A team of women will be the first to conduct ocean study of Maldives


The first team of aquanauts or divers to conduct a major study of Maldives oceans to identify ways to mitigate the damage caused by climate change will include only women, researchers said. It will be the first time in the world that a female-only team will conduct a marine research.

The President's Office and the British Marine Research Foundation Nekton said in a joint press release that the first team to disembark in the Nekton Mission, to survey the deep oceans of Maldives Will include an international team of 10 scientists, from which two local women and a foreigner will be the first team to initiate the research.

The missions local team will be led by Maldives Marine Research Institute Director General Shafiya Naeem. She will be joined by Farah Amjad, a research assistant at Nekton Maldives. The two will be joined on the mission by the submersible's pilot, Kimly Do. The mission will start on the September 4 and will last for 35 days. The research mission will involve a team of scientists and experts from various countries to survey and sample the Maldives oceans from the surface to 1,000 meter depth.

Shafiya, who researches marine life, said the purpose of the submersible dives is to gather more information about marine life and in the light of that information, to identify what needs to be done to fully protect the Maldives environment and its ecosystem.

"At the top of the food chain there are 40 species of sharks and 18 species of rays in our oceans. With this mission, we will be able to identify for the first time the extent to which these creatures are breeding in the deep. This is critical information to understand the condition of the oceans.

According to the statement, The mission's scientists expect to find beach lines that existed before the "last glacial maximum" 20,000 years ago at a depth of 120 meters. In addition, they will study the changes to marine life how they adapt to sea level rise.

Farah, who researches reef rehabilitation and deep-sea biodiversity, said the external visibility and pressure sphere of a submersible (a vessel used for marine research) would make it much easier to observe marine life and a thorough observation is the most important basis of a scientific study.

“The latest sampling technology and a dozen cameras used in this mission will allow us to see many underwater places of Maldives that has never been seen before,” she said.

Lucy Woodall, principal scientist at Nekton and a biologist at the University of Oxford, who is on the research team said what makes the work most special is that the team will be able to dive to a depth of nearly 1,000 meters beneath the seamounts under the North Indian Ocean in order to map and document them.

"There is expected to be strong currents near these seamounts and it may be difficult to dive," she said.

According to the statement, from the world’s 100,000 seamounts above 1,000 meters, biological samples have been taken from only 300 so far. There are 34 such seamounts under the oceans of Maldives and they are important breeding places of tuna.

The dive team will be led by 10 Maldivian marine scientists and will use submersibles that can reach the deepest parts of the ocean. The research mission will comprise of a total of 40 participants, 16 Maldivians and 24 foreigners.