Saturday, December 6, 2014

Report from Usisya!

Well James, one of our interns, and I are back from our expedition to Usisya.  It was a blast.  The boat ride up along the coast was stunning, the diving beyond our expectations, and possibilities look to almost endless.  Check out this short video that James put together to get a little idea of what we saw and where we went.


The first location we explored were Mara Rocks, two kilometers off the southern point of Usisya Bay. As with the second site, we just stratch the surface of what this area has to offer.  Our rough calculations are that this rocky area, teeming with cichlids, must be nearly a square kilometer in extent ranging from 3 to over 30 meters in depth.  That is a lot of cichlid habit to explore and survey!


View Larger Map

The second location we explored was Mbowe Island, located roughly 7 kilometers north of Mara Rocks.  This island which is roughly 60 meters north to south and 250 meters east to west is something of a sunken skyscraper just a kilometer offshore.  We can't be sure how deep it extends into the lake yet but we do know that on our second dive we had to get just 5 meters from the its shore before out 30 meters anchor line could find any ground to grip on.  It is was an amazingly sheer wall exploding with cichlids all the way down to 35 meters, the deepest we could go at the time.  Once again the surveying possibilities are awesome.


View Larger Map
As we at the Maru try to extend our surveying sites we are in growing need of volunteer researchers and interns to help us with the monumental task of monitoring the lake's invaluable cichlid populations from Usisya in the north and in the future all the way down to Cape McClear in the south.  Learn more about what we do and check out the possibilities at http://www.themaru.org.
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Monday, November 17, 2014

Going to Usisya!

At the Maru we have really enjoyed expanding our underwater population and biodiversity surveys to Nkhata Bay and are hoping to expand even further north along the coast to Usisya Bay (see the map below.)  Most of the potential sites in this bay have only been dived by a handful of people ever and we are sure that there are many places just waiting to be discovered!  So one lucky intern and I are going to take a few days to drive up to Usisya from Kande in one of our boats and see what there is to see.  We'll be sure to take a lot pictures both above and below the water.  Stayed tune!



View Larger Map

Here's a view of the bay!



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Friday, November 7, 2014

The fish on our Nkhata Bay Survey! Thanks Ad!

So after a couple months of getting to know the site we have set up in Nkhata Bay for population and biodiversity surveying we did our first official survey yesterday.  James and Dani, our two interns, did the survey.  Good job guys!  See below all the fish that we are getting to know.  A big thanks to Ad Konings for helping us to identify all of them.  This survey is done at an average depth of 10 meters.  We will be setting up another survey in Nkhata Bay at 5 meters in a couple months time.  Stay tuned!



































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Monday, October 27, 2014

Earth Touch does Lake Malawi's cichlids

I've been meaning to shine a spot light on this series of short videos on Lake Malawi's cichids for awhile now.  Cheers to David Grazi, our former research assistant for finding them!  Check them out!











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Saturday, October 18, 2014

News from the Beach! aka. there is NO ebola in Malawi!

-So up in Mzuzu at Joy's Place we got our first rains of the new rainy season yesterday.  They were beautiful!  Its amazing how all the plants just suck up the water and burst out in technicolor greens.

- The rains didn't make it to the Beach but we did get a wonderful lightning display.  Last week James, and Dani, two of our interns went out fishing with some of the Malawian fishers we monitor.  This wasn't your ordinary fishing trip.  They paddled for over 10 kms, starting at 1:30am and getting back around 9am.  What an experience and good on them for toughing it out!  At the Maru we think it is so important not just to study our environment but to get involved in it and we really want to thank Chitaro, Martin, and Mike, for allowing James and Dani to tag along with them and learn about what they do night after night on the beautiful lake of stars!

- And finally we are sure that our readers outside of Malawi and Africa are concerned about Ebola. Here in Malawi we are not.  If you are reading this from Europe, you are likely closer to the epidemic than we are.  If you are reading this from North America, there are more cases of ebola there than in Malawi.  Africa is NOT a country.  We take the health and safety of all our customers at Aquanuts, Joy's Place, and of our research staff at the Maru very seriously and will not hesitate to take swift action if the need arises but this is a very, very, very remote possibility.

- Get yourself to Malawi, the Lake is waiting!
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Monday, September 29, 2014

Diving with Otters in Lake Malawi!

So over the years here on Lake Malawi at Kande Island I have had the privilege to dive with otters on several occasions.  They are a reclusive but also very curious bunch and just last week our intern James Muir was lucky enough to get a short video clip of one, and the big fellow even gave him a friendly wave!  Take a look for yourself!  If you needed another reason to come out to this beautiful lake (which you don't) you've just got one!

video




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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Even More Photos

We've put up even more photos on our gallery to the right.  Just click on it to see them in full size.  Here is a sample below!






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Friday, September 5, 2014

More Photos!

So in an attempt to keep with it and be hip we are adding more photos! Look just to the right and you will see a small slideshow, click on it and you can see a whole gallery in full size!  Don't worry, it will grow!
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Friday, August 15, 2014

I want to be a marine biologist!

