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COVID-19 Update

March 25, 2020
COVID-19 UPDATEReef Check Australia friends, family, volunteers and community. It is clear we all face a great deal of uncertainty in these unprecedented times. While things are changing minute by minute, the Australian Government has just asked Australians to stay at home unless essential, and will be closing down public venues this week. State Governments are also taking matters into their own hands, imposing strict social distancing measures that are likely to ramp up over the coming weeks.   What this means for Reef Check Australia Your safety has always been, and will always be, a core value of Reef Check Australia. In order to stay ahead of the curve (and in this case, ‘flatten the curve’), we will have to make sacrifices to reduce the risk of the virus spreading and to keep vulnerable communities safe. For RCA, this means: Across our entire organisation, we are taking a proactive approach to respond to the evolving COVID-19 situation and will work hard to support all our members throughout this difficult time. As we grapple with the enormous scale and impact of this pandemic, our global Reef Check community continues to support and learn from each other. We have been closely following all developments related to COVID-19, and are going to continue to review our policies around all activities to ensure the continued safety of you, our team and RCA as a whole. If you feel unwell, we respectfully request that we all follow the advice of health authorities and refrain from visiting friends, family, co-workers, and Reef Check Australia. Our RCA office will be scaling down over the next few weeks, with limited staff. Please feel free to reach out, but please note we will be on limited hours and may not reply straight away. We will keep you informed of updates and changes to scheduled events, venues, gatherings, etc. as soon as we receive them. We are currently reviewing each of our planned survey dives, training and community events, and will send updates via email, Facebook and personal phone calls. We have been testing various online platforms to take our events digital, given the new restrictions. Stay tuned for more details on this soon.   We also want to take a moment to recognise that the Coronavirus outbreak not only affects our day-to-day activities and our economy, but it’s also having a significant impact on people’s mental health and levels of stress. Therefore, we want to ask that you join us in maintaining a positive attitude and continue to look for new opportunities in the face of these challenges. Maybe use this time to reconnect (virtually, of course) with those who you haven’t touched base with in a while, and offer your support. We invite you to also share your questions, ideas, and comments with the Reef Check community on Facebook so we can all stay better informed. To get started, here is a great evidence-based resource from some of Australia’s top experts. If you’re looking for fact-based information about COVID-19 and how it spreads, there is also Science Matters: Let’s Talk About COVID-19, a free course by Imperial College of London, one of the top public health research universities in the world. You can also check out our friend Daniel’s Free Live Weekly Online Yoga and Meditation Group to help you revitalise your mind, body and soul. And be sure to stay tuned for some of the awesome RCA online activities that we have planned over the next few weeks until we are able to reconvene with face to face activities. On behalf of the team at Reef Check Australia, thank you for your ongoing support. This is an uncertain time, and the situation is changing by the minute. Please take care of yourself and those closest to you. We are all in this together, and that is how we will get through it.   Kind regards   Jodi Salmond General Manager Reef Check Australiahttp://www.reefcheckaustralia.org/
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Whitsundays Traditional Owners Consultation Continues!

February 26, 2020
  As part of Reef Check Australia's Whitsundays Citizen Science project, RCA (in conjunction with Reef Ecologic) continued collaboration with Traditional Owners to select new culturally relevant survey sites in the Whitsundays Region.     On 1st Feb, 2020 Reef Check Australia Great Barrier Reef Co-ordinator Nathan Cook and RCA Ambassador Satya Cook discussed potential survey locations with Ngaro traditional owners. A number of sites were identified along the east coast of Whitsunday island and a field trip to explore some of these sites has been earmarked for early March. Overall outcomes are to increase involvement of Traditional Owners in natural resource management, including monitoring and management of culturally significant sites and species in the region. The Reef Check Australia Whitsundays Citizen Science Project is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.    
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Australian Marine Debris Initiative - Get the Rundown!

