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  • richardmitnick 1:00 pm on December 28, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: The Great Barrier Reef   

    From National Geographics: “Dive into the Vibrant Waters of the Great Barrier Reef” 

    National Geographic

    From National Geographics

    June 20, 2018

    Australian Government Media Release

    The Great Barrier Reef is home to thousands of marine species.

    You can spend a lifetime exploring the Great Barrier Reef and still not see all of this colorful coral realm—it’s nearly the size of Montana. Sprawling off the east coast of Queensland, Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is not a single reef but a group of more than 2,800 distinct entities. It stretches over 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) north to south and covers some 135,000 square miles (350,000 square kilometers) in total.

    The reef system is the largest structure on Earth built by living organisms, tiny hard corals that are no bigger than a fingernail. When corals die in countless numbers their limestone-secreted skeletons build upon one another to form the bedrock of the reef. The magnificent structures we see today were produced by a slow process played out over millions of years. Reefs grow only about half an inch (1.3 centimeters) a year.

    Some 2,000 different fish species have been identified on the Great Barrier Reef, and new ones are found each year. Scientists estimate that the reef is home to 4,000 mollusk species and over 250 different shrimp species. Even the corals that construct the reef itself are diverse—numbering some 400 species.

    This colorful aquatic ecosystem is home to a staggering diversity of plant and lower animal life but is also frequented by larger species like dugongs, sea turtles, sharks, and dolphins.

    In order to protect these biological treasures, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was designated a World Heritage site in 1981. Some two million tourists visit the Great Barrier Reef each year, driving an eco-economy that generates billions of dollars annually. But in recent years, the reef has suffered unprecendented coral bleeching.

    How to Get There

    Most day trips to the reef leave on boats from coastal centers like Cairns or Port Douglas. Most of the reef is dozens of miles offshore and must be reached by boat journeys of one to several hours.

    When to Go

    The Great Barrier Reef lies in tropical waters where temperatures are warm enough to offer enjoyable swimming and diving year round—though averages can vary 10°F (5.5°C) from winter to summer. Peak tourism time on the reef is April through November, but even in winter ocean water temperatures typically top 72°F (22°C). Daytime temperatures during the summer months (December to March) can be quite hot—particularly in the northern regions of the reef.

    How to Visit

    High-speed catamarans take day-trip visitors to the reef, often docking at special base camp platforms equipped for snorkeling, diving, or exploration via glass-sided semi-submersibles. Other boat tours, including sailboats, provide a more leisurely experience. Private charters are available for snorkeling, diving, whale watching, or fishing adventures—including overnight live-aboard vessels for journeys to more remote locations. Aircraft and helicopter flights offer a bird’s-eye view of the massive reef system, much of which lies close to the surface in clear, warm waters.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Geographic Society has been inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888. It is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation.

  • richardmitnick 10:53 am on August 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , QUT University, The Great Barrier Reef   

    From COSMOS Magazine and QUT University: “Citizen scientists and the Great Barrier Reef” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    From COSMOS Magazine



    QUT University

    06 August 2019

    QUT researchers are inviting you to help with vital work.

    Researchers are seeking help to save one of the world’s great marine environments. Jeff Hunter/Getty Images

    If news bulletins explaining how climate change has devastated parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef leave you feeling impotent and depressed, maybe getting involved in one of several citizen science projects up there could help.

    Researchers from Brisbane-based university QUT run several programs that are turning everyone from secondary school kids to tourists into marine scientists.

    Statistician Erin Peterson, for example, designed the Virtual Reef Diver project to drive a new approach to monitoring and managing the Great Barrier Reef.

    Members of the public can log on to the website and work through the collection of photographs, classifying the images as they go.

    Less “virtual” divers and snorkellers can submit underwater images they have taken while out on the Reef for others to classify.

    This work is vital.

    “The main challenge that we were trying to address is that the Great Barrier Reef is huge,” says Peterson. “It costs a lot to monitor it all.”

    “But there are more than 65 different organisations out there collecting data on the reef – specifically images – all the time.

