Reef Check Australia 2016

Its been a tough year for the Reef. This has weighed heavy on our minds and hearts. Despite the challenges, we are active optimists and proud to be working with our amazing partners, directors, staff, supporters and volunteers to keep on taking action to help more people look after reefs & oceans. We need an army of ocean agents now more than ever.

What did we do in 2016? Read on to recap some of the awesome achievements that our network has helped to deliver. Big shout out to the huge collective of people and organisations who make it possible.

DECLARED Moreton Bay as one of 14 new Hope Spots by IUCN and Mission Blue. Hope Spots are unique marine environments that are critical to the health of our oceans.

This commendation was announced at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, after intensive review. The successful nomination was jointly submitted with the awesome crew at The University of Queensland Underwater Club (UniDive). A great acknowledgement of the range of efforts to look after Moreton Bay.

SURVEYED 94 reef sites, including 88 across Queensland and 6 in western Australia.

In Queensland, surveys included our new most southern survey location at the Gold Coast's Kirra Reef, all the way north to tropical reefs off Port Douglas in Queensland. In the wake of the third global bleaching event and the most notable bleaching event recorded on the Great Barrier Reef, monitoring was particularly critical this year. As seen in larger studies across the Reef, the impacts of coral bleaching have varied widely. On some sites, teams have recorded low or even no bleaching, on some sites teams have reported some severe bleaching impacts. We've also witnessed signs of recovery on sites that were affected.

A survey team in Cairns had an ocean optimism story when they returned to a site that had showed 70% coral bleaching in April, which was showing real signs of recovery in October, with only low levels of mortality and ongoing bleaching. The team did report some coral disease, coral scars and Drupella snails—all common issues after a notable bleaching event, as these stressed corals are more susceptible to other health issues. That means ongoing monitoring will be important. Still, this is great news for a scenic reef tourism site.

While teams have seen signs of impacts this year, they have also had the chance to see plenty of beautiful reefs. These are the places that inspire all of us. These places need our help to look after them.

John Brewer Reef, Townsville (Oct 2016)

We added new important nearshore reef monitoring locations in the Mackay region with help from the Mackay Dive Club, Megaforce Charters, and Reef Catchments. We look forward to expanding our work in this region with local partners.

We continued monitoring some of our longest established sites around Magnetic Island, Townsville. These nearshore fringing reefs never cease to amaze us in their persistence and accessibility. Thanks to support from Townsville City Council And Townsville Airport through the Together Townsville program.

We continued working with Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation, SEQ Catchments, Quandamooka Land & Sea Management Agency, and Queensland Parks and Wildlife, Department of National Parks, Sport & Racing to deliver reef health surveyor training and monitoring activities for sea country management in Moreton Bay.

Citizen science can help generate more spatial and temporal data and actively engage communities in looking after the Reef. We're proud to be part of this ever-growing movement.

COLLECTED field data for phase 2 of a project to create a new baseline for reef habitat extent inshore Moreton Bay for the first time in a decade.

Volunteers hopped in for another round of spot checks to validate habitat type and extent along the fringing reefal areas of Moreton Bay, with support from Redland City Council. This project built on the 2015 phase 1 in central Moreton Bay, supported through the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.

This collaborative project brings together UQ’s Remote Sensing Research Centre & Healthy Waterways and Catchments to connect citizen science in the field, habitat mapping expertise and natural resource management applications for the Healthy Waterways Report Card.

The habitat maps will be available from early 2017, shedding new light on these unique reefs literally on the doorstep of Brisbane.

JOINED conferences to represent reef citizen science, including the International Coral Reef Symposium, the largest reef science gathering in the world.

We shared our evolution and current initiatives in the citizen science session. The conference culminated in an open letter to the Australian Prime Minister calling for swift action and strong leadership to reduce carbon emissions to protect the Great Barrier Reef from ever-increasing threats due to coral bleaching. (Photo credit ICRS 2016)

We also co-chaired the Citizen Science Cluster for the Moreton Bay Quandamooka & Catchments Forum. This forum shared the latest research and information about Moreton Bay and its catchment. Citizen science featured as a key theme. Outcomes and recommendations for action will be released in 2017.

PLOTTED with superstar database developer and long-term volunteer for a whizbang new database.

Its been a lot of brainstorms, mind maps, coding, coffee, and cross-checking with the legendary database guru, Josh Passenger. This new sparkly database will offer much greater functionality for data, volunteers and reporting to partners in early 2017. We’re are seriously geeking out with this one.

WROTE the first-ever PADI distinctive specialty snorkel course.

