• Overview
  • Objectives
  • Skills you gain
  • Costs to Consider
  • Site Conditions

The global demise of coral reefs has been well documented in the scientific literature. The reefs of the Wakatobi have been assessed by Operation Wallacea for the past 15 years. The abundance of reef building corals has declined but other functional benthic taxa, such as soft corals, have increased. As well as an overall decrease in reef building corals, the types of corals present, both in terms of species and colony structure have also changed. Where once reefs in the region harboured a mix of different colony growth forms (including branching, table and foliose corals) the system today is dominated by massive (boulder-like) and encrusting corals. The physical form of the reef is therefore changing which has implications for resident and transient fish communities. During 2019 the research teams would like to continue to monitor the reefs around Hoga Island, data from which can be compared to previous data to determine rates of change in key coral reef community characteristics. In 2017 the monitoring team trialled a recently developed technique to 3D model patches of reefs to gain a better understanding of the interactions between the physical structure of the habitat and fish biodiversity. The relationship between benthic structure and fish community is a complex one but if habitats are to be actively restored we need to know how the fish community is likely to respond. Within this research area dissertations could focus on the system as a whole (e.g. long-term changes in reef biodiversity and community structure), or could focus on particular fish whose abundance has changed and combine with studies that compares the behavioural traits of species whose abundance has decreased, remained constant or increased to identify successful ecological strategies. Other projects could expand on the 3D reef modelling techniques to gain better understanding of benthic-fish interactions. It may be expected for example that smaller fish species respond to different physical characteristics than larger fish which may respond to structures over greater spatial scales. Data collected will be used to define future protective and active management intervention.

Indonesia - Wallacea Marine Research Objectives

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 research stations being used by the Opwall teams are in the centre of this triangle. The South Buton Marine Training and Research 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 Research 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 14 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 2019 season will complete this monitoring plus some additional research projects.

The South Buton marine research centre opened in 2013 and has established a series of standard monitoring sites on reefs south of Bau Bau and around the adjacent islands. These are being monitored annually and it is hoped to use the data to demonstrate that a number of the reefs in this area are of high conservation value. Preliminary social studies have commenced as of 2017, involving interviewing fishermen and other local stakeholders to gauge areas of high fishing pressure and the preferred catch methods. The next step is then to begin implementing some conservation management strategies involving all of the local stakeholders in the near future. There is also a small team at this site working in collaboration with the Global Fin Print Project, which monitors shark and ray populations through the use of baited remote underwater video systems.

The Hoga Island marine research 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 have built up the publications emanating from the site to a level which is unsurpassed by any other marine research site in the Coral Triangle. These data and publications have been used to promote the biodiversity value of the Wakatobi, raise its profile internationally and in particular enable it to be designated as a Biosphere Reserve. For the last 12 years a series of constant monitoring sites around Hoga and eastern Kaledupa have been monitored for fish communities, coral cover and community structure and macro-invertebrates. In addition annual fisheries monitoring is being completed to assess changes in the fisheries particularly as some of the management initiatives developed by Opwall (e.g. buy outs of fishing licences and carrageenan extraction) begin to hopefully have an impact. Alongside these long-term monitoring projects there are also newer projects such as a coral restoration program and seagrass monitoring to provide a wide range of opportunities to all.

  • Develop an independent research project and write a formal proposal
  • Dive or snorkel on the most biodiverse reefs in the world
  • Complete a week-long training course on reef survey techniques
  • Learn to identify common Indo-Pacific corals and fish
  • Collect data using a range of survey techniques
  • Learn how to organise and analyse large data sets
  • Opwall fee
  • Cost of international flights into and out of Makassar
  • Cost of internal travel to and from the start and end point of the expedition, plus any hotels you might require. This costs around £220 or $300 on average. Extra nights’ accommodation in Makassar costs around £25 or $36.
  • Visa costs of $35 for a VOA (31-60 days, with extension), £50 for a social visa (60+ days, with extension) plus £45(VOA) or £60 (Social Visa) for the extension. Please get in touch with someone from Opwall for more detailed advice.
  • Dive equipment rental – £60 or $90 per week for a full dive kit. If you only wish to snorkel and want to hire snorkel equipment, the cost is £30 or $45 per week. Please note that wetsuits cannot be provided – you should bring your own.
  • Park entrance fees – £20 or $29
  • PADI manual and PIC card (if you are completing your Open Water qualification) – £69 or $87 approx.
  • Vaccinations and prophylactic medicines – cost can vary depending on your healthcare provider.
  • Spending money for snacks/drinks/laundry – Indonesian rupiah only.
  • All prices in GBP or USD unless specified

Climate

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.

Creature comforts

Facilities on Hoga are comfortable, but very basic – the site has shared huts with beds and mattresses and a mandi style bathroom (squat toilet and bucket shower) attached. There is very limited cell phone signal which can usually only be used with an Indonesian SIM card and no Wifi access.

Locations

  • Indonesia
  • Hoga

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Preparation

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