    “Plus we have all these citizens out snorkelling or scuba diving, and everybody has an underwater camera now.

    “And so the idea was, can we bring together these image-based data from all these different sources, and learn more about what’s going on to get an estimate of coral cover.”

    Once the data is in and classified, data scientists such as Peterson design statistical models to create a predictive map across the whole of the Great Barrier Reef. Thanks to ordinary lay people, the information is as up-to-date as possible.

    Meanwhile, reef researcher Brett Lewis, at QUT’s Science and Engineering Faculty, has his sights set not on the Great Barrier Reef but its smaller cousins in Moreton Bay, near Brisbane.

    His work focusses on reefs in inner Moreton Bay to see how they cope with climate stress, and what that can tell us about the larger ecosystem to the north.

    Apart from climate, the bay reefs face challenges from sediments spilling from the Brisbane River. This is where Lewis’s work holds relevance for studying the effects of dredging on the Great Barrier Reef.

    “One of the easiest things for us to do, and one of the most beneficial for the local area, is to understand how the corals are surviving sedimentation from the Brisbane River and this turbid environment,” he says. “And I have the techniques to be able to carry this out.”

    For much of his work, Lewis uses time-lapse videography and other visual media to capture, in detail, the changes in corals.

    When Iona College in the Brisbane bayside suburb of Wynnum reached out to see if he would help the students develop a marine science project, he said “yes” immediately.

    To start with, Lewis gave students in years 9, 10 and 11 a crash course in scientific observation. Then, after helping them set up aquariums with corals, he gave them a project: create time-lapse videos of how corals deal with different forms of sedimentation, coarse and fine.

    Not only did students get to run the experiments, they got to report on the results, learning to present at conferences.

    “I wanted them to see the impact that their research can have rather than me saying that their research is going to have impact,” says Lewis. “They can visualise it for themselves and see that, yeah, it’s important that we also communicate.”

    QUT’s Matthew Dunbabin and his team keep watch on the Great Barrier Reef – and other reefs around the world – using technology. He and his team last year launched RangerBot, an underwater drone that can monitor marine health and even take direct action – by identifying and destroying the devastating crown-of-thorns starfish.


    RangerBot’s high-tech vision system allows it to “see” under water, a system that helped it win the 2016 Google Impact Challenge People’s Choice prize when it was still under development.

    Having “trained” the RangerBot to take on the crown-of-thorns, QUT researchers are teaching it new tricks. In April they took it to the Philippines to help in reseeding reefs destroyed by dynamite fishing.

    The project won Dunbabin and Southern Cross University’s Peter Harrison the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s $300,000 Out of the Blue Box Reef Innovation Challenge.

    “We’re looking at a large-scale spreading of the coral spawn,” Dunbabin says.

    “At the moment it’s a manual task, but we attach different payloads that hold bags of concentrated coral spawn after they’ve [been] reared and fertilised.”

    Once that project has been assessed, Dunbabin will head back to the Great Barrier Reef for a similar project at the end of the year.

    And there’s room in RangerBot’s work for the citizen scientist, too.

    “We’ve set it up so that it can be used as a citizen science program,” he says. “We have a citizen science portal where we upload data that’s been collected and lay scientists can help identify crown-of-thorns starfish, helping to verify what the robot thought it saw.”

    They are also working on another project they call the “coral point count” to engage the public where they can upload their own data from their own observations in a similar way to the Virtual Reef project.

    “We’ve developed that with schools,” Dunbabin says. “We were lucky enough to get some money from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Fund in Melbourne and the Dalio Foundation to engage high schools and other stakeholders.”

    “High schools where students studied marine science were asked to use the technology and give us feedback on what they liked and how we can make it a useful tool.

    “So they actually helped guide the development of the interface for the robot and got an understanding of the technology, and used it as part of that assessment,” he said.

    Professor Dunbabin says it is vital to keep people engaged so they don’t give up hope of keeping the reef vibrant.

    “I think everybody has a role that can help protect the Reef,” he says. “People can actually be part of the science, where they’re analysing the data that helps them contribute to the protection of the reef.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

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