In 2011 I’ll be returning to The Thresher Shark Research & Conservation Project for a six month stint as Science Officer. Helping out on an important scientific and community project with some of the greatest people I’ve had the pleasure to meet and work with.
I spent the best three months of my life there in 2009. Diving every day, researching sharks and mantas, and helping a small island community—through the research and its application to conservation and within the local dive tourism industry, but also directly within the community, where the project provides jobs, helped construct housing and where TSRCP volunteers teach marine biology and conservation at the local school.
Life on the island was confronting at first. About 2 km square consisting of a couple of small villages and a few dive resorts (largely foreign owned, but where the island community gets 80% of its income), there is no permanent electricity and no fresh water. The island is powered by petrol generators prone to breakdown and drinking water is imported daily. A simple, largely subsistence lifestyle. I grew to love the island and its people.
TSRCP was started in 2005 by research scientists Simon P. Oliver and Alison J. Beckett to create a baseline of Monad Shoal in the Philippines—primarily concerned with Pelagic Thresher Shark (Alopias pelagicus) cleaning activity as well as the shoal’s coral coverage and general health.
Monad Shoal is about 8 km east of the southern beach of Malapascua Island in the Visayan Sea—an open water seamount with a relatively square dive profile around 21–24m that plunges to 250m, presenting a unique opportunity to observe and record these rarely studied oceanic sharks.
Both threshers and Manta Rays (Manta birostris) frequent the site, as well as a myriad of other pelagic and reef fish. Particularly the various species of cleaner fish that draw the oceanic wildlife to the shoal.
TSRCP is a significant source of environmental, ecological and behavioural research for Pelagic Thresher Sharks, providing research, education and conservation locally, regionally and internationally.
Through volunteer divers (including myself) TSRCP became aware of Global Underwater Explorers, a non-profit diver training agency focussed on research, conservation and exploration, whose training methods and techniques are uniquely suited to scientific research diving. In 2009 TSRCP became a GUE affiliated project and now provides all volunteer divers with basic training aimed at perfecting the buoyancy, trim and propulsion techniques necessary for a successful research diver.
I encourage any divers out there to volunteer with the The Thresher Shark Research & Conservation Project. My three months there were amazing—peaceful, eye opening and life changing. The most fulfilling ‘work’ I’ve ever done. I can’t wait to be back in 2011.