Chagos Conservation Trust

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Feb 2013 Expedition Blog Jump to project background

  • Feb 2013 Expedition Report

    Longfin banner fish (c) Anne SheppardThe report of the latest scientific expedition to the Chagos archipelago is now online!

    In February 2013 a team of scientists, led by CCT Trustee and Scientific Advisor to the Chagos government Prof Charles Sheppard, travelled to the Chagos archipelago to carry out ongoing scientific work in the world's largest marine reserve. Since the marine reserve was created in 2010 there have been two previous scientific expeditions (read more about the expeditions in February 2012 and November 2012). This expedition focused on adding to the long-term data sets on ocean temperatures and coral monitoring, as well as ZSL's project to use cameras for underwater monitoring, and lots more besides.

    As with the past two expeditions to the marine reserve, the scientists on this trip were joined by a Chagossian conservation scholar. Read Yannick Mandarin's account of his experience in Chagos.

    Read the report from the February 2013 expedition here.


    Photo: A longfin banner fish swims at Diego Garcia Middle Island in the Chagos Islands (c) Anne Sheppard

  • Grouper, triggerfish, morey eels, fusiliers, jacks, snappers…

    Fusiliers over coral (c) Jon SlayerOn these science expeditions to Chagos, we return to sites previously visited, to track changes and accurately measure and compare information gathered there before. Even these prescribed dives (and even those onto the oceanside slopes of reefs that are most exposed to the prevailing weather), are breathtakingly beautiful. They are also heaving with fish life. And the fish swim in and over endless sproutings and coatings of soft and hard corals of various hues.

    Some of the best science sites are quite remarkable. Beyond 100% coral cover as numerous species grow around, over and beneath each other, in an impossibly complex jigsaw of life that leaves no gaps for the substrate to peak through. Elsewhere, your destination will offer up a number of sites to providing you with the best submerged vistas on offer.

    Photo: Fusiliers swim over hard and soft corals (c) Jon Slayer

    Often, in other locations around the world, there are usually a few dives that are top class and the remainder trail off to average. Or in the most degraded of coral reefs, to little more than piles of rubble with the occasional outbreak of algae sporadically guarded by a skittish remnant of flighty little fish.

    So returning to Chagos is always an absolute pleasure.

    However, my favourite times in the water are undoubtedly when - for various reasons - I gain some independence over where I can dive. I drive the boat to a point, pick a spot at random, and drop over the side.

    Grouper (c) Jon SlayerThis was what I did this morning, after an early start with terrestrial work on Ile Vache Marine.

    Close to midday we found the time to head out in our boat and plunge from the heat of the day into the cool waters off the south eastern edge of the Isle.

    I was immediately captivated by the stunning spread of coral and fish sloping gently before me. Soon, I lost my dive buddy as he swam in a completely different direction, entranced by a black tip shark. Duly reconnected after a few expletives, and following the dive protocol, we dropped back down straight onto a field of tabletop acropora corals that would better be described as garden decks. Some of them stretched their spreading branches over a five meter diameter.

    Photo: A large grouper eyeing out the camera over an acropora table (c) Jon Slayer

    Whilst filming a multi-layered version of these spectacular corals, I froze as a nurse shark appeared sinuously, gliding over the contours of the coral heads. Unstartled by my stony immobility, he turned in the corner of my camera frame, and swam gracefully straight over the coral head I was filming. Then exited stage left.

    Grouper, triggerfish, morey eels, fusiliers, shoals of jacks and snappers, countless damsels and a plethora of gnawing multicoloured parrotfish later, we ran short of air and reluctantly returned to the surface.

    You don’t need to choose an amazing dive site in the Chagos – you just have to select a spot and get underwater.


    Jon Slayer

    10th March 2013

    Nurse shark (c) Jon SlayerSnapper & parrotfish (c) Jon Slayer









    Photo: (Left) A Nurse Shark drifting over the spreading branches of an acropora; (Right) A shoal of snapper share the water with a couple of parrotfish (c) Jon Slayer

  • “Some of the most beautiful underwater environments…”

    Isle Sel (c) Al HarrisIt’s another day in the Chagos, prepping gear and filling tanks for the science expedition. 

    There are several tasks that have required attention during the expedition so far. These have ranged from staking transactional areas and collecting specimens to equipment servicing and repair.  While these tasks can be labour intensive, they allow for the scientists time to complete their work without being concerned with the additional tasks that I can complete.

    There are of course some incredible benefits to the work.  Amongst them is getting the opportunity to see parts of the Chagos that most will never see.  Not to mention seeing some of the most beautiful underwater environments I’ve seen in my 15 years of scuba diving.  The amount and diversity of aquatic life is amazing and well worth the efforts to keep the area protected.  I have seen areas where the life has been decimated but could have been saved if the effort was made. 

    Photo: Isle Sel, one of the amazing underwater environments of the Chagos (c) Alasdair Harris/Blue Ventures

    I believe the work being done here in the Chagos by the scientific community is so valuable. The archipelago is a unique environment that should be studied, since it provides a benchmark for other studied areas. It can also provide guidance to improve or initiate similar efforts in other MPAs.

    Whilst not a scientist by trade, the seminars given each evening are fascinating and informative, even to a layman such as myself.  I am both honored and appreciative to have been allowed to be a part of the expedition.

    Jason Davis

    Creole translation:

    Ene nouvo zour encore lor chagos prepar bane l’equipema plonger , rempli bane bouteille pou expedition . Ena boucoup responsabiliter ki mo ena pendand sa expedition la couma aide zot tout lor zot reserche  , ramase bane specimen ek ousi arrange bane l’ekipma plonger  . sa aide bane scientist fer zot travail pendant ki moi mo fer sire ki tout lekipma parer kot zot bizin .

    Sa travail permet moi trouve boucoup parti chagos ki personne pou pou capave trouver et sa ene vrai lavantage pou moi . sana oublier so l’environma marin ki zamais mone trouver pendant 15ans ki mo fine plonger . so varieter specimen merite preserve sa ziles la . mone trouve l’endroit kot specimen ine fini mort mais si nou ti met plis zefor pou preserve sa zordi li ti pou encore la eme .

  • “One of the last wild places on earth…”

    Typical scenes from the Chagos marine reserve

    Photo: Typical scenes from the coral reef environments of the Chagos marine reserve (c) Dr Daniel Wagner

    I’ve dived hundreds of times in remote places that are far removed from human populations and their many impacts. But I have to say that the waters around Chagos are particularly magical.

