What we do

Our Research

Since its inception, the SOSF–DRC has concluded 30 targeted research projects in collaboration with 26 institutions. These diverse projects have focused mostly on threatened species such as sharks, turtles, seabirds, fish and corals, but have also included habitat assessments, feasibility surveys and oceanography.

Recent and Active Research Projects (2015-2018)

Sharks:

WeideliOrnella baby shark

A researcher holds a juvenile shark after collecting samples in St Joseph Atoll. Photo by Ryan Daly | © Save Our Seas Foundation

Habitat and resource partitioning of juvenile sharks and their roles in remote coastal ecosystems: Sharks don’t look after their babies, but they do choose a safe place to give birth. Ornella Weideli’s studies young blacktip reef and sicklefin lemon sharks in St Joseph’s lagoon to see how they get along while growing up together.

A lemon shark swims away with an activity tag attached to its first dorsal. Photo by Clare Keating Daly | © Save Our Seas Foundation

Developing Tools for Classifying Shark Behaviour from Bio-Logging Data: To protect certain species of sharks and their habitats, we need to have a clear understanding about how they behave and interact with their environment. Jenna Hounslow uses accelerometer tags (technologically similar to activity trackers such as fitbits) to measure sicklefin lemon shark behaviour in three-dimensions.

 

Manta and stingrays:

vonBrandisRainer-swimming manta

A common visitor. Mantas frequent the waters surrounding D’Arros and St Joseph. Photo by Rainer von Brandis | © Save Our Seas Foundation

Movement patterns, trophic role and ecology of reef mantas in the D’Arros Island Marine Protected Area: There is a very lucky population of manta rays that lives at D’Arros Island in the Seychelles. These mantas not only live in a relatively pristine habitat, but are also safe from fishing. This gives researchers like Lauren Peel and Guy Stevens a unique opportunity to learn about how these intriguing animals live when they are free from human influence.

Lauren Peel’s study on manta rays is based on longterm data from the monitoring of reef mantas year-round at D’Arros Island. Baseline research conducted between 2009 and 2015 revealed the year-round presence of mantas of both sexes and all age groups at the islands and that the population appears to number in excess of a hundred. Additionally, MantaCam, a remote underwater camera system, is an important too used by SOSF-DRC to shed light on the temporal patterns of reef mantas at D’Arros Island. This monitoring project aims to contribute photo IDs to the ongoing long-term monitoring of reef mantas at D’Arros Island.

The largest feathertail stingray caught on Chantel's final fieldwork season in St Joseph Atoll. The data collected from this ray will contribute to her PhD on stingrays in the atoll. Photo by Clare Daly | © Save Our Seas Foundation

The ecology of stingrays in St Joseph Atoll, Seychelles: St Joseph Atoll is a special place in the remote Indian Ocean. It’s home to numerous stingray species, including cowtail, mangrove whiptail and porcupine rays. Chantel Elston is investigating how many of these animals there are, what they eat, where they live and how they move.

Turtles:

Community turtle monitors with SOSF-DRC research assistant finish measuring a green turtle before she returns to sea. Photo by Ryan Daly | © Save Our Seas Foundation

Community monitoring of sea turtles on D’Arros : The beaches of D’Arros Island and St Joseph Atoll are very important places for mother sea turtles to come and lay their eggs. Jeanne Mortimer is training Seychellois monitors to observe nesting turtles and collect data about them.

vonBrandisRainer turtle

Dr Rainer von Brandis measures a green turtle as part of his research on turtles in the area. Photo by Ryan Daly | © Save Our Seas Foundation

Growth rates, movement and population size of resident juvenile hawksbill and green turtles at D’Arros Island and St Joseph Atoll: The objective of this study is to gain a better understanding of population numbers, demographics, growth rates and movements of juvenile turtles foraging at D’Arros and St Joseph. Both hawksbill and green turtles recruit into the neritic environment when they attain approximately 35 centimetres in carapace length and will remain there for up to 10 years or more. Rainer von Brandis leads this study.

