By Brett Schumacher
A team of researchers from the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) commemorated Coral Triangle Day on June 9 in Timor-Leste by participating in capacity-building activities with colleagues from the Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) and the Coral Triangle Support Partnership (CTSP). The groundwork for these Coral Triangle Day activities was laid several days earlier, shortly after the full CRED team assembled in the Timor-Leste capital of Dili. On June 4, the team met with several members of the MAF and CTSP, and Paula Ayotte of CRED gave an overview of the stationary-point-count (SPC) survey method that CRED uses to assess and monitor fish populations and benthic composition. On Coral Triangle Day, Ayotte and Kaylyn McCoy, also of CRED, followed up on that overview by demonstrating a “dry run” of the survey method with Rui Pinto, Jose Monteiro, and Anselmo Lopes Amaral of CTSP and Nelio Viegas of MAF on shore before heading into the field for the day. Pinto provided detailed translation and some off-the-cuff humor to facilitate this capacity-building effort.
The CRED team traveled by boat to collect water samples to determine baseline levels of ocean acidification (carbonate chemistry) at Dili Rock, one of the sites near Dili where a previous CRED staff in October 2012 installed a suite of ocean acidification and biodiversity monitoring instruments: autonomous reef monitoring structures (ARMS), calcification accretion units (CAUs), and subsurface temperature recorders (STRs). The team demonstrated to partners from MAF and CTSP, who traveled to the site on a separate vessel, our water sampling and SPC survey protocols and showed them the suite of deployed instruments for ocean acidification monitoring.
Once in the water, Max Sudnovsky and Brett Schumacher of CRED took water samples and Ayotte and McCoy demonstrated an SPC survey of reef fishes and benthic habitat for the MAF team. Next, the CRED team headed west of Dili to complete surveys of reef fish and benthic communities along the northern coast of Timor-Leste headed toward Liquiçá. The team moved its operations base on land from Dili to Black Rock at Caimeo Beach and reconvened with Timor-Leste partners on shore. On the beach, Kevin Lino provided an in-depth description of the water sampling protocol to our partners, and CRED staff and partners waded into the water to use Niskin bottles to practice collecting and processing water samples.
A videographer from the local television news was on hand to capture these activities, and the news station featured these events on the local news the following night. Sudnovsky and Pinto were interviewed to offer some additional comments on the events for Coral Triangle Day and on our scientific and other collaborative efforts.
The day was a complicated one with a lot of tasks and groups to coordinate, but, in the end, the CRED team accomplished the dual objectives of collection of quality scientific data and interactive engagement of local colleagues and partners.