Follow the activities of the participants in the 2015 Darwin Science Expedition to Chagos in the daily blog below!
This expedition (Darwin 2015) is the third of three that are designed to help deliver the objectives of a Darwin Initiative project to Strengthen the World’s Largest Marine Protected Area, Chagos Archipelago, funded by Defra (UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). 11 of the 14 participants have taken part in previous Chagos expeditions and consequently the team is experienced, and the research is well developed. The Principal Investigator of this project is Dr John Turner (Bangor University) with Prof Charles Sheppard (Warwick University) and Dr Heather Koldewey (Zoological Society of London, ZSL) as Co-Investigators (all also of Chagos Conservation Trust), with the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) Administration the main project partner. The three year project aims to strengthen the Chagos Marine Protected Area by providing scientific knowledge for effective management, and develop a strategy that engages the support of potential stakeholders through outreach, education and engagement. The legacy will be sound management and increased value of what is currently the world’s largest no-take Marine Protected Area and a unique and globally important reference site.
Dr John Turner
School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, UK
Chagos Conservation Trust
Darwin Project Leader and Darwin 2015 Expedition Leader
Profile: John Turner has expertise in temperate and tropical marine environments and the interaction between human impacts and the aquatic environment. He has over 25 years of experience in a wide range of projects involving Coastal Habitat Survey, Marine Protected Areas (MPA), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and Integrated Coastal Zone (ICZM) in a range of countries and contexts. He has undertaken large scale biological surveys for UNDP-GEF Projects on Sustainable use of Biodiversity of Socotra Archipelago, and Coastal Ecosystems of the Andaman Islands, and EIAs for major industrial developments (eg. LNG terminal, Oman; effluents, Mauritius). John's research advances techniques for integrating spatial biodiversity data in marine systems for the purpose of assessment of state, for establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and for long-term monitoring and investigating change. He is a field biologist, experienced in undertaking manipulative experiments, survey and monitoring on coasts and underwater. Current interests focus on the establishment of MPAs (Cayman Islands, Chagos); Reef resilience to human impacts and climate change (Cayman & Indian Ocean islands); and Coastal Zone Management and Sustainable Development (East African coast). John has visited the Chagos four times (2006, 2008, 2013 and 2014) and is an Executive Member of the Chagos Conservation Trust. John currently/recently leads three DEFRA Darwin Initiative projects: Darwin Initiative to strengthen World’s largest MPA, Chagos 2012-2015; Darwin Initiative to enhance an established marine protected area system, Cayman Islands 2010-2013, Darwin Initiative Assuring Engagement in Cayman’s Enhanced Marine Protected Area System 2013-2014.
Lead, Research Project 1: Coral Reef community monitoring by video archive (with Ronan Roche)
Coral cover on Chagos reefs has been assessed for greater than 20 years, providing a valuable long term record of change over time in response to major environmental variables, such as warming events and bleaching induced mortality. Although photographs of many reef communities exist, what has been lacking is a video archive of the structure of communities which would allow documentation of change and the identification of features that may not previously have been recorded in counts because their significance was not evident at that time. A video archive enables new generations of scientists to revisit reefs visually, and the video can be reanalysed to identify changes and to address questions of resilience and response. 10 minute sequences of video were recorded over 5 m depth ranges (5-10, 10-15, 15-20, 20-25m depth) at seaward and lagoon sites on all atolls in 2006, and these are being repeated during the 2013 -2015 Darwin Initiative expeditions. Initial analyses indicate that primary framework species that grew rapidly at shallow depths following the 1997 mortalities, are now being replaced by more diverse secondary framework species, which can be expected to increase in biomass in subsequent years unless affected by further impacts. There are already indications of new events occurring, such as mortality of lagoon corals below 15 m depth in Salomon lagoon; and loss of banching Acropora on lagoon reefs of Eagle Island and Danger Island due to Crown of Thorns starfish outbreaks, and coral diseases.
