Update from Timor-Leste: children help researchers to process invertebrates from a study site off Beacou

By Charles Young

The second stop in the operation of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) to recover and process installations and data from locations around Timor-Leste was the westernmost study site, offshore of Beacou, a fishing village just a few miles from the West Timor border. At this site, partners Rui Pinto from Conservation International and Stephanie Lecoeur from Dive Timor Lorasae recently made four dives from a village fishing boat to collect water samples and recover and redeploy oceanographic instruments that monitor water temperature, calcification rates of crustose coralline algae and corals, and cryptic invertebrate biodiversity.

Girls from the village of Beacou work intently to find invertebrates and help staff of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division to process the monitoring installations recovered from a site off the coast near their village in Timor-Leste. Information from the deployment of these installations and oceanographic instruments and the collection of water samples at that site and others will help assess changes in biodiversity and ocean chemistry over time as reef ecosystems around this island nation respond to climate change. Photo by Stephanie Lecoeur, Dive Timor Lorasae

Girls from the village of Beacou work intently to find invertebrates and help staff of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division to process the monitoring installations recovered from a site off the coast near their village in Timor-Leste. Information from the deployment of these installations and oceanographic instruments and the collection of water samples at that site and others will help assess changes in biodiversity and ocean chemistry over time as reef ecosystems around this island nation respond to climate change. Photo by Stephanie Lecoeur, Dive Timor Lorasae

My fellow researchers from CRED and I worked out of a field laboratory and campground set up at the Beacou fish sorting house, and we stayed there for 3 days preparing for scuba dives, processing samples, and conducting educational presentations for the local community. We all were very surprised and excited by how receptive the residents of Beacou were about the work we were doing.

For two days, we had a constant flow of inquirers. The highlight for them was seeing the reef invertebrates that had made their home in the autonomous reef monitoring structures (ARMS) that CRED scientists had deployed 2 years ago in October 2012. In the photo gallery below, you can see local children from the Beacou community assisting CRED staff and partners to process the ARMS and sort the many diverse organisms found in them (Photos courtesy Stephanie Lecoeur, Dive Timor Lorasae).

ARMS are used as a method for measuring cryptic biodiversity within a coral reef ecosystem. They provide habitats in which different invertebrate species can find a home. Hundreds of invertebrate organisms were identified from ARMS recovered from the reefs off Beacou and sorted with the help of local school children.