Great Barrier Reef Volunteer Dive

If you love diving and the environment, here’s a fabulous opportunity for you! A new research project, in one of the Great Barrier Reef’s most spectacular and diverse marine habitats, is calling on volunteer divers to help assess coral disease on the Great Barrier Reef.

The new research project, Recovery of the Reef, has been developed by Earthwatch Australia together with the Australian Institute of Marine Science and is calling on volunteer divers to work with scientists to assess the growing prevalence of coral disease on the fringing reef surrounding Orpheus Island. It’s thought this landmark site is at risk from rising sea temperatures.

Executive Director of Earthwatch Australia, Richard Gilmore, says ‘volunteers will get to experience this unique marine park filled with an unusually wide variety of reef habitats, clam gardens as well as submerged indigenous sites and recent shipwrecks, while helping scientists understand more about the factors influencing the health of coral reefs.’

Richard says for the volunteers, ‘it’s a great way to experience something different, while making a difference to this important World Heritage Site.’

Research Scientist from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Dr David Bourne, says ‘the research will review how the reef is recovering from recent cyclones and how such extreme physical stress on the reef systems influence coral disease outbreaks. The ongoing research will also assess the seasonal dynamics of coral diseases and the role of other ecosystems stresses such as light, temperature and water quality on disease progression.’

Dr Bourne says ‘working across a variety of dive sites, volunteers will conduct underwater surveys tagging and photographing diseased areas, which will then be monitored over time to assess the condition of the coral.’

Located 1189 km (739 miles) northwest of Brisbane, Orpheus Island is only 11 kilometres long and approximately one kilometre wide, most of which is national park dominated by eucalypts with patches of rainforest and grassland. Part of the Palm group of islands and within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, Orpheus Island offers secluded, sheltered bays, spectacular fringing reefs and stunning scenery.

The first Recovery of the Reef team kicks off on 12 March and runs through until 19 March, with a second team to follow on 30 August, 2012.

Photo: Craig Lovelidge

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