Sigrid Van den Stock
Bira Project Manager
I am excited to report on the first quarterly report as project manager of our Bira project.
After a six-week break in December and January, Me (program manager), Lauren Sparks (founding director), and Qintan Azzahra (marine biologist) flew out from Bali to Sulawesi. I was very excited to make the journey back to Bira for a few months as an interim program manager until our new manager and coordinator, Ben and Jess, arrive. Having worked in Bira before as a dive instructor, I can confidently say that this is some of the most beautiful and fantastic diving I have done in my life.
Bring on the sharks and rays!
After a few days of preparation, we welcomed our first interns of the year: Jack Telford (UK), Desi Peters (Netherlands), Navindra Pradeesh (India), Heather Green (UK) and Isobel Holmes (UK). They were soon followed by Briony Venn (UK) who completed our family for the next few months.
We started off with a relaxed week of program introduction, refreshing our dive skills, visiting the coral nursery at our house reef as well as going for fun dives, and doing the dive courses needed before the start of the DM program. Once everyone had settled in, holiday mode was soon switched off and we had a science-filled week with species-ID workshops and exams, a BRUV workshop, and citizen science workshop. Knowledge was flying around this place like the dogs chasing after the monkeys.
In the 6 weeks we have reopened, we have been getting down to business with in-water and dry workshops. Everyone conquered the science of diving workshop, knots, search and recovery workshop, skills circuits, and stamina test already. In just a few weeks’ time, we will be celebrating our first graduates of the year! Time flies in Bira, just like the currents 😉
We have had guest appearances of Rinaldi Gotama (Penida’s marine biologist and projects data analyst) to lend a helping hand with coral and mangrove ecology workshops. He also introduced the new benthic survey methodology to the team which has been continued since his absence. Serena Stean (Program Director) also came to Bira to inspire and excite our interns with all her knowledge on sharks, mola, manta, nudibranchs and turtles during our ecology specialties.
We have just reopened but I am happy to report the sightings of many whitetip and blacktip reef sharks, chevron barracudas and a great barracuda, a spotted eagle ray, marble rays and green- and hawksbill turtles.
Read further to get a more in-depth update on the science side from Qinthan, our marine biologist superstar.
Program Coordinator and Marine Biologist
Hi, my conservation fellows!
I am Qinthan Azzahra Aulia. I was a Research Assistant at Bira last year, and this year I was promoted to becoming the Program Coordinator and Marine Biologist, so now it’s my turn to contribute to the project quarterly report. I have been in Bira for almost a year and I am truly in love with this place. The diving is incredible and full of surprises.
Bira diving has trained me to become a strong and better diver every day. I love my job because it is not only about marine ecosystems but also connecting with the local community. Having their support is essential in the work we do here and my job feels extra special knowing we are the bridge between the local people and conservation.
Find out what we have been up to so far this year as you read on!
Data and Science
This year we have a very diverse and colorful background of interns. We believe that everyone can get involved in science and conservation, no matter the background they come from.
Fish Identification is one of the first task the interns need to complete the take an active role in our research activities. An online pre-arrival training course will be sent 6 weeks prior to their start date. As some of our current interns only have experience diving in cold European lakes, most of them are so amazed by the biodiversity in Bira’s dive sites.
Once the interns pass their Fish ID test, they are ready to take part in our roving surveys. This activity requires focus as while they get mesmerized by sharks, they is a change of forgetting to include the key species on the survey slate. Seeing a lot of fish species in one survey keeps us busy underwater. So far, the Bira team has done 2 roving surveys in February and 8 roving surveys in March.
BRUV stands for Baited Remote Underwater Video. Our goal is to see what is out there when there are no divers around. Dropping BRUV is never as easy as it looks and it involves a lot of teamwork, organization and communication. Every person on the team has their own specific responsibility underwater, from cameraman to managing the frame placement and ocean water sample collection. During BRUV deployments and retrievals we can run into some challenges, such as moderate horizontal current, down current, limited visibility, etc. Working in these conditions makes us better divers and shows us that we should have respect for the ocean. Recently IOP Bira team has done 2 BRUV drops in February and 3 BRUV drops in March. When we watched the results from our video, many exciting appearances were made such as school of bigeye barracuda (Sphyraena forsteri), green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) and many more!
