Research Summary – Lara Kalisch

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My Research Project with UniSey

 Hey everyone!

I am Lara from Germany, studying Tropical Aquatic Ecology at the University of Bremen/Germany. Currently, I am living the island life in Seychelles, whilst collecting data for my master thesis on food selectivity by the key sea urchin Tripneustes gratilla in collaboration with the University of Seychelles.

Fig.1: BSc Environmental Science Poster Exhibition in 2018

In 2018 I graduated with a Bachelor of Honors in Environmental Science at the University of Seychelles, where I started my undergraduate in 2015 as the first international student. When I was presented with the opportunity to conduct the research for my master thesis overseas, I didn’t hesitate to take this chance to once more return to Seychelles. Not only does Seychelles offer a unique environment and great research potential but my positive experience with the country, it’s people and UniSey also strengthened my desire to spend some more time in this beautiful place.

During my Bachelor Degree in Seychelles I was being very well trained for my Master, not only through extensive lecturers but especially due to many field excursions and practical work. At first, I was unsure about how well my degree from Seychelles will prepare me for a Master back in Europe, however it took not long for me to realize that I was second to no one. Indeed, in many areas of expertise I was more knowledgeable than my colleagues thanks to my undergraduate with UniSey.

My field work on Mahé commenced in early October and consists of various in situ observations such as sea urchin density surveys, habitat surveys and habitat mapping. Yet, the most vital part of my research work was the collection and preparation of sea urchin and algae samples for a stable isotope analysis.

Fig.2: Sample collection in Anse Forbans

The analysis, which will be carried out in France, will allow me to make inferences about the diet, food selectivity and nutritional value of food consumed by the sea urchin Tripneustes gratilla. Understanding the feeding habits of sea urchins is vital in order to predict their impact on lagoon patch reefs around Seychelles and to better comprehend the flow of energy through this ecosystem. T. gratilla is also one of the fastest growing sea urchin species and has a high value due to its highly priced gonads, which are mainly consumed on the Japanese markets. For this reason, this species is also of interest for the new aquaculture facility on Mahé.

The support of my supervisor Dr. Nuette Gordon from the University of Seychelles, as well as the laboratory Manager Terence Vel, were invaluable during my field work. Both did their uppermost to assist me with data collection and to provide me with all the necessary equipment required for in situ data collection, sea urchin dissection and the preparation of samples. Sea urchin dissection was carried out at the laboratory of the University of Seychelles. Most of the equipment’s utilized were sponsored by the organization ‘Save our Seas Seychelles’.

Fig.3: Sample preparation at the UniSey laboratory

The administration of the University was furthermore assisting me with any paperwork such as Visa and Research permit prior to my arrival.

Once more I am more than happy to be working in this beautiful country, with the great support of UniSey.