Reports from the Field

Marine research and whale shark conservation

Maria Petzsch


During a two week visit to the marine research centre in Tofo, Mozambique, I joined Katie Reeve-Arnold and her team in collecting and processing data on local marine megafauna. The research centre monitors: whale sharks, turtles, dolphins, rays (including small eyed sting rays), and humpback whales. To monitor the health of the local reefs, cleaning stations, and marine life, the research centre also records data on 60 species of reef fish.


Having only completed my Open Water PADI certification in January 2018, I found the scuba diving fairly challenging. This was particularly so as the currents and drifts were strong at times. However, through completing a refresher course on arrival and then diving almost every day, I improved my diving and felt increasingly confident under the water. By the end of the two weeks I was comfortably able to collect fish ID data, swim short distances with the megafauna (on snorkel), and identify and record their characteristics, behaviour, and general health state.


We attended lectures in the first week to learn about whale shark, manta ray, sting ray, and turtle conservation in the local area. This was eye opening in terms of understanding how these species survive and what threats they face. After attending the lectures I felt better able to monitor and record these megafauna’s behaviour on encounters.

I successfully completed the fish ID test with 100%, and carried out fish ID exercises while on scuba. This meant we could then add data collected to the marine research centre’s global wildlife databases at the end of each day.

In terms of dive skills, I also successfully completed my PADI deep dive certification (30m).


It was a pleasure to spend so much time under the water observing the local marine life, and to contribute to the valuable work of the marine research centre. As a result I have developed a much better understanding of marine research and marine life conservation, and a greater appreciation for the importance of promoting and supporting conservation work (on both a local and global scale).


These two weeks in Tofo have certainly made me feel better equipped to move into the environmental/conservation sector in my career. I am very grateful to have been a part of the project.


Marine Research & Whale Shark Conservation Project in Mozambique




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Maria Petzsch