This is a little insight into the day to day outline of what a Cape RADD marine biology field course entails and what the students gain from spending time as a field biologist with the Cape RADD Team.

Student: Riley Sebby

Student Riley (far Right) triumphant after a successful harbor clean dive

Marine Biology Internship Daily Journal


Dr. Withers

Each work day is roughly 8-9 hours long on average

Day 1 – 11/29/21

  • Topics covered
    • Today we had a total of three PowerPoint presentations/lectures. The first was an introduction to the staff at Cape RADD, the goals of the experience, and the expectations. The second was over citizen science, including the benefits of using citizen science in research, the process to use data collected by “non-scientists” or those not classically trained in the discipline, the effectiveness of using citizen science data compared to data only collected by scientists, and various organizations that use this method such as Cape RADD, REEF, and inaturalist. Finally we reviewed some of the species we might encounter while diving here in False Bay as  well as on the western side of the cape peninsula. These species included elasmobranchs, teleosts, cnidarians, mussels, and nudibranchs.
  • Activities
    • Drove around the southern part of the cape peninsula from Simonstown down to the Cape point nature reserve, to Scarborough, then back across the peninsula to return.
  • Dives
    • None
  • What did I learned?
    • Who my instructors were (Mike and Dylan), what they did, and what their interests are, etc.
    • Some of the species we will encounter
    • The benefits of citizen science
      • Such as expanding data collection and while citizen science might not be as precise as trained scientists conducting the experiment, the accuracy of the results was relatively equal.
      • Programs that involve the use of citizen science
    • A basic geographic understanding of where exactly I am on the peninsula and the difference between the western side and the False Bay side of Cape Point. For example, the water in False Bay is regularly 5-10 C warmer than that found on the western side of the cape (regularly referred to as the Atlantic side, even though both are technically the Atlantic ocean).
An example Photo ID picture from our flagship Citizen Science project- FinSpotter


  • Topics covered
    • Today we covered the ecosystems, ecosystem dynamics, and climate associated with diving in South Africa. This included the difference in land and sea temperatures, South Africa has the 3rd highest levels of biodiversity in the world, the general patterns that productivity generally decreases as you go from west to east with a decrease in biomass but an increase in diversity. Also covered was the 5 distinct ecoregions, the reasons for diversity changes, the differences between the west and east coasts, the 4 main intertidal zones, and the key marine habitats. We then reviewed dive safety and signals, then conducted an acclimatation shore dive in the afternoon.
  • Activities
    • Lectures in the morning over South Africa ecosystems and Dive safety.
  • Dives
    • Acclimation shore dive at Windmill beach
  • What I learned
    • The 4 main key marine habitats that are encountered in South Africa, Rocky reefs and shore, sandy beaches and bottoms, kelp forests which are a keystone species in the region, and the open water. As well as the 4 main intertidal zones; the Littorina zone, the upper balanoid zone, the lower balanoid zone, and the infratial or subtidal zone. The levels of biodiversity in this region are associated with the difference in land and sea temperatures with warm air and cold waters and visa versa, the stability in the ecosystems and how the ecosystems vary from west to east. The west is largely kelp forests, granita beaches, and sandy beaches while the east coast has a large amount of reef systems. This leads to a increased species diversity in the east with a lower species diversity in the west, however the west coast species occur in larger numbers than in the east.
    • We also did a quick refresher in dive safety and signals.



  • Topics covered
    • Introduction to scientific diving with various survey methods such as the different types of quadrat and transects, random diver surveys, and the use of BRUVs. As well as the simple goals and purposes of conducting research.
  • Activities
    • Lecture in the morning over intro to scientific diving
    • Intro to scientific diving dive in the afternoon at Long Beach using a transect quadrat method.
  • What I learned
    • Reviewed the various types of survey methods as well as the purpose for each of the following: stratified sampling, random sampling, roving diver, quadrat deployment, transect deployment, and the use of BRUVs. Covered the use of scientific diving and the goals of data collection such as the dive objectives of observations, collection, and manipulation.
Students training in data collection techniques on SCUBA


