Cleaner fish play an important role on coral reefs around the world. Recent studies have shown that the health of reef fish and the biodiversity of reef systems increase when cleaners are abundant. The Wakatobi National Park is unusual in that three species of cleaner wrasse are present on its reef. The most abundant is the Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus) which has been fairly well studied. Much less research effort has focused on the ecology of the other two species: Blackspot Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides pectoralis) and the Bicolour Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides bicolor). Another species, this time a fang blenny, mimics the most dominant cleaner species (L. dimidiatus) in colouration pattern and morphology, but rather than providing an important ecological service it attacks and bites clients waiting at cleaner stations. One study could look at how this ‘cheating’ behaviour survives and quantify the incidence rates of cheats versus genuine cleans. Another project could explore the client pool making use of cleaning stations, including whether there is a hierarchy of service quality given to different taxonomic groups. Research could also focus on investigating niche differentiation through resource partitioning amongst the different cleaner species, or could be based around the complexities of cleaning behaviour and advertising strategies.
*Does not require data to be collected by diving, although you could still dive in your spare time.
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.