Indo Ocean Project collaborates with Ocean Gardener in our joint efforts to restore damaged areas of reefs in Indonesia. After theory workshops on coral ecology, their importance, and identifying up to 18 coral genus, we get down to the practical side of things with a coral identification and coral restoration dive!
On 25 February 2023, we completed the first Ocean Gardener course of 2023 with a coral restoration dive at the site Dego Dego, in collaboration with Dego Dego and Gaia One conservation projects. Although Bira is a small and developing community there are lots of ocean warriors around working together to keep our reefs pristine. In this planting event we placed 16 spider structures with a total of 384 new fragment corals. Big thanks to everyone that helped us, good job!
Not only do we try to help mother nature out with coral restoration and rehabilitation, but we also monitor coral heath with Coral Watch activities. Since February, IOP Bira team has done two coral watch dives and we have been busy with putting 20 new coral tags on Blue Planet house reef to create a new coral watch area. Surveying the same corals throughout the year allows us to track trends in coral health over time.
After a successful development and beta testing of our new benthic surveys in Penida, we are ready to introduce this survey method in Bira. This method was created and developed by IOP Marine biologist Rinaldi Gotama, to explore and monitor the diversity of sessile marine organisms. This project compliments our ecological monitoring program providing an additional year round data set to be used in future publications. Since the launch at the beginning of March, we have already completed 3 benthic surveys around Bira’s dive sites.
Dive Against Debris
Dive Against Debris is a global movement created and developed by PADI AWARE Foundation with a mission to track all the trash we have on the ocean.It is always a good opportunity to practice buoyancy, navigation skills, and environmental awareness. So far IOP Bira team has completed 4 Dive Against Debris events, collecting a whopping 18,1 kg of marine debris.
It is always a surprise what you find in Bira waters. The most interesting treasures we have come across on our dives against debris was a stove and a hoodie.
On 2nd of March 2023, IOP Bira team visited a mangrove conservation area called Mangrove Luppung, In collaboration with the government local community, and the team at Mangrove Luppung, we collected mangrove propagules (mangrove seedlings) to fill our mangrove nursery. All the interns and staff went down to the muddy mangrove forests, to collect propagules and survey the area to find our new potential planting area for our mangrove-babies once they are all grown up. We collected 132 propagules that were planted in our mangrove nursery the next day.
Now we wait 3-5 months for the mangrove seedlings to reach a predetermined height before transplanting them back. Grow, grow baby mangroves, grow!
COMMUNITY OUTREACH / EDUCATION PROGRAM
Conservation cannot be successful without collaboration with the community. Knowledge, respect, and support are the key to our conservation goals and success. Every Friday morning we are welcomed by the teachers and students at Tanjung Bira Kindergarten. The morning starts off with exercise and dance and songs and teaching the children English with simple greetings, the alphabet, and numbers. Next we bring a fun conservation craft for the kids to take part in. Fun with PEW Foundation’s Shark Stainley, arts and crafts, marine food chain drawings, and the introduction of marine animals through games and songs.
It is the highlight of everyone’s week to see the smiles on the kid’s faces when the IOP Bira team arrives and we hope to inspire the next generation in Bira to join us as future ocean warriors to protect their beautiful ocean resources.
Stay tuned for our next update!
As we approach the Penida Project’s 6th year of operating we say goodbye to some staff and hello to others! The cold water the last few months have brought in some incredible megafauna sights and we reach our 200th BRUV dropped in the area!
A new team at the Raja Ampat Project continue the work as we move into our 1st Annivserary! Hear from new manager Selene and Mario and Program Cordinator Shae for all the latest news.
In this update we hear from Qinthan, Ben, and Jess at the Bira Project in South Sulawesi for an update on diving, training, and science.