    On virtually every dive during this expedition, we’ve seen large aggregations of big fish like giant Trevally swarming above delicate corals. Seeing such abundant and healthy ecosystems is a real joy and privilege, and I feel compelled to share these images with people that live in urban areas. They might not necessarily realize how much we have impacted the wildlife around us.

    I’m a marine ecologist working for the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument - the largest marine protected area in the United States located in the Hawaiian Islands. On this expedition, I’m helping with biodiversity surveys of organisms that have historically been under-surveyed in the Chagos Archipelago. In particular, sponges, algae and invertebrates associated with these habitat-forming species.

    Remote places like Chagos are some of the last wild places on Earth. Their ecosystems are dominated by colorful species, which have been largely decimated in other more populated areas through destructive activities like overfishing and pollution. The healthy ecosystems of Chagos serve as a powerful reminder of what healthy ecosystems ought to look like, and urge us to be better stewards of the environment. Doing simple things like not littering, recycling and not taking more than we need to, can, and will make a difference in protecting the many natural wonders that our planet has to offer.    

    Dr Daniel Wagner

  • Battling heat, broken equipment and a sunburnt back

    ZSL camera systemSo here we are on the expedition and it’s been incredibly hard graft. Lifting heavy equipment, fabricating and assembling in 32 degree heat and high humidity. It‘s incredibly difficult but the mantra for the whole team is to just push through. It’s very motivating.

    I’ve been working on an underwater camera monitoring system that can be left in situ, underwater, for long periods of time. The recorded images are sent back to ZSL over a satellite connection. The system I’m working with uses a modified navigation buoy which has a power and camera system tethered below it.

    Photo: ZSL's underwater camera monitoring system (c) Gary Fletcher

    Yannick who is from the joint ZSL/CCT Chagossian outreach programme, has taken a particular interest in my project, and has helped me immensely in this heat. I’m incredibly grateful. His continual positive attitude and great ideas have been well received! Alongside his ability to organise the crew and equipment. It’s also interesting to hear some history of the island where his family used to live, I’m sure we’ll remain good friends after the expedition is over.

    Whilst assembling the equipment I’ve encountered many problems including an electrical short, which took me through almost every fuse I had. Everything overheated and cut out.

    Perhaps the biggest issue has been drilling holes in the stainless steel boxes. The heat makes this an impossible task. Having drilled 5 holes in 5 minutes at ZSL back in December, the same saws I brought with me here for the same job, seemed to temper and harden the stainless steel in the heat. This made it impossible to even make a dent in them. The ships doctor even tried ice bags to cool it down, but to no avail!

    After going through 6 drill bits (my entire stock!), we had 2 out of the 5 holes required. I managed to run all the cables required through these 2 glands, and use silicone to create a seal. But I‘m not sure how effective that will be as it didn’t dry very well in this humidity.  The ship’s engineer Dennis, has had similar problems and he’s trying to source something more suitable to this environment via Singapore.

    At one point, I was completely puzzled because the system appeared to be up and running, but the images produced were wholly white. This led me to think that there was a software, or perhaps even a hardware problem.

    After 4 hours of playing with some camera settings, it was the exposure settings. These were of course set for a somewhat darker aquarium in London Zoo! It’s funny how you sometimes solve problems by accident. It was a huge relief!

    So by day 6 (only the third day on location!), and several 18 hour days, we had a full system assembled and in the water. But, it wasn’t all good news…

    We’ve been battling the heat on deck, which is scorching. In the time it took to have the system fully working, and moving it 12 foot across deck, the system had overheated and stopped functioning completely. It was incredibly frustrating.

    We decided to put the system in the water regardless, to check its buoyancy. There was also the chance that the lower camera system, which works independently, was working unlike the surface mounted system, which had completely overheated.

    Within seconds of lowering the system, the camera was being circled by black tip reef shark. This  was incredibly motivating and exciting!  I have my fingers crossed that we captured those images.
    After a non-stop, energy-sapping few days, I decided to get in the water and took up the offer from Rob - the BIOT Fisheries officer - who gave me a wonderful introduction to some of the snorkel sights here. He also gave me a rundown of some of the issues in policing the marine protected area.

    I must say the marine life and corals here are absolutely stunning, and I feel very privileged to have had such an experienced guide for my first look in the water. I’m hoping to accompany Rob tomorrow to satellite tag some tuna.

    On returning to the ship, we inspected the buoy which actually looked pretty cool tethered to the Pacific Marlin. The system was very cool to the touch which was very reassuring.  I suspect it’s due to the water spray from the ocean and sea breeze, which really help to bring the temperature down.  To give you some perspective on deck, I can’t even touch any metal surface without burning myself!

    So my new tack is to wake up early tomorrow (another 4am start!). I’ll replace all of the burnt out electrics, get them back in the water before sunrise, and hopefully then we should be in business!

    Gary Fletcher
    13 March 2013


    ** An Update from Gary **

    We’ve now had multiple successful deployments of the underwater camera system. Floating on the surface of the ocean it dissipates the heat very well so everything is working great now. And we’ve got some great pictures from the Solomon Islands!

    Photo from underwater camera system, Soloman Islands
    In the Solomon Islands, at first the images were a little over saturated, but this has now been rectified. As you can see in the attached picture, you can clearly identify the species.

    The motion detection and satellite connectivity also seem to be working well so the images are being sent over to ZSL in London for review.

    We’ve had a really successful field deployment and proved the system functions incredibly well. We’ve learnt a lot from this trip and will now spend some time before the next expedition making some minor adjustments. We’re looking forward to a more permanent deployment this November.

    Gary Fletcher

    Photo: Underwater camera photos from the Soloman Islands, Chagos marine reserve (c) Gary Fletcher

    Creole traduction:
    Mo apel Gary Fletcher et mo travail dans London zoo dans department  technologie  . mo project lor ki mo tip e travail c’est ene camera ki capave filme enbas delo pou ki pou capave servi lore ne longue period et ki envoiye bane zimage direct London zoo par connection satellite .

    Sa system ki mo p travail la c’est ene buoy ki relier par soleil ek tout so bane la pareil communication ki trouve déjà la dans ek ene camera enbas delo ki silmer couma ene zafer passé devant li .
    Sixieme zour expedition ti bien fatigant ar tout sa bane , arranger , lever , fabriker dans ene salere 32 degree ek lumiditer , mais couma ene team nou ine fer facon ki travail resi manger par motivation tou dimoune .

