Wednesday
Sep172014

Volunteer blog: Alec Tucker

For a moment, there is nothing; nothing but the inky blue abyss that lingers in between the surface and the very bottom of the sea. For a moment, I am alone, with nothing but my own hissing breath and the rushing bubbles that escape my regulator with each exhalation I make for company.

Then it appears, just far enough away for me to be unable to discern any details, but close enough that its gargantuan shape looms like some great, slumbering animal from the deep. The coral formation comes into view moments later, along with my two dive companions, one of which is my instructor. It is a massive coral formation; an amalgam of organisms all clustered together that hides an uncountable mass of marine life: fish, urchins, eel, and starfish to name but a few. Part of me hopes that we might see a turtle. We’d need to be very lucky.

Our instructor leads, and we follow, and moments later a kaleidoscope of colour opens up before us. Fish, spooked by our large bodies and thick, alien equipment, shoal in all directions. There are all manner of families and sub-families, forming a wall of bright, scaly flesh before us. I have to fight the smile appearing on my face as we float by this beautiful underwater landscape, as doing too much of that will give you a mouthful of saltwater!

This is but one encounter in one dive. I have no earthly idea what sights and experiences may await me on the next, and despite my initial trepidation, the knowledge of this is great.

By Alec Tucker, Assistant Research Volunteer

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Wednesday
Sep102014

Haiku Poems from the marine and forest team

Haikus are by definition: Japanese poems of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five, traditionally evoking images of the natural world. The forest and marine team has written their own Haikus this week, they are pretty amazing, so check them out!

The king of the beach

Pincers grabbing hungrily

Alas, death by snail!

                Kelly, Assistan Research Officer

 

I'm a mariner

Water, water, everywhere

Not a drop to drink

                Alfie, Research Assistant Volunteer

 

Nudibranchs: cryptic

Colourful, mysterious

Squished by accident

                Gin, Dive Officer

 

Dancing fish at night

Nimble, quick majestic

Playing hide and seek

                Alek, Research Assistant Volunteer

Robust ghost pipefish

Delicate and beautiful

Oh wait, that's a weed

                Maren, Assistant Research Officer

 

Continuous sea,

Maybe old or young but free

Continuous sea

                Sham, Assistant Research Officer

 

The sea, quietly wet

Much wetter than the dry land

Even when it rains

                Jack, Research Assistant Volunteer

 

Is that a big poo

Underneath the rolling waves?

Nay, a cucumber

                Loren, Research Assistant Volunteer

 

Come hither sea hares,

Step into my petri dish

This wont hurt a bit

                Lisa, PI

 By the marine and forest team

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Wednesday
Sep102014

Volunteer blog: A week of firsts

This past week has been a bit of a roller coaster of emotions. Leaving home to travel for a month may not seem that long to some people but for me this was a big deal. It was the first time I'd gone to a different country without the family and it was also a first for catching many different flights without the family. I did however make it to camp in one piece with all my bags! Whoop!

We did arrive a day later than expected, so Tuesday instead of Monday, and by the time we got to camp I just wanted to get started and involved in the project. I got my 'home' set up in the in the hut called Sharon and that would be my little area for the next month.

It was all a bit overwhelming to begin with. It was what I expected but I still couldn't believe I was in Madagascar! So first night, me and the other newbies went on our first night walk. We saw all sorts of lizards, frogs, snakes and a baby Uroplatus ebenaui, which at the time we didn't realise that they are not all that common to see. It was so exciting and interesting. I was also introduced the mosquitoes though, which were significantly less exciting! I found the bites can itch quite bad at night and I didn't get the best nights sleep.

On Wednesday we had an introduction to reptiles, where we got to learn about their distinguishing features and which habitats they are found in. These are the first set of animals to learn so that we are able to go on reptile surveys. Although in the evening I was quite tired we went along to Phils, a French expatriate who cooks great food. I'm glad I did!

