Around the Reef - Reef Check Australia - February 2024

February 16, 2024

Dear Friend

We're Back!, well we never really went anywhere but we did have a well deserved break and hope you all did too. The festive season was somewhat sketchy for those of us in the north of Queensland with Cyclone Jasper causing havoc around Cairns, Wujal Wujal and beyond. Then at the end of January Cyclone Kirrily decided to pay us a visit. Luckily she did not have the massive impact of Jasper and now SEQ is being swamped by record rainfall! Our thoughts are with everyone that was, and continues to be, affected by these events. Given the break in operations and the inability to get out for field work, this month we bring you some more of the activities we completed in 2023.

This months email includes:

  • Action of the Month: Love like the Ocean
  • News from the Field
  • Gift Ideas
  • Current Coral Affairs
  • Get With the Program

Love like the ocean!

Photo by Khadeeja Yasser on Unsplash

February may whisper of romance, but at Reef Check Australia, we believe "love" is a much grander tide, ebbing and flowing through ourselves, our communities, and the ocean we adore. So, this month, we're celebrating Love like the Ocean as our The Action of the Month! But how do we truly translate this feeling of love into action? Dive with us into three ways to show your love in February:

1. Embrace Self-Love's Ripple Effect:

The ocean cherishes every drop, and so should you! Prioritize a quiet morning walk on the beach, treat yourself to a mindful meditation with the rhythmic waves as your soundtrack, or cook a nourishing meal. When you nurture yourself, you radiate kindness and inspiration, creating ripples of positivity that reach your community and the environment.

2. Strengthen the Reef of Community:

Like coral polyps building a vibrant reef, join hands with your community. Do a beach clean-up (or join in for ours coming up this weekend!), volunteer at a marine conservation project, or host a fundraising event for local ocean advocacy groups. These actions not only benefit the environment but also forge bonds of shared passion and purpose, strengthening the fabric of your community.

3. Be the Tide of Change for the Ocean:

Remember every small action adds up to a powerful wave of change. Ditch single-use plastics for reusable alternatives, choose sustainable seafood, and educate others about ocean threats. These everyday choices may seem insignificant, but collectively, they form a mighty current protecting the future of our beloved ocean.

Let February be a month where love overflows onto the shores of self, community, and the environment. Remember, every act of kindness, every conscious choice, every moment of connection is a love letter to the ocean. Let's show our love through action, and watch the waves of positive change rise!


News from the field

Stories and updates from our teams out & about. Check out some of these regional stories on our website!

South East Queensland

Peel Island Restoration Project Check Up.

Science isn't always pretty; but it is amazing.

We continue to watch the weather for even the slightest chance of getting on the water, so when the winds died down and the sun came out, we jumped at the chance to go and check on our Peel Island Reef Restoration project site.

With the outstanding assistance from Seaworld, it was a true example of collaboration; and what can be achieved when we all work together. With representatives from The Moreton Bay Foundation, The Goodman Foundation, and Brisbane Airport Corporation, as well as Reef Check Australia volunteers; reef health surveyors, reef ambassadors, beach clean up volunteers, volunteers in training and even a board member all joined forces to check in on the project, clean up the structures, document any changes to the growth of the corals, and remove the fishing debris covering one of the structures.

Despite the low visibility, conditions were favourable. Corals are doing well, everyone was able to participate in the activities and everyone had a great day in and on the water, again showcasing what we can achieve when collaborations occur. We are super excited to continue to monitor the progress of this project and invite you to participate in the next day on the water; many hands make light work after all!

Massive shoutout to all involved; all the volunteers, the companies that allow their staff to take volunteer days to assist with such vital projects, our funding and support; Brisbane Airport Foundation for seed funding, The Moreton Bay Foundation and The Goodman Foundation for ongoing support and to Seaworld for their vessel support and willingness to assist. What a truly magnificent outcome for the not always glorious, but always amazing science that is Marine Biology.


Citizen Science Conference - Sunshine Coast

What a fantastic three days at the Australia Citizen Science Association Conference held at the University of Sunshine Coast on 21-23 November!

Reef Ambassador and Reef Health survey diver, Toni, was fortunate to observe inspirational and impactful presentations on reef citizen science - so many wonderful presenters and amazing projects. Toni presented a paper ‘Reefs on Wrecks’ in Southeast Queensland: A collaborative citizen science project to measure climate change impacts.

This is a maritime archaeology and Reef Check Australia reef health citizen science project. A big thank you to CitSCiOz23 organisers and attendees for making this conference such an uplifting and exiting event! It was fantastic to meet new contacts and discuss future collaborative projects and opportunities.

If you are a Reef Check Australia surveyor and are keen to participate in other shipwreck surveys, then please get in contact with Jodi or Toni. Watch this space!

Reef Check Acknowledge the Kabi Kabi people of the Sunshine Coast, Traditional Custodians of the land and sea country on which these activities took place and we pay our respects to their elders past, present and future.

This project is supported by the sunshine Coast Council’s Environmental Levy Partnerships Grant.