Certainly not everyone.  But a whole bunch of people I’m sure, including myself, have wanted to be a marine biologist at some point in their life.  Whales, dolphins, “nemo” fish, are all just so cool and the idea of waking up on a boat every morning to study them, commune with them, has a level of indefinable appeal on a par with apple pie for Americans or a cup of tea for the Brits.  Here at Kande Beach we at the Maru have channeled that love for wet animals into a passion for understanding the beautiful biodiversity of Lake Malawi.  Unfortunately we have a feeling that we might be missing a lot of like-minded wet animal lovers because of a cruel bit of linguistic pedantry.  You see technically “marine” biology only concerns itself with beasties living in our oceans.  This definition tragically excludes the amazing technicolored cichlid fish of Lake Malawi who are unjustly relegated to the rather less famous domain of “aquatic” biology.  Unfortunately definitions matter.  Lake Malawi which looks like this,





And has fish like this…




Doesn’t get the attention it deserves because many fish lovers don’t know that they are excluding it from possible discovery every time they google “marine biology.”  The search results speak for themselves, google “marine biology” and you get over 21 million hits.  Google “aquatic biology” and you don’t even get 2 million!

So everyone reading this blog post please, please, give us a hand so that the amazing fish living in Lake Malawi get the attention they deserve!  You can’t care about what you don’t know and too many people don’t know about the amazing opportunities that aquatic biology offers to people interested in what they assume to be all “marine” biology!  Even better come out to Kande and see for yourselves what Lake Malawi has to offer!  Whether as a tourist, traveler, volunteer,or intern, everyone is welcome!

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Friday, August 8, 2014

News from the Beach! Nkhata Bay Edition!

Well we are into the home stretch of our "winter"season here at Kande.  The waves haven't been too rough this year and we been doing a lot of interesting research.  Anna from Austraila and Sarah from England have joined our team in the last month and are hard at work learning about the lake's amazing biodiversity.  We are happy to announce that we have also just opened up a new survey underwater population and biodiversity survey transect in Nkhata Bay.  This bay was the home of the first research center on the lake and to the first studies of its beautiful Cichlid fish.  We are walking in the footsteps of giants!  Take a look at some of the photos from our new site!







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Friday, July 4, 2014

Kande Island Clean Up!

So Gift, one of the interns at the Maru Research Center and I went out the other day for our first inaugural Kande Island Clean Up dive!  In the windy season here especially unfortunately fishermen tend to lose their nets under the water where they then become deadly and unsightly eyesores.  We will be going out regularly from now on to ensure that Kande Island remains free of lost nets.  Come on out and give us a hand!



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Friday, June 27, 2014

News from the Beach



-Well we are getting into winter season here on the lake so temperatures are dropping. I actually had to but a sweater on last night. It's was 20 degrees! That's roughly 70 degrees for my American friends. So really we are not hurting that much!

-The Maru and Aquanuts Divers are excited about our new research assistant and dive instructor Tim. A geologist with experience doing dive research in Central America we look forward to the skills he can bring to our research efforts here on the lake.

-At the Maru we are also busy analyzing the data from our underwater population and biodiversity surveys and with the help of a local Peace Corps volunteer, Nick, hope to get something published from it once we hit our three year anniversary of data collection at our two survey sites around Kande Island. Stay tuned as we will be publishing a blog version of the article here in the following weeks.
We'd also like to take the opportunity to make an early welcome to the two new interns who will be joining us in July, Sarah and Danielle. We look forward to welcoming them to Malawi and introducing them to the amazing biodiversity of lake.

-Finally Joy's Place we are happy to report that Joy's Place in Mzuzu has been moving from strength to strength. For all those who have supported us, we'd like to give a big THANK YOU and let those of you who haven't visited us know that you will shortly be able to book us through Airbnb and hostelworld.com or just as easy shoot us an email at joyinmzuzu@gmail.com.


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Monday, May 19, 2014

Science: the strong and weak forms

So I've just been skimming through the memoir of Ro Lowe-McConnell.  Will have more to say when finished with it but already it is proving very interesting.  Ro did a study of Lake Malawi's Tilipia just post WWII.  Tilipia at the time were thought to be the Lake's most important fishery and Ro, a fish biologist, was sent by the British colonial government to learn more about them.  One of the most interesting things about the book so far is the tension that exists, if one looks for it, between what one might call Ro's "strong" scientific statements and her "weak" ones. An example is illustrative.

In chapter 2 Ro states that "we now know that this Lake [Malawi] has more species of fish than any other lake..."  This is quite a strong statement of scientific fact i.e. "we know...."  Yet in her introductory remarks to the book Ro makes what I would call  "weaker" statements of scientific fact that are in large measure contradictory to her chapter 2 claim "to know".  In those remarks she talks about the "fragility of the scientific edifice" particularly in regards to Lake Malawi's taxonomy and how in its current form that taxonomy "may be transient" because it is based on "techniques of [a] time" now past and finally that at any rate "the concept of the species is fragile in such a rapidly evolving group as the cichlids [which constitute roughly 90% of the Lake's fish diversity]."

