Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies (BCSS)

Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies (BCSS)

Gain core skills in marine sciences and conservation at the Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies. Work together with scientists at the research station, located on Benguerra Island, Mozambique.

Introduction

The Bazaruto Archipelago National Park (BANP) is a 30-minute boat ride off the coast of southern Mozambique and is made up of five islands, including Benguerra, on which the Bazaruto Centre of Scientific Studies is located. Home to the last viable population of dugongs in the Western Indian Ocean, the BANP is also a breeding ground for migratory humpback whales, and a refuge for over 20 endangered wildlife species, six dolphin and five turtle species – plus plays host to 10 critical marine and terrestrial habitats. The archipelago is an unexplored sanctuary for wildlife and marine animals, protected by the WWF.

Through research with Bazaruto Centre for Scientific Studies (BCSS), you will be able to dive in one of the world’s most diverse coral reef ecosystems, supporting over 2000 species of fish, and witness wildlife behaviour such as open ocean shark feeding frenzies, turtle breeding as well as the migration of humpback whales and hammerhead sharks.

The BCSS Ocean Observatory offers volunteers a once-in-a-lifetime experience to explore and observe this incredible setting with world-leading scientists and environmentalists. You will step off the island having engaged in scientific research with professional scientists, learning about precious marine ecosystems in the Indian Ocean and enriched your life and resume with valuable training on a wide range of marine conservation topics.

   

About BCSS
BCSS is an innovative platform, hosting the first permanent ocean observatory focused on multi-ecosystem time series research in Africa. The facility opened its doors in 2017 to address core scientific and conservation needs in the Bazaruto Archipelago, and to use its strategic location and data to support environmental management at a local level, facilitate regional collaboration and contribute to international scientific programs. This presents many opportunities for you to witness megafauna like sharks and whales from up close, to collect invaluable data and to analyse sea samples using a microscope (amongst many other activities), all whilst staying on an idyllic island off the coast of Mozambique with a team of like-minded environmentalists.

BCSS’s founding principles are to understand, protect and guarantee, in the best possible way, marine science in Eastern African marine ecosystems and to support future generation’s management of this unique environment. Every visitor to BCSS, whether a documentary filmmaker, volunteer or scientist, contributes to this mission. The research station is permanent, and collects valuable data on marine life and ecosystems on a daily base, contributing to science both regionally and on an international scale. Every person who steps onto the BCSS premises helps the station to achieve the mission stated earlier.

As a permanent Ocean Observatory in Africa, BCSS holds a unique position for both experienced scientists and volunteers. An Ocean Observatory is a marine network and a platform that allows us to follow the pulse of the ocean through a combination of environmental sensors, measurements and surveys to understand changes in the environment using time-series techniques. You will be joining a unique initiative in the Indian Ocean, contributing to the first permanent multi-ecosystem observatories in Africa.

  

What to expect
During your stay at BCSS you will assist at the Ocean Observatory and learn first-hand from our resident scientists about pressing environmental issues and what can be done about them. The objectives of research conducted by BCSS are divided over four major themes: Ecosystem Monitoring and Function, Species Identification and Habitat Mapping, Migratory Fish Populations Dynamics and The BCSS Way. Learn more about the themes you will engage with during your stay below:

  • Ecosystem Monitoring and Function: Monitoring the ocean over time and space helps scientists to better understand how marine ecosystems function. In this theme, you will help to detect and predict climate-driven changes on the biological, chemical, and physical conditions of the ocean as well as how these changes influence ecosystem function.
  • Species Identification and Habitat Mapping: The conservation of critical habitats for marine life depends on an adequate identification of how different species use both pelagic and benthic ecosystems. In this theme, you will help to conduct open ocean, coastal, seabed and underwater surveys to study marine life hotspots and learn how organisms interact with the environment over time and space.
  • Migratory Fish Populations Dynamics: The understanding of migratory patterns of marine life and their hotspots around Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and National Parks (NPs) is critical for conservation efforts. In this theme, you will help locate and tag pelagic animals (conventional, acoustic, satellite). Bio-samples will also be collected for isotope and DNA extraction.

