Selene Gaiani and Mario Casati – Raja Ampat Project Co-Managers

The past three months have been full with positive energy, blessed with splendid weather and unforgettable dives here in Raja Ampat!

A special thanks to the dedicated interns who joined us during this period to pursue their journey towards becoming Divemasters and gaining experience into the conservation world for our oceans.

Interns: Charlotte Law (UK), Noa Moffat (Germany), Nora Hinrichs (Germany), Harsh Bijarnia (India), Dominique Schmid (Switzerland), Marlena Travenier-Fine (USA), Emma Wilkins (Australia), Alexandra Fuhrmann (UK), Mary-Ann Kranendonk (Netherlands), Alina Reinisch (Austria) and Giulia Hettewer (Germany).

Thanks for the passion and dedication you have shown in your pursuit of marine conservation. We wish you all the best in your future adventures and hope that the experiences gained with us will inspire you to continue making a positive impact on our oceans and new divers.

Also some amazing already Divemasters or even Instructors came and join our jungle family for 6 weeks as researchers: Jessica Steckhan (Germany),Rhea Drumm (Germany) and Pilip Zögl (Austria).

As senior intern knows, coming to the astonishing Raja Ampat can change our lives for ever; many people arrived here without a clear idea of what they wanted to do in their lives. Some ended the program realizing that the first step would have been to became super star instructors; congratulations to Marlena and Alina!

Some others understood that their path for now was working in conservation or as Divemasters for a bit (Charlotte – Maldives; Noa – Thailand; Emma – Australia). 

We are pleased to report on the significant progress made during the visit of Serena and Michaela from Head Office in February. Their presence proved instrumental in advancing our initiatives, particularly in establishing a new database focused on the white tips nursery discovered in the Scuba Republic House reef, specifically on the “Upsidedown” site.

We have noticed the consistent presence of juvenile white tips (Triaenodon Obesus) beneath a table coral of Acropora ramificata sp. Recognizing the importance of this observation, we have initiated a comprehensive monitoring program. This involves regular measurements of their total length (TL) during dives in the area. Additionally, we have implemented bi-monthly deployments of a Remote Underwater Video (RUV) apparatus for 30 minutes to observe and document their activity patterns.

A big thank you goes to all the interns that have been sharing their time and passion with us making the data collection not only possible but also valuable.

As we reflect on the past three months of research, we are excited to share some noteworthy numbers:

      • Conducted 43 Ecology workshops, spreading awareness and knowledge about marine ecology and conservation;
      • Certified 11 survey divers;
      • Conducted 30 surveys, gathering essential data to better understand and protect our marine ecosystems;
      • Successfully deployed 17 BRUVs (Baited Remote Underwater Videos);
      • Completed 17 benthic surveys, enhancing our understanding of the health and composition of underwater habitats;
      • During the coral restoration workshop Raja team have planted 230 corals.

In the last three Months we have also entered the so called “Manta season” a period in which the famous oceanic manta (Mobula birostris) moves in the area, significantly increasing the chances of an encounter. This majestic giants of the ocean have been spotted regularly in the last weeks in several dive sites, greeting our interns with unforgettable core memories for their lives.

Other sightings that Raja has gifted us with have been incredible, from cownose rays (Rhinoptera bonasus),  to a school of over a hundred short horned pigmy devil ray (Mobula kuhlii), to the rare sighting of an Ornate eagle ray (Aetomylaeus vespertilio), the time spent underwater has been a true blessing.

In Raja even the more common encounters are more than enough to make a dive unforgettable: the healthy population of black tip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) and tasselled wobbegong (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon), commonly sighted on most dives, bottle nose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) that often greet us on the surface when on boat, and of course the famous raja walking shark (Hemiscyllium freycineti) that can be sighted with ease during night dives or during day dives with a bit of luck.

Shaelynne Trunk – Raja Amapt Program Coordinator and Marine Biologist

Since the beginning of this year and our last quarterly report back in January, Raja Ampat has continued to spoil us with the most incredible dives, conditions, and results in our daily science. From Short-Horned Pygmy Devil Rays (Mobula kuhlii) passing by our jetty for a sunset hello, to Reef Mantas (Mobula alfredi) making a celebrity appearance on our BRUVs and Oceanic Mantas (Mobula birostris) soaring alongside us in the blue during our dives, its true that we never will get used to these incredible animals, their sheer size, and astounding weightlessness. Even with these few examples, during these past months we have found a whole new meaning and importance to keeping our eyes peeled underwater and on the horizon during our days spent seaside. As we have said our hard goodbyes to jungle family members, hoping they will rather be ‘see you laters’ to our many incredible graduates, we have also welcomed in a whole new community of divers pursuing their passions in conservation and exploring their commitment to a professional diving career. From landlocked countries to coastline states, we have incredible interns stepping into their programs from all over the globe: Mary-Ann Kranendonk (Netherlands), Philip Zögl (Austria), Alina Reinisch (Austria), Guilia Hettwer (Germany), Floor Schuurman (Netherlands), Mia Goldsmith (UK), Sam Gebauer (Austria), Cathrin Stadler (Austria), Anna Hoemberg (Germany), Marley Hatfield (USA), and a returning intern Morgan Shaw (USA) who is rejoining us after a few months back home. With divers coming to us with goals in mind and hopes for their next steps we feel ever so lucky to integrate these new faces into our paradise and build relationships that can foster their many dreams and aspirations.

