Project Manaia

Our Story

Project Manaia was founded by Manuel Marinelli in 2014. We are a small but growing Ocean Conservation NGO (Nonprofit Organization) based in Austria that works at Sea. We are crossing the Mediterranean on a mission to preserve Seagrass, investigate invasive species, and clear out marine debris.

After a couple of successful years in the Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar we shifted our focus back to the Mediterranean Sea. We sourced a 43-foot sailboat in 2018 for research in the Mediterranean Sea and in 2023 we upgraded to a 21m sailboat. Lots of marine biologists have great ideas and simply lack the chance to turn in into reality. 

The idea is that people with a project on hand, but no funding or not enough funding can join us onboard SY Waya Waya to run their projects from there. We supply the home, equipment and resources and they can do what they trained to do: Science. Right now, we are still working hard to provide an affordable research platform for researchers but we need more supporters to fund our current projects plus independent researchers.

Our Research & Conservation Objectives

  • Create a seagrass Distribution map of the Mediterranean Sea to pinpoint locations of meadow changes and better target countermeasures.
  • Quantify seagrass shoot counts in locations throughout the Mediterranean Sea. The amount of shoots per square meter gives crucial information about the health and fitness of a meadow and therefore a better understanding of the overall state of the ecosystem!
  •  Investigate the variables, that affect seagrass growths (nitrogen, phosphorus, light penetrations, …) to predict which meadows will be at risk and are in need of assistance or immediate action in the future!
  • Quantify the carbon stores in the Mediterranean established seagrass meadows vs. Degraded areas (without seagrass).
  • Mediterranean-established track the carbon sequestered over time in newly planted seagrass meadows.
  • Evaluate the overall impact of Seagrass health/degradation on the local biodiversity.
  • Monitoring of Marine Mega Fauna to assess if there is a correlation between seagrass health and the presence of marine mammals and sea turtles.
  • Evaluate the overall impact of seagrass health/degradation on the local biodiversity.
  • Quantify invasive species numbers and distributions. These efforts are widely depending on the collaboration of partnering Dive Centers and divers to feed information back to us, and also share with us the sightings of new invaders to keep extending our data collection.
  • Remove ocean debris and recycle (epicycle) where possible. Measure in weight what is removed and the frequency of each type of plastic found.
  • Record animals we find trapped in ocean debris.
  • Map out where ghost nets are found to show where the biggest problems/threats are. Furthermore, right up remove ghost nets wherever possible without external assistance to ensure no further damage is created!


Our Seagrass Gardeners project won the Boot Dive Award in the climate category during Boot Düsseldorf. Thank you to Deutsche StiftunMeeresschutz for nominating and representing our project.

We got a sustaining funding from IMPETUS for our Citizen Science project (Seagrass Gardeners) in Sicily, Aeolian Island, and Malta during September. 

In 2022, we sold our previous research vessel SY Independence and bought the SY Waya Waya. 

For our Seagrass work and replantation efforts of previously ripped out Posidonia plants as well as collected seeds, ripped-out we were supported by the Greenpeace Foundation Germany.

DSM signed up as one of our supporters for a seagrass re/plantation project, enabling us to extend our network throughout the Mediterranean Sea.

We created 10 educational videos for schools to learn about the marine environment, all supported by the Federal Ministry Republic of Austria – Climate Action,  Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation, and Technology.

As a part of the YOUMARES Conference in Hamburg, this award is given out to a promising project to help them to keep going. This year we were lucky enough to be rewarded with this price! Thank you so much for having us and the belief that is given to us!

Every year one Marine Biology project in Austria gets rewarded with a price given out in honour of Hans and Lotte Hass, two Austrian Marine Biologists and underwater explorers!
This Year Project Manaia and our project to better understand migration patterns of Invasive Species got the reward!
Thank you very much Hause des Meeres and everyone who backed our efforts!

Moving from Turkey, via Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia and Italy we made a lot of friends, found partners for research efforts, amazing snorkelling and diving spots along the way and got a lot of work done – all in the shortest version in the video!

With Projects in Myanmar moving along we relocated ones again and managed to get more engaged in the Mediterranean and finally create the Open Research Boat we always dreamed of – SY Independence. 

In the latest season Project Manaia created a Research Base on Boulder Island, together with the “Boulder Bay Eco Resort” we have a team of two (Marine) Biologists permanently stationed on the remote island.
During this season we established the very first Coral Garden and Coral Nursery of Myanmar and possibly the entire Andaman Sea!

Here is one of our videos.

The Season of 2016/2017 Sea Nomad remains anchored inside the Mergui Archipelago, something that has not been done before. This way a team of three had a window of several months to investigate Boulder Island in detail, creating Reef maps and the first ever Animal Guide Book for the Mergui Archipelago, which is available for all our supporters on Patreon. You can watch a episode here.

We make a leap to the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar and take over Operations of the Mergui Archipelago Biodiversity Research. During the Season of 2015/2016 we visit more than 20 islands of the Archipelago, establish valuable relationships in the area and document well over 400 different terrestrial and marine species – more than 10 of them endangered around the world, including one coral that is close to extinction but abundant in the Mergui Islands. If you want see more about it check our  video here.

Even though the Crowdfunding Campaign is not successful, we manage to get a bit of attraction and more outreach with TV Interviews, Radio appearances, Newspaper Articles and even an appearance on the TED stage. You can find that video here.

The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.

Jacques Cousteau

Meet Our Advisory Board

These are the people who support our cause and provide input in specific issues that Project Manaia addresses.

Captain Peter Wilcox

Greenpeace Captain

Daniel Abed-Navandi PhD.MSc

Marine Curator & Associate Director of Haus des Meeres

Dr. Michael Stachowitsch

Professor at University of Vienna & Writer

Dr. Simon Jungblut

Coordinator of @TheFACE-IT Project at the University of Bremen

Patrick Würschl

Program Manager at Impact Hub

Theodora Werner MSc

Social Entrepreneur

Meet Our Team!

Follow Us on Linkedin!

Manuel Marinelli MSc

Founder of Project Manaia
Marine Biologist & Ecologist

Pınar Marinelli BAs

Project Coordinator

Alexia Kalosaka BSc

Project Manager of Marine Debris Project

Team on Land

And sometimes on board

daria kovaleva

Daria Kovaleva

Digital Marketing

Our Partners

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