Ocean News

The Interns Arrive!

31st August 2008

Now the hard work begins!

As the start of the whale shark monitoring season approaches things here have become very hectic, but it seems that all is now ready so we have a few moments to update you of our activities.

Over the last few years the amount of data that the programme has developed has been growing dramatically and it has become necessary to look at our eco-volunteer programme in a more formal manner. This year we are running a 10- week internship programme incorporating a two week training session so that everyone is up to speed on the various activities. David will be assisted by Katie Brooks and Luke Riley who will be the two team leaders for the season. Katie has worked as a volunteer and team leader on the MCSS programme in 2006 and 2007 as well as working on the Australian Whale Shark programmes on Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia in 2007. Luke also assisted the MCSS whale shark programme in 2007 and is thus familiar with the activities.

The interns’ training and duties will cover the full range of activities associated with the MCSS whale shark monitoring programme including:

  • The Seychelles whale shark programme:- findings, achievements, why it exists
  • Basic whale shark information and biology
  • Whale shark data collection:- filling out forms, writing up data, the systems and spreadsheets
  • Photo identification:- sorting and filing images, pre-process preparation, matching software
  • Snorkel training and water skills development for whale shark activities (subject to qualifications)
  • Communications training:- between micro-light and boat and between boats
  • Boat operations:- logistics, protocols and safety
  • Micro-light aerial survey support and data handling, software use
  • Environmental monitoring equipment use, data capture and handling
  • Study area orientation and geography

In total the intern team consist of eight eager participants:

  • Alex Taylor, New Zealand
  • Anna Westling, Sweden
  • Carl Royle, UK
  • Francesca Compton, UK
  • James Tutty, UK
  • Richard Berry, UK
  • Sarah Colley,UK
  • Tomoko Morimoto, Japan

Anna will be completing her MSc dissertation on the effects of environmental parameters on the occurrence and abundance of whale sharks, which involves multi-level plankton tows and environmental monitoring with a conductivity-temperature-depth probe. She came out a week early to get herself organised and has been busy setting up the double-trip plankton net which involved a lot of in-water observation of how the net release mechanism worked to get things sorted, but she seems happy now!

Also on board is our micro-light pilot which for the first part of this season is David Daniel. David is an experienced microlight pilot instructor from South Africa where he has his own flying school in Natal.

So the full team are here and are all working like fury this week to get up to seed on all the skills they are going to need. We will feature particular aspects of their training in coming posts but most importantly right now we need to find them some sharks!