Around the Reef - Reef Check Australia - August 2023

August 02, 2023

Dear {{recipient.first_name_or_friend}} 

Welcome to our August update. Our teams have once again been busy, but we still have some past events to share with you. We would like to say a BIG welcome to our new subscribers from our most recent events and our Ambassador trainees who commenced their training last week. Hopefully you will get to meet some of these people at our upcoming events.

This months email includes:

  • Action of the Month: Create a new habit!
  • News from the Field
  • Brain Food
  • Current Coral Affairs
  • Get With the Program

Create a new habit!

Creating a new habit or ditching an old one is hard.  Whether it's exercising more, eating healthier, or practicing self-care, creating a new habit can be challenging. But with the right approach and mindset, it's possible to develop new habits that stick. Well. The time is now, and we are here to help. So this months Action of the Month is to create a new habit (and lets make it a good one!)

There are 4 laws to creating habits - Make them obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying.

Start small. Instead of trying to make a big change all at once, focus on taking small, consistent steps. Want to read more books? Leave the book where you have to physically pick it up. Set a goal of just opening the book, make it a book you want to read, and maybe read it in your comfy chair, in the sun, or at the beach, so all 4 laws are met.

Remember to make it enjoyable. Find ways to make your new habit fun or rewarding. If you enjoy your new habit, you'll be more likely to stick to it.

Accountability is also important when it comes to building a new habit. Having someone to support you and hold you accountable can make a big difference in sticking to your new habit.

Another really important tool for creating great habits is to track them!  There are plenty of habit trackers out there; paper and app versions. Tracking helps make your habits obvious, increases self-esteem around ability to change/grow and can also increase motivation by gamifying it.

Remember to be patient with yourself. Building a new habit takes time and effort, and setbacks are a natural part of the process. Don't beat yourself up if you slip up or miss a day, simply recommit to your habit and keep moving forward. With dedication and perseverance, you can develop new habits that bring positive changes to your life.

So, What habit will you focus on building this August?

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 Underwater Clean Up

With blue skies and clear water, the Reef Check Australia team was out again, on and under the water cleaning up our local Moreton Bay marine environments, this time at Peel Island North.

Peel Island is a small, heritage-listed island and national park located in Moreton Bay, just 4km from the mainland at Cleveland. The island is known for its natural beauty and wildlife enjoyed by locals and visitors alike and is accessed only by boat or watercraft.  The island has an interesting history. To read all about it, check out some of our previous posts.

The island is a popular fishing area. Unlike Horseshoe Bay, the north of the Island is not as protected from the elements, meaning less tourist boats. There is however heavy use by recreational fishermen. For this reason, this site was selected as it has been previously identified as a hot spot for marine debris.

Surprisingly, much less debris was recorded at this location. Approximately 2 kilograms of debris was removed from a 400m2 area, including 3 glass bottles, approximately 20 meters of fishing line, and some pieces of broken glass.

This activity forms part of a wider program to look at the ongoing impacts of the floods in early 2022, in addition to documenting the rate of attrition of marine debris in the area due to boating and fishing.

Reef Check Acknowledge the Quandamooka people, 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 from the Queensland Government’s Community Sustainability Action grant program.

Burleigh Heads Beach Clean Up

The last day of school holidays and the weather was perfect, so the Reef Check Australia team took the opportunity to clean up the popular Burleigh Heads as a part of an ongoing effort to document debris loads along the length of the Queensland coastline.

Burleigh is popular with tourists and locals alike, as evidenced by the huge amount of people enjoying the sun surf and sand bright an early on a Sunday morning. Unfortunately, many also choose to leave their waste behind.

Over 1000 pieces of debris was removed in a couple of hours. 473 of these items were plastic, single use balloons. Polystyrene chunks were also found, as well as a variety of both paper and plastic straws and cutlery, 147 cigarette butts, plastics, clothing, and even some toothpaste, sunscreen and a pool noodle.

This activity forms part of a wider program to look at the ongoing impacts of the floods in early 2022, in addition to documenting the rate of attrition of debris in the area due to land based activities.

Approximately 8.9 kilograms of debris was removed from a 500m stretch of beach, covering 8000 square meters. Despite the number of accessible bins in the area, the sand dunes, trees and shrubs were filled with a variety of debris items.

It doesn’t take much to make a difference. If you see debris, pick it up. Every bit counts. Together we can stop this rubbish from entering our oceans and waterways.