Professor Charles Sheppard
Biological Sciences, University of Warwick and Chair of Chagos Conservation Trust, UK
Project Co Investigator and Darwin Expedition 2015 Co Leader
Profile: Charles Sheppard has been working for several decades on the marine ecology of tropical seas. He focuses on the corals, their abundance and identity, and changes that have occurred over the years in key environmental parameters. Because ocean warming and climate change are so important, he relates community changes to climate change, especially to warming pulses that damage reefs. He is editor of a major marine environmental science journal, and has written and edited numerous books and papers on this subject including on the remarkable Chagos archipelago, but focusing as well on tropical areas from the Caribbean to Australia. Regarding Chagos, for 10 years was BIOT Commissioner’s scientific advisor, before giving up that position and becoming Chair of the Chagos Conservation Trust. He has lead many expeditions to Changos, including the first of the current 3 Darwin expeditions.
Lead Research Project 2: Coral Reef Monitoring (with Anne Sheppard)
In 2015, Charles Sheppard will focus attention again on the status of the corals which build the Chagos Archipelago. Factors such as coral cover, juvenile coral density and mortality of older colonies will be investigated in order to assess the ‘health’ of the reefs. Arrays of underwater temperature data recorders will also be retrieved, data downloaded, and replaced. We hope also to investigate further the huge seagrass beds that were recently discovered far from the islands, and also will re-examine the area where a crown-of-thorns outbreak on the Great Chagos Bank 2 years ago killed almost all corals on a portion of reef, to determine recovery potential in the archipelago. Charles will fly the aerial camera to obtain good aerial images of reefs and islands for habitat mapping. With colleagues, he has found that the natural resilience of Chagos reefs was relatively fast compared with areas that suffer stresses from most human induced kinds of exploitation, such as sewage, over-fishing and shoreline disturbances.
Professor Chris Perry
Geography Department , University of Exeter, UK
Profile: Chris Perry is a marine geoscientist with >20 years research experience relating to tropical sedimentary systems and carbonate nutrient interaction. He has published 85 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, and is Geoscience editor for the disciplines main journal Coral Reefs. His research relates especially to the controls on tropical marine carbonate nutrient interaction and on quantifying rates and patterns of coral reef growth. This has included extensive NERC funded work on coral reef growth within the inner-shelf environments of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and at sites in the southern Indian Ocean and in East Africa. Of particular relevance here he led a 2009 Leverhulme Trust Research Network piloting the development of a census based methodology to measure carbonate budgets on Caribbean reefs, has undertaken extensive work on reef carbonate nutrient interaction at sites in the Caribbean and, more recently, in the Maldives, and currently leads a work package on carbonate nutrient interaction in East Africa under the ESPA-funded SPACES programme.
Lead, Research Project 3: Coral Reef Carbonate Budget (with Gary Murphy)
Coral reefs are experiencing an unprecedented decline in their abundance, diversity, and habitat structures. These changes are not only impacting upon reef ecology, but also now are starting to change the budgets of carbonate nutrient interaction and erosion on these reefs – a critical issue since these budgets have a major impact upon reef growth potential, on the maintenance of reef structural integrity and hence will strongly influence the future capacity of reefs to sustain ecosystem service provisioning. A carbonate budget is a measure of the amount of carbonate produced by corals and other calcareous organisms, such as coralline algae, less that eroded by biological activity (e.g., through fish and sea urchin grazing) and by physical disturbance. Whilst work on reef budget states, from various heavily degraded sites, is now emerging, we have very little understanding of reef carbonate budget states from sites that are relatively remote from major human disturbance. Such data would, however, be of immense value in terms of the attaining some understanding of natural (pre-major human disturbance) budget baseline conditions. Few areas of the world offer the possibility to examine such issues, but Chagos is one of these. In this context our aim is to undertake an assessment of contemporary reef carbonate budget states across a wide range of fore-reef habitats at sites around Chagos. This will not only provide an understanding of the existing overall budget state at different sites, but also provide data on the key drivers of carbonate nutrient interaction and erosion at different sites and, uniquely, an opportunity to establish a set of baseline survey sites against which future changes could be assessed – for example following future major bleaching events. Thus the proposed work has both current and future research relevance. Our field methodology will follow a census-based approach, using methodologies developed and tested at sites in the Caribbean through a 2009 Leverhulme Trust International Network Award, and more recently adapted and tested at other Indian Ocean sites (Kenya, Mozambique and in The Maldives). In addition to the manual recording of species abundance and cover data necessary for the methodology (we aim to collect data from 4-6 replicate transects at a depth ~8m at each site) we will also collect video data from along each transect as an archive. We anticipate generating a set of highly novel dataset on reef budget states and on carbonate producer and eroder abundance from this location, data that will have important conservation and management relevance as an alternative metric for measuring and monitoring reef functionality.
