Seagrass beds in the Wakatobi are amongst the most diverse on the planet and provide many important ecosystem services, yet remain relatively unstudied compared to the nearby coral reefs. A healthy and productive seagrass bed provides refuge and nursery grounds for ecologically and economically valuable fish species. They also entrap sediments which otherwise smother reef organisms. There are extensive seagrass beds around Hoga island and studies could focus on the community structure, zonation and diversity of the plants themselves, their standing biomass, associated biodiversity and usage by fish and invertebrate communities. Another project could examine the impacts of resource exploitation such as reef gleaning on the ecology of seagrass and associated species. Alternatively a study could be completed on the impact of agar beds (ropes anchored just above the seagrass beds and are used to grow seaweed for sale) which have a shading effect on the seagrass but which also provide physical complexity that may be used by fish. Yet another approach could be to quantify the impact of fish fences that have been constructed over the seagrass beds on the seagrass fish communities by sampling at differing distances away from the fish fences.
*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.