Coral Reef Fishes: Identification, Ecology, and Challenges in a Warming Ocean
Fish communities are a key and vital component for maintaining the health of coral reef ecosystems. Although coral reefs represent less than 1% of the surface of the oceans, they are home to about 25% of known fish species. The fish fauna associated with coral reefs thus represents a fascinating system in terms of richness, complexity and biodiversity, especially in the coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific, where more than 4000 species live overall. In particular, in the coral reefs of the Maldives, which represent about 5% of the area occupied by all the world’s coral ecosystems and represents the 7th largest coral reef system in the world, more than 1100 species of fish have been recognized, with a variety of shapes, colors and behaviors that reflect the extreme complexity of the reef ecosystem. These multitude of traits are used by fish to feed, prey, defend themselves or “communicate” and interact with each other and with other organisms, by creating symbiotic association. In addition, the coral reef fish community is also characterized by complex ecological interactions and trophic relationships that generate intricate food webs and ecological networks, whose balances are essential to maintain to support the high ecological functionality of the reef ecosystem. However, also the fish fauna is strongly affected both directly and indirectly by the climate change and the warming of the oceans which are modifying the structure and functionality of the habitat in which they live.
The fish fauna thus constitutes an excellent model for studying the state of health of coral reefs and their biogeographical pattern, as well as the evolutionary processes linked to the relationship between form and function and the relative adaptations to colonized habitats. Furthermore, considering that the survival of many coastal human communities largely depends on tropical fish both for the supply of proteins through fishing and also from an economic point of view due to the touristic activity, the study and description of a fish community can provide useful information for the management of all human activities involving the sea, from fishing to tourism. The skills acquired in the field of fish biology and ecology can therefore be used both in the sectors related to the protection and conservation of ecosystems, in the fields of fisheries management and tourism, as well as obviously the fields of academic application.
The Workshop “Coral Reef Fishes: Identification, Ecology, and Challenges in a Warming Ocean” is a perfect opportunity to acquire the necessary knowledge to identify the main taxa of fish that inhabit coral reefs, understand their ecological processes and their relationship with the habitat, and to gain hands-on experience on the different monitoring and visual census techniques in the field, as well as on methods for statistical data analysis and processing of results.
The workshop will be held in English language and the lessons will be held by Dr. Davide Seveso (University of Milan-Bicocca, Dept. of Earth and Environmental Science, Italy), Prof. Giovanni Strona (Joint Research Center of the European Commission, Ispra, Italy) and Prof. Valeriano Parravicini (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes and CRIOBE, France), who are expert of coral reef fish ecology. All activities will be coordinated by researchers from the University of Milano-Bicocca and MaRHE Center staff, who have a long experience of study and research in tropical marine environments and are expert of the coral ecosystem of the Maldives from different points of view.
About the organisation
The Marine Research and High Education Center (#MaRHECenter) was officially inaugurated on January 28th, 2009. The Center’s purpose is to carry out research and educational activities in the fields of environmental science and marine biology, tourism science and human geography. It also aims to educate as to how to protect this fragile environment and its biodiversity, as well as to use and manage its resources responsibly.
About the programme
The program includes daily practical activities through scuba diving in the reefs surrounding the island (1 or 2 dives per day), theoretical lessons, data analysis and result presentations in the classroom by Power point presentations. In order to carry out the practical activities, students will be divided into groups and each group will be accompanied and assisted underwater by a staff of the MaRHE Center.
The dives will be carried out both from the shore and from the boat and will be performed in different reefs located in the southern part of the Faafu Atoll at a maximum of 1 hour of navigation from the island of Magoodhoo. Each dive is preceded by a briefing during which the dive profile and organisation as well as the scientific activities are presented and summarised to the students.
At the end of this theoretical-practical course the student will acquire notions to:
- Identify the main families of tropical fish associated with the reef habitat.
- Identify the most important fish of the Indian Ocean fauna at genus or species level.
- Examine the trophic structure of a reef fish community.
- Understand and describe the temporal and spatial variations (nyctimerial rhythms, reef zonation) of fish communities.
- List the main patterns and processes that influence the structure of a fish community.