We're thrilled to formally adapt our respected Reef Health Surveyor training course specifically for snorkel-based activities and help more people get involved in reef citizen science. Huge thanks to Pete Faulkner for authoring, and Chris Roelfsema and Jody Kreuger for their sage advice.

This year we spent time on a number of foundational activities like this to help expand our reach to help the reef, with support from the XXXX Island Charity Auction proceeds.

EXPANDED our partnership network with two pilot Reef Check Australia affiliates.

These citizen science leaders will be running their own Reef Check survey activities, increasing reef monitoring & outreach. We kicked off the year with a flurry of training and surveys with Cape Conservation Group in Ningaloo, Western Australia and are gearing up to support The University of Queensland Underwater Club (UniDive)’s Flinders Reef Ecological Assessment project kicking-off next year.

LAUNCHED the Reef-Minded blog featuring a range of writers delving into all things reef.

Delve in and explore a range of science, community and conservation topics with the smart, talented and dedicated folks in our network. We're so pleased to offer them a platform to drop some knowledge. Thanks to science communicator extraordinaire Alena Pribyl for leading this initiative.

UNVEILED the pilot Celebrating Corals, Coasts and Catchment series on the Sunshine Coast, a talk series fuelled by a craving for knowledge, collaboration and inspiration related to the marine and coastal environment.

We’re already seeing increased interaction between local groups, renewed enthusiasm among volunteers, and a broader awareness of the issues and creatures on the Sunshine Coast. Big ups to ScubaWorld and organiser Terry Farr for being such awesome hosts and Sunshine Coast Council for their ongoing support through multi-year partnership grants. It makes a huge difference to our ever-evolving work in the region.

HOSTED the Grey Nurse Shark Watch database to help more people save sharks with their cameras.

The Grey Nurse Shark Watch photographic identification initiative seeks, collates, analyses and reports on data provided by volunteers and researchers to contribute to six of ten objectives in the 2014 National Recovery Plan for this critically endangered species. Some highlights in 2016 include:

- The programs importance and relevance being recognised at the 2016 Grey Nurse Shark symposium.

- Reaching public engagement milestones of 500 registered members and more than 1000 Facebook followers.

- Continued increase in volunteer engagement and participation (in the water and behind the scenes).

This citizen science initiative continues to play an important role in connecting the community with shark science and management. Big shout out to Carley Bansemer and her volunteer team--we're proud to support this initiative.

SHARED knowledge, passion and inspiration about Moreton Bay's unique marine environment through the Reef Check Ambassador program.

Reef Check Ambassadors are trained volunteers who deliver inspiring and engaging reef education experiences at community events. Launched in August 2015 as a pilot program with support from Redland City Council, we're continuing to seek funding to support the expansion of this winning formula. Big thanks to our volunteers who helped keep this program evolving in 2016. It has been a true labour of love, but we're so excited about the possibilities. A special thanks to volunteer Ambassador Coordinator Tania Kenyon.

We look forward to another pilot program for Townsville in 2017.

REEFBLITZED across Queensland, collaborating with partners to contribute to 15 of 52 community events along the coast.

From Cairns to Moreton Bay, Reef Check Australia teams had a flurry of activity engaging community members and schools in citizen science education and data collection activities. In a time of real crisis for our reefs, it was incredibly inspiring to see the partnerships, enthusiasm and data potential from citizen science. This initiative is hosted by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation with partner the Great Barrier Reef Citizen Science Alliance.

The first group of RCA volunteers was trained in Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Reef Health Impact Survey protocols, building capacity and boosting data for reef management applications.

Our team joined Reef Ecologic and the Coral Reef Management and Leadership Australian Award Fellows for reef surveys and public talks in Townsville.

CONTRIBUTED historic reef survey videos for QUT's Monitoring through Many Eyes project, combining citizen-contributed images and professional monitoring data to build spatial predictive models of coral cover in the Great Barrier Reef.

This is phase 1 of a larger project. We’re planning to contribute to an online initiative, bridging reef aesthetic models, reef health monitoring and interactive citizen science. Stay tuned on this one!

JOURNEYED through the Great Sandy Strait on a reef habitat mapping expedition in a whirlwind session of training workshops and habitat spot checks from Urangan to Tin Can Bay.

Extensive habitat maps have been developed for the Great Sandy/Wide Bay Burnett state waters through the draft Queensland Intertidal and Subtidal Benthic Classification scheme. The first habitat map for the intertidal and marine habitats uses 29 benthic habitat types, based on 80 existing datasets from a range of research and management projects across the region. The combined datasets, high resolution satellite imagery and expert mapping advice identified a number of potential reef habitat areas that required ground-truthing for map validation.

