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:

Photo: Heather Koldewey/Chagos Conservation Trust

Photo: Heather Koldewey/Chagos Conservation Trust

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.

Photo: Anne & Charles Sheppard/ Chagos Conservation Trust

Photo: Anne & Charles Sheppard/ Chagos Conservation Trust

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.