Dr Nick Graham
Principal Research Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University. Australia.
Profile: Nick Graham’s research tackles large-scale ecological and social-ecological coral reef issues under the overarching themes of climate change, human use and resilience. He has worked extensively on the ecological ramifications of fishing and closed area management and has assessed the long-term impacts of climate induced coral bleaching on coral reef fish assemblages, fisheries and ecosystem stability. He has studied the patterns and processes by which degraded coral reefs recover, and how this can be incorporated into, or influenced by, management action. Increasingly he works with social scientists and economists to assess methods of linking social-ecological systems for natural resource assessment and management. Nick was on the 2006, 2010 and 2012 Chagos expeditions.
Lead, Research Project 4: Rat induced terrestrial-marine nutrient cascades (with Shaun Wilson)
The difference between islands with rats present and those with no rats is striking in Chagos. Islands with no rats are teeming with seabirds, whereas islands with rats have very little bird life. From a conservation standpoint, de-rating islands is an obvious objective to enhance the number of important bird areas in Chagos. However, there is very little research on the implications of rat removal and subsequent high bird numbers for the terrestrial, and related marine ecosystem environment. It is hypothesised that the very high abundance of seabirds on small islands will transfer nutrients from the marine environment, as they feed in surrounding waters and their guano will enrich the nutrient content of soils. We intend to assess this nutrient enrichment effect, and assess processes whereby it may be further transferred from the terrestrial back to the marine environment. Collaborating with Pete Carr, we will select a series of Islands with and without rats, and assess seabird populations on these islands. Other important information will also be quantified, and where possible controlled for. This will include island size and vegetation types on the islands. Shallow (1-3m) reef communities will also be surveyed immediately adjacent to the islands. This will include benthic cover of corals, different types of algae and the abundance and identity of reef fish assemblages. We will assess possible nutrient enrichment and how it passes through terrestrial-marine pathways, using nitrogen and phosphorus to carbon ratios, and stable isotope analyses. At each replicate island, we will sample new growth on a common terrestrial plant, soil (within 30m of the high tide mark), benthic marine algae (Ulva), organic detrital matter in marine sediments, and a common small herbivorous fish (territorial algal feeding damselfish). With these data, we will compare nutrient enrichment pathways between islands from birds, through terrestrial plant and soils, to marine plants and finally up into the reef fish community. This work has not been done previously, and as such would provide a very novel approach to understanding the importance of removing rats from remote islands.
Dr. Courtney Couch
Postdoctoral Fellow, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology, USA
Profile: Courtney is a postdoctoral fellow at the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biolo gy at the University of Hawai‘i at Manōa. She is a coral disease ecologist and epidemiologist working with the BIOT scientists, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and The Nature Conservancy to build capacity to address rising coral disease and the develop management strategies to promote coral health across the Indo-Pacific. During her postdoc, Courtney is implementing a coral health and disease monitoring programs for a number of Big Ocean sites (such as BIOT), addressing local environmental drivers of coral disease through targeted research in the Main Hawaiian Islands, and building capacity and facilitate communication between marine resource managers and scientists to improve reef resilience planning.
Lead, Research Project 5: Coral Disease (supported by Jon Slayer & Gavin Colthart)
Outbreaks of coral disease, acting synergistically with other stressors, have reshaped the structure and function of reef ecosystems, even in remote reefs. Courtney participated in the 2014 BIOT cruise to conduct the first in situ coral disease assessments and found that while disease prevalence is low overall, diseases such as white syndrome are starting to affect several regions. During the 2015 expedition, Courtney will continue her comprehensive coral disease surveys across the Archipelago and devote additional effort to assessing the extent, severity and rate of progression of white syndrome. This study will not only allow us to better understand how global stressors affect coral disease dynamics and reef ecosystems in the absence of local anthropogenic inputs.
Catherine Head (Doctoral candidate)
Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, UK
Profile: Catherine is studying the biodiversity of shallow water coral reef cryptofauna, the small often hidden animals that live within the reef structure, and how this component of biodiversity is impacted by human activity. She is particularly interested in how biodiversity affects ecosystem function, the evolution and ecological processes that underpin community structure, and how human disturbance acts on these processes. To investigate these topics she use both morphological and molecular methods to identify species richness. Her PhD builds on her experience working in coral reef conservation over the last seven years. In order to help managers and local communities improve protection of reefs and increase reef resilience to global impacts, it is vital that we understand how all components of biodiversity respond to human disturbance and the mechanisms behind this. Study sites in Chagos allow Catherine to set a baseline against which she can compare other reefs of varying health from across the Indo-Pacific.
