Researchers have unique experience in Indian Ocean

Christi Cloete -- Tue, 10/21/2014 - 11:06

Researchers have unique experience in Indian Ocean

For the students it was an opportunity of a lifetime and a unique research experience that few students had the pleasure of doing.
This according to Prof Henk Bouwman of the School of Biological Sciences at the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University who, along with three of his students, does research at three remote islands in the Indian Ocean. He says they do surveys on pollution of plastics, and birds’ eggs are collected to be tested for toxins later on.

In a telephonic interview Bouwman said they are currently on the island, Agalega, approximately 1 000 km north of Mauritius, where they are the guests of the manager of this island. There are around 300 inhabitants on the island.

“Here are bird species that we’ve never seen before and that, as far as I know, have not yet been described or recorded. We’ve seen goose ibis that I’ve never encountered before. What is strange are the fresh-water birds found here. We are more than a thousand kilometres from the closest natural fresh water.” He says the coconut forests on the island are beautiful and could just as well be like a scene from Jurassic Park.

Bouwman says they are giving lectures to the local community this week on how pollution, particularly plastics, has an influence on their nature life. “This will probably be one of the most remote classes of the NWU.”
“We’ve already taken several samples of the coral reefs and collected birds’ eggs as well. Here is a lot of plastic waste that comes ashore with the sea currents and pollutes this beautiful place.”

Bouwman says they are probably the largest research expeditions ever to visit the islands. The research is conducted in collaboration with the University of Mauritius and a Swedish researcher, Prof Henrik Kylin, works with them. The NWU students on the expedition are Veronica van der Schyff, Marinus du Preez and Karin Minnaar.

The group will soon depart for the islands of St Brandon to collect material for their research.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for us all and a huge adventurous experience.”
To follow the group’s activities, click on the following link:

PHOTO: The samples are carefully tagged for later testing by Veronica van der Schyff, Marinus du Preez and Karin Minnaar.
PHOTO: Samples of the coral around the islands are collected and will be analysed for organic toxins and the influence of micro plastics. Here Veronica van der Schyff and Karin Minnaar are seen diving in this beautiful environment.