Project status
Indian Ocean
Project collaborators
Heather Koldewey on a riverboat looking in the distance with binoculars in hand

Professor Heather Koldewey

Lead, Bertarelli Foundation's Marine Science Programme

Robin Freeman headshot

Dr. Robin Freeman

Head of Indicators and Assessments Unit

Malcolm Nicoll

Dr Malcolm Nicoll

Senior Research Fellow

Tom Letessier

Tom Letessier

Research Fellow

David Curnick, ZSL Research Fellow

David Curnick

Research Fellow

Jessica Savage

Jessica Savage

PhD Researcher

Rachel Jones

Rachel Jones

Marine Science Programme Manager


Coretta Granberry

Marine Science Programme Administrator

Emma Levy

Emma Levy

Marine Science Programme Coordinator

The Indian Ocean is the least scientifically known and understood, the least protected, the fastest warming, and the most exploited Ocean.

  • 43
    remote ocean research expeditions completed since 2017
  • 73
    researchers (including 30 students) from 22 institutions from 11 countries involved in the programme
  • 149
    peer-reviewed papers have been generated between 2017-2022 from the research in the region
  • The Indian Ocean basin provides an important ocean observatory where scientists can investigate complex marine ecosystems across a gradient of human influence from heavily populated coastal cities to remote, no-take Marine Protected Areas.

    The Bertarelli Foundation supports our Marine Science programme, which is managed by ZSL. We work with universities and NGOs across the Indian Ocean region, and research partners in Europe, North America and Australia, to increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and develop and transfer marine technology. The programme funds and is proactively recruiting early-career scientists and students from within the Indian Ocean region.

    Fish swimming on coral reef in Chagos Archipelago
    © Bertarelli Foundation
    Locations of Marine Science Projects - Phase II

    What is the impact?

    Examples of the impact of our projects include: 

    • Our cutting-edge research has generated 149 peer-reviewed papers from 2017-2022. Our papers are open access and our open-access data help to inform improved management outcomes across the region.
    • Our focus on capacity building has trained 23 postgraduate students since 2017, with a current focus on students from the Indian Ocean region.
    • Our research has demonstrated the link between rat-free islands with intact native vegetation, healthy seabird populations and the resilience that confers on adjacent coral reefs through nutrient flow. This body of science has informed and motivated plans for re-wilding tropical islands, as a vital conservation action to restore biodiversity and build resilience for vulnerable ecosystems in a rapidly changing climate.

    Our 2022 Annual Impact Report is available to read here.

    Highlights of 2022 Infographic

    ZSL & the Bertarelli Foundation – The Marine Science Programme

    Since 2017, 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. The primary focus of this research is 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 exploring approaches that improve communication of marine science to different audiences, increasing regional opportunities and access to marine science. This currently includes the Webby Award winning podcast series ‘Ocean Matters’, webinars, policy events and a regional training course for environmental journalists from the Indian Ocean region. 

    The programme is an official action of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

    Logo for UN Decade of Ocean Science in white

    Find out more

    Operations & Development

    The team at ZSL manages the Marine Science programme, coordinating 73 scientists across 22 institutions and 11 countries globally. We provide communications and operational support for the projects through our team of four in Conservation and Policy. ZSL also has scientists working on research projects across the Marine Science programme. 


    Map of Indian Ocean Region showing partner logos for Marine Science Programme

    ZSL Project information

    ZSL People Involved

    • Prof. 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
    • Coretta Granberry - Programme Administrator, Bertarelli Foundation's Marine Science Programme
    • Lasuni Chathurima (MPhil student)
    • Dr. Claire Collins - Human Dimensions of Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing Project
    • Dr. David Curnick
    • Anthony Dancer
    • Rosie Dowell (PhD student)
    • Dr. Robin Freeman - Seabird Connectivity Project
    • Dr. Catherine Head
    • Damaris Landers (PhD student)
    • Dr. Tom Letessier - Cetacean Refuges Project
    • Dr. Malcolm Nicoll - Seabird Connectivity Project
    • Sharmin Rouf - Cetacean Refuges Project
    • Jessica Savage (PhD student)


    The Marine Science Programme is kindly supported by the Bertarelli Foundation. Additional funding has been provided by the Darwin Plus and Darwin Local funding from DEFRA and FCDO.