    Yannick c’est ene chagosien ki lore ne program ek London consernant chagos ine vraiment intereser ek mo project et li ine aide moi pou ki mo projet reusi marcher avec so l’esprit et so motivation nou ine resi fer sa project la marcher et mo vraiment reconaisant enver li pou so l’aide . li ena ene bon sense organisation li ine explik moi parki mo bizin coumencer eke ne plan action pou ki tout deroule ok lor sa project la . ti vraiment interesant kand li fine raconte moi zistoire so bane fami ki ti reste lor sa bane z’iles la et mo sire ki tout pou rest bon camarade meme après sa expedition , nou ine develope ene vrai l’amitier a traver sa expedition la .

    Malereusema nou ine reste encore ene zour dans singapour  et sa ine fer nou en retard pou arrange mo bane lekipma ki nou ti pou met dans delo pou 2 semaine dans lagon diego Garcia mais sa pane empeche nou continier dans nou travail .

    Malereusema nou ine perdi 4 braket pou nou dexieme buoy mais sa ine laise nou concentrer plis lor premier buoy et fer tout possible ki li marse a la perfection .

    Nou ine gagne locazion zoine ek craig sowden ki travail dans ene des pli grand l’aquarium du monde kand nou tip e ale fer ene visite et line arrange ene visite gratuity pou nou eke ne guide ki fine explik nou ki zot fer dans l’aquarium et ki zot project zot pe fer  .

    Gary Fletcher

  • To shoal or not to shoal?

    Yellowfin goatfish in chagos (C) Charles SheppardMy dive buddy and I notice a peculiar association between a juvenile Goldsaddle Goatfish and a Maori Wrasse.  The goatfish and the normally solitary wrasse seemed to form a shoal of two.

    Shoaling is a common behavior among fishes that typically involves numerous individuals swimming together.  This type of group association is thought to confer protection from predation and among adults to aid in finding mates. Shoals of different species are often observed. However, because it doesn’t pay to stick out in a crowd, these shoals are most often formed by similarly colored and/or shaped fishes.  Shoaling is often more prevalent among juveniles, which due to their smaller size are more vulnerable to predation.


    Photo: Yellowfin goatfish shoaling in Chagos (c) Charles Sheppard

    However, the observed relationship between the goatfish and wrasse, which we spent 25 minutes watching as the two moved about the patch reef, was unusual. 

    After a few minutes of observation it became clear that the goatfish was actually shadowing the wrasse, which seemed largely unphased by the presence of its companion.  The goatfish was seen to regularly break from the association for short bursts of feeding on the substrate and then quickly rejoin the wrasse.  Once after veering too far to feed the goatfish lost its partner and was forced to quickly choose a different Maori Wrasse to shadow. 

    At one point the pair came into the vicinity of another juvenile Goldsaddle Goatfish. I assumed the two would join up and shoal, but instead a seemingly antagonistic interaction ensured.  The slightly larger goatfish chased the smaller around an approximately 10 meter square area.  After about 2 minutes the chase ended and our subject was found alone perched upon a small dead coral head.

    After a short rest our goatfish was seen swimming about from coral head to coral head in search of another associate.  It attempted to shoal with a Cleaner Wrasse but didn’t seem to be able to keep up with the fast moving wrasse, and finally swam back to the protection of a coral head.  The goatfish continued its search for a minute or so until it found another Maori Wrasse to shadow. 

    Interestingly, juvenile Goldsaddle Goatfishes don’t seem to be particular about with whom they swim. In fact on another day, I saw a juvenile of this same species swimming with a Bird Wrasse.  It seems that these goatfish seek the protection of swimming with others but contrary to expectations, at least as juveniles, they seem to actively avoid members of their own species.

    Michelle Gaither
    13 March

    Creole translation:
    5eme jour lor chagos , moi ek mo partenaire plonger ine remarker ene connectec estrange entre ene poisson ki apel goldsaddle goat fish ek maori wrasse . d’habitide sa 2 poisson la vivre tout sel mais nou ine remarker ki aster zot nage ensame . mo penser ki zot zot nage ensame acoz pou protege zot contre bane pli gro poisson ou zist pou fer camouade . nou ine suive zot pendant 25 minutes et nou fine remarke bane activiter estrange entre sa 2 poisson la ki d’habitide jamais ensame . apres ki nou suivre zot nou ine remarker ki pli poisson la p casiette pli tipti la . ene la dans a sak fois li pou kit lot la la pou ale manger vite vite après li retourner et si jamais li fine perdi so camouade li pou alle rode ene lot vite vite .

  • Recording coral and other underwater life

    John Turner records coral transect, shark behind (c) Jon SlayerMy main scientific task on this expedition is to assess whether coral and other life form cover have changed since 2006. This includes assessing soft coral, calcareous algae and macroalgae amongst others.

    During my first visit to Chagos in 2006, I recorded a series of underwater video transects at reef sites both in the lagoons and seaward sides of the atolls.  The video is valuable because it records a detailed overview of what the reefs look like at the time. It can then be archived and compared with future recordings.  I’m therefore trying to revisit the same sites in 2013 and re-record the same areas of reef.

    Of course video technology has moved on since then.  Back in 2006, I was using an analogue camera in a large housing unit and recording onto tapes.  Battery power was always a limitation, especially for the halogen lights.  Today, I’m using the latest Sony CX550 High Definition camera which records onto a 62Gb card. This piece of kit lacks moving parts making for a lighter, smaller and more reliable system. And much less demanding on battery power.  

    The underwater housing (Light & Motion Blue Fin), has electronic handles that control the camera remotely, minimising the risk of leaks, since there are no levers passing through the sides of the housing.  I invested in a wide-angle lens for the housing to ensure a broad area of coverage, even when close to the reef.  The most impressive part of the system are two very strong LED lights. These  are excellent at picking up the pink and red colours of calcareous algae.  However, one disadvantage is that sharks appear to be taking an interest in the activity – maybe they can sense the camera electronics!

    Needless to say, it can be a challenge to find the same sites that I visited in 2006.  A Global Positioning System (GPS) gets us to within 10m or so of a site and then it’s a case of recognising the reef.  This is actually easier than it may seem. Because either the locality of the sites is very homogenous, for example, a stretch of outer reef with the same aspect tends to be very similar, so it really doesn’t matter where I record. Or there is an obvious feature such as a knoll or bommie of coral sticking up like a small mountain from the lagoon floor, which is easily recognisable.  To help me find the sites in future years, we are embedding some metal stakes into the reef at 25m, 15m and 10m depths.

    However, one thing that has prevented me revisiting 3 sites so far has been the weather and lunar cycle.  Our last day in Salomon and first day in Peros Banhos brought strong winds from the North West. These generated big waves and long swell making it difficult to access the seaward side. Our dive boats are small - about 4m - and when loaded with 4 divers and their kit, we are slow and necessarily cautious.  

