Over the past three years I’ve been conducting research at the Save Our Seas Foundation–D’Arros Research Centre (SOSF-DRC) to better understand the juvenile shark populations at St Joseph Atoll. On six intensive field trips we collected vital data that show the importance of the atoll as a nursery habitat for the sicklefin lemon shark Negaprion acutidens and the blacktip reef shark Carcharhinus melanopterus. Within the scope of my PhD, we captured and tagged a total number of 647 sharks (338 blacktip reef and 309 sicklefin lemon), investigated their use of habitat and resources, and are continuing to unveil the role of competition between these two species. The findings are currently being analysed and will eventually be published in peer-reviewed journals, available to the world’s scientific community so that shark nurseries globally can be better protected and managed.
But instead of sharing these data only among scientists, the SOSF is collaborating with the University of Seychelles to give its project leaders, myself included, a platform to present our work within the Seychelles and to connect us with other like-minded and environmentally conscious people. So in early June I was invited to present my project at the University of Seychelles, which is located right next to Anse Royale, one of the Seychelles’ numerous stunning beaches. To my delight, the modern lecture theatre on campus filled up quickly and I was especially excited to see a diverse group of environmentalists, marine biologists, scientists, national park rangers and volunteers from NGOs and wildlife clubs, as well as students and lecturers from the university, in attendance. Even after my last slides had been shown, the group stayed in their seats and began a great discussion.
After the last attendees had left, I spent some time with the organiser of the event, Terence Vel, who is a well-known conservationist and a professor at the University of Seychelles. While this university is obviously small compared to others, I was very impressed by its aims for the future and I’m especially thrilled to see how well the Bachelor degree in Environmental Science is attended. To my great pleasure, I was also informed that my presentation inspired the final-year students, who have to propose a small research project.
All in all, this was a fantastic and highly motivating event and I hope that our research at the SOSF-DRC will do more than just help me to obtain a PhD; I sincerely hope that our hard work and achievements will help to build a bright and promising future for the Seychelles and its people.