With the rainy season coming to an end in the next few months we have enjoyed the way passing weather nourishes our jungle home. We have also found interest in the way El Nino’s influence on warmer surface waters and little nutrients surprise haven’t seemed to make large effects on our encounters with some of our favorite marine animals and how often they are making an appearance. Even some of the more elusive marine mammals and animals that are making our dives feel like something out of a dream have frequented our sightings in a whole new way. From local neighbors on the reef like our Black tip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus), White tip reef sharks (Triaenodon obesus), Grey reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos), and Tasselled Wobbegongs (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon) 
we never tire of their hellos, no matter how many or how quick. With some of our more special moments shared underwater alongside species like our Common 
Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)
, Spotted eagle rays (Aetobatus ocellatus)
, and Reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) we didn’t think our dives could get any better. Yet, to our amazement a team of our divers spotted a rare leucistic Oceanic Manta Ray (Mobula Birostris), which absolutely blew our minds as we were already feeling so lucky with our handful of Chevron and Melanistic Oceanic Manta Ray sightings. However, the true cherry on top was our encounter with an Ornate Eagle Ray (Aetomylaeus vespertilio). At around 3 meters in size this very graceful and very rare ray soared so effortlessly right above our team for a day of diving they will never forget. All in all we know just how special the protected waters of Raja Ampat can be, but to be able to check off these kinds of experiences together during the last 3 months is something a tad unheard of and we will never take that for granted.

Survey’s & BRUV’s

With a pep in our step from our most recent encounters we have kept up the momentum with our daily science, not only reaching our science goals each month but going above and beyond with them. As we hone our research more and standardize our methods to start collaborating our data with local organizations we take pride and share excitement in the number of successful BRUV Deployments, Roving Surveys, Benthic Surveys, and BRUV Viewings we tally up each month. As we continue to have interns graduate from their programs, their expertise as senior interns in our scientific methods has been one of the most valuable things that is passed down as new interns continue to arrive and hit the ground running with the scientific researcher aspect of their program. 

 

Since the last quarterly report we have successfully completed:

17 Benthic Surveys

17 BRUV Deployments

7 BRUV Viewings done, with more always in the works

30 Surveys

Coral Reef Health Monitoring

As we continue to partake in and collaborate with citizen science databases like Coral Watch, we are able to spend more time analyzing our own reef health at the same time as contributing to the worldwide organization, assisting in understanding coral reef health all over the globe. In the last 3 months we have assessed our coral health with Coral Watch another 6 times, and have built up our own understanding of our local coral health with these dives as we use the patterns we have seen over the last 3 to 6 months to track their health progress.

Coral Restoration

After our last restoration site relocation we have found that our corals are settling in well and we’ve made sure to tend to their nursery environment keeping them as tidy and free of any excess stress that we can help control. We have conducted 2 Coral Restoration and 6 Coral Gardening dives in these last few months to ensure a close eye on their health and response to this new, and hopefully final, home environment. We have also decided to restructure the set up of our suspended nursery lines on our restoration site tables as some of coral nubbins were experiencing a constant rate of mortality. After careful consideration we presumed their proximity to the benthic substrate was too close and hindering effective water flow and light availability. Given some of our newer nubbins were falling to mortality shortly after planting, we also observed that the older of our planted corals have continued to show incredible hardiness even with the shifts in not only physical environments but also abiotic factors such as turbidity and warmer waters. With this, we are hopeful that returning our tables to one of their original positions will be successful for our newly planted nubbins and offer them a more permanent position to settle and establish themselves. With the trend of coral mortality leveling out we conducted our restoration dives with a total of 153 new nubbins added to our tables for a fresh total of 657 healthy and thriving corals. This number may seem a bit lower than our privious report, but due to the shift in restoration strategy we have omitted the nubbins that were suspended too close to the substrate and will focus attention on effectively establishing our new methods and freshly propogated nubbins.

Marine Debris

With rain showers washing debris to our coastlines and surface waters, we have found ourselves scooping up trash along our boat rides and picking up the odd debris from around our jetty as they float on by. With our bi-weekly Dive Agaist Debris goals, we have completed 6 dives focused on removing suspended and submerged trash from the Scuba Republic House Reef for a total mesaure in kgs of 1.85, making sure to always emphasize that even with these goals in place, every dive is a dive against debris dive. With our continued contribution to aiding in Dive Against Debris efforts our data collection of debris removed and separated in the varying categories of debris types, we can gain a better idea of how debris can migrate with certain weather events and what kind of debris tends to act as the biggest issues in localized areas. As our focus in science is founded in the powerful research that can be accomplished when citizens come together, we continue to commit our efforts as a group of eager citizens working to aid in the understanding of our natural world and how we can help keep things in balance as outside factors continue to affect our oceans and global communities on both a worldwide and localized scale.

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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