    We’ve also been experiencing spring tides. When combined with large waves, they pour water over the reef into the lagoons, and later, the water pours back through passes and runs along the reefs creating tidal rips that we can’t swim against.  

    It’s even more difficult to swim with a video camera, and especially to zigzag up the reef from a 25m depth to a 5m depth to record the reef community structure.  I swim the camera around in a circle at 25m depth, and then progressively record the reef in swathes until I reach 20m depth. I then record another circle to record the ‘seascape’ and then record up to 15m depth and so on. 

    Once back from a dive, the video is downloaded from the camera onto a hard drive, and all the equipment is put onto charge for the next excursion.  

    A great addition to this expedition is a containerised laboratory mounted on the top deck of the Pacific Marlin.  Many of us spend many hours in this lab processing samples and data, and are very grateful to the Marlin crew for fixing us up with air conditioning, electricity and water.  

    Before departing from Diego Garcia, we spent a day moving in benches, shelves, fridge, sink and all our scientific equipment. It’s an enormous improvement from trying to work under tarpaulins stretched across the deck in 450 temperatures! 

    We have genetic fish work happening in one corner: extraction of small shrimps from coral, clams, sea cucumbers and so on. And in another, lots of cameras, GPSs and ship-to-dive boat radios charging.

    When I return to the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University, with the help of some MSc research students, I will have the long job of working through the video data.  

    We use a software programme called CPCe (National Coral Reef Research Institute, Florida), which allows me to analyse around 50 random sections from each depth range of the video.  

    I then record what lays under about 20 random points at each depth, and input the data via tabs. This generates a spreadsheet which calculates the percentage of cover from each category such as coral type, substrate, calcareous algae etc.   

    The data will be compared with the data analysed for 2006.  Back then, the reefs were recovering from the 1997/98 bleaching event, and possibly other events in later years. The corals were mostly separate, having not really formed much of a canopy.  

    I had expected the coral canopy to have joined together and developed substantially, but I’m seeing many corals on the shallow seaward terraces appearing to be battered by storms. And many corals deeper than 15-16m in the lagoons to be dead.  

    The lagoons here are very unusual, being nearly 100% coral cover, rather than sand.  It is early days in the expedition, but it looks as though the reefs are in worse condition than 2006, which is very alarming since recovery has been seen in the years since. 

    The dead corals in the lagoons may have died due to a warming event, since the same species seem fine in shallower water where they may be more resilient to higher temperature, or perhaps cooled by water over spilling the reef. 

    There are plenty more sites to revisit, and we will also record some new sites – I just hope that these are better than some of the sites surveyed to date. 

    Jon Turner

    12 March 2013


  • Wanted. Cryptofauna. Small crabs, shrimp molluscs and the like…

    Chagos reefsDolphins swimming alongside the boat. Diving with black tip sharks and mantas. Stopping off on tropical islands. What more could you want in a day?!  

My role on the Chagos expedition is to investigate the diversity of the cryptofauna - the small organisms that live within the reef structure - and how these are impacted by human activities. 

These organisms are often overlooked, partly because they are hard to survey and identify. But they make up the majority of the biodiversity on coral reefs and contain many important groups such as the detritivores and filter feeders. 

Generally on a dive, I’m seeking out these small crabs, shrimp, molluscs and the like.  But it still makes your dive to see the mega fauna cruising by!


    Photo: A typical scene amongst the reefs of chagos (c) Catherine Head

    Our day started bright and early with a morning dive on the western side of the atoll, to which we were accompanied by a pod of dolphins. A much smaller pod today than yesterday, but always a lovely sight to watch. 

On this dive I was searching for shrimp, one component of the reef cryptofauna, that live on other invertebrates such as sea cucumbers, sea stars and coral. From these shrimp I will take DNA, to put together a phylogeny (a genetic family tree). I can then use this phylogeny to help explain shrimp distribution and community structure across Chagos and other sites in the Indian Ocean. 

After the dive I photograph the shrimp and preserve them in ethanol for genetics back at Oxford University where I’m doing my PhD. 

    After lunch Morgan and I carried out the same work in the lagoon. A different reef habitat where a group of resident black-tips were very curious about what we were up to! 

We then finished off the day with a quick look around one of the islands to check out the enormous coconut crabs, then a smooth boat ride back across the lagoon before the sun went down.  

And now I must leave you to continue processing my shrimp from today’s diving!

    Catherine Head
    12 March 2013

    Creole translation:
    Nage ek dofin , plonger ek requin ek laray , desane lor ziles inpe ki pli bon ki sa  . Mo travail lor sa expediton la c’est ale etidier bane organ ki rest lor corail et couma activiter humain affecter zot . sa bane organ vraiment difficile pou etidier et pou trouver ousi . Kand mo plonger mo trouve crab , crevette , coquille mais ousi li pa empeche moi pou trouve bane gros poisson ki dans sa delo la ousi .

    Nou la journee coumence par ene zoli les temp ek plonger bonere gramatin lor coter west l’iles kot bane dofin ti accompagne nou . Lor sa plonger la mo tip e rode crevette , Barbara , zetoile des mers ek corail acoz enea ene crytofauna ki reste lor sa bane zanimo la ki vraiment important pou mo reserce . mone prend zot foto et ousi mo fine met zot dans ethanol pou mo amene zot l’universite oxford kot mo pe etudier .

    Après dejeuner moi ek morgan ene lot reserceur ki sorti l’universite james cook queensland australie ine ale plonger , la bas ti ena ene bane requin ki tip e interesser coner ki nou pe fer . kand nou ine fini nou travail nou ine ale visite l’iles pou ale guet bane crab sipaille ek nou ine soleile coucher kand nou tip e retourner dans bato . mo laisse zot mo bizin ale etidier mo bane crevette ki mo fine ramaser zordi .


  • Chagos. A glimpse of the past…

    I have not set foot on land for over a week. 

    So when Charles and Anne asked if I would like to accompany them to Ile de Coin, just after we have finished a coral survey dive, I grab the opportunity. 

    We approach a concrete jetty that has a small railway line running along it, now collapsing into the sea. This was used to transport copra, a coconut product, to waiting boats during the time when the island was inhabited. We anchor and swim ashore, and as we make our way through the lush vegetation several dilapidated buildings become visible. 

    A large building that was the foreman’s house is now in a glade, overshadowed by coconut and hardwood trees. Coconut crabs scuttle from under the foundations and I glimpse a startled rat disturbed by our presence. A different organism seems to be very pleased to see us: mosquitos. I realise I am being slowly covered by a fine layer of the tiny bloodsuckers. I try to get a decent photo of some of the coconut crabs before the mosquitos become too much and I am forced to retreat back to the beach. 

