A Rocha is driven by biblical faith and commitment to science. Dr Robert Sluka, Lead Marine Scientist, spoke (download text) at the United Nations Ocean Conference about the work of A Rocha and the integration of Christian faith and marine conservation. He shares the goals and ethos behind the marine programme in this short video.
Oceans and Communities
Transformed by Holistic Conservation
The model we are using to accomplish this transformation is to let both science and theology drive our conservation, education and advocacy efforts. This is all based in a strong connection to and cooperation with local communities.
We determine the range of locally important species, habitats and ecological threats to the focal marine environment. As a Christian organisation, we rigorously study our faith in order to determine principles which guide our lifestyles, ethics, and relative importance of particular issues.
We are committed to working towards the accomplishment of all SDGs. In order to meet Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans, faith communities need to be effectively engaged and equipped. Our projects intentionally focus on SDG 14 and highlight interactions with other SDGs where they overlap.
Biodiversity and Beauty
Project: Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya
Our work has focused on documenting marine biodiversity and in collaboration with Oxford University, the first habitat map for the marine park. We have begun a project focused on the rockpool habitats which house endemic biodiversity rare in the Western Indian Ocean, such as the crisp pillow coral seen below.
Our biodiversity work has revealed a number of IUCN Redlisted species, particularly sharks, rays and guitarfish. This has been published in Atoll Research Bulletin.
Project: Lee Abbey, UK
We utilized scientific surveys of Lee Bay to determine marine biodiversity and selected 10 species which were most common and also easily identifiable by non-scientists. A Rocha UK marine intern and Marine Team member Hannah Hereward produced a Top Ten brochure which visitors can use to search the beach for these species. These brochures and signage in Lee Abbey house (and in the future at the beach) have links pointing to online resources about the science of the bay and also Christian devotional writing which could help visitors to interact with these species in light of their faith.
The Karioi project provides an educational program based around a range of habitats from Maunga ki te Moanaincluding; coastal forest, freshwater streams, marine rocky shore and inter-tidal marine ecosystems. The project is actively working together towards an integrated pest control program to re-establish Karioi as a seabird mountain. Currently we are implementing predator control to protect the remnant population of Oi that still burrow around the shorelines of Karioi.
Project: Space Coast of Florida
Based near the Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s east coast, project are focused on microplastic pollution especially in Cape Canaveral National Seashore and the Indian River Lagoon. We are studying the marine biodiversity of the and working with local partners to help people experience better health and wellbeing through time in blue spaces. Internships are available for Autumn 2019.
An Ocean of (Plastic) Hope
A Rocha’s research and conservation on marine plastics has focused on helping people to understand the extent of the problem globally and providing resources to help them get involved. We have developed a beach clean up guide so you can organise your own event and The Microplastics Toolbox which has loads of resources to help you learn, act and conduct citizen-science research.
Project: Global plastic cleanup
A Rocha national organisations are participating in the 2018 International Coastal Cleanup including Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Netherlands, Portugal, UK, and USA.
Microplastics are ubitquitous on coasts globally. We have developed The Microplastics Toolbox to help national organisations to monitor microplastics. Currently A Rocha Portugal is monitoring microplastics on the Algarve coast. Nurdle hunts are being used to examine these microplastics in Australia, Portugal, the UK, and USA.
Food Security, Human Health and Wellbeing
Project: Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya
Our field study centre in Watamu is located on the shore of a marine national park where we partner with Kenya Wildlife Service to provide information to help with the management of that marine protected area. Fishermen benefit from the the park through larger fish moving out of the park and being caught, increased reproduction, and eco-tourism job opportunities.
A Rocha Ghana in collaboration with the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission has undertaken several activities as part of efforts to restore the ecological integrity of the Ramsar site as well as improve the livelihood of communities utilizing the resources at the Muni-Pomadze Ramsar Site.
Project: Tana River Delta, Kenya
The Tana River Delta is one of Kenya’s largest and most important freshwater wetland systems both rich in wildlife and with a significant local community of cattle herders and others dependent on it and who have done so for centuries. A Rocha Kenya works with other partners to implement conservation initiatives to protect the delta and provide sustainable alternatives for local communities.
Project: Ocean theology
We are developing resources to help Christians connect their faith to their experiences of the ocean. This includes reflecting on ocean threats such as overfishing, climate change, and pollution. Some of the resources available can be found at our church resources site.