February 18, 2020
  Find out about the recent Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) workshop from RCA volunteer Cheryl Tan: - As part of the warm-up to the recent Clean Up for the Hatchlings event at La Balsa Park, volunteers and employees from participating non-profit organisations (Reef Check Australia, SurfRider Foundation) came together for the AMDI workshop held at SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast Aquarium organised by the Sunshine Coast Council to learn more about the Australian Marine Debris initiative (AMDI) system.    The aim of this workshop was to enable volunteers and organisations who were running beach clean-up events to also collect data on what they were finding with a consistent methodology so it could be collated into a standardised national database on marine debris.   A couple of interesting takeaway points as well as fun facts we learned from this workshop included: Chocolate wrappers and potato crisp packages were classified as “foil wrappers” under the Metal section and not under “Packaging Items” in the datasheet.   How would you differentiate a lollipop stick from an earbud stick?  The top of a white lollipop stick has a square hole but the top of an earbud stick has little grooves in it!    This is a fun activity for kids to get stuck into, but it is also important when it comes to itemising these 2 items in the appropriate category: lollipop sticks go under “Plastics” and earbud sticks go under “Sanitary” in the datasheet.   Once everything under the “Plastics” section has been itemised, we collate all plastic straws and place them in a pile to be counted.    Cyalume sticks were another interesting item. If found during clean-ups, these were first itemised and thereafter collected and sent for identification. These sticks would then be traced back to various fish and tackle stores. There were many other pointers we received during this hands-on session and is definitely a highly recommended workshop for anyone looking to use the AMDI datasheet within their local community clean up events.   Thanks to the Sunshine Coast Council for supporting our work in this region.
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News Release: Reef Check Australia Celebrates Women and Girls in Science!

February 11, 2020
Reef Check Australia is proud to celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11 by showcasing the tremendous achievements of our General Manager, Jodi Salmond.   The International Day of Women and Girls in Science was launched by the United Nations General Assembly to try and work towards “full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, and further achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”.   In a bold bid to tackle the global dearth of women leaders in STEMM, Jodi Salmond, a marine biologist and the General Manager for Reef Check Australia, is taking her commitment to leadership to the end of the earth after being chosen as a Homeward Bound participant.   Homeward Bound is a global 12-month leadership initiative for women with a background in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine). It aims to equip a 1000-strong collaboration of women with the skills to demonstrate a new model of leadership, to create better outcomes for our planet.   Research repeatedly shows that while women demonstrate great integrity and a legacy mindset when it comes to leadership, decision-making and the creation of collaborative and effective teams, they are overwhelmingly under-represented in the traditionally male-dominated professions.   Founded in 2016, the Homeward Bound program was literally a dream of Australian leadership expert Fabian Dattner, who believed the world needed a program to unlock the leadership potential of outstanding women in STEMM, to upskill and support them to lead, influence and contribute to decision-making about the future of our planet.   ‘The aim of Homeward Bound has always been to identify and foster outstanding leadership potential in STEMM and Jodi is exactly the kind of person I had in mind when I dreamt of this program,’ Fabian said.   With only 80 participants selected in 2019, it came as no surprise to the team at Reef Check Australia that Jodi was chosen for this honour. A passionate marine researcher, under the water, she trains divers in global reef health monitoring protocols; above it, she engages the community through hands on research, education, and personal development to encourage everyone to become the best versions of themselves and to look after the planet. Jodi’s year-long training started in November 2019, and will culminate in a 3-week expedition to Antarctica in 2020; an exciting journey to one of the most remote places on the planet. The journey is the opportunity for Jodi and her 79 peers to solidify their learnings and work on global collaboration for the greater good. Around the world, reefs are facing a hugely uncertain future due to pollution, development, climate change and heavy human use of ocean environments. In fact, climate change has been identified as the greatest threat to the future of coral reefs around the world; and science and technology alone aren’t going to save them. We need people power. We need action. And we need it now.   In Jodi’s own words “The women of Homeward Bound are doers. We are not prepared to wait for someone else to do something. We want to represent women in science. We want to make an impact in tackling climate change. We want to change the world. And we want to do that now.”   Visit reefcheckaustralia.org to find out how to get involved, what changes you can make in your everyday actions to make a difference or set up a monthly donation – any amount no matter how small will help to protect our reefs and oceans.
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RCA at QUT Summer Holiday Program