    We move the boat further up the island to a sand spit, where the wind keeps the mosquitos at bay. 

    Here the beach is covered with plastic bottles and fishing floats which have drifted in from far out to sea. Even though the island is now uninhabited, the evidence of human activities occurring thousands of miles away are clearly visible. It starts to rain so we wade back to the inflatable rib and speed to the Pacific Marlin where the ship’s crew are waiting to hoist the rib out of the water. 

    The next week will be filled with more dives on reefs teeming with fish and corals. The abundance of life in the waters around these islands far surpasses anything I have seen elsewhere in the world.  By briefly visiting land today I saw a glimpse of the past, and I can’t help wondering what does the future hold for these islands and the waters around them?


    Ronan Roche 

    10 March 2013


    Mo pa encore desane lor aucaine zile sa fer preske ene semaine , mais kand Charles ek anne fine demane moi si mo envi accompagne zot pou alle lo rile de coin après ki nou ine fini plonger mo prend sa opportiniter la et mone dire oui . Kand nou fine coster ek lajetter mone trouve ene rail ki ti servi pou transport coco depi lo rile pou amene lor bato et aster lip e disparaitre avec delo saler . nou fine met bato lor cab eek nage ziska la plage , a mesir nou coster ar l’ile mone coumence trouve bane vieux batiment ki fine couvert par bane pied kine pousser . mone trouve batiment forman ki fine couvert ar pied coco ek les zot pied encore . sipaille ine fer lacaz partout enbas batiment ek nou fine ousi trouve presence les rat . ene lot specimene kine acceuillir nou c’est bane moustik , mo fine retrouve moi couvert partout par sa bane buveur disans la . mo fine degazer prend ene bane foto avant ki moustik boir tou mo disans et mone retourne lor la plage après .

    Nou fine prend bato pou ale inpe pli loin kot ti ena plein di sable kot la brize ine enpeche moustik vini . labas mo fine remarker ki ena boucoup plastic lor la plage ek flotere ki bane pecheur ine pedi lor la mer . Meme si nepli ena dimoune lor sa ziles la mais depi des loin ou remarker ki dimoune ti vivre lor la avant . La pli ine coumence tomber , nou fine obliger prend nou dinky pou retourne lor pacific marlin kot lekipage tip e atane nou . 

    Semaine prochaine pou rempli ar plonger , poisson ek corail , l’abondance sa la mer la cest ene kik chose ki zamais mo ine trouver dans mo la vie et ki pa exsister encore dans les monde . mo visite lor liles ine fer moi prend consiance les passer et fer moi maziner ki reserve nou pou les future sa bane ziles la ek so la mer .

  • “Frequent encounters with dolphins, sharks and manta rays…”

    Dolphins in ChagosChagos is both an important and amazing location for coral reef research.

    This is my second trip to Chagos, the first being in 2010, when I helped Dr Nicholas Graham measure the size and abundance of reef fishes, to derive an estimate of the total biomass or weight of reef fishes at each of the atolls. What we found was that the biomass of fishes in Chagos, and especially at the outer atolls, was higher than anywhere else in the Indian Ocean.

    The most striking thing about diving in Chagos is the large size of the coral trout (Plectropomus spp.), which could probably eat most of the coral trout I am used to seeing on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. This is hardly surprising given the limited fishing in Chagos, but is strong testament to the importance of having large marine protected areas that are completely closed to fishing.

    Photo: Dolphins swimming in Chagos (c) Morgan Pratchett

    Aside from protection from fishing, the isolation of Chagos from virtually all direct anthropogenic disturbances, provides an important setting for studying the ecology and function of coral reef ecosystems. Many of the scientists that have visited Chagos, including myself, have done so for the express purpose of studying the status of coral reef organisms or ecological processes in the absence of any harvesting, extraction, pollution, or eutrophication. This provides a benchmark for understanding what is at risk or already lost, as reefs are becoming more degraded around the world. This also helps identify critical elements of these complex ecosystems that require specific management attention.

    The main purpose for this trip is to document the biodiversity of cryptic invertebrates, such as small crabs and shrimps, which is a part of the PhD research being undertaken by Ms Catherine Head from the University of Oxford.

    As such, we are deploying Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS), which are standardised habitat units developed by NOAA, as way to measure biogeographical patterns of diversity among cryptic invertebrates.

    These ARMS have been deployed throughout many locations in the tropical Pacific and the project is now being expanded to include the Indian Ocean. 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. The results of this work will not become apparent until we retrieve the ARMS in one year, but 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.

    During this trip, I am also measuring rates of coral growth for the dominant branching corals, Acropora and Pocillopora.

    These corals are very important in providing habitat for many different coral reef fishes, but are also considered to be extremely vulnerable to climate change. Importantly, Acropora and Pocillopora coral 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, such as bleaching episodes.

    To measure coral growth, I am staining the skeletons of individually tagged colonies, which then need to be retrieved in 1 year to measure how much new skeleton has been added 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.

    Whilst undertaking this research we are regularly confronted by spectacular ocean vistas with very high coral cover, huge schools of large fishes, and frequent encounters with dolphins, sharks and manta rays. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work in Chagos, and for this I must thank Professor Charles Sheppard, Professor John Turner and all the sponsors for recent and upcoming expeditions including the Darwin Initiative, Zoological Society of London (ZSL), and the Chagos Conservation Trust (CCT).

    Professor Morgan Pratchett
    10 March 2013

    Creole Translation:

    Chagos ene ziles ki vraiment jolie et ousi ene lendroit ideal pou vine etidier corail . sa fair 2eme fois ki mo vine dans chagos , mo premier expedition ti en 2010 kand mo ti vine aide doctor Nicholas Graham mesire grander eek abundance poisson lor bane ziles chagos pou coner ki kantiter poisson ena environ lor sak ziles . ceki nou ine remarker , cest ki ena plis poisson dans chagos ki nimporte kot sa dans locean indien . Plonger dans chagos extra ordinaire par nombre ek larger corail ki nou fine trouver . moone abitier etidier corail dans l’australie mais mo penser ki chagos ena pli boucoup corail ki nimporte kot sa . en place couma chagos nou bizin proteger contre la peche meme si so la mer rempli ek poisson en abondance .

    Apart protect li contre la peche , chagos li ene ziles kot pena derangement et pour sa lie ne place ideal pou etidier function so la mere ek fer bane reserche . tout bane scientist kine vine la oci moi meme ine trouver ki l’absence pollution , exploitation zot ine capave fer zot bane reserche ek decouvert bane specimene ki zot ti p roder . sa pou permete zot comprand bane risk ki pe arriver ou kine fine arriver couma bane corail pe disparaitre .

