Reef Check Update - September

HODGSON GREGOR reefchck at
Thu Sep 25 02:27:57 EDT 1997

By the end of August, it was clear that we had achieved one of our twin
goals of raising public awareness about the value of coral reefs. Reef
Check has fired enthusiasm among the public, media, business and
governments in all corners of the globe!! But it was not yet clear
whether all those teams who had pledged to carry out surveys had
actually done so and would send us their data.

As of the close of 23 September, we have received data from well over
200 sites around the world. This is more than double our goal. Reef
Check has been a real success thanks to the hundreds of individuals who
pitched in to help! Together we have proved that a volunteer global reef
monitoring program is not only possible -- it is one of the best ways to
involve the community in coral reef education and conservation. We are
extremely grateful to Reef Check sponsors, and for the thousands of
hours of hard work by our volunteer recreational divers, National and
Regional Coordinators, Team Leaders, Team Scientists, and the Scientific
Advisory Committee.

Reef Check 97 field work ended officially on 31 August and we have been
racing to process the data both for the press conference and for
publication. While Reef Check has been relatively easy to organize by
Internet, the distribution of blank data sheets and collection of
completed data sheets by means of e-mail and FTP has stretched
everyone's ability to mesh gears with modern technology. We, and
especially Suzie and Tai here at HQ, appreciate everyone's patience and
help in accomplishing this task and the data checking that follows.

We are now gearing up for the presentation of summary results to an
international press conference here in Hong Kong at 3:00 pm on Thursday
16 October. We expect to get good coverage by CNNI, BBC, CNBC etc. CNN
also is planning to use the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Reef
Check Team (Ben Haskell et al) for a special segment on "Earth Matters."
We would like to encourage each regional and national organizer to carry
out their own press conference to help disseminate the results
preferably the following day or later in the week. It will be important
to involve the Reef Check Teams and Team Leaders in the Press Conference
to show that "regular" people care about coral reefs, not just
scientists. Note that we will not be in a position to release the full
results for some time (it is the unsnarling that takes time).

Each team is, of course, free to analyze their data as they like,
however, to attain some consistency, we give the following guidelines.
Since this is the first year of Reef Check, obviously there is no way to
compare results with previous years (unless there are similar data
available). For Regional and National Coordinators, bear in mind that
the local press is interested in how your results measure up. This can
be answered by comparing sites within each country or region -- best and
worst, and to discuss what the results mean in relation to what is know
about the area. Reporters will not be interested in lots of obscure
numbers such as the number of large grouper per square meter. One option
is to present total numbers of animals or damage per site and what this
means (especially if it is zero). We will be using very simple descriptive
statistics e.g. percentage of sites where no lobster were recorded,
highest number recorded per site etc. For the press conference we will
not use much of the line transect data. 

We will send out our press release "teaser" invitation several days in
advance of our press conference, and then the major release will be
handed out to the press on 16 October and distributed to all sites by
e-mail. The Press Release will give the results that we will present.
The results will allow some simple comparisons to be made among sites. 

A quick scan of the available results suggests that the situation is
worse for target species in many areas than expected. The results will
be a wake-up call.

Once again we thank all of you who have made Reef Check 97 an impressive
success in the International Year of the Reef. As soon as the Press
Conference is out of the way, the more detailed scientific analysis will
be submitted for publication. Plans are already being formulated for an
even bigger and better Reef Check 98!

Finally, a hearty thanks to Prof. Robert Ginsburg, who led the way to
Reef Check 97.

As ususal, if you have questions, please contact Suzie at:
<reefchck at>

Gregor Hodgson, PhD
Institute for the Environment and Sustainable Development
Research Centre, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Clearwater Bay, Kowloon, HONG KONG
e-mail: rcgregor at        
tel: (852) 2358-8568      fax: (852) 2358-1582
Reef Check:

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