3 June 2019

Seychelles: Two Seychellois Women Awarded Fellowships to Oxford to Advance Study of Marine Science

Photo: Nekton Mission/Seychelles News Agency
Sheena Talma at work on the Nekton Deep Ocean Exploration in the Seychelles' waters in April.

Two Seychellois women have been awarded a fellowship to visit the University of Oxford in the UK this year that will allow them to carry out academic research and broaden their network.

Jennifer Appoo and Sheena Talma made the final list of 20 researchers from 12 African countries to participate in the Africa Oxford Initiative (AfOx) Visiting Fellowship Programme this summer. They were selected from nearly 250 applicants from 30 countries.

The Africa Oxford Initiative fosters the establishment of equitable and sustainable collaborations between African academics and the University of Oxford. Through the programme, scholars and researchers get access to the university's facilities and library to conduct researches.

Appoo, a science and projects coordinator at the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), said, "The fellowship will allow me to develop new skills and professional networks in Oxford."

Fellows will spend four to eight weeks at the University of Oxford as from July 2019.

In Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, the fellowship was offered as part of the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) Deep Blue Grant call for proposals. The Deep Blue Grant funded Seychellois researchers to participate in the Nekton deep-sea expedition and to conduct innovative deep-sea research in Seychelles.

Through the AfOx-Nekton Marine Science Fellowship, Appoo and Talma will get training in software and analytical skills with the Nekton Oxford team. Growing their professional networks in Oxford and Africa will also be bonuses for the two Seychellois participating in the programme.

"I love marine science but my experience so far has been only of shallow coastal ecosystems and functioning. By working with the Nekton team I will have an increased understanding of deep-sea ecosystems," said Appoo.

Through her project, Appoo aims to build knowledge of the abundance, diversity and depth range of marine predators around the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Aldabra, and assess the effectiveness of the current zoning strategy.

"The results will provide valuable lessons for sustainable fisheries management for Aldabra and could be used as a model example that can be replicated in other locations in the country," said Appoo.

Talma from the Ministry of Energy, Environment and Climate Change, will investigate the abundance and distribution of fish larvae and eggs within the Seychelles' waters through her project. She feels it will provide valuable insights on spawning areas for the national Marine Spatial Plan and for fisheries management.

The programme coordinator of Africa Oxford Initiative, Anne Makena, said in a press communique that "AfOx is delighted to welcome Jennifer and Sheena to Oxford as part of the 2019 visiting fellows programme. We have a strong commitment to supporting a sustainable future for the continent and are excited to partner with like-minded organisations like SeyCCAT and Nekton."

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