  • Visiting my Chagossian heritage

    Yannick photoMy time on Chagos is just amazing, emotional and fun.

    My grandparents lived, married and raised kids on these islands. Now I can put a picture to all the stories I heard from my grandfather, Henri Mandarin, as I was growing up.

    So far, I’ve visited 35 islands with Peter Carr who’s doing an amazing job out here, protecting all the birds on these islands. Peter and I have spent lots of time together going from island to island to monitor and survey all the bird species.  It’s great opportunity for me to learn from him and at the same time, bring my share of the knowledge that I gained during the Chagossian Environment Programme provided by ZSL.

    I’ve met a guy called Gary Fletcher, who has a special project on an underwater camera system, which I’ve taken a big interest in. I’ve helped him to assemble his materials together and we’ve become really good friends. I’m sure we will stay friends even after the expedition is finished.

    The weather is fantastic, the crew amazing and the scientists really committed to their work.
    This will be an unforgettable memory and story for me. I never thought that one day, I would visit my grandparents' homeland.

    Yannick Mandarin 
    8 March 2013

    Photo: Birds in the northern islands of the Chagos archipelago, and (inset) Yannick Mandarin and Gary Fletcher (c) Yannick Mandarin.

    Creole translation:

    Banne moment ki mo fine passer lor chagos vraimen extraordinaire et boucoup emotion . Mofine resi visite mo l’heritage mo grand fami kine ti reste lor chagos , fine marier lor chagos et ki fine gagne zenfant lor chagos . tout les temp mo gran papa Henri Mandarin fine raconter couma ti ete la bas et zordi mo capave met ene foto ar tou sa bane zistoire mone tender depi mo l’enfance , mo fine resi trouve li ar mo 2 lizier .

    Mo fine visite 35 ziles ek peter carr kip e fer ene travail formidable par protégé tout bane specimen zoizo ki reste lor bane ziles chagos  . moi ek peter nou fine passé bouboup les temp ensame lor bane ziles pou nou ale guet bane zoizo . c’est ene opportiniter pou moi aprane des li et ousi partage mo savoir ki mone aprane dans sac ours ki London zoo fine offert moi la .

    Mone fine zoine ene garcon ki apel Gary Fletcher ki ena ene project  special , mo fine aide li arrange ene camera ki filmer enbas delo et sa ine vraimen interess moi et line fine montrer moi ek explik moi couma sa marser , ene kik chose vraimen formidable . nou fine renter bon camarade a traver sa et mo penser meme expedition fini nou pou reste touzou bon camarade kand nou retourne l’angleterre .

    Les temp vraimen zolie , lekipage bien gentil et bane scientist zot vraimen prend zot travail a Coeur .
    Zamais mo pou bliyer sa moment mone ine passer lor chagos la , tout les temp sa pou reste ene souvenir dans mo memoire . Zamais mo ti croire ki ene zour mo pou resi visite la terre mo grand famille .  

  • Chagos in Climate Week: Is warmer water killing coral?

    Data loggers at Salomon AtollSince 2006, we‘ve had temperature loggers deployed at different sites and depths around the Chagos atolls. Recording temperatures at two-hourly intervals, they provide some interesting observations on coral cover and mortality, which at times, is worrisome. One of our jobs on this expedition is to recover as many of these as we can find, download the data and replace them for further monitoring.

    During our time in Salomon atoll, we’ve found one of our loggers displaying some concerning data. Deployed at a 5m depth in the lagoon on a ‘bommie’, it has logged that the coolest temperatures last year, never reached below 28 degrees. In earlier years it commonly dipped to 27 or below.


    Photo: One of the data loggers recovered from Salomon lagoon (c) Anne Sheppard.

    Whilst average seawater temperatures have risen a little bit over the four years, the full picture is much more complicated.  As with so many things, averages - especially annual averages - mean much less than the ranges of whatever we are measuring. In the case of corals, it is the periods of extreme temperatures that matter much more. Thus the ranges about that slightly raised average were ‘tighter’, without any cooler periods.  Over this recorded period, warming has happened, and the figure shows the average.
    We’ve also found another massive mortality of corals in all four places in the lagoon where we dived. Mortality has been especially high below around a 15m depth.  Above that depth, cover by living and apparently thriving corals is nearly 100%. Then after a fairly sharp transition zone, the corals are almost all dead.  The dead coral colonies are still in their positions of growth, and the corals here are (or were) large leafy forms.  They are fragile and won’t last long like that before crumbling away. 
    The explanation of this we can’t be sure, but it does not look like disease.  An earlier study here showed no or little disease, and coral diseases are usually not so depth-critical in their effects, (here the same species in shallower water are still thriving anyway). At the moment I suspect the cause is th
    Annual average seawater temperatures at Salomon Atoll
    e average warmer water last year, or perhaps the lack of any cooler periods to give any respite. In the great wipeout that occurred in 1998, I estimated that the critical temperature was just under 30 degrees (though all species differ a bit of course), and in the last year there was a prolonged period of around this critical temperature but without cooler periods.  We shall see.  The consequences of hundreds of hectares of dead corals will be interesting, to say the least.
    On seaward reef slopes of Salomon atoll, the reverse is true.  We are also recording a series of transects where we count juvenile corals - that is colonies less than 15 mm diameter.  There are record numbers of these at all depths and on all slopes.  Most don’t survive of course.Things like parrot fish scrapes take out most of them, but the potential for thenext generation’s growth is there and the seaward reefs are thriving.  Furthermore, they are thriving at all depths where we can dive to.  More on that later…

    Figure 1: Annual average temperatures of seawater at a data logger deployed for 4 years at 5m depth in Salomon atoll.  Temperatures are degrees C.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
    Charles Sheppard
    5 March 2013



    Creole translation:
    Depi 2006 nou fine met ene bane materiel ki check temperatire ek fondere partout lor bane zoles chagos , nou mission cest recipere sa ba

    Sa fer 4 jour ki nou lor salomon , nou fine installe sa materiel temperatire la lore ne profondere 5 metres , temperatire delo fine ogmenter pendant sa 4ans la et li inpe compliker . lannee derniere nou fine enregistrer ene cool temperatire environ 28 degrees .
    ne materiel la pou nou capave download bane l’information ki line enregistrer et remplace zot . sa materiel la li record temperatire tout les 2 heure temp .

