Two Maldivian women will make history as part of a ten-strong science team from the Indian Ocean nation, when they join an international science mission and venture deep into the waters off their homeland to discover exactly what needs to be done to ensure their country remains habitable in the face of global warming. Four of the ten Maldivian scientists taking part are women.
Shafiya Naeem, Director General of Maldives Marine Research Institute who is leading the Maldives scientists on the mission and Farah Amjad, Research Assistant to the Nekton Maldives Mission have been named in the crews of the Nekton mission’s first descent. They will join submersible pilot Kimly Do.
The Nekton Maldives Mission sets sail September 4 to undertake the first systematic survey and sampling of the ocean surrounding the Maldives from the surface to 1000 metres below sea level. Almost nothing is known about what lies beneath 30 metres, so the women and their eight colleagues will, literally, be entering uncharted waters. The mission is a joint endeavour by UK marine research institute Nekton and the Maldivian Government.
“Our objective during our submersible dives is to discover and better understand what our waters contain, so we can begin to protect what lives there and safeguard the environment more meaningfully” explained Shafiya Naeem who’s research is focused on aquatic animal health. “We have 40 shark and 18 ray species at the apex of the food chain in our ocean and for the first time we’ll be able to identify their relative abundance at depth - which is a critical indicator to determine ocean health”.
The Maldives is truly an island nation - 99% of its territory is ocean and the 1% land, sits an average of 1.5metres above sea level. As a result, the Maldives faces a growing threat from the rising ocean.
At depths around 120metres, the scientists expect to locate the old beach line from 20,000 years ago when sea levels rose following ice melt from the Last Glacial Maximum. Part of their mission is to investigate how ocean life has adapted to rising sea levels.
“The submersible’s transparent pressure sphere will give the perfect platform for observation, the basis of scientific enquiry” explained Farah Amjad, who’s research is focused on reef rehabilitation and deep sea biodiversity. “Combined with nearly a dozen cameras for video surveys and advanced technologies for sampling, we’re going to be able to explore and discover immense new parts of the country for the first time” stated Amjad.
“One of the highlights will be mapping and documenting life on the first seamount in the Northern Indian Ocean, descending down the underwater mountain’s flanks to 1000 metres”, explained Professor Lucy Woodall, Nekton Principal Scientist, Department of Biology, University of Oxford who is leading Nekton’s international scientific team. “We expect to find some strong current whipping around the subsea mountain, which will likely make submersible dives quite challenging” added Professor Woodall.
Of the 100,000 seamounts above 1000 meters across the global ocean, only 300 have ever been biologically sampled. Maldives’ 34 seamounts are often mentioned in Maldivian folklore, and provide critical breeding grounds for local fisheries such as tuna. The Mission is deploying two of the most advanced human-occupied submersibles, alongside robotic and autonomous systems, and over a dozen research technologies supported by 40 partners - 16 Maldivian and 24 international.
Notes for Editors
Nekton Maldives Mission 2022 Newsroom – on The Associated Press:
https://apmultimedianewsroom.com/nekton - video and photographic content, news releases will be available pre and during the expedition to ALL media through the mission newsroom.
Maldivian aquanauts and Nekton’s international team are available for interviews pre and during the Expedition, including live on Zoom / Teams from the Mission’s Mothership.
Lisa Hynes, Nekton Head of Communications
P: +44 7966 272256
Government of Maldives: Office of the President, Government of Maldives
Deputy Director of Communications, Ahmed Nafeel
P: +960 990 0788
P: +960 755 2293
4th September – 7th October 2022
Nekton is coordinating and managing the Maldives Mission. Nekton works to accelerate the scientific exploration and conservation of the ocean for people and the planet. Nekton is an independent, not-for-profit research institute and is a UK registered charity. www.nektonmission.org
The Nekton Maldives Mission
The Nekton Maldives Mission is the first systematic discovery and documentation of ocean life in Maldives from the surface to 1000metres. In partnership with the Government of Maldives, the Mission will help create extensive new marine protected areas and ensure the ocean continues to protect and provide for the Maldivian people.
The Maldivian aquanauts
Ten Maldivian marine scientists have been selected as the first Maldivian aquanauts to lead over 30 descents in high-tech submersibles to explore Maldives’ unknown deep ocean. The first descent of the mission will be led by an all women team.
The frontline of the rising ocean
At first, at depths around 120metres, they are locating the old beach line, from 20,000 years ago when sea levels rose following ice melt from the Last Glacial Maximum. Part of their mission is to investigate how ocean life has adapted to rising sea levels.
Deep reefs: the refuge of hope
Deeper, beneath the dividing line at 120 metres, they expect to discover the Rariphotic Zone, and deep corals and reefs that act as a refuge to animals from shallower waters including unknown species of reef building corals. Globally, deep reefs have the same geographic range as shallow reefs but are largely unknown and unprotected.
Maldives: The Coral Country
What remains of the Maldives land is a series of over 1000 islands, coral structures built on the summits of a ridge of ancient sunken volcanoes. Coral reefs are one of the earliest and most significant ecological casualties of global warming. The reefs that surround the atolls are essential to life in the Maldives and help reduce the impacts from sea level rise and the increasing frequency and intensity of storms caused by climate destabilisation. The aquanauts aim to determine the location, health and resilience of deeper coral reefs - establishing baselines to support conservation.
Health Check & Protection: Ocean life to support human life
With the two main pillars of the Maldivian economy being tourism and fishing, a healthy, prosperous and sustainable ocean is essential for the lives and livelihoods of all Maldivians. The first discoveries of ocean life from the surface to 1000 metres will establish a baseline health check to inform Government policies to protect an area of ocean equivalent in size to half of Germany. Coming, as it will, in the weeks before both the United Nations General Assembly and the next COP climate summit in Egypt these findings will be much awaited by presidents, prime ministers and environmentalists around the globe.
Maldives: 'The Shark Spa’
With at least 40 shark and 18 ray species at the apex of the food chain in the Maldives ocean, the team is investigating their relative abundance at depth, as a critical indicator to determine ocean health.
Subsea Mountains: Folklore & Fisheries
One of the highlights of the mission will see Maldivian aquanauts descend down the mountain’s flanks down to 1000metres, mapping and exploring the first seamount in the Northern Indian Ocean. Of the 100,000 seamounts above 1000 metres across the global ocean, only 300 have been biologically sampled. Maldives has 34 seamounts, that live in the heart of Maldivian folklore, and are critical tuna fisheries providing national food security.
Building Equity: A true partnership of nations
The Maldivian aquanauts will be joined by an international team of scientists from the UK, Seychelles, India, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Europe to undertake the scientific mission.
Turning the tide on “Parachute Science”
The mission goals have been carefully co-defined by the Government of Maldives and Nekton’s international scientific team to ensure Maldivian national priorities are paramount. The expedition is co-led and co-delivered by Maldivian aquanauts. They will provide analysis and author publications. New species discovered will be named by Maldivian and all data gathered will be owned by the Maldives government.
Deep sea technology: pushing boundaries
The mission is deploying two of the most advanced human occupied submersibles, alongside robotic and autonomous systems and more than a dozen research technologies making it the one of the most technically varied and advanced mission ever undertaken at various depths in the Indian Ocean.
Nekton are coordinating and managing the Maldives Mission. Nekton works to accelerate the scientific exploration and conservation of the ocean for people and the planet. Nekton is an independent, not-for-profit research institute and is a UK registered charity.
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