   

The BCSS Way

Learn and contribute to our land-based projects by leaving behind a lasting positive impact on the environment and the local communities around us. In this theme, you will get involved with marine debris monitoring and recycling, permaculture and outreach events with the local communities.

A typical day at BCSS starts with breakfast and a briefing around 7AM, whereafter the first activity takes place, like mapping ocean wildlife, diving, shark/fish tagging, DNA sampling or redeployment of sensors when out on the ocean. Around noon you will have lunch with both staff and other volunteers. The afternoon is usually filled with more scientific work like shark/fish tagging at see or seawater sampling, but could also include a horticulture community garden training, a permaculture workshop or building a wildlife database with photo and video footage. Dinner is usually served around six o’clock, whereafter you will have free time.

Our days are filled with project activities, but you will have time to relax and unwind with your fellow volunteers and project staff during lunch hours and at the end of the day. You will also have some time off most weekends, to enjoy one of the many recreational activities or simply read a book on an unspoilt, empty beach on Benguerra island.

The Accommodation
The BCSS research station was carefully designed to completely blend with the surrounding environment, causing minimum impact and with a carbon-neutral concept in mind. The station was hand-built using the island’s community skilled residents, with local materials such as coconut wood, reed walls and roof thatching.

BCSS represents a unique field station model, with commitment to zero- waste and sustainable waste management as we power our station with renewable solar energy. Where possible, we use permaculture principles to be more self-sufficient, since we are isolated from the mainland and importing supplies can leave a heavy footprint. We are honoured to be an active member of the community, providing opportunity and employment whilst sharing knowledge on sustainability.

BCSS can accommodate up to 12 visitors at a time offering a serviced dormitory, a tented camp with single and double (bunks) rooms, shared bathroom facilities, a conference room, an equipped laboratory, a kitchen with an in-house chef, communal areas equipped with sofas, TV and limited Wi-Fi, an activities centre and a workshop.

As a volunteer, you can enjoy several leisure areas beyond the common room. The dive centre has a beach-front braai area with an amazing view over the park and flamingo bay, a great spot to enjoy a drink and snack, relax and talk about your findings, dives and favourite stories of the day.

 

Social impact
BCSS employees are 70% local and we encourage local hirings to support the community as much as we possibly can. Extensive training is offered to our staff and there have been numerous occasions where our staff have been promoted due to their enthusiastic approach and commitment to our projects. We do extensive research during local hiring processes to ensure there is an even spread of employees amongst different families to ensure equality amongst the communities here on Benguerra Island.

An example of local staff furthering their skills and careers is the fact that Baptista and Adolfo work in a research workshop where they complete marine research engineering tasks regularly, learning how to execute those tasks properly on the job. Garden staff Sergio and Arlindo have been participating in permaculture workshops and now grow lots of vegetables and fruits, making the station less reliant on the mainland for food. Skippers and deckhand staff pick up lots about marine research techniques whilst on the job, as they are in the field with the scientists every day, and the diving teams is equally being exposed to research methodologies. By offering local staff the opportunity to learn and develop their skills on the job, their opportunities out of BCSS improve significantly, making it more likely that they will be able to find a suitable job in the event they do not longer work at the BCSS station.

BCSS offers a watering station for hydration and cleaning for the local community which before had no direct access to potable water. The community collects approximately 750 litres per day from our station.

BCSS is initiating a plastic project whereby we encourage the community to collect marine debris around their communities and bring it to us to sort and send away to recycling companies. The money that we receive from the recycling company will be given back to the community.

BCSS does community outreach by going to schools and educating the children on marine conservation topics. We also provide opportunities for the kids to come to our station to watch educational films and to learn more about what we do and why we do it. We invest in the generation of today, in hope of a better, sustainable future.

We allow our employees to use our facilities as a workspace for educational purposes. For example, we encourage our employees to create educational workshops for the external university work that they do on weekends. Our facility provides them with Wi-Fi and common areas with chairs and tables which assists in creating a comfortable workspace.

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