Reef Check Acknowledge the Yugambeh people of the Gold 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 emerging.

This project has received funding support from the Queensland Government’s Community Sustainability Action grant program.

Gold Coast Seaway - Reef Health Surveys

Braving the crowds that can always be found utilising this popular Gold Coast area, our team of trained volunteer divers headed to the Gold Coast Seaway to undertake our annual survey at the South-west Wall. This site was established in 2007 after initially conducting a clean-up dive and discovering the diversity of organisms and substrates at this site, and the potential for change over time. This site is located within the broadwater and is a very popular spot for fishing, boating, diving, snorkelling and swimming, with a sandy beach and sets of steps making access to the water easy.

Visibility was excellent with the substrate dominated by rock with turf algae reaching a sandy base. Despite the unassuming appearance of the substrate, the site hosts a variety of marine organisms including tunicates, hydroids and nudibranchs. Our team recorded a number of target organisms including butterflyfish, moray eels and snapper, several collector urchins, lobsters, banded coral shrimp and anemones.

Thank you to Aqua Adventures for hiring us tanks, and to all our amazing volunteers who gave up their public holiday to help out. It is much appreciated as always.

Reef Check Acknowledge the people of the Yugambeh language region of the Gold 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 emerging.

This project has received funding support from The City of Gold Coasts Catchment and Citizen Science Grants Program.

Mudjimba Island - The Ledge survey

The sun was out and the water was looking crystal clear, so with a full team and plenty to do, our Reef Check Australia volunteers headed out to one of their favourite locations in the whole of South East Queensland; Mudjimba Island.

Site 1 at Mudjimba Ledge was set up as a long term monitoring site in 2007, and sits at just 4-5m of water, along the top of the reef. The site is dominated by encrusting hard coral, soft coral, anemones, plenty of corallimorphs and zooanthids and benthic invertebrates.

The visibility was fantastic, with the team able to identify corals from the surface, at over 10m deep. The site was teeming with fish (as usual) and turtles resting and making their way along our transect. Moray eels, nudibranchs and sea stars were spotted between lobsters and wobbegongs. This site is truly one of the most species dense areas along the length of South East Queensland.

Soft corals, encrusting hard corals and a variety of sponges, ascidians and algaes made up the substrate, along with rock with turf algae and calcareous algae which acts like a cement to hold the reef together. Drupella snails (a coral eating snail) were found on every transect, often in small patches of high number. Coral disease was recorded. Bleaching was also observed on all transects, with up to 10% of the population being bleached. Butterflyfish, snapper, turtles and wobbegongs were all recorded on transect.

The water temperature had dropped a couple of degrees in just over a day, illustrating that cold weather is starting to come in. Time to make sure you get some clear water diving in whilst you can!

Thank you to Blue Tortuga Adventures for getting us to site. These vital reef health surveys are not possible without our amazing volunteers, so thankyou for all that you do!

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 emerging.

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

Nurture Festival - Lake Kawana

What a beautiful excuse to get out and about, enjoy the sunshine and meet so many new people! The Reef Check Australia team set up a gorgeous, captivating stall at the Nurture Festival at Lake Kawana in May this year. This annual family friendly event provides a safe space for young people and their families to have important conversations about mental health and wellbeing. As visitors meandered through the festival grounds, enjoying the live music and inspirational speakers they were drawn to our vibrant stall and the passionate volunteers of Reef Check Australia. The stall was adorned with informative posters, a green screen and knowledgeable volunteers who enthusiastically shared insights on the current state of Australia's reefs, the threats they face, and the collaborative efforts underway to protect these delicate ecosystems.

The green screen provided the opportunity for some fun, with one background image proving the most popular. Attendees left the stall inspired and empowered, armed with a deeper understanding of the urgent need to safeguard Australia's reefs for future generations. The Reef Check Australia stall was a focal point of the Nurture Festival, showcasing the organisation's commitment to preserving and nurturing the mesmerizing underwater worlds that grace the Australian coastline.

Reef Check Acknowledge the Kabi Kabi people, 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.

Our attendance at this festival is made possible by funding support from the Sunshine Coast Council’s Environment Levy Partnership Grant.