Fish:

FilmalterJD GT fish 2016

Dr JD Filmalter prepares to release an acoustically tagged giant trevally as part the ongoing research on game fish in St Joseph Atoll. Photo by Ryan Daly | © Save Our Seas Foundation

Behavioural ecology of bonefish and permit at St Joseph Atoll, Seychelles: Bonefish and permit fish, prized by recreational fly fishermen (and sharks), are abundant at St Joseph lagoon in the Seychelles. Using acoustic telemetry, Emily Moxham and Paul Cowley are investigating their role in the ecosystem and whether they recover after catch-and-release. Also making the most of the acoustic telemetry array around D’Arros Island and St Joseph Atoll, SOSF-DRC has tagged 20 humphead wrasse.

Researcher Andrew Gray releases a tagged humphead wrasse as part of a SOSF-DRC fish study. Photo by Ryan Daly | © Save Our Seas Foundation

Past

Past SOSF DRC projects (collaborators)
Satellite tracking of post-nesting green turtles (JM, SWIOFP, SFA)
Satellite tracking of post-nesting hawksbill turtles (JM)
Foraging ecology of hawksbill turtles (TUT, JM)

Genetic structure of nesting and foraging green turtles (JM, IFREMER)
Genetic structure of nesting and foraging hawksbill turtles (JM)
Sex ratio of juvenile turtles (JM)
Stable isotope analysis of foraging turtles (JM, NMFS)
Temperature monitoring of nesting beaches (JM, UB)
Coral reef resilience survey (IUCN, CORDIO)
Coral bleaching survey
Species-specific coral bleaching resilience survey
Taxonomic affinities of Seychelles fody (ICS)
Reproductive biology of roseate terns (RBINS)
Shearwater census (ECOMAR, FRB, PEW)
Shearwater tracking (ECOMAR, FRB, PEW)
Satellite tracking of green turtles (JM, SWIOFP, SFA)
Long-term erosional patterns of St Joseph Atoll Islands
Breeding biology of roseate terns (DRC, RBINS)
Assessment of Seychelles warbler introduction (NS, UG, MENRT)
Fish spawning aggregation study (SFA)
Deep sea benthos assessment using ROV (SFA)
Marine invasive species survey (IUCN)
Movements of sicklefin lemon sharks (SFA, IRD, SAIAB)
Baseline survey of coral and reef-associated communities
Beach profile assessment (JM)
Terrestrial biodiversity assessment (ICS)
Terrestrial rehabilitation assessment (ICS)
Indian Ocean biodiversity assessment (NPTS)Rapid seabird survey (ICS, NS)
Marine habitat mapping survey (LOF, IUCN)

BU = Brunel Institute for the Environment
CORDIO = Coral Reef Degradation in the Indian Ocean
ECOMAR = Laboratoire d’Ecologie Marine, University of Réunion
FRB = Fondation pour la recherche sur la biodiversité
ICS = Island Conservation Society
IUCN = International Union for the Conservation of Nature
IFREMER = French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea
IRD = French Research Institute for Development
JM = Dr Jeanne Mortimer, private consultant
LOF = Living Oceans Foundation
MCSS = Marine Conservation Society Seychelles
MENRT = Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Transport
NMFS = National Marine Fisheries Service
NPTS = Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles
NS = Nature Seychelles
PEW = The PEW Environment group
RBINS = Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
SAIAB = South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity
SBM = Seychelles Bureau of Meteorology
SFA = Seychelles Fishing Authority
SOTN = Seychelles Ocean Temperature Monitoring Network
SWIOFP = South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Project
TUT = Tshwane University of Technology
UB = University of Birmingham

Future

Future targeted research projects at D’Arros are subject to the approval of the Save Our Seas Foundation’s advisory board on an annual basis. All projects are required to have significant conservation value and preference will be given to those that focus on threatened charismatic mega-fauna.