For several months, marine research interns Camille Roques and Sara Vital have contributed greatly to the scientific work at our research station and Ocean Observatory on Benguerra Island. Their hands-on approach included the co-writing of our coral reef, benthic habitats and pelagic megafauna monitoring survey methodology. They developed protocols for the surveys focusing on coral, invertebrates, fish and megafauna identification and data collection. While diving the Bazaruto Archipelago, Camille and Sara joined the BCSS team to conduct exploratory surveys, whereafter they analyzed the data with the BCSS team towards preparation for the BCSS Ocean Observatory monthly work planned for next year.
We interviewed the interns to learn about their experience participating in the Marine Science Program. Read about what they learnt while staying at BCSS, their personal highlights and what it was like to be part of the BCSS team on Benguerra Island below. Their contribution to marine science data is much valued, and we like to thank both for their time at the BCSS station.
What motivated you to apply for the Marine Science Program at BCSS?
Sara: “I’m a young marine biologist, and highly passionate about ocean and marine conservation. I feel like sometimes academic degrees can become very theoretical, lacking practical application to real-life situations. Therefore, I decided to apply for an internship at BCSS where I could apply my theoretical knowledge via scientific field research projects, while learning and expanding my knowledge, base connections, and possibilities.”
What parts of your time spent at BCSS stand out to you?
Sara: “It’s hard to pick a particular moment, because the truth is all wildlife encounters, expeditions and dives were amazing and I’m grateful for that. From waking up to the sound of birds and squirrels at sunrise to scientific diving, and from marine wildlife presentations to the most beautiful sunset at the big dune… But if I had to choose, I would say that the moment that marked me the most was an encounter with an oceanic manta ray. They are such majestic and elegant creatures, and they move so freely. It reminds me every time of how small we are in this world, and how much we can learn from these animals.”
Camille: “Everything I did at BCSS was so fulfilling for me that it’s tricky to select one… I would say the moment where two oceanic black tip sharks circled us while I was diving with Sara, will be a ‘safety stop’ to remember! Having those beautiful yet impressive predators checking us out while they were hunting for fish, gave us a good adrenaline shot and a humility reminder.”
What was it like to be part of the BCSS team?
Sara: “It’s fantastic to see how the BCSS team always works with the best goals in mind and is always willing to help. It was a great opportunity to work alongside passionate and dynamic people and learn from their experience. They are always open to new ideas and opinions on how to ensure that their goals are met at the highest level of excellence. And they are always so happy to discuss and teach ocean-science topics and the importance of scientific research for the future improvement of the planet.”
Camille: “I have zero scientific background; I come from events management and the corporate tourism industry. The BCSS team was so open: I felt welcomed, guided and free to undertake the projects I had in mind. The whole crew, scientists, dive instructor, other interns… Every single person I met supported me to grow my skill set and helped me to make significant progress in my projects.”
How did you experience living on a small island in the Bazaruto Archipelago?
Sara: “If you love nature and the ocean, this is the best place to live! Benguerra – being such a small island – you really have the time to explore and enjoy the nature the island offers, while getting to know the local culture. Even though it is a remote place, everyone at BCSS made me feel at home. From the kind and friendly kitchen ladies to the boat skippers; always good vibes! I can’t really put it into words, you really have to just feel it!”
Camille: “Benguerra is beyond beautiful. I just loved being on the island; it’s almost like I had been there for a long time already, as after a few days it felt like home. There’s a sense of community on the island. As an intern, whether you join marine debris collections, soccer games on Sunday evening or just walk on the beach, there is always a way to interact with the locals. Not to mention the mind-blowing sunsets on the dunes and the strolls to ‘the wild side’ (east coast of Benguerra). Yet, probably the best thing of all is that you are so incredibly close to the dive sites! The reef is your backyard, and you are one with nature.”
What did you learn during your time at BCSS?
Sara: “I really think that this experience made me realize that we need to connect with nature again; protect and conserve it. I was aware that the ocean is facing major problems like overfishing pressure, coral bleaching and marine pollution, but when I saw it first-hand, I was devastated. For example, there hasn’t been a dive where we haven’t seen fishing lines wrapped around coral. That is a huge problem! Without healthy coral reefs, there is no life, no fish… and the main income of the local community is through fishing! So, we need to learn how to live with nature again in a perfect balance – where nature and humans become one again.”
Camille: “I learned so much; from writing proposals, scientific diving protocols, scientific dive slates and conducting coral reef survey to reading the weather forecast, the waves and the tides. We got involved in the dive planning, , data capturing, fish and invertebrates’ identification… I am probably forgetting a lot, but it was an intense two months of learning every day and I loved it!”
We still have placements available for the end of this year. If you’re interested in volunteering or interning at our research station and Ocean Observatory on Benguerra Island, get in touch.
Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies
Host of the first permanent Ocean Observatory focused on multi-ecosystem time series research in Africa, the Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies (BCSS) was established in 2017 as in independent, non-profit organisation with a mission to protect and support the fragile ecosystems of the Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique. The research station is located on Benguerra Island, off the coast of Mozambique.