This week its intern Amber's turn to write a post for the blog....
Week one of whale shark season started off strong with 7 sharks, but none were spotted the later part of that week. Sunday we had the afternoon free and Jo took us on a hike to the 2nd highest mountain in Mahe and the view was absolutely breathtaking. We also took the 3 dogs along which made it interesting.
Boris, Sid and Dora’s big adventure!
Monday, I was off and decided to get up at 6am and do the turtle walk with Pete and Vanessa. Vanessa surveys year round for turtle nests on 14 beaches on the island. There are two species of turtle, the hawksbill and green sea turtle. Right now they are surveying Mondays and Fridays and next month it goes to Monday, Wednesday, Friday with November and December being the main season for nests and hatchlings. There are 6 main beaches towards the south of the island that they walk every survey day and then they alternate between the 4 on the west and the 4 on the east as well, so Monday we walked 10 beaches including the west side and then we had an awesome lunch at the Banyan Tree resort. No nests were detected, but we did some beach erosion surveying and I got to walk the 10 most beautiful beaches I've ever seen!
Pete and Vanessa doing the beach erosion surveying
Walking the beach looking for turtle tracks
This past week we have been catching up on a lot of data entry both from the past week and past years of behavior recordings. When the pilot sees a shark, they will circle and keep visual for up to 5 minutes recording all of the shark’s behavior. The pilot will also note information on environmental conditions, any other species in the area, and whether there is influence on the shark’s behavior by a boat or swimmers in the water. We have been listening to these recordings and entering the pilot’s comments and sharks behavior with the time and duration of the behavior into a spreadsheet for Jo to later analyze for her project. It has been really interesting to see how a shark’s behavior changes from just a morning spotting with no boats or people in the area to an afternoon sighting with a boat and up to 8 swimmers nearby. It is also helpful to hear the recordings from the pilot’s perspective when they are radioing to the recorder on the boat. We have all been recorders now and understand how important and difficult the job can be to clearly relay messages from the pilot to the boat captain while the engine is running and you have all the excited guests looking at you to get them in the water with their first whale shark. I think we can really learn from analyzing these recordings and hopefully improve our skills as recorders.
So the bad news is we didn’t see any sharks this week, but the good news is we have been diving all week and replacing acoustic receivers in Bay Ternay. Acoustic receivers will ping off a tracker when the turtle swims by and when the receiver is switched out every year, you can download the data from it. We've also started placing marine mammal acoustic gear out for Pete's project.
Tom, Jo, Freya, and me replacing an acoustic receiver in Bay Ternay
So, while we aren't swimming with sharks, we are able to learn about MCSS’s other projects and get more hands on experience in other aspects of marine conservation.