    Parmi sa 4 place ki nou fine plonger lor chagos nou ine remarker ki boucoup corail fine mort lore ne fondere plis ki 15 metres . la haut 15 metres nou ine remarker ki 100% corail encore vivant mais après kand nou ine recipere bane l’information nou ne trouver ki preske tout corail fine mort .
    Mo penser ki acoz temperatire fine monter depi lannee derniere cest sa kip e fer bane corail la mort ou acoz temperatire pa pe asser refroidi .si sa continier kit fois nou pou trouve encore plis corail mort . en dehors salomon oci pareil , nou ine remarker ki ena jeune corail mais boucoup pa resi vine mature acoz poisson cato fini mange zot mais nou confidant ki ena corail pou resi arrive lage adult  pou fiture generation .

    Charles Sheppard

  • Building a census of birdlife in the Chagos

    Roseate Tern (C) Peter CarrIt’s day two and my co-worker Yannick Mandarin and I, are now familiar with the research expedition mother vessel. We’ve gone through the boating drills, small craft and engines to make sure we’re happy that we can safely reach our target islands.

    Yannick is also now acquainted with the Chagos avifauna and bird census techniques. He’s quick to learn bird species identification and is a natural on water. He has an “eagle-eye” capability of picking out nesting birds, either high up in trees or cryptically camouflaged on the shore.


    Photo caption: Roseate terns in the Chagos archipelago (c) Peter Carr.

    It’s too early in the expedition to make any meaningful comments about population trends, though initial impressions are that Sterna terns are having a breeding episode. Most of the species that breed in the Chagos do not necessarily breed at any given period in a year. Both Black-naped and Great Crested Tern are nearing their highest annual recorded breeding pairs - and it’s only day two! Three pairs of Roseate Tern, a very rare breeding species in Chagos, were breeding in amongst Black-naped Terns on a recently formed and presumably transient sand bar.


    Both Yannick and I are excited at the prospect of continuing the long-term monitoring of the internationally important breeding seabirds during this expedition. We hope to visit as many islands as possible to ensure we produce a comprehensive and thorough census.

    Peter Carr

    3 March 2013

    Creole translation
    Zordi dezieme zour expedition . Premier zour expedition mo ine zoine avek mo assistant Yannick Mandarin,, nou ine fer conaissance ek familiarise nou avek  bato ki pe amene nou lor expedition , dinky , motere  ek couma pou servi bato.. Apres ki nou ine senti nou confian pou ale lor bane z’iles kot nou pou coumence nou reserce , mo ine explik yannick couma l’environma chagos ete et bane tecnik etidier bane zoizo lor z’iles.

    Premier zour reserce ti ene succes , yannick li ene dimoune ki compren la mer ek li mari aprane vite couma pou repere tou kaliter espece zoizo ki rest lor z’iles et li ena ousi ene lizier couma dire  laigle pou repere bane lacaz zoizo , ki li la haut lor pied ou camoufler dans touffe lor la plage.

    Expedition pas encore fini pou nou kapave dire ki kantiter popilation zoizo ena lor z’iles mais nou capave dire ki sa zoizo ki apel sterna terns pe reprodire lor chagos , ene bon nouvel pou l’environment chagos . troi car bane spece ki pe reprodire lor chagos pa forcema ena ene moment special pou zot reprodire. sa zoizo ki apel black naped ek great crested tem p approche pli boucoup kine déjà trouver dans les passer par pairs (c’est ziste dezieme zour zordi et reste douze zour encore pou nou etidier zot) ek ousi nou ine trouve troi pairs zoizo ki apel roseate tern ki mari rare tip e reprodire lor chagos parmi bane black naped terns lor ene montage di sable ki fek former lor Chagos.

    Moi ek Yannick  mari exciter pou  contigne etidier sa bane zoizo ki sorti dans catre coin les monde pendant nou expedition et esperer nou pou capave visite tou bane z’ils ki ena zoizo.

    Peter Carr

  • We have arrived!

    The Chagos 2013 Expedition team have arrived in Diego Garcia!

    We’ve come from the UK, Australia, the US, Wales and Diego itself to research this outstanding part of the Indian Ocean. Our advance team have been busy sorting our stores and, as usual, our first day together has involved preparing equipment. With Chagos being so isolated, we have to be completely self- contained. All the equipment that we need for the trip – and all the equipment that we think we might possibly need - has to be shipped out in advance.

    School of barracuda (c) Anne Sheppard

    Today, we’ve unpacked, tested, assembled, prepared and stored all the things we’ve been shipping out over the past year. A substantial Darwin Grant from the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), has allowed us to buy a lot of scientific and diving equipment. We’re particularly pleased to have the Portalab. A refitted Portacabin on the top deck of the boat we’re working from, the Pacific Marlin. It’s got benches, a sink refrigerator and, the luxury of it, air conditioning! Much of the post-dive work will be done here: data entry, sample identification and preservation. It’ll make a great change from working in the hot sun on the back deck of the Marlin.

    It’s been a hot, busy and tiring day, but now most of the work is done with the usual incredible help from the Marlin crew. Soon we’ll be heading off to the outer atolls, where the ‘real’ work begins. Watch this space for more from us, live from the Chagos February 2013 expedition.

    Meanwhile, here’s a shot of a very large school of huge barracuda swimming by us on our shakedown dive. A truly fantastic sight!

    Anne Sheppard
    24 February 2013


    Creole translation

    Sa tim pou lekspedisyon Chagos 2013 in ariv Diego Garcia!

    Noun vini sorti Langleter, Australi, Lanmerik, Wales ek Diego limenm pou resers sa parfe part Losean Endyen. Nou premye tim in bizi pe aranz nou stor parey labitid, ansanm in enkli preparasyon lekipman. Avek Chagos ki tre izole, nou bezwen vin konpleteman efikas. Tou bann lekipman ki nou bezwen pou sa voyaz – e tou bann lekipman ki nou kwar nou kapab bezwen – in gany avoye an avans.

    Ozordi, noun demenaz nou sak, teste, asanble, prepar e stor tou bann keksoz ki noun avoye pandan lannen. En sibstansyal Grant Darwin sorti kot departman lanvironman langleter, manze ek bann zafer(DEFRA), in fer li posib pou nou aste enta bann lekip plonze siantifik. Nou partikilyerman apresye pou annan sa portalab. En kontener kin gany aranze pou nou lo bato ki nou pe travay lo la, Pacific Marlin. I annan ban, sink refrizerater e menm i erkonn! La plipar bann traval apre plonze pou gany fer ladan: antre bann lenformasyon, idantifikasyon bann sanple ek prezervasyon. I pou fer en gran sanzman kont travay dan soley deryer lo bato Marlin.

