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Diver Monitoring Reef Diver Monitoring Reef

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Reef Check divers teach the value of reef ecosystems

Learning to dive could be the greatest decision one could make; by attaching a scuba set to breathe underwater you are open to the many possibilities that the ocean has to offer, and in turn, you could help conserve the magnificent species of life that live amongst the reef.

Being involved with the water, documenting species and recording change is a task non-governmental organisation Reef Check Australia is dedicated to.  The coral reef monitoring program that they provide aims to protect and rehabilitate reefs worldwide, while educating the public on rising issues associated with Coral Reefs. 

Reef Check provides a global network of volunteers who are trained to use scientific methods to monitor and report on the health of the reef.  Having the advantage of being a diver, Reef Check can educate the public about the value or reef ecosystems and the current crisis’s that are affecting the marine life. 

The local community action in North Queensland has seen Reef Check train new volunteers as divers to educate others on the value of reef ecosystems, and the increased need for conservation efforts by everyone. 

A recent dive occurred from the 8th until the 14th of March, where new volunteers learnt the surveying and identification methods used at Reef Check Australia.  Diving off Orpheus Island 80km North of Townsville amidst the Great Barrier Reef, five volunteers and trainers completed surveys to aid the documenting that Reef Check performs.

There were thirteen dives spaced between class room sessions where new volunteers were educated on surveying and identification methods.  Divers practised buoyancy skills and the correct underwater positioning while surveying along a transect line.  These dives showcase the identification skills learnt, and take them from the classroom to the open water for divers to interact with the marine ecosystem as they learn new information. 

The dive taught Reef Check divers the value of reef ecosystems, and the commitment associated with survey dives, by swimming around, pointing out substrate types and invertebrates, recording data and enjoying the beautiful scenery that the Great Barrier Reef has to offer. 

Divers conducted mock surveys, to perfect their methods and practised swimming along transects and filling in the data sheets.  These surveys conducted provide all new volunteers with the knowledge required to understand the importance of reef ecosystems. 

The volunteer divers had the chance to test out their new skills whilst the survey season was in full swing, giving them the opportunity to put what they had learnt into action and survey the coral reef.  Completing a survey in Cattle bay, North of Pioneer Bay off Orpheus Island, included surveying three mapped permanent transect sites gave divers the opportunity to survey fish species, substrate and invertebrates. 

Sylvia Jagerroos, a Reef Check Volunteer diver who participated in the course, said that she found the dive very interesting and useful for herself as a marine biologist.  In comparison to the Great Barrier Reef, Orpheus Island is not the most excellent dive location, however, both soft and hard corals, invertebrates and a diverse range of fish can be found there for quite an instructing and useful learning curve for students. 

Attending courses, learning about identification, recording and surveying can provide divers with the knowledge to spot and identify reef fish, invertebrates and substrates, and record bleaching.

During many of the dives a large range of different hard corals were found slowly growing, and also fast growing branching corals were observed.  Bleaching was observed, and the effects and results surveyed can be relayed to the public to provide details on actions that can be taken in the future to minimise these effects. 

The commitment to coral reef conservation is part of the meaningful community involvement in coral reef issues.  Divers who continue to monitor the issues at both local and regional levels reassure that positive outcomes for the reef will occur.

By building on knowledge of the health of the Great Barrier Reef, divers are able to communicate their research from surveys to the wider public and get their data out in the open for action to be taken.  Raising awareness of the value and sustainability of coral reefs is an important message that divers can get out there to the public through their surveys, methods and personal experiences. 

Reef Check divers believe there is hope, if we take action now.   They will continue to conduct surveys along the Great Barrier Reef, getting involved, learning about species and identifying issues that must be faced. 

Find out more about the issues concerning the reef ecosystems and information on how to support our program through volunteering and donations at www.reefcheckaustralia.org

About the Author

By Meghan Kidd
Submitted by Reef Check Australia on Apr 26, 2010