Human induced rapid environmental change (HIREC), along with other anthropogenic impacts such as overfishing and destructive fishing methods, are having an ever-increasing impact on the world’s coral reefs. Such changes will first induce behavioural changes, with further implications to the distribution, abundance, and persistence of affected species. Butterflyfish (Chaetodon spp.) are of particular interest as they rely on live coral as a food source, and are therefore potentially severely impacted by coral cover decline. Some species of butterflyfish are obligate corallivores, others are facultative and can utilise other food items in addition to coral polyps. One project could identify behavioural differences between individuals of both a facultative and obligate corallivore between high and low coral cover sites. Abundance surveys will then be conducted to identify the abundance of the focal species and all other butterflyfish species to identify any differences between the number of obligate and facultative corallivores between the study sites. Another project using the same high and low coral cover site comparison could look at a territorial obligate corallivore that not only depends upon coral as its only food source but, under optimal conditions, will hold and defend a coral territory, often aggressively. Data collection will involve assessing the diversity of corals selected as a food source by the focal species, the number of bites taken out of each coral colony, the amount of time spent swimming between feeding bouts, aggressive interactions with other individuals and different butterflyfish species. These projects have the potential to apply modelling methods to predict the persistence of focal species in the future, based on the observed abundances and behaviours collected throughout the work.
If you would like to do a dissertation or thesis with us but your university hasn’t started dissertation planning or the project selection process, that’s no problem. You can cancel your expedition with zero cancellation charges up until the 15th of April of if you provide documentation from your university saying that they won’t support completing a dissertation project with us.
There is a triangle of reefs in Eastern Indonesia that have the highest diversity of hard coral genera, the proxy commonly used to assess overall diversity of coral reefs, anywhere in the world. Both the marine stations being used by the Opwall teams are in the centre of this triangle. The South Buton Marine Centre has established a series of standard monitoring sites on reefs south of Bau Bau and around the surrounding small islands, with the objective being to use the data to develop plans for conserving these reefs. The Hoga Island Marine Station is located in the heart of the Wakatobi Marine National Park. Over the last 20 years, a series of scientists have been based at this site during the Opwall survey seasons and as a result, this is now the most published site in the Coral Triangle. For the last 15 years a series of constant monitoring sites around Hoga and eastern Kaledupa have been monitored for macroinvertebrates, fish communities, coral cover and community structure. The 2020 season will complete this monitoring plus some additional projects.
At the marine sites during the day, the weather is normally sunny and warm (around 30 degrees Celsius), and the night temperatures drop to around 20-25 degrees Celsius. Being on the coast means there is often a pleasant breeze so it does not always feel this hot. It rains rarely, but when it does it tends to be very heavy for short periods of time.
Fitness level required
Low-Moderate. Some fitness is required for in water activities, but conditions are relatively easy.
The Hoga Island Marine Station is an established facility that lies within the Wakatobi Marine Park of eastern Indonesia. The station was rebuilt in 2016 and supports a dive centre, lecture theatre, wet-lab as well as a large dining room and kitchen facility. Simple huts owned by members of the local fishing community surround the station and serve as guest accommodation. The island supports reliable phone signal that allows limited internet access.