific colonies for bleaching we are able to collect, note and analyze in more detail their shifts in color expression. This tactic also allows for us to send data to the Coral Watch organization, a site that complies data driven by citizen science, all the while also using this information internally to determine the health of our own reef by the ways these corals are presenting any patterns in color changes.
Since our last quarterly update we have conducted 3 Coral Watch Surveys
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.
With Pascal’s visit and a collaborative decision to move the coral restoration tables in hopes to find a healthier site with less consistent algae blooms and sediment deposition, we have taken to monitoring our baby Acropora more closely. Since our last we now have 5 restoration tables with a total of 1159 nubbins, including our recent planting of 199 nubbins and the 117 that have fallen to mortality. With our new pole and hexagon structures acting as a means of coral planting, we relocate healthy nubbins to our poles while planting new nubbins directly to our hexagons and analyze the success in facilitating reef growth. With the impacts of a new site, we have started considering how much intervention we are finding we need to have to keep these sites clean of algae overgrowth and use this data in deciding if our new location may begin to pose the same issues as our last. So far, we are seeing success and are all very excited to incorporate a new method in being a part of the global coral restoration efforts.
Since our last quarterly update we have conducted 2 coral restoration dives, planted and additional 119 corals in the nursery, and recorded 117 death. There are 1159 live corals in our nursery.
With Dive Against Debris dives since our last update here on the Scuba Republic House Reef, we have removed a total of 1.65kg. This may not seem like much, but with less rain and wind since our last report and our conscious efforts in making every dive a Dive Against Debris dive, we tend to not find much trash on the house reef unless significant weather episodes take place. These last few dives have presented us with our common items such as single use plastic food wrappers, fishing line, and paper debris. Just in time for Halloween we have also found a few clothing items and even a kitchen knife left on the sand!
Since the last quarterly update we have conducted 4 Dive Against Debris Dives and collected 1.65 kg of marine debris.
Want to join the team?
We accept applications year round for our three project locations. Join our divemaster and research diver internship in Indonesia.