Science en Herbe (Budding Science), aims to improve knowledge of seagrass distribution and dugong foraging ecology in the southwest lagoon of New Caledonia.

This is a community-centered project that promotes citizen science and raises awareness about the conservation status of these emblematic animals and the importance of their habitat.

Project NameScience en Herbe
Implementing AgencyIRD - Institut de Recherche pour le Développement
Project DurationNovember 2021 - May 2022
Project LocationNouméa and southwest lagoon, New Caledonia
Total Implementation CostUSD 70,195
CMS Dugong MOU ContributionUSD 25,000
Project PartnersAquarium des Lagons

Association Opération Cétacés

Centre d’Initiation à l’Environnement (CIE)

Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems

Municipalities of Nouméa and Mont-Dore

Based on a citizen science approach, the project aims to:

  • Enhance the evidence base for local conservation of seagrass and dugongs in the southwest lagoon of New Caledonia.
  • Help raise awareness on the value of seagrass ecosystems and the current threats to dugongs, by targeting the younger members of urban communities in Nouméa.

The project will carry out the following activities:

  • Community Awareness: A series of community-level meetings to discuss and raise awareness of the status of seagrass and dugong conservation.
  • Youth Awareness: A series of awareness raising activities in public and private schools to improve understanding of dugong and seagrass habitats.
  • Research: A series of dives to map composition and density of local seagrass meadows, and analysis of seagrass composition and dugong diet data.
  • Photography Contest: A community-wide seagrass photography contest and exhibition that also contributes to mapping seagrass distribution in the southwest lagoon through Seagrass Spotter.


Community Awareness:

573 followers joined newly launched project focused social media accounts – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – and the project was promoted on six national radio shows, via three press releases, YouTube videos and a public launch conference.

Watch the promotional video
Read the news articles here: 12  – 3

Dugong & seagrass awareness raising in New Caledonia - 2022 (Credit: IRD)

Youth Awareness:

Awareness raising activities with 600 youth were organized in 30 public and private schools around Nouméa, targeting various communities from March to May 2022. The sessions aimed to introduce the project and provide basic facts about dugongs and seagrass ecology and conservation in New Caledonia, using age appropriate interactive activities such as workshops, colouring and games.

IRD produced an excellent video showcasing their work with school pupils, and all of the activity sheets developed under this activity are available to download (see below).

These sessions were hugely successful and so popular that schools in the Northern Province and Loyalty Islands Province have requested similar visits from the project team, and four additional participatory science workshops were held at the Maison de la Biodiversité for the wider community.


Dugong & seagrass awareness raising in New Caledonia - 2022 (Credit: IRD)


Six research dives were conducted over a period of three days to document seagrass species and density at known dugong foraging sites.

Samples from the stomach content of four deceased dugongs were analyzed to identify the species of seagrass contributing to each dugong’s diet. Whilst identification was difficult due leaf degradation caused by digestion, the results showed that each individual stomach contained a different dominant seagrass species.

Seagrass Mapping in New Caledonia (Credit: IRD)

Photography Contest & Exhibit:

200 photographs of seagrass meadows, from 15 different locations, were submitted to the participatory photo contest.

16 of the best photographs submitted were selected by a jury for display at an exhibition at the Maison de la Biodiversité (3 May – 30 June 2022).

60 photographs were uploaded to the Seagrass Spotter database, contributing to improved knowledge of seagrass distribution in the New Caledonian lagoons.

Browse through the photo gallery on our Flickr account.

Dugong & seagrass awareness raising in New Caledonia - 2022 (Credit: IRD)

Project Activity Sheets – available for download:

Dugong maze: easymedium, difficult, very difficult

Word Search: easy, medium, difficult

Crosswords: easy, medium, difficult

Code Breakers: easy, medium, difficult

Word Puzzles: various levels

Colouring Sheets: spot the dugong, dugongs, by numbers, join the dots

Fact Sheets: Seagrasses of New Caledonia, Dugongs, Seagrass species

Vocabulary Sheets: #1 & #2

Seagrass Species Identification Activity Sheet