[Coral-List] Education, Community, DATA, CoralWatch
justin.marshall at uq.edu.au
Wed Mar 15 01:28:19 EST 2006
Great to have a mostly positive debate and outlook on the potentially
gloomy future of reefs. I have arranged my input here, a bit like Steve's
last, as a set of random but related points.
The take home message up front is PLEASE PROVIDE DATA TO THE CORALWATCH
WEBSITE (Ooops - sounding a bit like a princess from Africa there) and -
education and community involvement are, in our opinion, key to the future
Random points / comments on debate from CoralWatch as follows, largely
reinforcing points already raised:
a) It is surprising how many folks still do not know what bad shape many
reefs are in and as a science community I think we need to keep saying it,
no matter how squeaky-wheel and gloom laden it may seem to us.
b) Educate the future reef watchers, kids from age 6 up and before can make
a huge difference. Even politicians and corporate giants have children and
when they hear that their future world is getting messed up they are unhappy.
c) Community involvement - that is non-expert, non-scientists is a vital
ingredient. Examples are: Fijian fishermen looking after their patch of
reef, tour operators in Australia and the Caribbean preserving their dive
sites, local coastal community groups. How do we get more of these people
d) Getting data back and reported on and sent to the right places seems to
me to be the missing component at the moment. There is a lot of talk (as
above) about who, where and when but less about now what? As far as I can
see sections in NOAA, GBRMPA, GCRMN, Reef Check, Reef Base and others (?)
are having a good go but it is not clear to me how well this is going?
Comment from them?
These 4 points are the things that bobble about in my mind at the moment
and are based on running CoralWatch over the last 3 years or so
(www.coralwatch.org). I have talked about this before on coral-list so
won't repeat here other than to say that we are happy to send coral colour
charts out to anyone who can use them. We also have a good teachers package
Without wanting to sound like a salesman, the CoralWatch system seems to us
to be a good way to address these 4 points. It is just one way of keeping
an eye on the reefs but one that is immediately accessible to anyone
without any training. It provides real data that, once entered on the
website, is available to all (we have done all the controls of expert v
non-expert). It can be integrated into existing systems (eco-groups,
scientists doing transects, schools visiting reefs). The short blurb that
goes with the system (both on the web and in handout form) raises awareness
as best we can (more input to improve this side of our system always
welcome) and also encourages people to live better/cleaner as best they can
(we need to up this side of the system).
We are not after pats on the back here - more like give us your help on
refining this system and if you like it, spread it.
Another reason for banging the CoralWatch drum is that for those interested
in learning more, we are running a (now annual) workshop on Heron Island on
the Great Barrier Reef - see www.coralwatch.org for details or email k..
Our BIG PROBLEM - and I am hoping that those listers who have been doing
this longer than us can help - is the lack of data return and then of
course what to do with this data.
There has been a tremendously enthusiastic response to the system, with 450
groups in over 50 countries worldwide receiving thousands of charts, the
groups breaking down as: education and media 125, monitoring and research
250, tourism and diving 75. We know that the system is being used to guide
policy in China and this is very encouraging.
From all these we have had only just over 100 data entries back. Some of
these put in a magnificent effort with many thousand data points or good
re-sampling over time. However it seems that, although we may be raising
awareness, we need to work harder to raise feedback? Phase 2 seems to be
lacking and without real numbers both over time and spatially, we have no
teeth to bite the right asses. Any ideas?
As an example, during the recent Caribbean bleaching, we sent out
CoralWatch to around 40 groups but got no data back.
Of course we are happy just to get CoralWatch out of the door and if data
is being generated locally and not entered into the central site, that is
still wonderful. We are getting a lot of great support from a number of
organisations in this distribution effort, however we would love to get
more data back.
Mark Eakin (NOAA) recently requested data from the Caribbean and we have
talked with him about integrating CoralWatch data into his system. I wonder
how he went with data return of any sort - Mark are you happy to report
back in public chat mode yet? Did you and I missed it?
So - the point of this slight plea/whinge from us comes back to points
raised in the current debate. While there is much that needs to be done
with step one - informing, educating, gathering support etc, let's also
work on step 2 which is get that data and stick it where it needs to be so
at least our grand children will have hard evidence that we really did try
and not that we just thought about trying.
And now some more philosophical points re the current debate - all my
opinion from my own limited view of this:
a) Here in Australia we are 'just' realising that we have done to large
sections of our coastal reefs what was done in Florida (the spark for this
debate and a reef system I first saw 30 years ago - boo hoo now!). The head
in the sand attitude to this here, from large sections of the community, is
astonishing and I hope will change.
b) I think it important to use the beauty of the reef (as well as the sexy
people that work on it of course) as a lever. This is where we can engage,
artists, film makers, photographers, poets, authors etc. The central
message - look how beautiful it is and look, we are killing it, as sure as
holding a blow-torch to a flower! As reef people I think we would be
surprised, despite the efforts of J. Cousteau etc, at how many folks do not
know about reefs and how splendid they are.
c) I have a sweet tooth and like sugar and I like to eat fish - very
important in my mind is not blaming or attaching responsibility where it is
not warranted. Where it is warranted, probably the only way forward is
through community pressure on both government and corporate bodies. Sadly,
pressure from a few scientists, no matter how vocal and strident rarely
achieves anything. I am not saying that we should stop being vocal as
empirical evidence is vital - just that we need to explore other strategies
as well, as suggested by several in this debate.
d) It is never too late to start reducing carbon emissions, river
sedimentation, other outflow problems and other insults to the reef. Even
though there may be a huge lag-effect with some of these problems we need
to start doing the right thing NOW. It is here in my mind that the
resilience debate resides. Some reefs / species MAY be more resilient than
others, however this should not give us any relief from the effort of
trying to preserve what is left and in particular preserve the biodiversity
of what is left (now I sound like I'm writing a grant!).
e) Consolidation of opinion. Following on from (d). Of course if we say
things like - "reefs can recover" this will be the only take home of most
politicians in order to get re-elected. They recognise the problems and are
desperate for good news. I think that in order to get things moving, that a
more united and clear voice is needed from reef biologists. Although there
are glimmers of hope with resilience and reef shading and transplanting
etc. These are WAY left of center when it comes to the overriding evidence
that we are rapidly destroying our reefs. Perspective here is vital.
More than enough from Coral Watch and Justin - if there is a rolling ball
here, let's keep it going!
Prof Justin Marshall
Vision Touch and Hearing Research Centre
School of Biomedical Sciences
University of Queensland
ph - +61 (0)7 33651397
fax - +61 (0)7 33654522
mob - 0423 024162 (Prawns in Space)
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