Science in Somaliland
My work takes me to some spectacular places, and our latest expedition was no exception: Somaliland. When I told my colleagues where we were going, the reaction was predictably the same, everyone thought we were crazy. The team for this expedition consisted of our fearless leader
The team at a vista point overlooking Hargeisa.
Even though not recognized internationally, Somaliland (northern Somalia) feels like it’s own country. They have their own currency, and try to distance themselves from their southern neighbors as much as possible. Getting there presented some challenges. Everyone needed visas, and the only flights to Hargeisa were out of Dubai. After endless hours in airplanes and airports, we finally arrive and are greeted by our tour guide, Khalid Osman.
After a quick breakfast we set out for the coast, and our first stops were at the livestock market and Laas Geel, a very interesting site with cave paintings dating back 5,000 years.
But the main objective of our trip was to conduct a survey of the coral reefs of Somaliland, off the port city of Berbera. Very few researchers have been there, and the data we collect will be very important for understanding the ecology, evolution, and ultimately to help conserve these unknown reefs. Our primary tasks are to document as many species as possible through photography, collect a few specimens to deposit in museums and make them available to studies worldwide, and conduct visual surveys of the fish fauna. The diving routine is not much different from elsewhere, with one glaring exception: we have to be escorted by armed Somaliland guards. The guards are there for protection from possible pirates since we are dangerously close to the neighboring Somalia.