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Sasha Koning on her thesis research about corallivorous invertebrates: Crown-of-Thorns Starfish

Working with REEFolution Kenya has been an absolute dream coming true. During my master Marine Biology I became more and more interested in coral reef restoration and really wanted to become an experienced diver. When I learned about REEFolution, I was immediately enthusiastic as this would be a perfect opportunity for me to delve into the world of coral reef restoration as well as fulfil my master thesis.


Since REEFolution is working hard to restore coral reefs by implementing artificial reefs, it is important to protect these newly placed coral fragments from hungry predators. For my thesis I researched how to reduce predation from the coral-eating Crown-of-Thorns starfish. The Crown-of-Thorns starfish’ most favorite meal is the coral species, Acropora. But it dislikes another, Porites. These two coral species are two of the many corals REEFolution aims to restore in the Wasini Channel, where the project is located. For my research, I collected 45 Crown-of Thorns starfish and many coral fragments of Acropora and Porites and carried out an experiment in the Wasini Channel to see if Porites could act as a barrier to prevent the Crown-of-Thorns starfish from eating Acropora. For weeks, together with my dive buddy, we would dive twice a day to place coral fragments and/or monitor the starfishes. It was a great opportunity to work with these starfishes, learn more about the marine ecosystem and improve my dive skills.

Next to my own research, I regularly helped the REEFolution team in their normal activities such as building and cleaning nursery structures, harvesting and out-planting coral fragments and occasionally helped other students with their projects. The REEFolution team and everyone who is involved were really kind and helpful during my time here.

Since REEFolution is working hard to restore coral reefs by implementing artificial reefs, it is important to protect these newly placed coral fragments from hungry predators. For my thesis I researched how to reduce predation from the coral-eating Crown-of-Thorns starfish. The Crown-of-Thorns starfish’ most favorite meal is the coral species,


On the weekends there was enough time to explore other close-by villages, go to Wasini Island, get to know the Kenyan people and culture and even check out the amazing wildlife on a safari! It’s been a great experience to live in such a beautiful place, make new friends and learn more about the great work REEFolution does.




Thank you for sharing your story, Sasha!

@REEFolution2020

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Supported by Wageningen University and Kenyatta University

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