You can also purchase Dr Robert Sluka’s booklet Hope for the Ocean through Grove Books.
A Rocha Marine Team
- Dr Robert Sluka – Leads the team – USA
- Dr Joanna Calcutt – microplastics researcher – UK
- Dr Benjamin Cowburn – Western Indian Ocean consultant – UK
- Hannah Hereward – Coral reefs, SDG14, kelp, and seabirds – UK
- Peter Musembi – Marine Researcher – Kenya
- Aline Nussbaumer – marine plastics – France
- Júlio Reis – litter monitoring – Portugal
- Dr Dorothea Seeger – Seagrass and marine plastics – Germany
- Dr Paul Simonin – Fisheries – USA
- Kristel Van Houte – seabirds, coastal education, and benthic ecology – Aotearoa/New Zealand
- Ben Lowe – climate change, fisheries, and religion – USA
A Rocha Publications and Presentations
Papers and book chapters
Cowburn, B., Musembi, P. M., Sindorf, V., Kohlmeier, D., Raker, C., Nussbaumer, A., Hereward, H.F.R., van Baelenberghe, B., Goebbles, D., Kamire, J., Horion, M., Sluka, R. D., Taylor, M.L., Rogers, A.D. 2018. The Habitats and Biodiversity of Watamu Marine National Park: Evaluating our Knowledge of one of East Africa’s oldest Marine Protected Areas. Atoll Research Bulletin no. 618. 45pp.
Hannah F R Hereward, Nicholas D Ray, Louise K Gentle and Robert D Sluka. 2017. Ghost crab burrow density at Watamu Marine National Park: An indicator of the impact of urbanisation and associated disturbance? African Journal of Marine Science 39(1):129-133.
Sluka, R.D. and A. Nussbaumer. 2017. Le changement climatique et l’océan. Pages 87-101 in E. Hobbs, J.F. Mouhot, and C. Walley (Eds.) Evangile & changement climatique. Dossier VIVRE no. 40 En Glapin 8, Switzerland. 227pp.
Sluka, Robert D. 2016. The Hidden Things of God in the Ocean. Anglican EcoCare Journal of EcoTheology 2:41-50.
Srokosz, M and R.D. Sluka. 2016. Chapter 14: Creation Care of the other 71%. Pages 214-236 in C.Bell and R.S. White (Eds) Creation Care and the Gospel: Reconsidering the Mission of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers Marketing LLC, Massachusetts, USA. 353pp.
Sindorf, V, B. Cowburn and R.D. Sluka. 2015. Rocky intertidal fish assemblage in the Watamu Marine National Park, Western Indian Ocean. Environmental Biology of Fishes DOI 10.1007/s10641-015-0397-1
Gordon, T.A.C., Cowburn, B, and R.D. Sluka. 2015. Defended territories of an aggressive damselfish contain lower juvenile coral density than adjacent non-defended areas on Kenyan lagoon patch reefs. Coral Reefs 34:13-16. DOI 10.1007/s00338-014-1229-z
Sluka, R.D. and P. Simonin. 2014. Marine Capture Fisheries – A call to action in response to limits, unintended consequences, and ethics. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 66:203-212.
Cowburn, B., R. Sluka, J. Smith, and M.O.S. Mohamed. 2013. Tourism, Reef Condition and Visitor Satisfaction in Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya. Western Indian Ocean Journal of Marine Science 12: 57-70.
Sluka, R. D. 2012. Hope for the Ocean: Marine Biodiversity, Poverty Alleviation and Blessing the Nations. Grove Books Limited, Cambridge. 28pp.
An Ocean of Plastic Hope. 2018. Godspace blog. http://godspacelight.com/2018/04/19/an-ocean-of-plastic-hope/
What does Resurrection Look Like for the Indian River Lagoon by Robert Sluka. 2018. A Rocha USA blog.
Photo Essay: “Trouble in Paradise: Plastic pollution in the Bahamas” by Grace Swing & Robert D Sluka 2018. God and Nature Magazine, American Scientific Affiliation.
Peace on earth, goodwill to manatees. 2017. A Rocha USA blog.
