Rosana Maria Liem's Diary


Monday, March 5, 2007 Tuesday, March 29, 2007
Wednesday, April 18, 2007 Saturday, June 30, 2007
Sunday, July 1, 2007 Monday, July 2, 2007
Tuesday, July 3, 2007 Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Thursday, July 5, 2007 Friday, July 6, 2007
Saturday, July 7, 2007 Sunday, July 8, 2007
Monday, July 9, 2007 Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Wednesday, July 11, 2007 Thursday, July 12, 2007
Friday, July 13, 2007 Saturday, July 14, 2007
Sunday, July 15, 2007 Monday, July 16, 2007
Tuesday, July 17, 2007  

Monday, March 5, 2007 The confirmation of my participation in the Alcoa Earthwatch Fellowship Program has been an astonishing moment in my life. Throughout today, I couldn’t stop thinking about the opportunity given to me by Alcoa to study corals at Desroches Island. This place belongs to the Republic of Seychelles and is located around 1,600 kilometers (995 miles) east of the mainland of Africa and northeast of the island of Madagascar.

How did I learn about this opportunity? I received an email about an Alcoa program for volunteers to participate in scientific environmental research around the world. I next looked for more information from my colleagues. To my surprise, I discovered that Luiz Augusto Simão, a former employee at the Alcoa Poços de Caldas location where I work, had been on a past Earthwatch expedition. Luiz is now is in Norway, so I accessed the Earthwatch website to learn more about the program.

On the website, I found a list of the research subjects. At first glance, I was very interested to learn more about marine life, especially in Africa. This is a place experiencing starvation, and this situation can change if people use the natural resources rationally.

I am very glad to be selected to participate in the expedition to Seychelles. It will be a great opportunity to learn more on how to preserve wildlife. Also, I think it will be an unforgettable life experience.

Tuesday, March 29, 2007 After the announcement of the Alcoa Earthwatch participants, people were particularly curious to know more about the expedition. In my opinion, it is good to raise interest in participating in volunteer programs, since the most important goal of this project is to encourage people to be concerned with how our way of life can affect environmental sustainability.

Throughout the past days, I have received congratulations from relatives, friends, colleagues, and Alcoa staff for having the initiative to apply for the Earthwatch fellowship program. I also want to support the future candidates in Brazil, since this the second time that a Brazilian has had this experience.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 Since my acceptance into the program, I have been studying about marine life and looking for a scuba diving course, although this is not a requirement for the program.
 
I am reading about various marine life topics and studying sea water composition, the ocean’s creation, anemones, and cnidarians. I realized that since I am a chemical engineer, this is an opportunity to learn about new subjects. So far, it has been an amazing experience.

Saturday, June 30, 2007 The plane landed on Mahé Island around 9 p.m. During the taxi ride to Beau Vallon, I was watching the landscape. It was dark, so I could not see the natural scenery around me. However, I was able to notice that the city looked very calm, with charming buildings and narrow streets. In my mind, I imagined how Mahé would look.

Sunday, July 1, 2007 In terms of time zones, the Seychelles are seven hours ahead of my home in Brazil. Mahé is the largest of the Seychelles’ granite islands, which are covered with tropical vegetation. The capital, Victoria, is on Mahé. It is the smallest capital in the world, with 20,000 inhabitants. There are probably more tourists than local people in the Seychelles, because the main economic activity is tourism.

Monday, July 2, 2007 I did not have any difficulty communicating with the local people. They are kind and speak English, French, and Creole, which is a mixture of English and French. They prefer to start a conversation with bonjour.
 
In the morning, the people at the hotel helped me contact the company that provides boat transport to Silhouette. She confirmed the boat departure time as 11 a.m. tomorrow, the same as what was in the Earthwatch brief. I arranged for a taxi to take me to the rendezvous point, which was the Island Development Center (IDC).

Tuesday, July 3, 2007 To my surprise, Olga was waiting for me at the hotel’s reception area to take the taxi to IDC together. Olga works in human resources in the metallurgical unit of Alcoa’s Samara, Russia, location.
 