Seaweed Restoration Festival

On a splendidly sunny Saturday, October 21st, 2023, Reef Check Australia was honoured to join and support the inspiring seaweed restoration event at Alexandra Headland. Over 50 enthusiastic participants, under the guidance of the Seaweed Research Group, engaged in a significant environmental initiative – planting various seaweed species onto mesh bags for future oceanic restoration. This event, a critical part of a social science chapter led by PhD candidate Shelby Schumacher, was a testament to the power of community-driven environmental action.

Reef Check Australia, with our dedication to educational outreach and support for restoration activities, found a natural synergy in the day's proceedings. We were thrilled to be part of an event that not only focused on ecological restoration but also brought together diverse groups for a common cause. The Seaweed Research Group, comprising over 30 cross-disciplinary experts, showed an exceptional commitment to harnessing seaweed’s potential for ecological, economic, and social welfare. Their innovative approach that integrates science, technology, health, and business, highlights seaweed's crucial role in marine ecosystems and its expanding economic significance.

The event was more than just a restoration activity; it was a platform for learning and exchange. As participants planted seaweed, they gained insights into its pivotal role in marine ecosystems – akin to terrestrial forests, offering shelter and sustenance to a plethora of marine life. Furthermore, the Seaweed Research Group's efforts in demonstrating seaweed's diverse applications, from health benefits to its role in the global economy, were commendable. We extend our heartfelt thanks to them for inviting Reef Check Australia to be a part of this meaningful day.

Reef Check Australia took this opportunity to educate attendees about the delicate coral reefs along the Sunshine Coast, emphasizing their vulnerability amidst climate change challenges. Engaging the community in discussions about reducing carbon footprints and participating in environmental activities resonated with our mission of conserving marine life through education and action. This day of environmental stewardship, knowledge sharing, and community involvement re-enforced our commitment to safeguarding our oceans. Together, we continue to pave the way for a sustainable and vibrant marine future.

Remember, every little bit counts.  If you see rubbish on the beach; pick it up.  Together, we can and will make an ocean of difference.

Reef Check Acknowledges the Kabi Kabi peoples of the Sunshine Coast, the traditional custodians of the land and sea country on which these activities took place and we pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

This project has received funding support the Sunshine Coast Councils Environment Levy Partnership Grant.

Mooloolaba Foreshore Festival

At this year's Mooloolaba Foreshore Festival , Reef Check Australia got a little creative with the standard stall set up (having forgotten to pack our tables and chairs meant our inner MacGyver skills were activated), I decided to do a tatami-style set up. Our beautiful canvas banner wrapped around the gazebo, it became the perfect background shot of the sea for kids and families to take a snap!

Throughout the day, we received a steady stream of visitors, particularly families with young daughters who were eager to engage in beach clean-ups, educational workshops, and nurturing aspirations for their children to become future stewards of the reef and community they lived in. There were also many who had returned to the Sunny Coast to retire who used to surf or scuba dive and wanted a new meaning to the hobbies they once pursued.

Reef Check Australia certainly piqued their curiosity, and several were keen to get their feet wet again and engage in reef conservation. As the festival drew to a close, we reflected on the importance of fostering community involvement in ocean conservation and education both from the perspective of a young child growing up to that of the retired who reminisced the coastal ecosystems before rapid modernisation.

Big thanks to Cheryl Tan for manning the stall and helping to engage the local Sunshine Coast community.

Reef Check Acknowledges the Kabi Kabi peoples of the Sunshine Coast, the traditional custodians of the land and sea country on which these activities took place and we pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

This project has received funding support the Sunshine Coast Councils Environment Levy Partnership Grant.

Great Barrier Reef

In December we bade farewell to one of our amazing team leaders from the GBR as she takes up a new opportunity in Western Australia. We wish Aimee all the best and thank her for her amazing efforts in her work with Reef Check Australia.

Beach Clean Up - Steen's Beach Hook Island

Taking advantage of a nice forecast our team headed out on the water in the beautiful Whitsundays to explore some of the beaches and see if any of them could benefit from a dedicated clean up effort. Having the advantage of a high tide, our team pulled into Steen’s Beach on Hook Island. The beach is a National Park Campground with a single table and associated benches and a long drop toilet. Our team collected some small items of broken plastic and a few miscellaneous items in the sandy beach area then headed east over the rocks and along the rockier foreshore of the adjoining beach.

It was not long before the pursuit of polystyrene sent us into the trees and the green tree ants! Our team collected numerous green tree ant bites and 15kgs of rubbish from this beach, including 144 pieces of polystyrene, 154 pieces of hard plastic, 15 thongs (no matching pairs), 22 plastic drink bottles and, concerningly, 8 bleach bottles (Kuat brand). As posted by Tangaroa Blue on 25 February 2022, (Facebook/Tangaroa Blue), these foreign bleach bottles come from a number of countries and may come in on the ocean currents after being dumped overboard from foreign fishing vessels. The bleach is one of the arsenals used in “cyanide fishing” to stun the fish for live capture.

