Follow us on:

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn YouTube


Chat with some of the scientists involved in the last OceanX mission |19 February 2024

Chat with some of the scientists involved in the last OceanX mission

Ellie Moulinie

‘Unforgettable and unique experience,’ say young Seychellois


Recently, 19 young Seychellois scientists took part in a groundbreaking mission led by OceanX, with the aim of fostering a comprehensive understanding of the Seychelles ocean ecosystem.

This mission was to assess ocean conditions, empower local scientists with knowledge crucial for marine conservation and future climate decisions, and establish new networking opportunities.

For these young Seychellois, this mission represented a rare chance to engage in such a significant scientific exploration.

Seychelles NATION had the privilege to chat with several participants, getting to know their motivation for joining this unique mission, the duration of their involvement, their roles aboard the vessel, and their overall experience.

We explored what it meant to them, as young Seychellois, to be part of such an adventure. In the first part of the series published last week we spoke to five scientists and today we bring you the second and last part of the interviews.

The expedition consisted of two legs – 11 days around Aldabra for the first leg and 13 days for the second leg in the Amirantes.

This OceanX mission was made possible through collaboration with various partners, including Seychelles’ Ministry of Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment, Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), Island Conservation Society (ICS), University of Seychelles, Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), Islands Development Company, Save Our Seas Foundation – D’Arros Research Centre, Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT), and Talma Consultancy.

Six of the young Seychellois scientists, environmentalists share their experience.


Ellie Moulinie – Research officer with the Save Our Seas Foundation D’Arros Research Centre (SOSF-DRC)


“I joined the OceanX Expedition through the Save Our Seas Foundation for the first leg of the mission around Aldabra atoll. The D’Arros Research Centre’s mission was to conduct pelagic stereo Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems (BRUVS) and undertake opportunistic manta surveys alongside all the other research intended to be done across the different priority areas of the Seychelles islands. On board, my duty was to co-lead the fieldwork with the SOSF-DRC’s programme director including logistics surrounding our research such as preparing bait daily, preparing and maintaining equipment, the safe deployment and retrieval of pelagic BRUVS in the field, leading the fieldwork and data management. During the first leg of the expedition, I was not restricted to only BRUVS work. I assisted other Seychellois researchers with their research as well, namely water filtering and analysis, deep sea surveys, data entry and more.

“For me this experience was invaluable. This is the first time I have been exposed to such an opportunity of working on probably the most advanced research vessel in the world but it was also a great opportunity to work with an amazing group of young, capable Seychellois scientists learning in different domains of research.

“As a young Seychellois, it really means a lot to have been given this opportunity not only by the Save Our Seas Foundation but from OceanX themselves. A lot of research is done in Seychelles, but it is rare for it to be led by Seychellois researchers and to me that marks a milestone for Seychelles. I learned a lot about the deep sea and that there is so much more to discover this last frontier than we think. I also learned different data collection methods, worked with new equipment, enjoyed the collaborative atmosphere among the Seychelles’ science team and learned how we can tie different science together to improve marine research in Seychelles.

“I work on D’Arros island situated in the Amirantes group and the best moment I had on board was getting the chance to discover St Joseph atoll 120m below the surface. It has always been my dream to discover the Amirantes but at no point in my life did I ever think I would do it from within a submersible. It is not like snorkeling or diving, it is so much more, and it is probably the best experience I have ever had, I feel so lucky. A few smaller but still great moments I had was teaching my fellow Seychellois scientists the ins and outs of conducting pelagic BRUVS and also learning the science behind extracting and sequencing environmental DNA (e-DNA).”


Ella Nancy30 years old, field research officer at Seychelles Islands Foundation. She recently completed her BSc in Environmental Science at the University of Seychelles


“During my time at UniSey, I had the opportunity to take part in two expeditions for marine mammal surveys in the northern Seychelles’ waters. These expeditions provided me with valuable learning experiences from marine mammal experts and allowed me to contribute to data collection. It was during these expeditions that the blue whale was rediscovered in our waters. This sparked my interest in marine mammal research, leading me to use some of the collected data for my dissertation.