Lead, Research Project 6: Coral reef cryptofauna biodiversity /ARMS/Coral colony growth (with Professor Morgan Prachett of ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University. Australia who is not present on this expedition) Supported by Gavin Colthart and John Slayer
The majority of reef biodiversity is found within the component of biodiversity termed the ‘cryptofauna’. The cryptofauna is composed of the suite of animals that live within the nooks and crannies of the reef structure, these are mainly invertebrates such as shrimp, crabs, sea stars, and some small vertebrates such as gobies. This component of biodiversity is understudied, partly because it is often difficult to sample these organisms on the reef due to their hidden nature, and partly because they are hard to identify taxonomically. These organisms span all trophic groups, eg. carnivores and filter feeders, and are important to the functioning of the coral reef ecosystem as they contain groups such as the detritivores, which are essential for the breakdown of dead organic matter. Up to 12 each of dead and living coral heads will be collected to make estimates of biodiversity metrics such as the abundance and species richness of the cryptofauna inhabiting dead and living areas of Chagos reefs. This project will study the community structure of the cryptofauna and the ecological and evolutionary processes that lead to this composition by focusing on the Caridea shrimps which are known to inhabit a diversity of reef habitats and often have close associations with other reef organisms such as the starfish including Acanthaster planci. To do this we need DNA from as many species of shrimp as possible for sequencing to produce a genetic family tree.
Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) are standardized habitat units developed by NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) to measure biogeographical patterns of diversity among both sessile and motile non-coral invertebrates. ARMS have been deployed at many locations throughout the Indo-Pacific, but Chagos is a key location for this research both because of its geographical position in the central Indian Ocean and the relatively pristine condition of the reef environments. In 2013, 3 replicate ARMS were deployed at 7-12m depth on the reef edge at three locations, i) Diego Garcia, ii) Salamon Atoll, and iii) Peros Banhos at sites with a north-west aspect. These ARMS will be retrieved this year, and motile invertebrate will be sorted and catalogued, followed by storage of all representative groups in ethanol for DNA sampling.. Given the relatively pristine nature of the reef ecosystem in Chagos, we expect to find much higher levels of biodiversity than has been recorded at more degraded locations around the tropical rim of the Indian ocean. However, it is also possible that the diversity of non coral invertebrates may be lower in Chagos due to the very high number of fishes and macro-invertebrates that prey on these groups of coral reef organisms. This research is expected to contribute to our understanding of the function and trophic structure of coral reef ecosystems in the absence of high fishing pressure.
Branching corals (e.g., Acropora and Pocillopora spp.) provide habitat for many different coral reef fishes, but are also considered vulnerable to climate change. Importantly, branching corals and especially Acropora are the first to bleach and die following extended periods of unusually hot weather. Moreover, gradual increases in ocean temperatures and emerging effects of ocean acidification could be compromising the growth rates of these corals. If so, this will reduce the capacity of normally fast-growing corals to recover from periodic disturbances, including climate-induced coral bleaching, outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster spp.) and severe tropical storms. Growth rates of branching corals need to be measured directly, by quantifying changes in the quantity of carbonate skeleton comprising each coral over time. 40 individually tagged colonies (20 Acropora and 20 Pocillopora) were stained in 2013 within the vicinity of the ARMS devices at Ile Anglaise at Salamon Atoll. All corals that are still alive in 2015 will be retrieved and then bleached in order to accurately quantify how much new skeleton has been added across the entire colony since they were stained. The growth rates of these coral will then be compared to other reef locations around the world, as well as serving as a baseline for subsequent studies within Chagos to assess whether climate change is impacting on coral growth.
Pete Carr (Doctoral candidate)
Chagos Conservation Trust & Zoological Society of London, UK
Profile: Pete Carr has had a long association with the Chagos having led three ornithological expeditions to Diego Garcia and then lived and worked on Diego Garcia for four years between 2008-2012. During that time he visited every island of the Chagos and found some 25 new bird species for the Territory. He was instrumental in establishing which islands became Important Bird Areas, published the book Birds of the British Indian Ocean Territory and has had articles in journals on the birds of Chagos, including British Birds. Pete has recently completed a Masters by Research degree with Warwick University, the thesis being on Red-footed Booby and factors impacting their selection of islands in the Chagos for breeding and, the implications for future island management plans.
