My name is Cat and I am the latest addition to the staff on Frontier’s Tanzania project, leading the terrestrial research on Mafia Island. I am in the habit of saying I am from the UK, but nowadays I seem to spend the majority of each year in the tropics conducting field research.
Entries in #research (3)
Although there is a comprehensive kit list of things that are essential to bring on any Frontier programme there are a few things that become essential only after spending a few weeks out on camp. What may seem dull back home soon becomes an in-demand luxury on the project. Conservation intern Louisa Mamalis and Assistant Research Assistant Sian Green have put together a list of what they consider to be the top 10 non-essential essentials!
1. Squeezy concentrated squash – Here on Mafia it is important to stay hydrated but drinking just water all the time can get a bit dull so it’s great to have these handy bottles of squash. Just 2 drops into a water bottle and you have a delicious fruity drink!
2. Battery pack – Power is not always reliable on camp so it's good to be able to store some power for when you really need it! These are portable and compact, perfect for charging a phone, ipod or camera and are even better if they are solar powered!
3. Lush shampoo bar – This was left by a volunteer (Harriet – thanks!) who used it for two months and I have now been using it for another two months and it’s still going strong! Just a little bit of the bar foams up so much and it smells amazing!
4. Hammock – Easily rolled up and stored for travelling. Great to add an extra seat to a communal area and makes such a comfortable place to sit, lie or to just chill.
5. Cuppa soup/ stock/ powered sauce mix/ porridge – These are light weight and are great comfort foods. They just need boiling water so are a quick way to mix up meals.
6. Dry bags – Having a range of sizes of dry bag is great for storing and keeping things organised especially when going out on surveys and diving. Research Officer, Dan, even has a dry bag backpack so never has to worry in the rain!
7. Microfiber travel towel – These fold up very small and dry extremely fast so are great when you are in and out of the sea all day!
8. Kindle – A slightly bigger investment but definitely worthwhile if you are a big reader. These are perfect for storing loads of books and hold their charge for ages. Great for relaxing in the evening and you really miss the backlight when it’s gone!
9. Camp DIY kit – Cable ties, super glue and duct tape - if it can't be fixed with any of these things then it’s probably not worth fixing!
10. Sweets and treats – After all that surveying sometimes you need a sugar boost! The most useful ones come in individual packets for example Oreos and mini bags of Haribo make great grab and go snacks!
By Conservation intern Louisa Mamalis and Assistant Research Assistant Sian Green
As we look to the new year I find myself reflecting on all that has happened this year on the Tanzania project. We have welcomed 85 volunteers and 15 staff members. We have completed around 200 underwater baseline surveys looking at the health of the reefs, we have identified hundreds of species in the Seagrass beds and set up a comprehensive mangrove project. We have seen turtle hatching, whale sharks and the elusive Mafia Hippos. We've adventured North to the lighthouse, East to Mlola coastal Forest, West to Ras Mbisi and South to Mange Reef. Celebrations have been scattered throughout the year with formal events such as the retirement of the Warden in Charge of the Marine Park, opening of research facilities, Eid the celebration marking the end of Ramadan, Christmas and the christening of Baby Mika, the second born of camp cook Rozi.
The marine park boasts excellent diversity and we've been able to see humpback dolphins, whitespotted guitarfish, giant reef rays, giant trevally and seahorses. We've been engulfed in huge shoals of paddletail snapper, golden trevally, fusiliers and humpnose unicornfish.
Its not just the large marine life that captures our enthusiasm but the tiny too, such as, colourful nudibranchs, flatworms, shrimp and cryptic cuttlefish. Recording new species helps us recognise the biodiversity of Mafia Island but it's also the interactions between species that captures the fascination of divers. Interactions such as, the large parasites you can find on a jewel damsels forehead, the bluestreak cleaner wrasses wriggling into the gills of a slingjaw grasses, the battling of two parrotfish as they display their fused teeth and the golden trevally juvenile that follows the group of snorkelers. We've been in awe at the size and complexity of corals with mountains of columns of corals,bright coloured soft corals pulsating in the current, fire coral creating branching formations and big rock swim throughs. The characters from finding nemo have featured heavily around Mafia Island with many anemonefish, pallete blue surgeonfish, morish idol and turtles.
A day out with the forest team will leave you thirsty for a spiced chai and early bedtime after navigating your way through dense mangrove stands, rhizophores and pneumatophores. Look closely at the pneumatophores to see the swirling patterns, minute molluscs, colourful fiddled crabs and the treacherous hooded comb oysters. We might venture out to the rice paddies looking for the lilac breasted rollers, egrets and the secretive genet . Cameras always at the ready to catch a passing chameleon, monitor lizard or an elephant shrew. Before embarking on a Hippo adventure you will be tested in your tree climbing ability which will have us all rolling with laughter.
On our teaching project we have experienced he joys and challenges of teaching a foreign language. Whether this be through singing songs with nursery school children, drawing parts of the body with primary school children and translating magazine articles with the adult class. Enjoy the luxury of the lodge whilst helping to teach items on the menu and translating greetings into English. We've experienced the excitedness of many children coming to Environmental days to paint finger fish on the wall, to put happy fish in the sea free of rubbish and to complete the puzzle of the turtle shell. We have collected many bags of rubbish from local beaches and held a workshop creating children's toys out of a myriad of disposed plastic items.
Our turtle and whalesharks project has had many breathtaking encounters seeing hundreds of green turtle hatchingling breaking out of their shells and making their way down the sandy slopes into thrashing waves. One group slept overnight on Juani Island and saw a large female turtle slithering up the beach, digging a hole and laying her eggs. The following day she was tagged by another conservation organisation to monitor her journey around the Indian Ocean. We've photographed the gigantic whalesharks which can be identified by their spot pattern which acts like a fingerprint in that it is unique to each individual.
So many highlights to share with you but there's a reason why we are based on Mafia Island carrying out conservation an education projects. We have seen large piles of unicornfish piled on the beach ready to be sorted and sold at market, stingrays being sold for less than 50 pence, huge Triton shells emptied of their contents. The impressive whalesharks have been seen cruising dangerously close for fishing gear, illegal fishing has happened inside the core protected areas, mangrove stands have been cleared and a small boy once approached us with a moray eel, alive, in a plastic bottle. The currents bring with them nutrients that sustain so much marine life but drifting in from the Indian Ocean are also tonnes of plastic, metal and glass that won't degrade and that end up on turtle nesting beaches.
Looking to 2015 with a great feeling of accomplishment but still a long way to go to have sustainable fishing and an effective marine park. We will continue to monitor the biodiversity and interactions in the terrestrial and marine environments. We will continue to inspire, engage and educate others about the needs to conserve resources for the future. All the best for the new year!
Catie Gutmann Roberts, Field Staff.