“I joined the OceanX expedition upon the recommendation of my project supervisor, Nuette Gordon who is the head of the environmental science department at UniSey. My role was to lead the marine mammal survey on this trip, aiming to enhance our understanding of the diversity and distribution of marine mammal species at other islands in Seychelles. This research is crucial for their protection and ecological understanding, as marine mammal research in Seychelles is limited. Additionally, this opportunity allowed me to share my knowledge about marine mammals with other Seychellois on board and further expand my own understanding.

“I participated in both legs of the OceanX expedition, not only leading the marine mammal survey but also assisting and learning about other research projects taking place on board. Overall, it was an incredible experience, and I felt privileged to be part of such an amazing team. We supported and collaborated with each other effectively, and it was inspiring to witness other young Seychellois engaging in research and developing their skills. This experience will help me in initiating new marine mammal monitoring programmes on the Aldabra atoll, which will aid the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF) in understanding the diversity of marine mammal species inhabiting Aldabra waters.

“Among the many memorable moments, my best unique experience on this trip was when I had the opportunity to go in a submarine near Poivre island. It was my first time exploring the deep-sea world, and I found it truly fascinating.”


Shemilla Jeremie – Assistant conservation officer at the environment department with three years working experience

“All my life I have always been passionate about environment and wanted to help conserve our natural world as well as learn more. So I am grateful that I was presented with another opportunity to take part on this expedition. As a young scientist representing Seychelles on the Ocean exploration research vessel, I have been able to meet other like-minded colleagues from different marine background, share knowledge and network. On the vessel I participated in pelagic BRUV research, ROV and Data entry and mega fauna observation.

“It was a good experience for me to work with a diverse group of experts. I engaged in and learned from all projects on board. The trip was a wonderful opportunity for me. It has been beneficial both professionally and personally and for Seychelles as well.


Damien Labiche – 27 years old, assistant conservation officer in the biodiversity conservation section of the environment department, with over five years’ experience

“Born and raised in Seychelles, I can describe myself as a highly motivated and enthusiastic environmentalist. I have been interested in studying marine life since a very young age. After completing my post-secondary studies, I started my first job as a scientific observer at the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) and later on decided to continue my career at the department of environment.”

“On January 13, I embarked on the Ocean Explorer and got a once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of the deep sea expedition along with 10 scientists from different organizations in the Seychelles to explore our deep sea, to better understand our surrounding biodiversity, living organism and the ocean topography.

“The Ocean X expedition was my second expedition. My first was in 2018 on Ocean Zephyr organised by Nekton. Since then, my intense interest for deep ocean and marine conservation has peaked and I was much honored to be representing my department. During the expedition I managed to increase my knowledge in scientific data collection and learned about EDNA extraction, also worked a lot with the UniSey and d’Arros Research Centre (Save our seas) conducting pelagic and shallow water stereo BRUVS. The expedition has greatly enriched my knowledge and built my capacity in performing my duties. I hope to be able to pass on this knowledge to my colleagues upon completion.”


Farah Nasser – 24 years old, conservation ranger at the biodiversity conservation section, MACCE

“Joining the OceanX expedition for a total of three weeks marked my very first experience in such endeavours. Onboard, my primary responsibilities centered on database management and producing the cruise narrative. Additionally, I contributed to fieldwork activities, including assisting with stereo shallow BRUVs and Pelagic BRUVs, as well as assisting with lab work such as sampling water for chlorophyll, nutrients, and E-DNA sequencing.

“During my leisure time aboard the vessel, I helped other organisations with data capturing tasks. This expedition granted me the opportunity to visit various outer islands for the first time, such as Aldabra, Assomption island, D’Arros, St. Joseph, Poivre, and Alphonse. It was captivating to observe the methodologies employed by different NGOs and organisations, witnessing diverse approaches to leading and collecting data for projects, as well as interpreting data – skills that will be immensely beneficial upon my return on Mahe.