February 05, 2020
On January 18, Reef Check Volunteers Rose and Gemma joined 25 of Brisbane's most entrepreneurial young minds at The Cube for the Queensland University of Technology's Reef Challenge, as part of the QUT Summer Holiday Program. Facilitated by Bop Industries and QUT's The Cube, the workshop saw students from across Brisbane develop innovative solutions for some of the Reef's biggest challenges. The students were tasked with researching, designing and pitching marketable consumer products that would significantly improve ocean health.   Rose and Gemma worked with the teams, providing guidance on the finer points of marine science while being wowed by the student's creativity and passion. The team awarded 'Most Entrepreneurial' was Banana Bags who pitched a range of food based, biodegradable carry bags using green banana skins straight from Queensland farms. This team went all in on the circular economy concept, turning a waste product into a desirable item and ensuring it can then be re-purposed as fish food. With a mission to reduce plastic waste and a 'give-back promise' of 10% going to ocean protection, Banana Bags was a sure winner. Other incredible entries included oil cleaning drones; educational, recyclable plastic rash-vests; and coral harvesting take home kits. The RCA team were seriously impressed at the quality of the ideas on the day! Thanks to the Port of Brisbane and Queensland Government for supporting our work in this region.    
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Get to Know our Volunteers - Shayan Barmand

January 22, 2020
  We know that getting involved in conservation and education efforts can seem daunting. So we thought a "Getting to Know our Volunteers" segment might help inspire peeps while answering some of the FAQ's on what it takes to be active for our reefs and oceans!   We're kicking this segment off with our Reef Ambassador extraordinaire, Shayan Barmand!       Why did you join RCA? I first read about RCA while looking for volunteer groups that protect the Great Barrier Reef and conduct dive surveys looking at the extent of bleaching. I studied climate change and global change science, which emphasised the role of the oceans in supporting the stable functioning of the planet. So when I moved to the Sunshine Coast I started learning a lot more about the GBR and tropical marine ecosystems in general as a critical life support system for marine biodiversity. As major bleaching events were underway, I looked for ways to get involved in its protection. Once I met Jodi Salmond and saw firsthand the awesome work that RCA does on the ground, I knew I wanted to volunteer and help out in whatever way I could.   What has made you stick with us?! I have volunteered and continue to volunteer with a number of other conservation and sustainability-focused non-profits. The reason I dedicate most of my time to RCA is because it stands out in how it manages volunteers, the projects it runs, and most importantly, because it focuses on scientific research as well as community education, and bridging the gap between the two. Its citizen science program is evidence-based, educational, engaging and actions-focused; and its ambassador/surveyor trainings are comprehensive, and the methodology stands up to scientific scrutiny so you know that the data can have a real impact. It allows ordinary citizens to get involved in a task that is much bigger than themselves and goes to the heart of ensuring a safe and healthy planet for future generations.   What does RCA mean to you? RCA is a perfect example of a bottom-up project that accelerates local progress in reconnecting humanity with the biosphere, which is absolutely essential for addressing the combined environmental/social challenges we face and leading human society into the necessary evolution of living in harmony with nature. On a personal level, it allows me to combine what I love (educating and engaging all sectors of society to take action that is evidence-based and solutions-focused), with what I am most passionate about (bringing humanity into harmony with nature by mitigating climate change and further biodiversity loss).      Shayan is one of the volunteer organisers who keep Reef Check Australia's Sunshine Coast Coast to Coral talk series running smoothly! If he has inspired you to find out more, check out our "Get Involved" page to see how you can help!
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