Having returned from a life-changing five days at the Orpheus Island Research Station, I can honestly say I have a renewed sense of appreciation for the outstanding coral reef environments we have in Far North Queensland. I also have a renewed sense of optimism for the future of these ecosystems knowing that there are people from all walks of life who will look after, monitor, and take action to protect coral reefs around Australia.
The Reef Citizen Science and Leadership Workshop brought together people from all over Queensland and even as far away as Brazil to learn about different citizen science techniques and how to use them practically around the reefs. The unique facilities of the Orpheus Island Research Station allowed us to have hands on field work experience on a healthy coral reef. Even classroom work was entertaining as we had access to a coral reef aquarium to practically demonstrate many marine ecological processes and relationships rather than comprehending a diagram.
After being postponed due to cyclone Niran, we were blessed with sunny skies and clear waters. This just enhanced the in-water experience and made conditions perfect to experience some of the most spectacular events the marine ecosystem had to offer. We counted over 1500 Tridacna spp (Giant Clams), we observed and measured an estimated 682 tonne Porites coral bommie and we encountered two large Rhinopristiformes (Shovelnose Rays) in our time at sea.
By the end of the workshop, we had successfully submitted eight Reef Check Australia surveys, 21 Reef Health and Impact Surveys, 10 Coralwatch surveys, 10 Rapid Monitoring surveys and began to write a scientific article on the Porites coral bommie. This data on remote locations such as Pelorus and Orpheus is invaluable to monitoring the health of these reefs and will be used to management across Australia and the world.
The most valuable aspect of the trip for me, was taking the time to step out of the day-to-day life with like-minded people and be reminded together of how lucky we are. We in North Queensland live everyday going to work and gathering in World Heritage listed environment. Unfortunately, we often get so caught up in our busy lives that we take these incredible environments for granted. It is workshops like these that immerse us in our beautiful home and remind us how lucky we are to have this at our doorstep. We only have a limited number of days on this planet, so take these opportunities to appreciate our situation, enjoy the beautiful environment we have here in Australia and try to give something back. Whether that be through a citizen science survey or just making efforts to reduce your carbon footprint. Above all, make sure that you are aware of how lucky you are to live the life you have.
By Kailash Cook