“One project that particularly resonated with me is the exploration of the deep sea and the extraordinary species that inhabit the abyssal depths of our waters. I had the privilege of learning about remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to descend in a submarine to depths of 350m. As a young Seychellois dedicated to conservation, this experience has provided invaluable perspective, emphasising the importance of protecting our oceans amidst the ongoing challenges posed by climate change. This learning journey has not only fueled my passion to continue working in this field but has also inspired me to develop solutions for future generations, ensuring they inherit a world worth fighting for.”


Sheena Talma – 33 years old, owner of Talma Consultancy

“My work covers research, policy, and environmental education. Over the last five years, I have acquired experience in conducting deep-sea and marine research with international organisations. I have worked with Nekton, the Monaco expedition, the University of Galway, and others, both in the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. I joined the mission to share my expertise, leveraging my previous experience in the Indian Ocean and my involvement in deep-sea research.

“I participated in the expedition from January 13 to February 11. However, expeditions entail extensive pre-planning and post-work. In reality, the teams have been planning this for about nine months, and the real work begins now – in the labs and by analysing all the information we have collected to decipher patterns and understand the significance of what we observed during this short period at sea.

“I was the principal investigator for the deep-sea component and the Seychelles team coordinator onboard. I worked closely with the lead organisation, MACCE (Biodiversity and Conservation Management department), their partners, and Mattie Rodrigues, director of science onboard, as well as all other departments to ensure science objectives were met for all the pre-programmed science activities.

“Expeditions serve as valuable learning experiences, offering insights not only into the ocean but also into team dynamics and the delicate balance required to achieve scientific objectives while fostering collaboration among onboard partners. Our days were long, typically spanning 12-14 hours, as data collection in the field demanded meticulous curation, downloading, and safeguarding of data for future research endeavors. This process is crucial for ensuring the integrity and accessibility of the data for further analysis and study.”

“As a young seychellois what does it mean for you to be associated with such an adventure?  It was truly an incredible experience to dive to 1,002 meters – a remarkable achievement. Planning and leading deep-sea research based on the priorities and needs of the country was equally fulfilling. While undoubtedly one of the best adventures, it is important to recognise that expeditions entail rigorous work, demanding discipline, and meticulous data collection practices. Moreover, given the limited time we had with the vessel in our waters, maximising the data we collected was paramount.

“Every experience at sea is unique, filled with distinct challenges and lessons.  I learned a great deal about our waters – witnessing depths where no one has been before is a humbling experience. Understanding that the more we learn about our ocean and our planet the more we realise how much we still have to learn! The highlights definitely go to all the species that live in the deep under crushing pressure and very cold temperatures. On a personal level, I gained valuable insights into my own leadership style.

“Next for me is ensuring that the interest and momentum gained from each deep-sea expedition are maintained. Additionally, it would be great to showcase everything we have learned from this expedition over the next few years, not just to our scientific peers but also to the public.

“The best moment on the expedition for me was witnessing my colleagues thrive and seeing Seychellois and Seychelles-based scientists take the lead in their respective portfolios. It was special to observe how some of the co-leads swiftly assumed ownership of their portfolios and, by the end of the expedition, were able to lead autonomously. It is a clear reminder that we should ensure that we value our researchers and entrust them with opportunities. I was proud to be part of the Seychelles team, all the researchers onboard were enthusiastic, hardworking, and curious. Another special moment for me as a deep-sea biologist was seeing the Amirantes trench using the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV /Robot) at more than 4600 meters, for the first time. That was a real dream come true moment! The best part was that it was a shared achievement with all the Seychellois partners onboard.”



Compiled by Vidya Gappy


Photos: OceanX and contributed by participants


More news