This project was designed to engage citizen scientists in spot check activities along the length of the Great Sandy Strait to help refine data for available reef habitat maps. Volunteers contributed dataset 81, providing first hand field data on the habitat composition for these locations.

This project is supported through the Burnett Mary Regional Group Keeping It Great grant with funding from the National Landcare Program and local partner Cooloola Coast Care.

RETURNED to Heron Island for the 6th annual collaborative survey project with University of Queensland Biophysical Remote Sensing Group.

Another island pilgrimage for reef research, linking citizen science, reef mapping, drones, airborne and satellite data on the Great Barrier Reef. A team of Reef Check surveyors was invited to join long-term project partners, The University of Queensland Remote Sensing Research Centre (RSRC), along with James Cook University and University of the Sunshine Coast for reef health surveys and mapping. The mapping initiative supported the ongoing research of the RSRC team, and this year also the CORAL Mission team from NASA, mapping parts of the GBR from space.

In a jam-packed 6 days the team surveyed 15 monitoring sites, checked up on coral colour with CoralWatch charts, led a REEFSearch reef walk and helped with an island-wide beach clean-up. The Reef Check report will be released early next year.

This expedition was made possible by Gladstone Ports Corporation Community Grants.

PARTNERED on marine debris initiatives.

We collaborated to clean up more than 1223kg of marine debris across Queensland. This included supporting the largest team clean up conducted on the Sunshine Coast, removing 548kg of rubbish from the coastal to protect local turtle populations with Sunshine Coast Council's Turtle Care Program, UnderWater World Sea Life Aquarium.

We are working to translate data into action with Tangaroa Blue through new source reduction plan templates to apply data collected from community clean ups. Plans for North Stradbroke Island/Minjerribah and the Gold Coast Seaway will be made available for partners working to find solutions.

We supported Lines in the Sand, Ocean Arc Alliance, and MoonCog to produce a Clean up video showcasing the passionate organisations and individuals working on marine debris throughout Moreton Bay as part of the Quandamooka Festival. Thanks to support from a Queensland Government Everyone's Environment Grant.

AWARDED as a highly commended entrant in the Premier’s Community Award category for 2016, acknowledging our collaborative work in South East Queensland.

A great honour acknowledging how a network of committed people can make a difference for the marine environments we love.

We're proud of what we could achieve last year with our ever-inspiring network. There is some incredible momentum around how important it is to engage communities in looking after reefs and oceans. So we're asking for your help.

A huge thanks to our incredible volunteers. Much gratitude to our supporters, industry champions, funders, donors, advisors, Board and staff.

Our partners & collaborators: Cape Conservation Group - Capricornia Catchments - Clean Oceans Australia - Conservation Volunteers Australia - Cooloola Coastcare - CoralWatch - Fitzroy Partnership for River Health - Gold Coast Catchment Management - Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority - Grey Nurse Shark Watch - Griffith University - Lines in the Sand - Mackay Whitsundays Dive Club - Mangrove Watch - Moreton Bay Environmental Education Centre - Quandamooka Festival - Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corpoation - Responsible Runners - Tangaroa Blue Foundation - Western Australia Department of Parks & Wildlife - The University of Queensland: Moreton Bay Research Station, Unidive and Remote Sensing Research Centre

Our industry champions: Affordable Charters - Caloundra Music Festival - Cruise Whitsundays - Calypso Charters - Cooly Dive - Daydream Island - Downunder Dive - Explore Whitsundays - Fantasea Cruising Magnetic - Gold Coast Divers - Heron Island Research Station - Heron Island Resort - Magnetic Dive - Manta Lodge & Scuba Centre - Megaforce Charters - Ningaloo Treasures - Point Lookout Scuba Charters - Reef Magic - Reef Safari - Science Under Sail - Subsurface Scuba - Scuba World - Seaworld Research & Rescue Foundation - Straddie Camping - Supercat Charters - Tropical Journeys

Our funders: Australian Government National Landcare Programme - Burnett Mary Regional Group - Gladstone Ports Corporation - Healthy Waterways - Lion Property Ltd (XXXX) - Queensland Government Everyone's Environment Grants - Redland City Council - Reef Catchments - Great Barrier Reef Foundation - SEQ Catchments - Sunshine Coast Council - Townsville City Council


Thanks to: Jodi Salmond, Chris Roelfsema, Reef Check Australia Volunteers, Carley Bansemer for photos. Lines in the Sand, Moon Cog, Ocean Arc Alliance and Nathan Caromel for videos.

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