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Tag: marine biology

BlogMarine Conservation

Diving into the life of Tilo

Author: Alex Oelofse, Social Media Intern & Photographer

It is always fascinating to find out more about our staff, their backgrounds and essentially what brought them to MRCI. Below, we pay homage to our marine science manager, Tilo Kauerkoff. I decided there is no better way than to do a little interview with the man himself.


So, let’s get right to it, Tilo how old are you?

I’m 31.

Where are you from?


Tilo Diving - Madagascar Volunteer

What were you doing before you joined MRCI?

Well it has been a rather long road, including lots of studying. I guess I shall start at my first major degree in industrial engineering. I have always had a great fascination with space and after my degree I applied for an internship in the space industry where I became a trainee with the European Space Agency (ESA). I then wanted to study some more so I ended up studying a very specialized degree only available in Munich.  For short the degree goes by the name (Espace) which is an acronym for Earth Orientated Space Science and Technology. During this time, I also obtained a European scientific diving course, which teaches you specialized diving techniques making use of full face masks, dry suits, permanent buoy dives, etc. This type of diving is more specifically used for the accumulation of data for cartographies of lakes and water estuaries.  The diving was more geared towards fresh water biology, which was a field I wasn’t trained in, but found it interesting nonetheless.


Wow, that sounds like quite a long journey! Where did life end up taking you next?

I was quite sure that after all the studying I was ready for a break and some travelling and I have never been south of the equator so that was something that was of interest to me. I did quite a bit of searching and found myself lucky as I found a dive master training in Bali where I stayed for three months, after which I spent another three months in Gili Trawangan.

After this experience, I really fell in love with diving so I looked for similar jobs and that’s when I found the opening at MRCI for a marine science manager. I didn’t have enough expertise in the marine biology field as they would have liked so I started off as an intern in September 2017 and initially wanted to stay for 3 months, but I guess that didn’t happen as I’m still here. I will now be staying till mid-July where I will be going back to Europe. I guess we’ll see how that plays out.


Wow that is quite an amazing story Tilo. What would you say is your favourite part of diving with MRCI?

Well that’s a tough one. It’s not always about the spot but more about what you see, I would say, and the group you are doing it with.


And what would you say is your favourite aspect of camp?

Ah, that’s something that one sometimes tends to forget, but constantly being in nature is definitely a highlight!  Simple things like being so close to the beach, the luxury of being able to go for a quick snorkel at any time of day. Not having a car or no cars in any close vicinity and besides the generator every now and then I find myself only surrounded by natural noises, which I think is really healthy.

Check out our Marine Conservation Program


Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_1
BlogMarine Conservation

Marine Conservation Monthly Report

Author: Ethan Getz, Marine Science Manager
January 2018

Over the past few months, the marine conservation staff have worked to continue long-term reef monitoring projects while developing new methods to measure the health of our home reef and the surrounding reefs on Nosy Komba. Robust datasets have been collected from reef transect surveys, turtle watch, and nudibranch surveys. These long-term surveys will provide valuable information on the health of our MPA and some of the indicator species that inhabit it. In the coming months, efforts will be made to analyze these data in depth to decipher developing trends. While long-term data collection from existing surveys remains the primary goal, staff have also recently developed new reef survey methods.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_1

Baseline surveys using the Spirit of Malala were developed in November to assess the health of reefs all around Nosy Komba. To date, three baseline surveys have been conducted (at xmas tree hotel, greenhouse and pyramids) and data have now been analyzed. Results suggest that the south and west sides of Nosy Komba have healthy coral reefs while reefs are more sparse on the eastern side. Results from the sessile surveys indicate that no coral bleaching is currently happening and that the reef appears to be in a period of recovery. The presence of rock, sand and silt indicate that there have been damaging events in the past, but currently the reefs are rebuilding.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_2

Marine Conservation Monthly Report January 2018

Active swimmer surveys were used to determine the number of fish species at each site and which functional group they belong to (i.e. piscivores, herbivores, ect.). Results suggest that there is a good distribution of fish from each functional group on each reef, but the relatively low abundance of piscivores indicates that overfishing may be a problem on Nosy Komba.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_3

Marine Conservation Monthly Report January 2018

These species are generally the first ones to be fished out and their relatively low numbers point to fishing pressure in the area. Benthic surveys also provided data on invertebrate diversity around Nosy Komba and suggest that there is a healthy reef community.

In addition to baseline surveys, artificial reef surveys on the pyramids at Stonehenge and Madhatter have produced meaningful data. On average, each pyramid provides habitat for 115 fish, 39 bivalves and a variety of sessile species. In addition, many species of fish such as the Malabar snapper and red emperor snapper are routinely found on the artificial structures, but only occasionally on the natural reef. The high abundance of juvenile fish on the pyramids is also an encouraging sign that the structures are acting as a nursery for fish larvae settling out of the water column. Overall, the pyramids seem to be increasing both abundance and diversity of many reef species making them well worth the investment to construct them.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_4

Other ongoing projects include the coral bleaching surveys, invasive species surveys and turtle monitoring. Since coral bleaching and invasive species surveys have only just started, preliminary results will be analyzed in the coming months. Results from active turtle surveys, turtle walks and turtle watch are still being analyzed, but preliminary results suggest that there is a healthy population of resident turtles on our reef. Turtle walks have been less productive with only one hatched nest having been found, but it is clear that at least some turtles nest on Nosy Komba. In summary, the reefs around Nosy Komba appear to be showing the signs of human activities, but overall it is still a healthy reef system with strong community structure.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_5


Find out more about our Marine Conservation Program Here