By Aride Island Volunteer, Elena Levorato
Aride Island is well known for its high density of sea birds and skinks. However, countless invertebrates also inhabit the Island. We had the opportunity to help an MSc student, Kate Spence, on her Master project, where she undertook a food competition study between skinks, Seychelles Magpie Robins and mice. She took faeces samples to analyse the DNA between the different species. Over 100 different invertebrates were collected for meta-barcoding, in order to compare and understand what was in the diet of the skinks, magpies and mice.
During the day, we ventured into the forest - looking under the leaves, digging in the ground and turning rocks - searching for any kind of ‘creepy crawlies‘. Using gloves and sterilized tweezers, we collected whatever crossed our path (whenever we were able to catch them!). Caught individuals were conserved in ethanol, waiting for DNA analysis and identification. One morning, we even found an odd-looking worm which happened to be the Brahminy blind snake foraging under a rock.
When searching for nocturnal insects, we improvised a white screen trap, using a white blanket lit by a flashlight. We traversed the forest while being bitten by mosquitoes and successfully caught flying insects including moths, click beetles, weevils and many others. Participating in this project allowed us to discover the huge variety of small, often unnoticed inhabitants of the island!
By Gail Fordham (Alphonse)
ICS staff were delighted to wake up one morning in March earlier this year to find the enormous Ocean Zephyr research vessel moored on the eastern side of the Alphonse Atoll. The Nekton Mission aims to explore the remote deep waters of the Seychelles Outer Islands, using manned submersibles to reach depths of up to 500 metres. ICS staff were provided with a guided tour of the ship and explanations of the countless projects spearheaded by the Nekton Mission on this expedition, spanning from seabed mapping to investigations of fish spawning and predator diversity.
Later on in the week, After a briefing by hard coral expert, Rowana Walton, ICS Conservation Ranger Christopher Narty helped the mission with underwater video transects as part of the coral reef component of their research.
With just a few hours to spare between submersible deployments and other scientific activities on the ship, a shore transfer was arranged for the Nekton Mission's media team, who shot sequences capturing the conservation work of ICS on Alphonse for a possible six-part documentary.
It was a pleasure working with the Nekton team, and we look forward to seeing how both the scientific data generated by the mission and the public awareness it has raised, will aid in the broader mission for robust protection of the marine wilderness surrounding the Seychelles Outer Islands.