As well as being a collection of scientists from around the world, we also have a young trainee member of our team. Pascaline Cotte is 19 years old and is of Chagossian descent, her grandfather being born on Ile du Coin, Peros Banhos atoll. Pascaline was a Chagos Conservation Trust scholar on a recent Coral Cay Conservation programme in Tobago, where she learnt to dive and learnt the basics of conservation monitoring and took part in a monitoring programme out there.

Pascaline tells of her thoughts on the Chagos MPA and being a member of this expedition:

The MPA, it’s not just good for Chagos but for everyone else too. It’s good to have an example of how other places should be – to know if your place is good or bad. I’m for the MPA, it means no fishing in Chagos, keeping the place good. Places like Chagos are rare.

I feel privileged to be here. Being a member of this expedition is overwhelming because having the chance to work along such experienced scientists at an early stage of my career is a great opportunity for me. Each day I learn a whole new thing. There’s a lot more going on than I expected and it’s been going on longer than I knew.

Also being on Chagos is inspiring because it gives me the opportunity to see the islands of my ancestors, something not all Chagossians can do.

The Chagossian community have mixed views of me being here. Lots of people I didn’t know, knew that I was coming here and asked me about it. Many think it’s for a holiday. I don’t really follow any political views and I don’t speak for anyone. I personally think that there needs to be a raised awareness of the work being done here. I’m very happy to see some heads in the community supporting the MPA. Allen Vincatassin does and I would very much like to see much more people in the Chagossian community supporting it and not to see it as a barrier to this place but a gateway instead.

Being on Tobago with Coral Cay gave me an idea what I want to do and being here confirmed it. When I get back to England I will do my ‘A’ level Biology and then I hope to go to Uni to do Marine Biology and in the future I might do research out here.

Previously in this series:

Conserving Chagos: Science Expedition to World’s Largest “Ocean Park”

Conserving Chagos: Starting Out

Conserving Chagos: Manta Rays

Conserving Chagos: Last Day around Diego Garcia

Conserving Chagos: Salomons Atoll

Conserving Chagos: Stormy weather

Conserving Chagos: Nelsons Island

Conserving Chagos: Peros Banhos atoll

Conserving Chagos: Thoughts from the Diving Officer

Conserving Chagos: Last Day at Peros Banhos atoll

Conserving Chagos: On our way to Three Brothers

Conserving Chagos: More on the Three Brothers

Conserving Chagos: More rough seas and Crowns of Thorns

About the Authors: Pascaline Cotte, Dive Support Assistant

Pascaline is 19 years old and of Chagossian descent. She’s an outgoing person with a passion for nature and its beauty. Two years ago she had the chance to learn about marine conservation in Tobago through a Coral Cay Conservation scholarship. Her wish is to help keep the Chagos Islands as much of a paradise as it has always been. While on the expedition, Pascaline will carry out a 'Reef Check' of several Chagos sites, part of a global monitoring system.