My Time as a Marine Biologist at Coco Collection

This year, our Marine Biology team saw the addition of enthusiastic and passionate interns who joined Chiara to learn all about our fascinating marine life. In May, we introduced everyone to Jesse Carrizzo from USA, who is studying to become a marine biologist. After spending two months with us at Coco Bodu Hithi and Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, he is back at Old Dominion University to continue his studies. Today, we are looking back at his time with us and here is what Jesse had to say.

“People often ask me why I want to become a Marine Biologist and the answer is very simple. I love the ocean, discovering new things, conducting research about the marine life and to me, it is exciting! When I found out about an internship in Maldives, I applied as fast as I could. I thought to myself that studying in this paradise would be a dream come true and it certainly was.

Jesse working on the coral nursery at Coco Bodu Hithi

Jesse working on the coral nursery at Coco Bodu Hithi

At Coco Collection, being a Marine Biologist is not just about the science, but spreading awareness as well. During my time at the resorts I was able to inform guests and associates about the threats of hunting sea turtles by showing them a greater and more enjoyable act, snorkeling and swimming with the turtles! I had a great time with the team at Coco Bodu Hithi posing with Chloe, one of our friendly resident turtles. It was also a pleasure to see some guests actively participate in certain events to clean the island and lagoon. It is a great feeling to know that I have made a difference by educating people and changing the way they think of our world.

Coral nursery planting at Coco Bodu Hithi

Coral nursery planting at Coco Bodu Hithi

Because of climate change and the vulnerable situation of Maldives, the reefs of the resorts have been suffering and I had an eye-opening experience by planting coral nurseries in certain parts of the lagoon. The nurseries at Coco Bodu Hithi have grown exponentially since the beginning of the project 2 years ago and with proper maintenance which includes cleaning algae, removing dead corals and predators like Drupellas, we have created a small coral garden for everyone to enjoy on their snorkeling excursions. I truly hope to see a coral garden blooming with life when I return!

Jesse working on a coral frame at Coco Bodu Hithi

Jesse working on a coral frame at Coco Bodu Hithi

Sharks are one of the most misunderstood marine creatures in the world and I had a great time contributing to the Shark Watch project by monitoring their population with the help of the team at Dive Ocean. Using information gathered from such adventures, I was able to analyze the data, turning random numbers into meaningful messages. For instance, did you know that during a dive at Bodu Hithi Thila, you can encounter more than 8 sharks?

A Whitetip Reef Shark sleeping at Farutholi Thila

A Whitetip Reef Shark sleeping at Farutholi Thila

I arrived in Maldives with some knowledge of the Sea Turtle population of the country but never expected to encounter so many of these charismatic individuals. Almost every day, I encountered a Hawksbill sea turtle that allowed me to study their behavior and population. I have also been able to brush up my underwater photography skills and contribute to the Turtle Identification project alongside Chiara.

During my time at the resorts, I was also on hand to aid the rescue of two turtles at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, one Hawksbill trapped in plastic garbage and an Olive Ridley Turtle entangled in a ghost net. Simple first aid such as cleaning its shell and monitoring the behavior led to our turtle surviving to swim another day. I also got the honor to name the Olive Ridley after myself so the next time I visit Maldives, I hope to encounter turtle Jesse once again!

My time with Coco Collection also led me to learn more than I could imagine about Reef Manta rays. At Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, it is always Manta season. I was very fortunate to have been able to learn about their population and habitat by taking ID pictures and analyzing the data collected by Chiara and the Manta Trust team over the last 2 years. I was even lucky enough to spend a day talking to expert marine biologists from Manta Trust, Niv Froman and Annie Murray, about manta rays and mobula rays in Maldives.

When I arrived at Coco Bodu Hithi on the first day of my internship, I expected to snorkel everyday but never expected to spread so much awareness. Half of my job was to get people involved, create newsletters for associates and contribute to social media platforms for others to become aware of the marine life and environmental protection in Maldives. At the end of my stay, I had the chance to pass on my wisdom to the new interns, Emilia and Filippo, and even set up a Marine Biology Center at Coco Bodu Hithi!

Jesse and Filippo at the opening of the Marine Biology center at Coco Bodu Hithi

Jesse and Filippo at the opening of the Marine Biology center at Coco Bodu Hithi

To the entire team at Coco Collection, thank you for giving me this fantastic opportunity. I loved every second of it and hope to return soon!”

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