Lead, Research Project 7: Sea bird monitoring, Coconut crab assessments, Isle Vache Marine rat removal. (with Claudia Naraina, Chagossian Research Trainee, and supported by Gavin Colthart and Jon Slayer)
Peter is the focus of the expedition’s terrestrial conservation efforts and will also be continuing his ornithological research in to the breeding seabirds of the Chagos. In Peros Banhos he will be conducting the first check of the outcome of the rat eradication of Ile Vache Marine in August 2014. If successful, this will give one more predator free island (in amongst six islands that are Important Bird Areas), for the internationally important breeding seabird populations to nest on. In addition, as part of his PhD he will be continuing the long-term monitoring of the breeding seabirds. This includes ringing Sooty Terns as part of study to assess natal site fidelity. Sooty Terns regularly mass desert breeding islands due to avian tick infestations and, as a result, it is thought that they are site faithful to groups of islands rather than specific islands and marking individual birds is an aid to proving this. In addition, the survey of Coconut crabs (Birgus lantro) will be continued at night when they are active to investigate a possible correlation between island size, vegetation composition and rats.
Dr. Ronan Roche (Project 1)
Centre for Applied Marine Sciences, School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, UK
Profile: Ronan is interested in studying how natural systems respond to anthropogenic alteration, using a multi-disciplinary approach, focusing on coral reef ecosystems and their long-term resilience and diversity. He graduated in Biological Sciences from the University of Edinburgh in 2000. He carried out research in 2002 as part of the MSc in Tropical Coastal Management at the University of Newcastle in Trindad and Tobago. Ronan then worked for several years in Coastal Zone Management and Fisheries topics at the Essex Estuaries Initiative in Colchester, England. He then was awarded an IGERT fellowship to study at the University of Rhode Island, where he completed the MMA (Master of Marine Affairs) program focusing on Marine Law and Policy in 2007. His PhD thesis was entitled “A multi-proxy reconstruction of mid-Holocene environmental conditions at a nearshore Great Barrier Reef site: King Reef, Northern Queensland.” This project was collaboration between Manchester Metropolitan University, The Natural History Museum, London, and James Cook University, Australia. He am currently works at the Centre for Applied Marine Sciences at Bangor University, UK. Ronan will be in charge of documenting monitoring site positions and will be working on the coral reef community video archive project (1)
Anne Sheppard (Project 2)
Research Associate, School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick and Chagos Conservation Trust, UK
Profile: Anne has been a coral reef ecologist on many research expeditions to the Chagos Archipelago since her first 9 month long trip in 1978, when she was the first woman ever to have dived there. Her main focus of research is coral taxonomy, monitoring reef health and the recovery of reefs after human impacts. She has also taken many land and underwater photographs of the archipelago which have used to promote conservation both of Chagos and coral reefs in general. She is a trustee of the Chagos Conservation Trust and is also editor of CCT’s journal Chagos News. On this expedition she will be continuing the monitoring of reef recovery in Chagos by measuring coral cover (project 2).
Gary Murphy (Doctoral Candidate) (Project 3)
Department of Geography, University of Exeter, UK
Gary has a broad range of interests in marine ecosystems, particularly in coral reefs. His first degree was in Zoology at the University of Aberdeen and subsequently he spent six months working on a coral reef fisheries project in Fiji. After some time he returned to university studying for an MSc in Marine Biology at Bangor University. In 2005 he began working on a coral reef biodiversity project in Borneo, where he trained groups of volunteers to survey coral reefs for fishes and corals. After this he swapped the Indo-Pacific for the Caribbean to work with the Cayman Islands Department of Environment on assessing fish biomass. In 2010 he started working as a Research Assistant on a Leverhulme Trust funded international research network which developed a census based methodology for assessing net rates of calcium carbonate framework nutrient interaction on coral reefs at Exeter University with Prof Chris Perry. Using this method, he is currently investigating the relationships between the net rates of coral reef framework nutrient interaction and the animals and plants that control them. Gary will be undertaking assessments for the carbonate budget: Project 3
Dr Shaun Wilson (Project 4)
Senior Research Scientist
Western Australia Department of Environment and Conservation. Australia.