The taxi passed through lovely Victoria, so we could see the clock tower, the port, and some local markets. Some kilometers after Victoria, we arrived at IDC. There, we met the expedition team.
 
Most of the team members—Kim, Nic, Cayo and Noriko—work in Mitsubishi’s United Kingdom office, but Günter stays in the German office. Two other volunteers were Annemiek and Theresa, and Jen was the Earthwatch coordinator.
 
In the harbor, Justin Gerlach was waiting to take us to the guesthouse. He is the principal investigator for the research project. In the afternoon, we looked at a giant tortoise enclosure, the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles (NPTS) information center, and the laboratory.
 
Around 150 years ago, the giant tortoise was thought to be extinct, but two species were rediscovered on Silhouette. A group of tortoises is kept in breeding enclosures to save them from extinction. They were very sociable and approached us to receive our affection. 
 
In the center, we saw seashell and insect collections and tortoise fossils. Then we visited the lab, where we could observe baby terrapin turtles in an aquarium and turtle eggs in incubators. This project’s goal is to breed and restock the turtles in their natural habitats.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007 After breakfast, we met Justin at NPTS, and he explained the methods used to study life on Silhouette. We will be placing a metal quadrat over a portion of ground to observe and count the animals and plants inside that area. We’ll then input this information into a database.
 
Today, we studied the mangroves at Anse Lascar Beach. Anse Lascar has a narrow, sandy area with a fringe of beach rock that was formed by marsh and sea water mixing together. This caused the sand to compact into a form of sandstone.
 
In the marsh, we placed a quadrat to limit the area studied. There we watched and counted a lot of insects, beetles, ants, fish, pond snails, and flies. In the afternoon, some people inputted field data into a spreadsheet.
 
Justin presented some books about Pacific and Indic wildlife that would help us identify the coastal and coral animals. He mentioned that the Silhouette environment had never been mapped before.
 
This research is very important, as it will map the trends of Silhouette wildlife to understand the impact global warming and humans have on each species. With the results of the wildlife map, NPTS can alert governmental and international organizations and ask for more preservation initiatives for species at risk of extinction.

Thursday, July 5, 2007 Justin had planned to investigate Anse Cimitière in the morning and La Passe in the afternoon.
 
Anse Cimitière is located on the east coast. Its name refers to the cemetery, where most of the older residents were buried. The headland is composed of volcanic rock, making it distinct from the rest of the island’s granite areas.
 
La Passe is very important, because it is the only passage through the coral barrier. This unique entrance to the island allowed Silhouette to be settled.
 
We met Justin at the NPTS center to go to Anse Cimitière to study the beach and rock areas. Along its beach crest, we saw a lot of hermit crabs, which were very easy to recognize in their shell homes. We also observed several snails, periwinkles, and ghost crabs in this area, adding to the isopods and fish on the beach and limpets on the rocks.
 
To study the marine life, the tide should be low to access to the middle reef. After lunch, the sea level was low.
 
La Passe provides a good opportunity to study the reefs. The sea is very calm here, which makes it easy to do environmental observations. It was incredible to watch the diversity of reef life—sea grass, brown and green algae, snails, a couple bivalves, gold-ringed cowries, hermit crabs, ghost and hairy red crabs, isopods, amphipods, brittle stars, sea cumbers, sea urchins, tube worms, and sea anemones.

Friday, July 6, 2007 La Patates was the research focus this morning because of its interesting mangroves with knee-shaped roots.
 
Along the La Patates path, we collected the trash and filled two large bags. When we arrived on the beach crest, there were some flies, endemic plants, ghost crabs, ants, and black and white shrimp. From what we could observe, the diversity of life in the woodlands was larger. We saw different snails, spiders, millipedes, ants, centipedes, beetles, moths, frog hoppers, cockroaches, caterpillars, termites, foaming crabs, and isopods. On our return from La Patates, we pulled weeds to feed the tortoises at NPTS.
 
