Heriot-Watt students on new Indian Ocean field course

Prof Murray Roberts and Helene Hoffmann debrief after a diving survey

A group of eight Masters students from the School of Life Sciences are spending two weeks living and working on a remote coral atoll in the Indian Ocean. The new course is taught by Prof Murray Roberts (Centre for Marine Biodiversity & Biotechnology) and is run on Faafu Atoll's Magoodhoo Marine Research and Higher Education Centre, operated by the University of Milano-Biocacca (Italy). 

The 2014 course is being run in collaboration with the University of York (Prof Callum Roberts & Dr Julie Hawkins) and teaches a suite of techniques to assess the health of tropical coral reefs through an intensive series of field practicals using both diving and snorkelling survey approaches on the reefs.

Magoodhoo island is approximately 900 m long and 600 m wide and is home to 734 people many of whom rely on the reefs for their food. At the heart of the island is a centuries old banyan tree where today's local government offices are now found.

Forefront of global debate

At just 1-2 m above sea level the Maldives are at the forefront of global debate over climate change and rising sea levels. The people of the Maldives are well aware of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the students have been discussing this them during the course.

Alongside fieldwork, the Heriot-Watt and York students have been invited to the neighbouring School's annual Art Exhibition, seen local drumming and trance dancing and organised impromptu rugby training with the island's principal teacher, who studied in Edinburgh.