Organizações se unem no combate ao microplástico em ambientes marinhos [Organizations unite to combat microplastics in the ocean] 2017. Ultimato (Brasilian online magazine)
Waiting for Hurricane Irma. 2017. A Rocha International Planetwise Blog https://blog.arocha.org/en/waiting-for-hurricane-irma/
Loving your neighbor – the case of the Nassau grouper. 2016. My Father’s World blog.
Postcard from the Mediterranean. 2015. A Rocha International Planetwise Blog
R. Sluka. 2015. Grouper: Amazing Fish. Koomba 2, Wildlife Clubs of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. Pp 24-25.
R.D. Sluka. 2015. The Hidden Things of God in the Ocean. Day 41. A Christian Ministry in the National Parks Devotional Guide, Denver, CO, USA. www.acmnp.com
R.D. Sluka. 2015 In the Eye of the Barracuda: Beauty in the Ocean. Science and Belief blog
R.D. Sluka. 2015 Marine protected areas: biodiversity conservation and development. In: Hodson, Martin J.and Hodson, Margot R. 2015. A Christian Guide to Environmental Issues. Bible Reading Fellowship, London, UK.
R.D. Sluka.. 2014. Coral Reef Research in Kenya. A Rocha International News Issue 56, December 2014. p. 3.
R.D.Sluka. 2013. Is there hope for the ocean? God and Nature. American Scientific Affiliation.
R.D.Sluka. 2013 Joined-up thinking. A Rocha UK Spring/Summer 2013 Magazine. p. 8 Sluka, R.D. 2013 Hope for the ocean. A Rocha UK Spring/Summer 2013 Magazine. p. 9
Sea Life. Robert Sluka. 2012. Science and Belief blog
Making Sense of Science and Faith. Robert Sluka. 2012. Science and Belief blog
Hope for the Ocean. 2012. Robert Sluka. 2012. Science and Belief blog
University Dissertations and Theses completed
Benjamin D. Cowburn. 2016. Coral reefs and climate change in the Indian Ocean: A case study of Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya and other Indian Ocean locations. Ph.D. Dissertation, Oxford University.
Hannah F.R. Hereward. 2015. An assessment of the density and the diversity of hawkfish (Pisces: Cirrhitidae) across Watamu and Shimoni Reefs, Kenya: Identifying habitat associations of freckled (Paracirrhites Forsteri) and arc-eye hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus) within Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya. B.Sc. Dissertation, Nottingham Trent University.
Chloe Naylor. 2014. Investigation into echinoderm species richness and abundance within the rockpool habitats of the Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya. B.Sc. Dissertation, University of Southampton.
Sarah Tyrrell. 2014. The Distribution and impact of Sea urchins on Coral reefs in Watamu, Kenya. BSc with Honours in Geography, University of Exeter.
Timothy A.C. Gordon. 2013. Defended territories of an aggressive damselfish contain lower juvenile coral density than adjacent non-defended areas on Kenyan lagoon patch reefs. 2nd year Dissertation, University of Cambridge.
Emma R. Bush. 2013. What’s the Catch? Mosquito Net Fishing in Coastal East Africa. A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science and the Diploma of Imperial College London.
Robert D Sluka. 2018. Biodiversity and Beauty. Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals, Portsmouth, UK, 6 October.
Robert D Sluka. 2018. Caring for the Oceans. Bristol Christians in Science meeting, Bristol, UK, 28 September.
Robert D Sluka. 2018. An Ocean of Plastic Hope. American Scientific Affiliation Annual Meeting, Gordon College, Boston, USA, 27-30 July.
Jame Schaefer and Robert D Sluka. 2018. Using the SCB’s Guidelines for Interacting with Faith-based Leaders ad Communities. Society for Conservation Biology Latin American and Caribbean meeting, University of West Indies, Trinidad, 24-27 July.
Robert D Sluka. 2018. Hope for the Ocean: Christians Caring for the 71% of the Planet Underwater. Williams Baptist College’s latest Mondy-Carroll Lectureship, Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, USA, 13 March.
Peter Musembi, Benjamin Cowburn and Robert D Sluka. 2017.Conservation of sharks and rays through research and Education in Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve, Kenya.Southern African Shark and Ray Symposium. Hermanus, South Africa, 10-13 Sep.
Robert D Sluka. 2017. A Rocha International Statement. United Nations Ocean Conference, New York City, USA, 5-9 June. Starts at 1:00:20
Robert D Sluka. 2016. The Spiritual Pathway at the IUCN World Conservation Congress: implications for coral reef conservation. Reef Conservation in the UK, 26 November, London Zoological Society, London UK.
