Virginie working on the coral reef

Virginie Dartigues

PGCE, 2007

After completing her PGCE, Virginie taught languages for 15 years, but then made a huge career turn. She left the UK and emigrated to Indonesia, volunteering time with Hoga Island Marine Station on a reef conservation and coral rehabilitation project.

Hoga Island is a very remote island situated in South Sulawesi at the heart of the Coral Triangle, one of the most beautiful reefs in the world hosting more than 500 coral species. Virginie’s partner is doing a PhD on Coral Resilience with the University of Makassar and the Reef Restoration project is running in parallel to his research. Some parts of the reef have suffered dynamite fishing and illnesses in the past and, because of climate change and the rise in the sea temperature, does always not manage to regrow naturally. Active restoration is now needed.

Using MARRS Reef Stars to re-build the reef structure, Virginie and the team have been growing coral on a nursery for around two years: it is a bank of healthy coral that can be transferred to the Reef Stars without having to take it from the healthy parts of the reef. “It should take about three years for the Reef Stars to become covered by healthy coral and completely disappear under the newly grown reef”, says Virginie. “We started to put the Reef Stars down this summer, and we are aiming at reconstructing a total of fifteen specific sections of reef (around 300 Reef Stars or 150 square meters of reef).”

Volunteers and funds are needed to continue the reconstruction. The Station has created Research Assistant programme for those who are interested in learning about marine conservation and who want a hands-on experience, whether they have studied Marine Biology at university or not.

Find out more about this programme and the exclusive discount available to any Christ Church alumnus who would be interested in participating in the restoration project.