This post is one of a series on projects supported by the Anderson Cabot Center’s Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF). Through MCAF, the Aquarium supports researchers, conservationists, and grassroots organizations all around the world as they work to address the most challenging problems facing the oceans.

With support from MCAF, a team of scientists is establishing a collaborative monitoring program to track the effects of climate change, fishing regulations, and other human impacts on the reefs around the island of Nosy Ankao off the coast of Madagascar. In her second post from the field, team member Elizabeth Sadowski of the Time and Tide Foundation describes the first few days of the surveys. Read the first post here.

The coral reef monitoring project on Nosy Ankao began on November 22, with by Dr. Maya Pfaff from the Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa, and Dr. Amelie Soambola from the University of Antsiranana, Madagascar, leading the study. The team is comprised of these two scientists, three MSc students from the University of Antsiranana in the marine sciences department and the new dive guide for the eco-tourism project on Nosy Ankao.

Group poses for picture at beach
Coral Reef Monitoring Team on Nosy Ankao. From left to right: Elizabeth Sadowski Eric Janvier, Chris Barfoot, Dr. Amelie Soambola, Solomon Daviela, Ny Sanda Ranaivoson, Dr. Maya Pfaff, Aristide Laha. | Photo: Time + Tide Foundation

They began by re-surveying the reefs that Obura et al surveyed in 2011 during their rapid assessment and plotting the sites, which are mostly on the western side of Nosy Ankao. During these re-surveys, the team is interested in benthos, fish, recruitment, and they will install settlement plates and temperature loggers.

two people look at camera near ocean
Dr. Maya Pfaff showing Solomon how to use an underwater camera | Photo: Time + Tide Foundation
People sit on side of boat looking at map
The team reviewing the map of Obura sites | Photo: Time + Tide Foundation
snorkeler free dives looking at brown corals
Dr. Maya Pfaff free diving to examine coral reefs | Photo: Time + Tide Foundation

Once these sites are re-surveyed, the team will also establish new sites at varying depths: shallow sites at 1-3 M (which can be surveyed by snorkeling); medium depth of 5-7 M; and the deep sites at 10-12 M. The team intends to set up three different survey sites at these depths to the north of Nosy Ankao and three to the south and will monitor these habitats to see if the northern sites are different to the southern ones.

group sits around table in tent
Team meeting to discuss research methodology and research questions. | Photo: Time + Tide Foundation
two people sit at table in tent
Dr. Pfaff and Dr. Soambola review the survey sites. | Photo: Time + Tide Foundation

The goal is for the students to understand why it is important to study settlement and connectivity and to get an understanding of the statistical foundations of monitoring programmes. The dive guide on Miavana and the students will collect the settlement plates every 3 months and re-survey the sites. On the settlement plates, they will be looking at percent cover of different groups of coral, the health state in terms of bleaching and disease, macro invertebrates, and the demographics of coral communities.

Two people stand at table outside
MSc students Aristide Laha and Solomon Daviela organize the equipment | Photo: Time +Tide Foundaiton