Great Barrier Reef

Leaving the dock at dawn, I watched the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean.  Two and half hours in a boat to our research site didn’t seem like trouble at all, especially considering the stunning views and blue water.

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There was plenty of time to explore the dive boat and of course, to take a photo in honor of my favorite explorer, Jacques Cousteau.  ImageSnub-finned dolphins (endangered) porpoised alongside the boat, and one did a magnificent side breach off on the distance.

Our destination was Load Stone reef, and once we got there we were all of course thrilled.  The mission of the day’s dives was to investigate the reef, refine our fish and coral identification skills, and practice our navigation (we certainly also had a load of fun along the way).

It may be odd to say that the first moment I had my head underwater the scenery was breath-taking, but it was!  Gladly I had a regulator in my mouth to provide me with more oxygen! Everywhere there were tall coral reef structures that have been slowly building for hundreds of thousands of years.  Within the first 5 minutes of the dive, this black tip shark swam by at his leisure…I would estimate that he was about 4 feet in length.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get a closer shot than this (sorry mom!)

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A few diving highlights: anemone fish, triggerfish, parrotfish, rabbitfish, a million little damselfish, batfish that were at least 2 feet tall, 4 ft long sea cucumbers, purple sea stars, a huge grouper hiding under a plate coral, a moray eel, bright blue branching coral, vase coral, brain coral.

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The health of the Great Barrier Reef is dependent upon many factors.  Including farm runoff, coastal development, tourism, acidification, pH levels (both associated with water quality), fishing industry, and carbon emissions.  Local communities work together, to the best of their ability to create plans to conserve the delicate coral reef.

One major threat to the reef is carbon emissions.  These are produced by everyone all over the world by driving cars and flying in planes among other things.  There isn’t a shadow of doubt in my mind that people genuinely do care about the reef.  The problem is that it is very hard to connect driving with coral reefs.  The Great Barrier Reef is so far removed from most of the world’s daily choices that the likelihood of GBR concern translating into daily action (aka driving less) is low.  Further, many people either do not have the choice to drive less, or, are focused on other priorities like survival (see Maslow’s hierarchy of needs).

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Below are some questions I’ve explored and I encourage you to do the same.  Feel free to post thoughts/responses/further questions.

Who cares about the reef?  What can we do in our daily lives to protect it, even from half way around the world?  Why is biodiversity important?  What motivates each stakeholder whose livelihoods are dependent on the reefs to work together?  How do conservationists and researchers disseminate their information to the public and does it make a difference?

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4 Comments

  1. Great thoughts, and great questions! Tony Juniper, the guy who wrote that book I was telling you about, was on Diane Rehm the other day and was talking about how healthy coral reefs help minimize the impact of natural disasters like tsunamis and tropical storms. Fascinating. Keep up the great work, so proud of and happy for you!

  2. Pingback: Underwater City: 3D Printed Reef Restores Bahrain’s Marine Life | PTC | oceanNRG

  3. It was so amazing reading your last 2 posts. It is beautiful there and it sounds and looks like you are having some great hands on learning experiences. That is the best kind of learning, plus it gives you a personal connection with that part of the world. I’m so excited for you!!!!

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