Around the Reef - Reef Check Australia - May 2024

May 08, 2024

Dear Friend

The last month has been challenging to put it mildly. Strong winds and rough conditions have seen activities, planned, rescheduled and rescheduled again. We thank our volunteers and trainee surveyors for their patience with our constant reorganising, but safety must come first for all of our activities. Fingers crossed the conditions improve this month and stay that way.

This months email includes:

  • Action of the Month: Shine Together, Lets celebrate our volunteers month!
  • News from the Field
  • Books and Podcasts
  • Current Coral Affairs
  • Get With the Program

Shine Together, Lets celebrate our volunteers month!

This May, Reef Check Australia is celebrating the vibrant heartbeat of our organization – our incredible volunteers! National Volunteer Week (May 20-26) shines a spotlight on their passion, dedication, and the priceless impact they make on our ocean. But this month, we're not just celebrating them, we're celebrating everyone who contributes to our ocean's well-being, including YOU!

Shine Together: This motto reflects the interconnectedness of our ocean community. Volunteers shine when supported by local partners, and you shine when you participate in our Volunteer Incentive Program, advocate for ocean conservation, or simply appreciate the beauty and importance of our shared seas.

Here's how you can Shine Together this May:

  • Volunteer Spotlight: Every week, we'll highlight a dedicated volunteer, sharing their story and the incredible work they do for the ocean. Get inspired by their passion and consider joining our amazing team!

  • Volunteer Incentive Program: Show your appreciation for our volunteers by participating in our exciting program. Nominate a Reef Check Australia volunteer for volunteer of the month, cheer them on (in the field or from home!) and support local businesses that support our volunteers, like PRANAFEST, and spread the word! Know a business who would like to support our volunteers? Get in Touch!

  • Local Partner Shoutout: Let's amplify the voices of organizations who champion volunteer well-being and support ocean conservation efforts. Check out some of our supporters below.

Remember, every action, every voice, is a ripple that contributes to a wave of positive change for our ocean. This May, let's Shine Together, celebrating the strength of our community, recognizing each other's worth, and ensuring a brighter future for our beloved seas.

Join us, volunteer, participate, and most importantly, shine! Together, we can make a difference!


News from the field

Stories and updates from our teams out & about. 

South East Queensland

Gold Coast Seaway, South-west wall  - Reef Health Survey

This underwater adventure is brought to you by team RCA at the Southwest Wall of the Gold Coast Seaway. Established in 2007 and just South from the popular Pipeline, this site has provided valuable insights into the dynamic marine environment of the Gold Coast.

Highlights of this dive for our team during their reef health survey included an abundance of purple nudibranchs, eel-tailed catfish, some tropical rock lobster and some large sweetlips! Plus, catching up with the Reef Check Australia team members spanning across SEQ and the GBR highlights the dedication of our volunteers.

An increase in silt was recorded across the entire transect, a decrease in nutrient indicator algae, and increase in the number of tunicates. One drupella snail was spotted, three lobsters, and several pieces of debris, leading to the team conducting a clean up to remove over pieces of trash from underwater, and several handfuls of trash from the beach and park area as they got ready. A great opportunity to remember to pick up debris whenever safe to do so; even if it isn’t yours, and dispose of it correctly.

A massive shoutout to our amazing team and a heartfelt thank you to the team at Aqua Adventures for supplying tanks. It requires all hands on deck to make events possible, so thankyou to everyone who helped plan and survey.

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.

Noosa, The Caves - Reef Health Survey

After months of watching the weather, planning and replanning due to high seas, high winds and average conditions, the Reef Check Australia team finally managed to get up to Noosa to complete their final reef health monitoring for the region. The beautiful day provided a small refuge of sun between the rain that has kept the entire south east QLD coast green and humid over the past few months, so we were excited to check out how the reefs in Noosa had faired.

The surface ocean temperature was 30 degrees Celsius when we jumped in this month; extremely warm for this time of year and this region. Around the world, the Earth’s oceans are having their warmest start to a year on record as El Niño and climate change combine to produce unrivalled January-February sea surface temperatures.

Last year was the warmest year on record for Earth’s global oceans, with sea surface temperatures running at record high levels from mid-March until the end of the year. This unprecedented global ocean heat was caused in part by the warming effects of climate change and El Niño. What does this mean for local reefs?

Our Noosa Caves site was set up in 2019 to gain a better understanding of reef health within the Noosa region as a part of our long-term monitoring plan in the region. This site sits at 12-13m deep, and consists of a very undulating, uneven reef structure, allowing plenty of habitat for animals and corals etc alike.

Despite lowered visibility and very green conditions, the site itself was teaming with hard and soft coral, sponges and fish. Two lobsters and 15 Drupella snails were recorded, Several large Drupella scars were seen; with the majority affecting foliose hard corals. Eight unknown scars were recorded, with each replicant having several bleached corals, with individuals bleached from 20-100%. The population level bleaching was much lower (1-3%). Butterflyfish and one wobbegong were the only target fish recorded on the transect.

