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

With support in part from MCAF, a team of scientists established 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 third post from the field, team member Elizabeth Sadowski of the Time + Tide Foundation describes how the project is helping to train the next generation of marine scientists. Read the first two posts on this project here and here.

[IMG] Solomon Daviela practices Line Intersect Transects with Dr. Frejaville
Solomon Daviela practices Line Intersect Transects with Dr. Frejaville. Courtesy: The Time + Tide Foundation.
[IMG] SCUBA diver demonstrates transect lines
Dr. Yann Frejaville, new lead scientist, demonstrates the Line Intersect Transect technique to the three students. Courtesy: The Time + Tide Foundation.

Solomon Daviela practices Line Intersect Transects with Dr. Frejaville (left). Dr. Yann Frejaville, new lead scientist, demonstrates the Line Intersect Transect technique to the three students (right). Photos courtesy: the Time + Tide Foundation. 

The coral reef monitoring program that was funded by the Marine Conservation Action Fund has morphed into an exciting new research venture—and possible career!—for three University of Antsiranana students.

Solomon Daviela, Eric Janvier, and Aristide Laha first came to the Nosy Ankao archipelago in November 2016 for the initial training on coral reef monitoring. They returned independently in July 2017 and re-surveyed all of the reefs in the study area. Together with their professor Amelie Landy, they entered and analyzed the data. Amelie used this data in her presentation at the 2017 Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) symposium, where she was the first Antsiranana professor to attend!

Because of the three students’ dedication to marine conservation and the focus with which they conducted the research, Miavana Resort offered the three an internship from February to April 2018, which coincided with their last round of coral reef surveys for the MCAF project.

[IMG] Aristide Laha recording coral species along the transect line.
Aristide Laha records coral species along the transect line. Courtesy: The Time + Tide Foundation.

Simultaneously, the Time + Tide Foundation was awarded another grant for marine research and fishing association education, this time from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. Through this grant, we will survey the biodiversity hotspots across the entire marine reserve over the course of two years and develop a GIS map with these hotspots identified. The map will help us motivate for additional core conservation areas within the reserve (aka “no take zones”) and showcase the importance of marine protected areas.

During and after their internship (which could result in permanent employment for one or more of the students as marine guides!), the students will work with Dr. Yann Frejaville to survey the reserve and afterward be able to collect and analyze data independently. This mentorship is currently underway with the students having to memorize hundreds of fish and coral species to prepare for efficient fieldwork.

[IMG] Solomon Daviela and Eric Janvier collecting data on coral and fish species
Solomon Daviela and Eric Janvier collect data on coral and fish species. Courtesy: the Time + Tide Foundation.

This fantastic new project has been made possible because of the equipment that was sponsored by MCAF, which will be used over the next two years for monitoring and thereafter for consistent marine research in the archipelago.

While the grant from MCAF has concluded, the research has opened many doors for the Antsiranana students as well as for marine conservation action in northeast Madagascar.