The 2014 Marine Biodiversity Workshop on Magoodhoo Island, Maldives

shoreline with palm trees
Photo © Francesca Benzoni

This is a busy summer of fieldwork for the IZ crew: Gustav just returned from an expedition in the Philippines, Nat is off wrestling portunids in Palau and Guam, and I spent the past two weeks participating in a great workshop organized by Drs. Francesca Benzoni and Paolo Galli of the University of Milan, Bicocca.

Many invertebrate researchers from universities and museums in the Netherlands, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Italy, and the US gathered on Magoodhoo Island to document the biodiversity of the Maldives, as well as contribute lectures and practical courses to a wonderful group of Master’s students.

group of researchers posing for a photo
Photo © Luis Gutierrez

The students got a taste of our team’s field and curation techniques through collecting their own specimens from the local lagoon, replete with seagrass beds, a lovely fringing reef, and all the sand a sea cucumber could eat. Here are some of the students hard at work hunting for creatures in dead coral rubble and sorting the catch:

The students took to our processing techniques immediately, and documented, photographed, DNA subsampled, relaxed and preserved the specimens provided by the sorting teams like champions!

students processing specimens
After the biodiversity sampling lecture and practical, the students filed back into the classroom for a lecture on marine annelid biology, which are my favorite group of spineless creatures. They got a thorough indoctrination lesson on the wonderful world of worm biology.

In exchange for the wonderful opportunity to interact with these very bright and eager students, the visiting researchers also sampled the local reefs during daily excursions on the dhoni, a traditional wooden Maldivian boat outfitted these days with SCUBA tank racks, diesel engines and sound systems.

the dhoni in port
Photo: Francesca Benzoni
interior of boat crowded with researchers and SCUBA gear
Photos: Francesca Benzoni

These excursions provided us with new specimens of crustaceans, echinoderms, molluscs, and of course, annelids, for the Florida Museum Marine Invertebrate collection. I will resist the extreme temptation to show off some of the beautiful chaetopterid polychaete worms, in favor of this incredibly adorable leopard-print Indian Ocean endemic nudibranch, Chromodoris gleniei:

Chromodoris gleniei

Stay tuned for a post on the upcoming expedition to Kavieng, Papua New Guinea!

Worm wishes,