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 Noosa Council.

Mud Island, Moreton Bay - Reef Health Survey

Moreton Bay is a water body situated right next to Brisbane, one of Australia’s largest cities hosting a population of over 2 million people. Situated in the bay are various coral reefs, monitoring them over long periods of time allows us to understand how urbanisation affects marine ecosystems that are adjacent to large urban regions to measure just how humans impact the world underwater.

On a sun-filled summers day, various Reef Check Australia team leaders and survey divers headed out into the bay to perform coral reef surveys. Reef Check Australia has been monitoring Southeast Queensland reefs since 2007, and Mud Island since 2017, as part of a partnership with Port of Brisbane to monitor the effects of activities in the Bay. Today, we surveyed site situated along Mud Island called Coral Galore.

Although the weather was wonderful above water, large amounts of turbidity underwater make working conditions less than ideal. A large amount of silt and sargassum seaweed covered the site, however there was no shortage of life with the coral reefs still blossoming with invertebrates and other animals hiding in the substrates. Several Drupella snails and coral bleaching were recorded at the site, which are threats towards our marine ecosystems.

During our dive underwater, although the region has seen lots of rain recently the team recorded a water temperature of 29⁰C, which is exceptionally high; the highest recorded on any Reef Check Australia survey in Southeast Qld to date. Unfortunately, this is a sign of a marine heatwave, and bays such as Moreton are extremely susceptible to these events due to small amounts of oceanographic currents pushing water around the region and shallow waters allowing the sun to heat bodies of water up rapidly.

Marine heatwaves can bring about devastating effects for the ecosystems they affect, so monitoring sites like Mud Island over long periods of time helps us understand how these potentially catastrophic events affect biodiversity. We look forward to heading out again in a few months to continue monitoring any changes that might occur as a part of this long term monitoring program.

Thank you to Go Dive Brisbane for getting us to our reef health monitoring site. We appreciate that many of the sites we visit are not regularly on the tourist circuit, although we believe they should be!

Reef Check Acknowledge the Quandamooka people of Bangamba (Mud island), 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 Port of Brisbane as a part of their environmental monitoring program.

Envirotech Talk - Discussion on coral restoration and citizen science

Our General Manager, Jodi Salmond, joined students from Envirotech on the Gold Coast this month to share her passion as a marine scientist working in the region. She shared updates on Reef Check Australia, reef health within the Gold Coast, and the simple ways that everyone can get involved in supporting reef health; above and below the surface.

Reef Check Australia works hard to communicate what we do as citizen scientists to the wider community, so we thought it was the perfect opportunity to chat with the Envirotech students as they learn about reef monitoring techniques, reef restoration, and  about how best to communicate, engage and empower their peers to better understand, appreciate and protect our local marine resources.

We run semi regular Reef Ambassador training courses, which is designed to train community outreach volunteers to actively inspire, motivate and support their communities through the potential power of the right blend of science, optimism and concrete action that can empower passionate community members to support reef resilience in their local area. Through this strategic, science-based and collaborative outreach network, we seek to build a network of passionate and informed community members, helping to translate our citizen science findings into meaningful action.

Sound like something you might be interested in?. Make sure to head on over to to find out more, and to sign up for the next course!

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.

Reef Check Australia activities in this region have received funding support from The City of Gold Coast's Catchment and Citizen Science Grants Program.


Great Barrier Reef

Grays Bay Bowen - Snorkel Clean Up

This site was identified as a hot spot for fishing debris during our Reef Health Surveys. The persistent strong winds have kept visibility low, but a small team of enthusiastic volunteers jumped in 2 hours before low tide which gave enough water depth and visibility to clean up some of the debris on snorkel.

We quickly set to work carefully removing the fishing line and associated hooks and sinkers, taking care not to damage the coral. There was a significant amount of line that had been in place for a very long time and coral had grown over it, so these pieces were left in place. We collected over 50m of monofilament line, over 50m of braid line, 5 plastic lures, 3 metal lures, hooks, sinkers, aluminium cans and a complete mask and snorkel (beyond saving unfortunately). This site will continue to be monitored and additional clean-ups on scuba may be necessary to remove further debris not accessible on snorkel.

This clean up was conducted on the traditional lands and sea country of the Ngaro, Gia and Juru 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.

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

Voice of the Sea by John Williamson

A book for the young ocean conservationists. Apparently there is also a song of the same name also written by John Williamson so check it out.

Current Coral Affairs

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

Looks like an alien!

New species of sea slug discovered in UK waters

Read now in: BBC News

Get with the Program

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

Sat 11 May | Rowes Bay (Townsville) Sustainability Centre Open Day, 9am to 1pm More Info. Come say Hi to our team.

Tue 14 May | Coast to Coral - Saving Sawfish with Nikki Biskis. Register on our website to get your login.

Sun 2 June | Townsville Ecofiesta. For more info

Sun 2 June | Logan Eco Action Festival. For more info head to:

Sat 8 June | Marine Bioblitz Whitsundays - stay tuned for more details

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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