    In en zournen so, bizi e tre fatigan, me laplipar bann travay i gany fer par manm lekipaz lo Marlin. Byento nou pou pe komans nou semen pou al kot bann latol, kot la travay pou komanse. Regard sa lespas pou plis kot nou, sorti kot lekspedisyon Chagos 2013.

    Antretan, sa i en portre en gro group tazar ki pas obor nou ler nou pe sey bann lekipman. En fantastik portre!

    Anne Sheppard

    24 Fevriye 2013

Feb 2013 Expedition

Protecting the amazing Chagos archipelago

This month an international team of scientists and conservationists – including four trustees of the Chagos Conservation Trust - will be studying the islands, shallow reef and bird life of the Chagos Archipelago.

With fish stocks plummeting worldwide and marine biodiversity in crisis, ‘megareserves’ like the Chagos could prove crucial to our oceans’ future.

Professor Charles Sheppard of CCT will be leading the expedition, and continuing his series of reef condition surveys – the longest ever conducted in the Indian Ocean:

“This expedition will test innovations in sea life monitoring and inform how we manage this vital marine sanctuary.

The outcomes could be of great significance locally, across the Indian Ocean, and in the growing network of

marine reserves around the world.”

Support us so that we can conduct more expeditions like this.

Expedition overview

The team of scientists will be researching:

- the health of the coral reefs, focussing on younger ‘juvenile’ coral
- ‘cryptofauna’ - smaller species living amongst coral
- behaviour of breeding seabird colonies
- reef fish migration patterns
- the sea cucumber population’s recovery from poaching
- change in sea temperature and how this affects coral

For more details of the research activity download the expedition summary document (pdf).

Meet the expedition team


Professor Charles Sheppard (CCT Trustee) - Expedition leader and coral reef ecologistCharles Sheppard


Charles is a tropical marine and environmental scientist in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick .

He conducted the first assessments of coral in the Chagos in 1978. 35 years on, he continues to monitor coral cover, contributing to the longest running assessment of reef condition data in the Indian Ocean. Juvenile coral recruitment will also be studied to understand the next generation of coral in the Chagos.



Dr John Turner

Dr John Turner (CCT Trustee) – coral monitoring specialist

John is a Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology at Bangor University, his research advances techniques for coral reef monitoring. He will video reef transects in Chagos to extend his series of recordings documenting changes in the coral cover. Measuring the impact of climate change on coral in the pristine Chagos waters can help expose the effects of pollution on reefs elsewhere.




Anne Sheppard

Anne Sheppard (CCT Trustee) - coral reef ecologist


Anne is a researcher at the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick.  She has been a member of six previous expeditions to Chagos where she has carried out research on the molluscan fauna and in coral ecology and taxonomy.

On this expeditionshe will be working with Charles Sheppard to study the recruitment of juvenile corals to help understand how reefs recover from various events.



Pete Carr

Pete Carr, (CCT Trustee) - ornithologist


Pete first visited the Chagos in 1996 as a serving Royal Marine Commando and now works on Diego Garcia as a civilian Environmental Director. He is author of Birds of the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Assisted by Yannick Mandarin, Pete will continue his monitoring of the internationally important breeding seabird populations of the Chagos. They will also tag Sooty Terns to better understand their movements around the Western Indian Ocean.


Catherine Head

Catherine Head - University of Oxford


Catherine is a specialist in rare and endangered coral. She helped develop a programme with the ZSL to enable local managers protect these species and their habitats. Continuing her work from 2012, Catherine will be studying the role of smaller species in the Chagos reef ecosystem. Knowledge of these 'cryptofauna' is extremely limited.



 Gary Fletcher – technology conservationist

Gary will use video to study groups of fish and sharks around the Chagos reefs, after his colleagues from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) successfully captured video recordings of target species in the 2012 expeditions, Gary plans to deploy more long-term monitoring of larger areas, with satellite up-link for real-time analysis.


Dr Michelle Gaither - reef fish genetics and connectivityMichelle Gaither


Michelle is a researcher at the California Acadamy of Sciences.  She will be studying the connectivity in reef fish as an important aspect of the connectivity of Chagos reefs in the wider Indo-Pacific ocean.  She will be using both morphological and DNA barcoding techniques.

Dr Daniel Wagner - reef connectivity

Daniel and Michelle are both NOAA divers and will be working as a team collecting tissue samples from varous groups to assess the connectivity of these groups as part of a large international study throught the Indo Pacific region.

Jason Davis – dive support

Working as a dive instructor on Diego Garcia, Jason will be supporting the research team with their diving activities. Jason monitors coral bleaching and water temperature changes in Chagos and is involved in Project AWARE’s coral reef conservation work.


Professor Morgan Pratchett - James Cook University

Morgan will deploy Autonomous Reef Monitoring Systems to measure coral biodiversity.

A Professorial Research Fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Australia, Morgan’s current research focuses on major disturbances that impact coral reef ecosystems. He has also conducted extensive research on the biology and ecology of coral reef butterflyfishes.

Dr Ronan Roche – Bangor University

Dr Roche's PhD examined long-term changes in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. This study was conducted in association with the Natural History Museum, London. He has also has carried out research on coral reefs in the Caribbean, and the South China Sea.

In Chagos he will study parrot fish feeding on coral to determine how much reef material is removed by these species. He will also assist in coral reef survey work to track changes in the coral communities over time.

Yannick Mandarin


Yannick Mandarin – graduate of the Chagossian Community Environment Project 

Yannick Mandarin is one of the first graduates of the Chagossian Community Environment Project, organised by the Chagos Conservation Trust and ZSLThis experience inspired him to seek a career in conservation.  

On this expedition - Yannick's first visit to Chagos - he will learn the methodology for measuring seabird colonies from Pete Carr. 

Jon Schleyer - underwater video cameraman

As a Royal Marines Officer on Diego Garcia in 2006 the incredible marine life of Chagos inspired Jon to start videoing underwater. On the expedition Jon will be filming the marine life of the Chagos reefs for BIOT to help show the importantance of the BIOT Marine Reserve to the world.


Jon Bailey - expedition medical officer

Jon is an Academic Clinical Fellow in Emergency Medicine at Oxford University, John Radcliffe and Milton Keynes Hospitals in England, UK and has experience at the Diving Diseases Research Centre in Plymouth, UK. He is also a diving instructor for both PADI and BSAC.



The last expedition to Chagos in November 2012 focussed on deep water species. Download the Expedition Report to see how the team innovated new monitoring techniques despite the intervention of Cyclone Claudia.

You can help protect the unique and globally important Chagos environment by joining the Chagos Conservation Trust.