We wrapped up our work in the Maldives with a heavy heart, but also with scientific data from 48 transects, 50 hours underwater, 212,000 photos and 1.5 terabytes of data. Our three-week expedition was the first of its kind, as we utilized a new 3D coral imaging methodology and made our first official expedition as a non-profit organization.
The team bid farewell to our new family: "Grandpa" the boat owner, his son Ambade and friend Patchi. Our time with them reinforced our respect for those who depend on the ocean for their livelihood.
After wrapping up our scientific work, we began the multi-day journey back to Male, the capital of the Maldives. With a population of about 100,000 people and size of 2.2 square miles, Male is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. After our arrival (following a harrowing journey by sea-plane, ferry and taxi) we met with President Nasheed, the former president of the island nation. Despite not being in power, he remains very involved with the country's social and ecological concerns, including working with international environmental organizations including Mission Blue, IUCN, UN, and other activists. President Nasheed and his team of inspiring young professionals focus their attention on the future, and how they can save their country from the rising waters of climate change.
Two days after meeting with President Nasheed and his team, I presented the research and findings of three-week expedition on the heels of the Asia-Pacific Business Forum (APBF), a conference discussing sustainable business and growth among stakeholders. At the APBF, President Nasheed gave the keynote address and spoke at length of the importance of sustainability in tourism and the important role the ocean plays in the economy of the Maldives and other Pacific island nations. I presented the findings of our project to a packed room; conference attendees included the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), scientists and local non-profit organizations and businesses. The conference was covered by all four Maldivian news channels.
Our first expedition as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization was a success; we collaborated with local scientists, decision-makers and the public, began a 3D model catalog of coral species and collected scientific data for future research. Our work in the Maldives will be featured in Wired UK this January, and in Wired US in March. We hope that the increased publicity will bring worldwide attention to the plight of island nations and their precious coral reefs.
Many thanks to our collaborators at the Korallian Lab and Dr. Michael Sweet, who assisted our research. We're looking forward to a 2015 full of awareness, change and new policies to protect our ocean resources. Stay tuned for more. We will be producing a documentary of our epic journey soon!