Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme 

E-Newsletter | OCTOBER 2013
 

Information about what's happening with whale sharks, volunteer opportunities, marine conservation, and our work in the Maldives and the greater Indian ocean. 

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IN THIS ISSUE
Reflections from the Third International Whale Shark Conference

What's happening in the field? A message from Katie

Want to volunteer with us? 

Help protect whale sharks
REFLECTIONS FROM THE THIRD INTERNATIONAL WHALE SHARK CONFERENCE

Reflections from Board of Trustee Morgan Riley about his participation as a presenter and participant in the 3rd International Whale Shark Conference from 6 October to 10 October, 2013, in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Morgan presented on 6 years of data collected from the whale shark aggregation in the South Ari Marine Protected Area in South Ari Atoll, Republic of Maldives.


I represented MWSRP at the Third International Whale Shark Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, USA recently.

Hosted by the Georgia Aquarium, this was a fantastic opportunity for scientists, government officials, and tour operators from all corners of the world to get together. We exchanged ideas, discussed all things whale shark, and looked to the future for whale shark research. 

Here are some of the main points from the conference that I’d like to share with you:
  • Research carried out in the Gulf of Mexico and the Red Sea indicates that there are aggregations of both males and females, but that they rarely mix. As some of you may know, in Maldives, we see lots of juvenile males and have always asked where are the females? Perhaps there is a separate aggregation of females in Maldives that we have yet to discover.
  • Teams from the Galapagos and St. Helena (both isolated, mid-ocean pinnacles), almost exclusively see huge females who appear to be pregnant. The mystery still remains of where, when, and how whale sharks give birth. However, these observations, combined with tagging data from the Gulf of Mexico where large females have been tracked heading out to the mid-Atlantic, suggest that whale sharks may journey to these isolated places to ‘pup’ (give birth).
  • At many other locations, whale sharks are feeding frenetically at the surface all the time, often hundreds together at once. Tagging shows that these sharks spend almost every daylight hour within metres of the surface then dive deep down at night. In Maldives, we rarely see the sharks feeding at the surface. The sharks we tagged in 2008 have shown that they are rarely at the surface during the day and that they are often hundreds of metres deep. Why the difference?
  • Much of the discussion focused on how new technology can further whale shark research. Acoustic tagging is being used to explore about the movements of the sharks. We are excited to learn more about this and whether it can be incorporated into our research in the future.
The work of fellow whale shark researchers around the world gives us clues about how to further MWSRP research efforts. It would be tremendously exciting to find a separate Maldivian aggregation of female sharks - the narrow channels and reefs of the Maldives’ atolls would be perfect for an array of acoustic listening stations. 

Stay with us as we continue to work toward the advancement of whale shark knowledge. Thanks. 

- Morgan
FROM THE FIELD

A MESSAGE FROM KATIE, VOLUNTEER PROGRAMME MANAGER


It's been a fantastic start to the research period. We welcomed three volunteers for the month of October: Anna and Kevin from Perth, Australia and Chris from Washington D.C., USA. We've all settled in to our home on Mandhoo, the whale sharks have been abundant on the reef, and everyone is enjoying the fresh air.

So far we've had over 30 whale shark encounters, swam with a pod of Risso's dolphins (Grampus gresius), weathered numerous squalls as they've passed through the MPA, danced to Boduberu on the local island of Dhigurah, and have eaten our share of our favourite Maldivian dish: tuna noodles!

Staff members Rachel Bott and Ben Fothergill arrived shortly after the research period began to facilitate a one-week service-learning trip with students from the American School of Doha. The students are here in Maldives exploring the issues of climate change and ocean acidification, while spending quality time on the S. Air MPA looking for whale sharks. It has been a thrilling week for the students needlesstosay.

If you want to learn more about our programme and research, have a look through our website. And if you're interested in volunteering with us and have some specific questions, please give me a shout - I'd love to hear from you. 

Speak soon!
Katie xx
MEET OUR CURRENT VOLUNTEERS
Photo: Chris, Kevin, Anna, and Neal strike a pose. 
 
MEET ANNA, KEVIN AND CHRIS!

Anna and Kevin have just started their 6-month journey around the world. Their first stop? 1 month of volunteering with MWSRP. Keep up with their reflections on their blog "Anna and Kevin Step Outside". 

Chris has been on the road now for a little over 3 months - a quarter of the way through his 1 year sabbatical. He's been all over from Iceland and Norway to Greece and India and places in-between. He's now enjoying a little 'break' from the road here in Maldives with us. Read his blog "Each and Every Moment
VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES
WANT TO VOLUNTEER WITH US? 

2013*
 
3-16 November (Block 3): 3 spaces available
 
17-30 November (Block 4): FULL
 
1-14 December (Block 5): FULL
 
15-28 December (Block 6): 1 space available
 
 
2014*
 
29 December-11 Jan, 2014 (Block 7): 3 spaces available
 
12-25 January (Block 8): 2 spaces available
 
26 January-8 February (Block 9): FULL
 
9-22 February (Block 10): FULL
 
23 February-8 March (Block 11): 4 spaces available
 
9-22 March (Block 12): 6 spaces available
 
23 March-5 April (Block 13): 5 spaces available
 
6-19 April (Block 14): 5 spaces available


*Available dates reflected as of October 18, 2013. Availability is subject to change. Learn more about what it's like volunteer on our website
GIVE TODAY TO PROTECT WHALE
SHARKS AND ENHANCE LIVES.


With big goals on the horizon, we hope you will consider making an annual gift in support of our work. Your support means we can do more research and advocate for better conservation policy here in South Ari. 

Thank you for your consideration.
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The Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP) is a charity that exists to conduct whale shark research projects and to foster community-based conservation initiatives within the Maldives and throughout the Indian ocean. 
 
Our mission:
Conservation through research and community mobilisation. 
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