  • Topics covered
    • Introduction to project: Influence of Grazer abundance on kelp density
  • Activities
    • Lecture introducing research project
    • Snorkel survey of kelp density in afternoon using quadrat
  • What I learned
    • The various species of kelp found in South Africa with the two most common being sea bamboo and sea fan. The use of monitoring the relationship between urchins and kelp is to due to a potential regime shift due that have already been seen in Australia, Tasmania, and Spain primarily due to ocean warming. The aim of the project is to quantify the extent of urchin patches and associated algal biomass in False Bay kelp forests and examine relationship between densities of urchins relative to attached kelp, understory algae and kelp recruits. How the use of satellite imagery such as LANDSAT and MESMA combined with computer imagery can be used to estimate surface kelp density.


  • Topics covered
    • Measuring Biomass
    • How to create scientific research question
  • Activities
    • Introduction/Review of simple biomass and ecology lecture covering importance of biomass, types of diversity, species richness and evenness, K vs R species, and the use of Shannon-Weiner, Simpson’s and Jaccard’s indices to describe communities.
    • Create a research question
    • Afternoon dive at A-frame to survey using quadrat transect method on the types of algal/kelp cover and urchin abundance.
    • Afternoon hike
  • What I learned
    • It was a good review of most of the basic and important biomass/ecology topics and theories.
    • The specifics of creating a research question from the possible use/creation of a referent, the sampling designs (grid, transect, random), how to choose a sampling design (based on question), considerations (time, area, quantity, consistency, and representation of area), the importance of replication, partitioning of diversity (spatial, temporal, and trophic), and the different species abundance models (geometric, logarithmic, log normal, and broken stick).
A sea Anemone amongst Cape urchins


  • Topics covered
  • Activities
    • Introduction into how to use the fin spotter program and confirm or deny the computer matches of individuals.
  • What I learned
    • How citizen science is used to compliment traditional scientific methods, by seeing the desire of the person “citizen” that was participating in the citizen science program.
    • The fin spotter computer program compares points on photos of individuals and assigns a score to the relatedness of the individuals and then a examiner can review the computer generated results (either a match or not a match) both based on the score assigned by the computer (with 2 or greater being likely the same individual) and by closer examination of the two images.


  • Topics covered
    • Introduction to freediving
  • Activities
    • Lecture on the basics of freediving such as safety, equipment, purposes, and disciplines.
    • Freediving workshop/breathe hold technique practice in the afternoon on beach.
  • What I learned
    • Basics of freediving safety, such as the warning signs of blackout and loss of motor control and the correct response to these to help someone in need.
    • The different types of equipment used in freediving compared to that used in SCUBA, where freediving equipment is usually more streamlined, with smaller masks and longer more powerful fins.
    • Different breath hold techniques and the use of apnea tables to increase the body’s natural tolerance to CO2 and O2.
Freediving in the Kelp Forests


  • Topics Covered
    • Monitoring macroinvertebrate biodiversity along Cape Point
  • Dives
    • Morning macroinvertebrate dive survey at Millers point using a belt quadrat method
    • Afternoon survey snorkel on surface kelp at low tide to compare to high tide survey
  • What I learned
    • Macroinvertebrates role in structuring shallow temperate subtidal reef systems
    • Strong sign of healthy ecosystem
    • Ecosystem based conservation


  • Topics Covered
    • Biodiversity difference between False Bay and the “Atlantic” side of the Cape peninsula
  • Dives
    • Double boat dive on Atlantic side comparing biodiversity, using rover diver method, to False Bay and diving with Cape Fur Seals.
  • What I learned
    • There is higher biodiversity in False Bay compared to the Atlantic side
Scientific dive student collecting data in False Bay


  • Activities
    • Hike at the point of Cape of Good Hope, visiting the historic lighthouse and secluded beaches.


  • Topics Covered
  • Dives
    • Nudibranch survey dive via roving diver method at Yacht club/False Bay marina
  • What I learned
    • Nudibranchs can be extremely hard to find and distinguish species (especially the smaller species)
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