- Investigate the impact of climate change related stressors on a fish community.
- Design and carry out visual census operations, for the study and monitoring of fish communities.
- Analyze community structure data using taxonomic and functional indices.
- Improve the statistical data analysis with the use of software.
The logistical support base will be the Marine Research and High Education Center (MaRHE Center) of the Milano-Bicocca University located in Magoodhoo Island, Faafu atoll, Republic of Maldives. Magoodhoo and the MaRHE Center are about 3 hours by speedboat from the airport of Malé, the Maldivian capital.
MaRHE Center can easily host up to 40 people, both groups of students as well as individual researchers who want to spend some time in a very comfortable place such as our campus, deep in the verdant tropical setting.
Two buildings in the Center are for guest accommodation:
- One has seven rooms, each one with 3-4 beds, a private bathroom, air conditioning and daily cleaning service. In the same building, one floor above, there is a dining room where guests can relax after work. Together these structures form a central cloister.
- In the second building, mostly for teacher and researcher accommodation, there are 4 rooms with 2-3 beds that may also be used as single rooms as per your convenience.
The Center is also equipped with an open-air dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Another open space is available to study, meet, read, or just relax. The Center is also equipped with a large classroom that can accommodate up to 30 people, 3 fully equipped laboratories for preserving and analysing samples, two offices and a library. In the Center, there is also a diving center with 60 tanks and 25 complete equipment sets (BCD, regulators, masks and fins, weights and belts). Finally, a big diving dhoni (local boat) that can accommodate up to 50 people (30 divers maximum) is available for diving, field trips to other islands and sampling activities. WiFi connection is available.
The food is prepared according to local customs, so it will mostly consist of fish, chicken, rice, pasta and vegetables prepared in different ways. Meals are served as a buffet. Special dietary requirements and allergies are to be mentioned in the application form.
The 9 days-workshop will take place from 23 to 31 March 2023.
Costs and pre-requisites
The registration fee for the workshop “Coral Reef Fish: Identification, Ecology, and Challenges in a Warming Ocean” is € 1,400.00
For Maldivians only the fee is 20% discounted (€ 1,120.00)
The workshop is aimed at both students (enrolled in bachelor or master’s degree courses or in a PhD course) and graduates preferably in the scientific field (Biology, Environmental Sciences, Natural Sciences). If the maximum limit of participants is exceeded, a selection will be performed based on applicants’ experience and interests. For this reason, in the en-rollment process we ask you to also submit your Curriculum Vitae and, optionally, a short motivation letter, for a possible evaluation and selection.
Each participant must be a certified divers (diving license of any level and didactic will be accepted), with a minimum number of 15 logged dives, or with a minimum of 10 dives of which 5 performed in the 6 months preceding the workshop. All divers must have a valid diving insurance (DAN or similar) in order to perform diving activities.
The above amount includes:
– Transfer by speedboat from/to Male airport
– Transfer by local boat for all the activities, dives and excursions included in the program
– Food and lodging at the MaRHE Center of Magoodhoo: full board treatment and accom-modation in multiple rooms (single rooms are not available)
– Lectures and activities provided for the workshop program
The above amount does not include:
– Flight to/for Maldives (Male International Airport)
– Passport issuing or renewal costs, if any
– Entry Business visa and generic insurance coverage (if required). The cost for the VISA (and related insurance) is about 200 euro
– Possible rental of diving equipment (weights and weight belts are included)
– Anything else not specified above
How to apply
In the complete program, which you can download here from this link, you can find detailed information on the structure of the field course and how to enrol on it.
To proceed with the registration, you are asked to fill in the Google form, which you can find here.
After completing the online questionnaire through the Google form, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org specifying in the subject: “Name Surname – Fish workshop registration” and attaching a good quality color scan of your passport as .jpg file (first 2 pages containing per-sonal data), naming the file with Surname_Name_FW23 and your CV.
The workshop will be activated once a minimum number of participants has been reached, therefore we will give you the green light to purchase flights once this threshold is reached.
The maximum number of participants is set to 16-18 people.
The registration deadline is fixed for the 10th February 2023