Ichthyologist, Dr. Gerry Allen, and Vice President of CI’s Asia Pacific Marine Programme, Dr. Mark Erdmann, were at the helm of the mission, with the aim of conducting research on the manta population and their migration patterns, while also surveying coral reef fish biodiversity.
The trip made scientific headway with the discovery of a new manta ray cleaning station in Dayang and confirmation of another suspected cleaning station in Ayau , identifying at least 25 new manta individuals and two species of goby – the Grallenia goby and the Silhouettea goby, the names of which are yet to be decided.
“Until recently, we’ve used boats to survey for mantas feeding in new areas, but due to the nature of the species, this approach is frequently challenging and time-consuming,” Dr. Erdmann explained. “As mantas are black on top and white underneath, they can be quite difficult to spot cruising beneath the surface, particularly when the sky is overcast. From a vantage point 50 to 100 metres above the sea surface, a drone can see much further than the human eye and avoids the glare on the sea surface we frequently have to deal with when scanning from boats.”
Upon detection of the mantas, the team followed them by speedboat and continued to monitor their movement in real-time via drone. The drones also allowed for monitoring of manta ray feeding and cleanin