So which is it?  Does the Lake have more species than any other lake or given the "fragility" of the species concept for Lake Malawi, should we be more circumspect in how we describe the lake's diversity?

Now certainly we know which statement is the one most frequently heard today.  Repeating the assertion that "Lake Malawi is the most biologically diverse lake in the world" has been the sine qua non access key to vaults of funding for evolutionary biologists wanting to do research on the lake for at least the past 40 years.  It has also been critical to the development of Lake Malawi's cichlid fish into sought after international commodities in the aquarium trade in the West and as a tourist and conservation attraction in Malawi.

But what about that "weaker" statement?  Well if pressed I suspect Ro would have stuck to it more than the stronger one, but society and scientists themselves tend to be uncomfortable with modest statements particularly when interests, both monetary and professional, are at stake.

I'm sure there will be more to come.



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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

News from the Beach....and Korea!


-So as usual its been a little while since my last post.  Joy's Place in Mzuzu has been shot off like a fire cracker and we are having a lot of fun hosting guests both in the restaurant and hostel.  Thanks to everyone who has supported us in our first few months of operation it really has been a blast.

-Aquanuts Divers and the Maru Research Center are likewise busy.  We've had some great interns this year and I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome two upcoming interns.  Gift from Thailand will be arriving soon for three months and Danielle will be arriving in a few months time.  Both are university students keen to get their hands dirty doing some practical field research here at Kande and we look forward to hosting them and showing them the ropes.  We are also very excited about the possibility of publishing some of our research results with the help of a local Peace Corps volunteer.  Any efforts to spread the word on Lake Malawi's beautiful ecosystems are always welcome!.

-Also say hello to our newest Jack Russell Terrier, "Sweetie Pie" (or just "Pie" for short).  Below she is hanging out with her best friend and uncle Tank.



- And yes Joy and I are currently away from Malawi for a few weeks visiting family back in Joy's motherland of South Korea.  Its been 3 years since we've been back and we are looking forward to it!  Joy's is also going to be stuffing our bags to overflowing with Korean goodies for the restaurant.  Our baggage limit is not big, however, so stayed tuned for a rash of specials at Joy's when we get back none of which will last long!








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Friday, February 21, 2014

News from the Beach (and Mzuzu) Wonk edition

-So we opened up Joy's Place at the end of January, nearly a month now and its going great!  The local community both in Mzuzu and the Northern Region generally have really supported us and we are so thankful for that.  Check us out on facebook at www.facebook.com/joyinmzuzu.  The webpage is still in the works so stay tuned.  Joy's Korean cooking, and recently the introduction of beautiful deserts made by our lovely Austrian baker friend Barbara, have really been a hit.  Come on by!

-Our new intern at the Maru, Kelsey, has just finished her dive certification and is hard at work learning to identify the beautiful cichlids of Lake Malawi in preparation for contributing to our underwater Population and Biodiversity surveys.  Keep up the good work!

- And now for a bit of wonk.

So every couple months or so I dive back into the academic journals and read, fairly randomly, articles from my fields of study, namely Science and Technology Studies, Environmental History and History of Science.  Yesterday I fell upon this article by Dan Kleinman and Sainath Suryanarayanan in the journal of Science, Technology, and Human Values entitled "Dying Bees and the Social Production of Ignorance."  I had heard about CCD (colony collapse disorder) from general news outlets and was interested to get an academic perspective on the issue.  I'll admit that I haven't read up enough on the "ignorance" literature off of which the article riffs, (its next on my list) but at first glance I'm not impressed.  Its seems to be a pretty crude attempt to bring traditional leftist politics into STS analysis through the backdoor.  Not that there is anything wrong with such politics.  I'm a fan of it on many levels.  But one of the strengths of STS analysis, from my perspective of course, is how good it can be at avoiding capture by political ideologues.  The moment it becomes a political tool I think it looses credibility.  We've seen before during the "Science Wars" what can happen when STS scholarship and scholars get mired in emotionally and politically charged debates based on (mis)understandings of what STS claims and exposes.  What a waste of time all that was.  I hope STS isn't returning to those days.
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Friday, January 10, 2014

2014 at the Maru and Aquanuts Divers.......and the all new Joy's Place in Mzuzu!

Well its a new year and full of new opportunities. Down here on Kande Beach we have been continuing to explore beautiful Lake Malawi from above and below and to help us in this we have a new team member, Edward!

- Edward, hails from just down the beach and has experience both in the dive industry and as a swimming instructor. He is going to be helping us both at Aquanuts and the Maru to give a helping hand to David with the diving and bring greater continuity and a local touch to our research programs. We are really looking forward to what more we can do at the Maru with his help.


- Next we are very excited about a new venture we have been working hard on in the capital of Malawi's northern region, Mzuzu. Named after its owner and resident chef, Joy, Joy's Place will be Mzuzu's new comfy and funky backpackers with its own in-house restaurant serving up delicious Korean food. Whether you just want a bite to eat or a bed for the night you will always be welcome at Joy's Place! Come check us out in the Mapale district of Mzuzu just behind the Shoprite.

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