Robert D Sluka, Benjamin Cowburn, Timothy Gordon, Hannah F.R. Hereward, Matthias Horion, Dorothea Kohlmeier, Peter Musembi, Aline Porteous, Cassi Raker, Victoria Sindorf, Michelle L. Taylor, and Alex D Rogers. 2016. Biodiversity in Watamu Marine National Park – new study reveals important species diversity previously overlooked. IUCN World Conservation Congress, 1-10 September Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.
Benjamin D Cowburn and David Obura. 2016. Investigating multiple coral reef stressors on a shoe-string. 13th International Coral Reef Symposium, 19-24 June Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.
Robert D Sluka. 2016. Hope for the ocean. Christians in Science Northern Conference, 16 April Sheffield, UK.
Robert D Sluka. 2016. Faith and Marine Conservation. Cambridge Conservation Forum. 15 February Cambridge, UK.
Robert D Sluka. 2015. Hope for the Ocean. Reconciling a Wounded Planet Conference, 18 September, Coventry Cathedral, UK.
Robert D Sluka. 2015. Science, Faith, and Blessing the Nations. London School of Theology, 21 April 2015, London, UK.
Robert D Sluka. 2015. Beauty in the Ocean: Theological and Practical Implications. London School of Theology, 10 March 2015, London, UK.
Robert D Sluka. 2014, The Hidden Things of God in the Ocean. ASA/CIS/CSA Annual Conference, 25-28 July McMaster University, Hamilton Canada.
Tim Gordon and Benjamin Cowburn. 2013. Damselfish Territories and Juvenile Coral Density: A Previously Overlooked Association. Reef Conservation UK meeting at Zoological Society of London, 7 Dec 2013, London, UK.
Robert D. Sluka. 2011. Christians: opponents or partners in conserving marine biodiversity? World Conference on Marine Biodiversity, September 26-30, Aberdeen, Scotland.
Robert D Sluka, Peter Musembi and Benjamin D Cowburn. 2017. Why have Coral Reefs in Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya not recovered after the 1998 bleaching event? Marine Protected Areas: Science Policy and Management 2017, 15th-17th May, Poole, UK.
Peter Musembi, Benjamin Cowburn, Jillo Katello, Robert D. Sluka, and David Obura. 2016. Anomastraea irregularis in Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya. Reef Conservation in the UK, 26 November, London Zoological Society, London UK.
Robert D Sluka. 2016. Science and Theology: Drivers of A Rocha’s global Marine and Coastal Conservation Programme. IUCN World Conservation Congress, 1-10 September, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.
Benjamin Cowburn, Robert D Sluka, Peter Musembi, Dorothea Kohlmeier. 2015. Biodiversity of Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya. Reef Conservation in the UK, 28 November 2015, London Zoological Society, London UK.
Benjamin Cowburn, Robert D Sluka, Peter Musembi, Dorothea Kohlmeier. 2015. Biodiversity of Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya. European Marine Biology Symposium, 21-25 September 2015, Helgoland, Germany.
Cassie Raker, Benjamin Cowburn, Victoria Sindorf, Peter Musembi, Benjamin Vanbaelenberghe, and Robert D Sluka. 2014. Anomastraea irregularis, a Vulnerable coral of the rocky intertidal zone of Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya. Reef Conservation UK meeting at Zoological Society of London, 6 Dec 2014, London, UK.
Cassie Raker, Benjamin Cowburn, Victoria Sindorf, Peter Musembi, Benjamin Vanbaelenberghe, and Robert D Sluka. 2014. Anomastraea irregularis, a Vulnerable coral of the rocky intertidal zone of Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya. The 43rd Annual Benthic Ecology Meeting, 19-22 March, Jacksonville, Florida, USA.
Victoria Sindorf and Benjamin Cowburn. 2014. Indian Ocean Rocky Intertidal Zone – An Important Nursery Habitat for Commercially Valuable Fish Species. 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting, 23-28 February, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.
Benjamin Cowburn, Victoria Sindorf, and Paul Simonin. 2013. Do minor bleaching events matter? Ecological observations from a localised event in Kenya, 2013. Reef Conservation UK meeting at Zoological Society of London, 7 Dec 2013, London, UK.