Masters Student Project – Sea turtle habitat use around Hithadhoo, Laamu atoll
Job Reference: LM-S2
Position: Self-Funded Masters (MPhil) Student at the University of Derby, UK
Start Date: 23.01.2023
Duration: 12-24 months – including 3 months field work at Six Senses Laamu, Maldives
About the Studentship
It is important to note that this is an unpaid, self-funded studentship
Please check https://www.derby.ac.uk/research/degrees/applicants/ for eligibility, application process and fees and funding information. It is therefore expected you will fund your own University fees (https://www.derby.ac.uk/research/degrees/applicants/fees-and-funding-for-mphils-phds/) and living expenses. ORP will however fund your 3 months field work in the Maldives, except the international flights. We hope this opportunity alone is worth the interest in applying. We do, however, appreciate this is not ideal for everyone. We did explore every option for funding and sadly are only able to provide funding during the field sampling.
The Olive Ridley Project (ORP) is on a mission to protect sea turtles and their habitats through rescue and rehabilitation, scientific research, and education and outreach. At the core of our work is a passionate and dedicated team of scientists, conservationists, citizen scientists and volunteers. We pride ourselves in being able to collaborate with a wide range of diverse groups in order to reach our goal and fill data gaps in sea turtle conservation. The charity is at the forefront of sea turtle conservation, influencing local policy makers, working with fishing communities, and collaborating with research institutes. We currently have bases in Maldives, Oman, Kenya, Pakistan and Seychelles.
One area of our research is using Photo-ID methods to look at population stability, nesting activity and the spatial distribution of sea turtles in the Indian Ocean. We have one of the largest turtle-ID databases in the world with over 30,000 observations, and work with an international team of experts to improve the method.
ORP in Laamu
In 2018, ORP partnered with Six Senses Laamu, based in Laamu Atoll in the Maldives.Together, we are looking for an enthusiastic Masters student who will join the team on the island for a three-month field placement to conduct a study on the habitat use of sea turtles around the island of Hithadhoo. We have partnered this Masters with the Aquatic Research Facility (ARF) at the University of Derby, in the UK. The ARF is headed by Professor Michael Sweet, one of our founding trustees and our Founder and CEO, Dr Martin Stelfox, a PhD graduate from Derby. You will have to enrol at the University of Derby for a 1 or 2 year MPhil which aligns with the field work mentioned in this advertising for your data collection.
In Laamu, we are part of the award-winning conservation group, Maldives Underwater Initiative (MUI), one of the largest marine biology teams in the country. MUI includes Six Senses marine biologists, and researchers from partner NGOs Manta Trust and Blue Marine Foundation.
Masters Student Project Description
Hithadhoo Corner is a popular dive site with an array of shark, rays, and turtle sightings making it a notable megafauna hotspot in Laamu atoll. Green sea turtles (endangered) and hawksbill turtles (critically endangered) are both sighted at Hithadhoo Corner frequently – however, what is most notable are the adult green sea turtles generally found resting beside or beneath a cleaning station. 2-8 turtles can be sighted at Hithadhoo Corner within a dive alone, which is rare in the Maldives. With over 8 years of encounter data from Laamu, we can identify individual turtles from the site, as well as the specific spots they are frequently sighted on.
In this study of the Hithadhoo turtle population the student will investigate how different environmental conditions influence sea turtle abundance, their behaviour shifts with environmental conditions. It is the aim to understand the turtles’ habitat use, and how the preferred resting spots shift based on their interactions with one another.
The student will conduct in water surveys recording sea turtle photo ID and behaviour data, and collect environmental data such as current direction to built on existing sighting datasets from previous years.
The successful masters student candidate will possess the following qualifications and skills:
- Bachelor’s degree in marine biology, zoology, environmental science or related field, normally a first or upper-second honours.
- Fluent in spoken and written English–if English is not your first language, you will need a minimum of IELTS (International English Language Testing System) level 7 with level 7 writing and a minimum level 6.5 in other elements (reading, speaking and listening).
- Excellent communication skills
- Qualified SCUBA diver (Advanced Open Water or equivalent and above preferred)
- Knowledge of, and a passion for, the marine environment and conservation
- Experience in swimming or diving in strong currents
- Own UW camera equipment
- Knowledge of, and a passion for, the sea turtle conservation
- Experience handling large datasets, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.
- Prior knowledge of R statistical language and analyses
- Knowledge of GIS or similar mapping software.
- Return domestic flight Malé International Airport to Six Senses Laamu
- Shared accommodation (4-share for girls, 8-share for boys with separate cubicles)
- 3 meals per day at the host canteen
- Access to the host gym
- Opportunistic dives to Hithadhoo Corner and other turtle monitoring sites
How to apply
To apply for this Master Student Project, please send your CV and cover letter to Professor Michael Sweet at firstname.lastname@example.org before 14th November 2022 and quote job reference LM-S2 and your surname in the email subject field.