It may appear that on a day-to-day basis the role of a marine educator is to educate others about the marine environment. This of course is true and without a doubt vitally important in our on-going quest to help protecting our oceans and marine life. One of the best aspects of being a marine educator however is often that you end up constantly learning yourself. By going round schools giving talks opens up the opportunity for the children and teachers alike to ask questions. As the marine educator you never know what questions will get asked or indeed if you know the answer. This may seem a daunting prospect but the benefit is it not only keeps the brain active but if you are faced with a question you may not know the answer to you have been given the prefect opportunity to go and find it out from the right person or place.
Being able to meet and chat to experts in the field is one of the most valuable ways to gain knowledge especially when wanting localised expertise. I feel very lucky to have been given such an opportunity last week. I was asked by the Island Conservation Society (ICS) here in Seychelles to join their CEO on his monthly visit to Desroches Island where they have a Conservation Centre.
Desorches Island is a long (5.25km) narrow, low-lying sand cay of 324ha, situated on a submerged bank lying to the east of the main Amirantes Ridge, here in the Seychelles. It is the largest of the Amirantes islands (Coetivy is the only larger sand cay in Seychelles) and has at its southern edge a sunken atoll 19-21 km in diameter. The ICS operation has been running on Desroches since 2009 and is currently headed by Alex Foulkes, who is assisted by Israel Labrosse and Tony Jupiter. Current programmes that are run on the island include vegetation rehabilitation, turtle, bird and coral reef monitoring, tortoise conservation and beach profile surveys. Desroches Island is also a stunning luxurious resort that support and embrace the work of ICS.
I was invited to Desroches to give a “Marine Awareness” talk for the resort staff and a “Who’s who on the coral reef” talk for their guests. The talks went really well with a fantastic attendance. There seemed to be a real buzz and enthusiasm about the island and this resulted in us having guests attending the staff talk and staff attending the guest’s talk and also a further request from the dive and activity centre to have an additional presentation on coral and coral reefs, which I am always more than happy to chat about! In addition to these presentations I was also on the island to help ICS begin to develop a snorkel trail on a stunning reef just off the beach. Snorkel trails are where a route is mapped and the information given to the guests so they can follow the route and learn about the marine life as they go. This has an advantage of enhancing the guest experience as they learn and snorkel but also it can act as a way to control the pressure on the reef.
Despite me being invited over to give presentations and help with the first steps of the snorkel trail I have come away feeling it was in fact me who learnt more. I was lucky enough while I was on the island to join ICS’ head ranger Tony Jupiter on one of his daily turtle beach walks. I have been very fortunate in the past to have done a fair amount of turtle monitoring but to spend a couple of hours with someone who has so much experience on Desroches and throughout the outer Seychelles Islands, including the incredible Aldabra, was a real treat. In recent weeks some very unusual turtle happening have been occurring and it was exciting to be there at this time. About 3 separate occurrences of Green turtles mating on the beaches (and out of the water) of Desroches have been witnessed recently. This is very rare as turtles usually keep this private moment for the water. To see the Tony’s photos visit the ICS Facebook page. Another rare find was a washed up, deceased whale in 2009 which has recently been recoded as a whole new species, exciting stuff! You can read more about this at:
This trip has left my brain and I bursting with new information, especially about turtles in Seychelles. I am now able to pass this onto the children and adults at my talks so indeed a fantastic opportunity and one which has provided education for a Marine Educator!