Thursday was the first time I spotted a male Panther chameleon on a branch. It was definitely the highlight of my week. Chameleons and Lemurs are awesome. Thursday was also steak night and everyone on camp had bigged this up. We were not disappointed! Another highlight of my week and it made a nice change from rice and beans.

First party night on Friday was Lord of the Rings themed. I dressed up as an elf. You have to be inventive here and tape for ears was apparently a great look! It was a really fun night.

I woke up after a really great sleep on Saturday and had a nice chilled day off. It was my first trip to town to get snacks and I was also able to contact home. The boat trip there is stunning!

I'm now in my second week and absolutely loving it. I can already tell 4 weeks is not going to be long enough. That is unless the mosquitoes get me again!

By Lizzi, Research Assistant Volunteer

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Wednesday
Sep032014

Volunteer blog: Maddy Williams

I woke up on our second day of sat camp at Ampasipohy having been on a very successful night walk the previous evening. Sightings of a Brookesia stumpffi clinging to a branch fast asleep, a yellow Uroplatus ebenaui and more mouse lemurs than I’d previously seen. That morning we did a bird survey and active search for reptiles and amphibians whilst exploring the beautiful surrounding landscape before packing up our stuff to leave for our second destination.

We made the short journey down to the beach for 3pm where we had been told we would be collected by a boat to take us to Ambatozavavy. However in classic Malagasy fashion the boat turned up two hours late and was half the size we were expecting. Despite the insistence of the driver, we concluded that two journeys would be better than one as to avoid bags or people being lost to the ocean. I went with the second group, and at this point I still had no idea that it was only a matter of minutes until my entire outlook on life would be changed.

40 minutes later, the beginning of our voyage was upon us and I was to behold the beauty of Mother Nature in all her glory. As the boat pulled away I was greeted by a sight so beautiful and moving that a single tear fell from my eye, catching the wind and joining the ocean. All previous sightings I had witnessed during my time in Madagascar paled in comparison to the vivid colours soaring above our heads majestically in the sky. It hung in front of my eyes, the evening sunlight extenuating its beautiful form. At this moment of fulfilment I could not have felt happier or more complete. Suddenly my life was thrown into perspective, I felt as though Madagascar had shown me it’s prized jewel – Up above me was the most amazing cloud I had ever seen.

(NB: Of course while I maintain that this was a moving moment in my life, please note that Madagascar is a treasure trove of many breath taking sights, amazing animals and awesome people, and is no way limited just to just clouds.)

By Maddy Williams, Research Assistant Volunteer

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Thursday
Aug282014

Day in the life of a Hawksbill

 

I wake up in the pristene clear water surrounding Nosy Be, awoken by a boat passing overhead. The hunger stabs at my stomach so, forgettig the early hour, I decide to forridge for some food. I swim away from where I was sleeping, as effortlessly as the flowing current i find myself in. I find a small patch of sponge to eat, so decide this is the best idea for now until I find something more substantial later on. This is when I find myself eye to eye with a person, the shock of which makes the sponge I was eating fall out of my mouth and float away – damn – this particular person has a strange obsession with cameras, I find them taking so many pictures i feel like an A-List celebrity. The annoyance of losing my sponge makes me lose my patience and I decide not to let this particular person have the usual fill of photos and swim away earlier than I would if I had'nt been disturbed by the arrogant land dweller. While swimming around this particular reef system, I note the unseasonable visibility, which is much better than the conditions I usually find myself in, which alows me, as I imagine the diver does, to appreciate the pure naturalistic beauty of the marine environment surrounding the islands off the north coast of Madagascar that i am currently dwelling during my 'adolescent years'. I mentally note down the undulating movements of Butterflyfish and the strange movements of Triggerfish. The clear water and shining sun has put me in a better mood since the rude person bothered me and had a bit of a swim around the reef systems before finding some more coral to eat, perhaps some more sponge, before my mid-morning sleep.

By George Kelly, Marine Conservation Volunteer

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