Having covered over 700m of beach, a falling tide forced us back to the boat with our load to ensure we could safely exit the area.

Thanks to John at Whitsunday Paradise Explorer for getting us to site, helping with the clean up and hauling the rubbish back to the boat. This clean up was conducted on the traditional lands and sea country of the Ngaro People of the Whitsundays. We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians and their Elders past, present and emerging. 

This project is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government's Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.



Whitsundays, Daydream Island Reef Health Survey

A small but enthusiastic team headed over to Daydream Island in the beautiful Whitsundays to conduct our annual Reef Check Australia, Reef Health Surveys, along with Eye of the Reef Rapid Surveys and CoralWatch. Both sites were set up in 2013 and have been monitored since then as funds allow.

Like many of the sites in the Whitsundays, these sites were severely impacted by Cyclone Debbie and coral cover has not recovered to levels observed prior to this event. Lovers Cove historically had levels of soft coral around 30% and hard coral initially recorded at 33% in 2013. Soft coral levels fluctuated at Mermaids Cove with hard coral cover initially at 15%. During our surveys in 2020 hard coral was less than 2% at Lovers Cove and zero at Mermaids Cove. Hard coral cover has increased to 9% at Lovers Cove and 18% at Mermaids Cove. However, these percentages only represent what was located under the transect tape and recorded during the point intercept survey and do not take into account the numerous corals that were observed scattered around the survey area. Encouragingly we also observed numerous hard coral recruits taking up residence on the bare substrate. Minimal bleaching was observed at both sites but at less than 1% of the population.  Parrotfish were the most observed target fish at both sites, with butterflyfish and coral trout also observed, along with numerous non-target fish.

A big thanks to our volunteers Deb Duggan and Terry Farr for helping out, Daydream Island Resort and Living Reef team for making us welcome and Cruise Whitsundays for getting us to site. These surveys were conducted on the traditional lands and sea country of the Ngaro People of the Whitsundays. We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians and their Elders past, present and emerging.

This project is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government's Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

Magnetic Island Nelly Bay Reef Health Surveys

In early November we started our annual reef health surveys around the Townsville Region for the season. First up was Nelly Bay, Magnetic Island, a site that was established in 2003 and has been surveyed regularly over the past 20 years. Over this period we have observed a decrease in hard coral cover, and in rock (dead coral, often covered in turf algae or crustose coralline algae) among the substrate. No trends were detected in coral impacts or invertebrate presence.

Similar to last year, this year’s surveys had very high macroalgae (specifically Sargassum) cover across data points on the substrate survey. However, the height of the Sargassum was approximately 0.5m this year, compared to 3m+ last year when the surveys were conducted in late December when the water was approximately 3 degrees warmer. The team observed some bleaching of hard corals, however this was a small portion of individual colonies (i.e. for each colony of coral that was bleached, approximately 5% of that colony was bleached, with the remaining 95% healthy).

A special thanks to our surveyors Joan and Rachelle and surface watch Aabha for making this trip possible and for being available at short notice to make the most of the decent conditions whilst they last! Also thank you to Pleasure Divers for tank hire, allowing us to complete these surveys.

This project is made possible through support from Townsville City Council through their Creek to Coral program, the Integrated Coral Reef Citizen Science 2.0 Program funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, and Reef Ecologic.

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on where these activities take place, the Manbarra and Bwgcolman people of Palm Island, and the Wulgurukaba and Bindal People of the Townsville and Magnetic Island region. We pay our respects to their elders, past, present and emerging and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in our community today.



Books and podcasts

Have you read or listened to something lately that you would like to share? Let us know and we can feature it here

The Exceptions - Kate Zernike

Not specifically marine related but an interesting story of the struggles of women for recognition in science. With so much focus nowadays on Women in STEM, this book shows how far we have come since the 1960's.


Current Coral Affairs

Check out some of the latest news and research about our ocean

Antarctica - a continent in crisis
Even the most remote place on Earth is beginning to crumble..

Read now in: Australian Geographic

What is an ocean avalanche?

They are terrifying and deadly on land, but what about under the sea?

Read more: Australian Geographic

So you think bottled water is better than tap?

Bottled water has up to 100 times more plastic particles than previously thought.

Read more: Popular Science

Get with the Program

Here's what we've got coming up in the next few weeks, keep checking the website for more updates. 

3 Feb | Clean Up for the Hatchlings - Land Based Activities

This is the 10 year anniversary of this awesome event. Clean up your beach and come along for free BBQ and amazing prizes at Coopers Lookout Park, Buddina.

For more info and to register for your favourite beach head to Eventbrite.

6 Feb | Coast to Corals - Erik Sandertun Roed and lobster monitoring in Norway. Register on our Website

If you missed any of our Coast to Coral online events, remember you can always catch-up by taking a look at our YouTube Channel here  


Thanks for reading! If you want to help our work to empower more people to protect Australian reefs, please consider making a monthly tax-deductible donation. 



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