After lunch, we went back to La Passe reef, but this time the study area was near a jetty. In the reef area, there were several snails, cowries, muscles, crabs, isopods, amphipods, brittle stars, flat warms, and sea anemones.
 
At the end of the day, Justin explained about the expedition we would be taking to Jardin Marron the next day. We would wake up earlier, because we would spend two or more hours getting there, and he planned to return to the guesthouse around lunchtime.
 

Saturday, July 7, 2007 We woke up around 6 a.m. to have breakfast, and we departed at 7 a.m. to go to Jardin Marron. Jardin Marron is in the middle of the island, and its forest, which is at a high altitude, has unusual insects, tiny frogs, and birds.

Along the trail were rubber, albizia, cinnamon, and cola trees, coco de mer palms, and vanilla creepers that were planted by the old residents to promote economic activity on the island. The rubber and vanilla plantations were not successful, but albizia and cinnamon are still very present in the forest and competing with the endemic plants. We pulled these competitive plants to help keep control of the forest’s health.

Justin planned to reach the other side of the island by walking along the nearest path, but this was very steep and we needed to stop hiking at times to recover. He decided to return to the guesthouse, because it was so exhausting for us. We used the afternoon to let our bodies recover.

Sunday, July 8, 2007 In the morning, we went back to Anse Lascar, the beach studied on the first day of the expedition. This time, the focus was to study the mangrove and woodland areas.

At the mangroves, we observed endemic plants, snails, different spiders, ants, rove beetles, flies, and caterpillars. In the woodland we saw snails, spiders, centipedes, ants, cockroaches, flies, terminates, and isopods.

After lunch, we went in front of the Labriz resort beach to identify the coral life, and Justin released the turtles that were bred into the wild. Monitoring the growth of these turtles in their natural habitat is very hard to do unless the turtles have microchips to locate them, but this is very expensive.

While swimming near the coral bank using a snorkel, I could see different animals—lionfish, butterflyfish, barracudas, parrotfish, and angelfish. It was really amazing to see the diversity of coral life.

Monday, July 9, 2007 This day we visited an area near the Dauban mausoleum that was reforested by NPTS. In the mausoleum, Justin explained about the contribution of the Dauban family to the island.

The Daubans were the most important settlers and owned Silhouette for 100 years. They built the old plantation house, known as the Grande Case at La Passe, a school for the children of the fieldworkers, a small hospital, and the jetty. They also introduced to the island different plants, such as vanilla, coco de mer, and breadfruit. The last one was used as a source of food for the workers.

Some meters from the mausoleum, we reached the conservation area. At this place, there was not as much diverse life compared to what we saw at the Anse Lascar woodlands. We watched few organisms—ants, cockroaches, flies, terminates, and isopods.

In the afternoon, we analyzed the dispersion of the seeds on the crest beach. We collected and separated the types of seeds and then we counted a thousand of them. These included casuarina, terminalia, calophyllum, takamakas, mango, and orange seeds. The two last seeds appeared on the beach through human disposal.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007 It was our day off, and we enjoyed the beach.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007 This day’s arrangement was to visit Grande Barbe Beach, which is located on the other side of the island. We took a small boat, so it was necessary to divide the team into two groups. During the boat trip, we could ponder the coastal view—different beaches with difficult walking access, steep granite cliffs, coconut palms, and sea birds. Suddenly, a black manta ray jumped near the boat!
 
After 30 minutes, the boat arrived at Grande Barbe. I was astonished by the vista—Mont Dauban, the second highest mountain of Seychelles; a long, sandy beach protected by a rocky barrier; and the marsh, one of the largest mangrove areas in the Seychelles.
 
Justin pointed out to us the ruins of machinery used to extract copra (the dried meat of a coconut) as well as the settlement of a few people who used to produce copra. Nearby were some giant tortoises that live in the wild habitat. They are extremely docile, just like the tortoises in the enclosure.
 
Justin explained the importance of Grande Barbe for turtle nesting and the support of the Global Vision International organization in protecting and monitoring this area. We then walked along the marsh and came to the end of the beach, where there were high rocks that we climbed to see the entire beach and Mont Dauban.
 