Great Barrier Reef

Fitzroy Island Land and Underwater Clean Up

The strong wind warnings cancelled one of our trips to Fitzroy earlier in the month, so as soon as the weather turned favourable, a tiny but mighty team of three headed to site in mid-May as part of our collaboration with Tangaroa Blue's ReefClean project. Great Barrier Reef team leaders Jenni and Aimee were joined by reef health surveyor in training; Bec, for an underwater clean-up, as well as a beach clean-up on the beautiful Fitzroy Island, off Cairns.

The team started off the day with a morning walk across Welcome Bay collecting rubbish from the beach and talking with visitors about marine debris, data collection and the Australian Marine Debris Initiative. After collating and recording their findings, the dive team jumped in the water with scuba cylinders supplied by our friends at Reef Restoration Foundation and Fitzroy Island resort and conducted an underwater clean-up focusing on the areas under the public boat moorings. Glass bottles, aluminium cans, fishing line and a pair of underwear were found around this well utilised area.

The location was chosen due to its high use, and identification as a marine debris hot spot during previous visits to the island.

The ReefClean project is funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and delivered by Tangaroa Blue Foundation and a number of partner organisations including Reef Check Australia

Reef Check Australia acknowledge the Gimuy Walubara Yidinji people of Fitzroy Island (also known as Koba or Gabar) as the Traditional Owners of the land and sea country where these activities took place and we pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

Nelly Bay Underwater and Land Clean up

Co-Exist Australia joined forces with Reef Check Australia to undertake a marine debris event at Nelly Bay, Magnetic Island in late May. A team of 20 volunteers partook in collecting marine debris along the 1500m stretch of beach, as well as in water with both divers and snorkellers cleaning up the local reefs. During our event we came across some locals who walk this beach daily, and are regularly picking up debris. Despite this amazing commitment from locals , we still collected a total of 406 items, and not surprisingly half of this was hard plastic pieces (214 pieces). Other items collected included plastic cups from the nearby accommodation, cigarette butts (26), a lighter and a vape, and 11 clothing items.

Underwater, our divers and snorkellers collected 25 items, consisting of remnants of soft plastics, hard plastics, glass, aluminium cans and paper.

In addition to this, we also collected an additional 420 pieces of hard plastic from the degrading tactile strips at the bus stop adjacent to the beach which were breaking apart and spreading plastic into the surrounding scrubland.

This project is supported by Tangaroa Blue through ReefClean; a project funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust. ReefClean is a project to remove and reduce marine debris impacting the Great Barrier Reef

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

Our Townsville event

A small team held a stall at the Our Townsville event in early June, an annual event with a huge range of local exhibitors. Being such a diverse community event, we had people from all ages and backgrounds (environmental or not) visiting our stall. The majority of people we spoke to at our stall had never heard of Reef Check Australia, so it was a great opportunity to inform locals who we are and the work we do in the area to protect our local reefs. Many expressed their interest in becoming involved with Reef Check, with people signing up for our eNewsletter and to express their interest in becoming an ambassador, surveyor, or to participate in local clean ups. We hope to see some of these new faces at our next event!

We also acknowledge the Bindal and Wulgurukaba People, the traditional custodians of the land on which this event took place, and their elders past, present and emerging.

Thankyou to Townsville City Council for organising this event. Our attendance at this event was made possible by funding support from Townsville City Council through the Creek to Coral program.  


Brain Food

Reviews and details on books, documentaries, and podcasts that we have come across, & wanted to share.

If I had an Octopus by Gabby Dawnay. A great bedtime story for the little ones.

Many Things Under a Rock - The Mysteries of Octopuses by David Scheel. Written by a marine biologist with a lifelong preoccupation with octopuses. Only out this month and looks amazing, let us know if you read this one and give us a review.

Current Coral Affairs

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

Studying Marine Life with Seaweed-Based Soft Robots

Biodegradable, edible, bendible soft robots? Yes it is a thing!

Read in: Innovation Hub

Fossil records hold clues about modern-day marine ecology

Read in: Popular Science

Marine Sponges don't like it too hot either!

Sponges are turning white and dying when the water gets too hot, but why?

Read now: AIMS information centre

Get with the Program

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

8 August | Coast to Corals - Movement and Diet of Tiger Sharks with PJ Ikpe. Register now: Reef Check Calendar

12 August | Whale Festival, Justin Park, Burleigh Heads. Free event. Visit their website for more details.

29 Sept - 1 Oct | Caloundra Music Festival - tickets available now:

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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