Indian Ocean Marine Science

Chagos coral reef 2022

To Help Save the Ocean

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Marine science for the Indian Ocean and its people 

Chagos coral reef

Summary - Marine Science Programme:

Since 2018 ZSL has worked with the Bertarelli Foundation to deliver the Marine Science programme. The programme is advancing our understanding of large marine protected areas (MPAs) so they can be better managed. Our focus is on the Indian Ocean, with highly collaborative and interdisciplinary projects led by some of the world’s leading marine scientists pushing the boundaries of their fields.

We are working with universities and NGOs across the Indian Ocean region (SDG target 14.5), and research partners in Europe, North America and Australia, to increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology (SDG target 14.A). We are funding and proactively recruiting early career scientists and students from within the Indian Ocean region. We will explore the effectiveness of a variety of approaches to improve communication of marine science to different audiences, increasing regional opportunities and access to marine science. 

The programme is an official action of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, seeking to address the following UN Decade challenges:

Challenge 2 UN Ocean Decade     CHALLENGE 2: Protect and restore ecosystems and biodiversity

UN Ocean Decade Challenge 09     CHALLENGE 9: Skills, knowledge and technology for all

UN Ocean Decade Challenge 10     CHALLENGE 10: Change humanity’s relationship with the ocean

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Operations & Development

The team at ZSL manages the marine science programme as whole coordinating 100 scientists across 24 institutions and seven countries globally. As well as coordination, communications and operational support for the projects provided by a team of three in C&P we also have researchers working across multiple projects based in both C&P and IOZ.


  • Impact 1 – Our research has generated 121 peer-reviewed paper from 2017-2021. We provide open access data to inform improved management outcomes across the region.

  • Impact 2 – Our focus on capacity building has trained 23 postgraduate students since 2017, with a current focus on students from the Indian Ocean region.
  • Impact 3 – Our research has demonstrated the link between rat free islands with intact native vegetation, healthy seabird populations and resillience that confers on adjacent coral reefs through nutrient flow.

Chagos coral reef Seabird

Programme's Constituent Projects with ZSL Participants

  • Indian Ocean Seabirds
  • Chagos Archipelago Seabirds
  • The Human Dimensions of Illegal Fishing
  • Is the Indian Ocean Region One of the Last Tropical Refuges for Cetaceans?
  • Mitigating the Impacts of Plastic on Sea Turtle Reproduction in the Chagos Archipelago
  • Indian Ocean Sea Turtles
  • Building Genomic Seascapes to Enable Genetic Surveillance of Illegally Fished Sharks
  • Nutrient Pathways Between Seabirds, Islands and Reefs

Full programme project listings available on here at Marine.Science


Project information

ZSL People Involved

Alice Chamberlain

Dr. Claire Collins

Fiona Llewelyn

Hannah Wood (PhD student)

Jessica Savage (PhD student)

Dr. Malcolm Nicoll

Dr. Robin Freeman

Dr. Tom Letessier

Heather Koldewey - Programme Lead, Bertarelli Foundation's Marine Science Programme

Rachel Jones - Programme Manager, Bertarelli Foundation's Marine Science Programme

Emma Levy - Programme Coordinator, Bertarelli Foundation's Marine Science Programme

Sharmin Rouf - Programme Coordinator, Bertarelli Foundation's Marine Science Programme


Partners & Sponsors

The Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science is kindly supported by the Bertarelli Foundation.

Previous work in this region has been funded by: Darwin Plus and GWF

Our partners include:

Chagos Conservation Trust; Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science; Marine Management Organisation; University of Bangor; University of Western Australia; University College London;, University of Oxford; University of Exeter; University of Montpellier; Stanford University; Scottish Association of Marine Science; Natural History Museum; Deakin University; Manta Trust; University of Swansea; University of Lancaster; Australian Institute of Marine Science.