Chagos Archipelago

Chagos coral reef 2022

Indian Ocean Marine Science

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: Protect and restore ecosystems and biodiversity
  • CHALLENGE 9: Skills, knowledge and technology for all
  • 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 – starting our fifth year of intensive scientific study of the Indian Oceans largest MPA in the Chagos Archipelago. We provide open access data to inform improved management outcomes here and across the region.
  • Impact 2 – making the link between rat free islands with intact native woodland, healthy seabird populations and the resilience that confers on adjacent coral reefs through nutrient flow.
  • Impact 3 (3 BSc students, and 5 MSc/MRes students in BPMS Phase I, 2021)

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

Dr. Malcolm Nicoll

Dr. Robin Freeman

Dr. Tom Letessier

Fiona Llewelyn

Hannah Wood 

Heather Koldewey - Head of Marine and Freshwater Conservation and Project Lead of the Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science

Rachel Jones - Project Manager of the Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science

Emma Levy - Project Administrator of the Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science

Sharmin Rouf - Project Coordinator of the Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science


Partners & Sponsors

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

Previous work in this region has been funded by: PEW Charitable Trusts; Darwin Initiative - Overseas Territories Challenge Fund; PEW Environment Group; Defra; Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Waterloo Foundation; Blue Marine Foundation;; University College London; Rufford Small Grants Foundation. 


Our partners include:

Chagos Conservation Trust; Marine Resources Assessment Group; 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.