Profile: Shaun is a senior research scientist for tropical marine systems where his chief responsibilities are to conduct or co-ordinate research that contributes to managing Western Australia’s marine resources. Shaun’s previous research examined the impact that habitat disturbance and fishing on reef communities, focusing on the effect of coral bleaching on reef fish. His work has examined the role that structural complexity of reefs plays in maintaining diversity, habitat associations and specialization of fish and the impact of different disturbances on reef communities. Shaun has also worked on food webs, in particular the importance of detritus relative to algae in fish diets and the implications that different feeding modes have for reef recovery. He has worked on the reef communities on the Great Barrier Reef, Caribbean, Seychelles and Fiji and looks forward to exploring and working in Western Australia.
Dr. Gavin Colthart
NHS BRIGHTON AND HOVE CCG
Expedition Medical Officer and Diving Safety Officer (also supporting projects 5, 6, 7)
Profile: Gavin works as a locum GP based in Brighton, UK. Until August 2012 he also worked as a part-time healthcare research specialist for the UK Parliament. His main clinical interests are musculoskeletal medicine, and expedition and tropical medicine. He has completed courses in remote and wilderness medicine and remote pre-hospital management of medical emergencies, and has worked as medical officer for marine research projects in Belize, Madagascar and Cuba for a total of 7 months over the past 3 years. He has 14 years experience in healthcare management in New Zealand and Europe, including roles as an IT management consultant, senior hospital manager, and medical editor. He has a lifelong interest in marine biology, having originally intended to train in this field, and has dived since a teenager and now holds a PADI Divemaster qualification. He has dived intensively in the Pacific, Caribbean and Indian Ocean. Before entering medical school Gavin was involved in fine art photography, exhibiting in shows in Wellington and Auckland in the 1980s, and has work included in the National Museum of New Zealand collection. He resumed more active fine art practice in 1998 and in 2002 completed a BA in Fine Art (first class honours) from the University of Brighton. He has since exhibited in the UK and a work was short-listed for the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2004. Gavin has worked as a sailing and windsurfing instructor, run a mail-order book business specialising in environmental thought and practice, engaged in various forms of environmental and peace activism, volunteered as a Samaritan at music festivals throughout the UK, coordinated the Brighton Peace and Environment Centre, and is a qualified yoga instructor.
Claudia Naraina (Projects 5, 6 and 7)
Chagossian Research Trainee
Profile: Claudia Naraina is a healthcare professional from Manchester. She is passionate about conservation, loves scuba diving and other water sports. She has been a ZSL trainee in the Connect Chagos Project since 2012. Claudia has developed a lot of skills in conservation as well as learning how to wield a chainsaw. She relishes the opportunity to expand upon these skills to gain more experience in these different facets within conservation. She hopes to contribute towards the team of highly qualified professionals to explore new dive sites and learn about the Chagos Archipelago coral reef and the fauna and flora it supports. She will draw upon the knowledge gained to educate the Chagossian Community and the public at large.
Chagos Conservation Trust, UK
Logistics and Communications Officer (also supporting projects 5, 6, 7)
Jon’s childhood playground was Sea World in Durban, South Africa, where his father is a marine biologist. His first job was assisting with dolphins, seals and penguins at uShaka Marine World and also participating in field trips to survey the coral reefs of Sodwana Bay. His working career has remained adventurous, as an outdoor activities training instructor in a game reserve in South Africa, white water safety kayaker on grade 5 rapids of the Zambezi River and as a Commissioned Officer in the Royal Marine Commandos. He served for 8 years including operations in Afghanistan, Northern Ireland and Iraq, also spending a year in the British Headquarters on Diego Garcia. There he apprehended poachers and commanded British Operation Patrols around the British Indian Ocean Territory including escorting the science expedition of 2006. Since 2008 he has qualified as a commercial scuba diver in order to focus on filming life beneath the surface. His award nominated films have supported several conservation campaigns and have featured in television documentaries. In Belize he has founded a branch of the marine conservation charity Blue Ventures that monitors and researches the remote Bacalar Chico area of the Belize Barrier Reef. He also works as a Security Team Leader protecting vessels transiting the High Risk Piracy Area in the Northern Indian Ocean