A few days ago, we had an interview with two interesting girls. We met them at the Tanna Island here at Vanuatu. They are both here as part of their research. They are working with marine life, tourism and climate changes. Their names are Johanna and Alissa.
In this Blog I have written up the questions and their answers. I found it very fascinating and I hope they succeed with their project. I feels like they are having fun with their studies.
I did the interview together with Tiril, Ebba and Albert from C´est Si Bon (www.ulafamilien.com)
Where are you from?
Johanna: I am actually from Germany, but I live I Australia. I have lived there for the past eight years.
Alissa: I am from Australia. I grew up there, but I have lived in a couple of different countries.
Where are you working?
Johanna: I am actually working with two things. I am working with my PhD at the University. And I am basically a student doing research. An as a part of that research I am here. And I am also working for a company which is named Earth Check. My background is also tourism, and climate change. The company is working with sustainable tourism. They have a program where they give a certificate to hotels and bungalows who are sustainable, meaning they are taking good care of the environment and the people. So that’s where the check comes from.
Alissa: I am also doing PhD at the Griffith University in Gold Coast. And I just started my PhD, so I am quite lucky that I am already here at this beautiful place. I am looking at our coral reefs. And I also has a second job too. I am working with international study-abroad students. I show them the South Pacific, and around Australia.
Can you tell us a little bit about why you are here in Vanuatu?
Johanna: Since my research is on the tourism and climate change, I am here to look at the hotels and bungalows and how they react to the climate changes. For example storms are predicted to be more frequent and bigger. I am talking to the government and the other people who work with climate change to find out how they can better prepare for the climate changes.
Alissa: It is a big project, with many people looking at different things. I am looking at the marine life like coral reef an fishes. We also have people back in Australia who are trying to create computer models to show us how the weather will change. I am looking at how the corals and fishes react to the weather changes. You know that some of the fishes are eating the corals?In the big storms, the corals can die, and turn out to sand, and than the fishes can’t eat them anymore.
Have you got any of the same project other places?
Alissa: I am trying to help the local people. There are lots of small fish, but the bigger fish that the local can eat have actually disappeared. Either because of too much fishing, or because of their habitat has been destroyed. That can be because of a cyclone that has destroyed the corals, or because the coral has been bleached. That is when the water gets too hot. Then the coral is getting all white, and then the fish can’t eat the coral. Then the coral slowly turns out to sand. So we are trying to figure out how we can help the corals to stay alive and how we can get the bigger fish to come back in. So they are actually starting very soon to create a big protected area where they are saying no fishing, so then the fishes can come back. So yes, I have done many similar projects other places like Bahamas, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia.
How do you conduct your research?
Johanna: Actually I am doing interviews with other people. Then I go home and write down the answers. And after that, I analyse it.
Alissa: I am actually doing the most of my research in the water. We count all the fish and corals we see. I am using a measuring tape to measure the corals and the outline of the reef. So if the outline is really complex, the reef is healthy. We are taking photos and videos to watch them afterwards. So tonight I am being on my computer to watch the videos and then analyse it.
Are you freediving, or are you diving with tanks?
Alissa: Here, I freedive, because it is difficult to get tanks. There are one place at the other side of the island. But other places I like to dive with tanks, it is much easier. It is usually not deeper than five meters.
What kind of equipment do you use to take samples and photos?
Alissa: I use GoPro to take videos because it is much easier. It is smaller, and it floats. I have got one bigger camera to take pictures, but it is usually in the way more. I do not take samples here, because you need a big tank or a lab to keep them in.
How long have you been here – can you see any big differences in your test result from time to time?
Alissa: I have been here for a couple of days, and I am going to be here for about a week. – Yes, there are a smaller number of fish in the non-protected area.
What are the most interesting observations you have made?
Johanna: There are many interesting things that people are telling me. It has fascinated me the way people are able to build their houses again after cyclones. Because everything has been destroyed. They have to build their houses and their life up again. There are some people who is telling me that it is all they have, so they can’t give up.
Alissa: For me it is fascinating to see how the community has come together in an agreement. Even if they need to fish to get their food, everyone has agreed to not fish for some years to take care of their environment. They have put out a float that is called fish-aggregation device. Then the fish like to come underneath it. It makes it a little bit easier for them to fish.
Do you cooperate with someone else at the island?
Johanna: We are not working with someone at the island, but we are a team which has some different nationalities. We are trying to work together even though we have our own responsibilities within the big project. For example; traveling together saves money.
What is the most important thing for you to make the project successful?
Alissa and Johanna: Eh….that’s a great question! I think it is to work together as a team and help each other. But also to talk to the community. Getting to know people, and that the project is helping the local people.
What is th main goal and the main challenge for the project?
Johanna: It is a very big project, with many goals. I think that the overarching goal is to find out how the people who lives here can work together with the nature so it can be sustainable.
Alissa: I think the main challenge is to work wit the humans, because you never know what’s going to happen. And to work with the nature, because you will never know what is going to happen. Suddenly it can be too big waves, so then we can’t swim, and it can be to much rain or wind, so then we can’t do what we actually were going to do. And it can be challenging to communicate internally the project, with so many participants. So………yeah I think that is the main challenges.
What do you like about the job?
Alissa: I really like snorkeling and being in the water, and I am pretty lucky that I have this job so I can work in the water.
Johanna: I really like to meet other people and travel around like this, so I think we both agree that we have got a job that we really like.
Is there anything you don’t like?
Johanna and Alissa: No… not so much………..Apart from the fact that we have a leaking tent, hahahahahahahaha!!?
Thank you for taking the time to do the interview! It was really interesting!
From the left: Ebba(12), Albert(10), Alissa, Johanna, Tuva(11) and Tiril(9).
Tuva er den eldste matrosen ombord på S/Y KEA