Returning to other side of the beach, we collected some seeds from the sand to identify during the afternoon. After the seed collection was completed, we took the boat back to the guesthouse at La Passe.

Thursday, July 12, 2007 The tide was low this morning, so we returned to the beach in front of Labriz Resort to throw some quadrats across the middle of the reefs. We viewed some sea grass, brown and green algae, snails, a couple of bivalves, gold-ringed cowries, hermit crabs, ghost and red hairy crabs, isopods, amphipods, brittle stars, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, tube worms, clams, and sea anemones.
 
On the beach crest, we noticed a lot of pines. Justin explained that Henri, the last member of the Dauban family to own the island, planted these trees around Silhouette to prevent beach erosion. Unfortunately, a disease killed a lot of these takamaka pines, resulting in a risk to the beach and coral environment.

Friday, July 13, 2007 We fixed our attention on the beach in front of Labriz Resort again and repeated the quadrats along the reefs. After this, we identified the species observed in the field by consulting the scientific books. To my surprise, the organisms were the same as those observed the day before. The information was put into the data bank.

Justin talked about the impact of the tourism development on the island. For example, lampposts were built near La Pass beach and marsh, but these lights are changing the environmental conditions. The kind of spotlights used around the marsh have become a trap for the baby turtles. The light attracts them, and they drop into the spotlights and are basically cooked.

Saturday, July 14, 2007 The focus of the day was the beach in front of Labriz Resort in order to have good data collection from this place. This area is very important to the research in Silhouette, because the impact of the resort’s construction on the coral reefs is unknown.

During the field observation, it started to rain and became difficult to see the organism on the reefs. We interrupted the work for few minutes until the rain was almost over.

Around lunchtime, a Mitsubishi auditor named Rick arrived on Silhouette to check out the Earthwatch program since the company’s employees were participating as volunteers. Rick was also there to prepare a video of interviews with the Mitsubishi volunteers.

Sunday, July 15, 2007 Justin planned to visit Jardin Marron again, but this time we walked the easiest route. The first trip to Jardin Marron was on July 7, but the path was very steep for us.

We woke up early so we could reach Jardin Marron before lunchtime. Along the path, we encountered a brown stick-like insect on leaves, some Seychelles giant millipedes, several snails and mushrooms near the rocky pathway, caecilians under the rocks, a wolf snake shimmying up the tree, and sheath-tailed bats hanging on the branches.

While we were hiking on the trail, the altitude and humidity increased. After leaving the guesthouse two hours earlier, we reached the highest part of Jardin Marron. On the top of the mountain, Gunter’s watch/altimeter indicated the altitude to be around 400 meters (1,310 feet).

We were looking for tiny frogs under the leaves, so we removed the leaves on the ground with care. Unfortunately, the team did not find any. However, Justin had enough ability to find and catch some. In addition, Justin marked some one-square-meter areas to observe the organisms, which included severinas, spiders, termites, palms, cinnamon trees, and albizias.

At 2 p.m., we were at the guesthouse. During the afternoon, we rested for the next day—the last day of data collection in the field.

Monday, July 16, 2007 This was the last day of research, and I feel that I will miss Silhouette Island.

We visited the beach beyond the resort. It was, in fact, the same beach but separated by a barrier of rocks. There we observed the reef life and noticed that the diversity of life was not as abundant as the beaches near the jetty and in front of the resort.

In the afternoon, Justin met us at the guesthouse to discuss the future steps for this project. He commented that this project would involve four teams, and we were the first one. The next day, a group of biology professors from African universities would arrive on Silhouette Island to continue the data collection in the field.

He congratulated us on our participation in the Earthwatch expedition and promised to send a report about the coastal and coral study after completing the research at the end of this year.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 In the morning, we enjoyed La Passe Beach and watched and fed the tortoises in the enclosure.

The boat that would take us to Mahé Island arrived midday, bringing the group of professors. We arrived on Mahé at 1:30 p.m. and then planned to have dinner together and say goodbye.

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