[Coral-List] Reassessing Coral Reefs... and introducing a new tool to change the way we educate divers...

Russell Kelley russellkelley at mac.com
Sun Apr 5 18:00:47 EDT 2015

Greetings Listers

An earlier attempt to post this reply was scrambled on delivery - so here we go again.

I have been reading this thread discussing the relationship between divers and the dive industry with interest. Clearly the dive industry plays a very important role in educating and training divers to be safe, embrace best practice and to hopefully become lifelong marine ambassadors in their own right. Having worked in biodiversity training over the last 6 years I would like to add some thoughts derived from our experience.

My journey began as a coral reef geologist / palaeontologist, followed by some time moonlighting as a biologist, and a decade making natural history films before alighting in science communication. Along the way I developed an interest in coral taxonomy which led to my wife and I self publishing the Indo Pacific Coral Finder - a coral identification tool that can be used underwater. The Coral Finder has been a fascinating experiment in science communication. It looks like a book but is better described as a Visual Decision Tool - i.e. something you interrogate to get an answer rather than read (see  www.byoguides.com <http://www.byoguides.com/> ). We set up the Coral Identification Capacity Building Program ( www.coralhub.info <http://www.coralhub.info/> ) and to date have trained over 500 people in our “visual approach” to genus level coral ID with 60-90% improvements over prior knowledge being the norm regardless of background (see http://www.coralhub.info/cicbp/coral-finder-workshops/ <http://www.coralhub.info/cicbp/coral-finder-workshops/> ) We now have trainers working throughout the Indo Pacific and our resources are available in both English and Bahasa Indonesian. 

What this ongoing "hands on” experiment of training divers has demonstrated to me is that a visual approach to learning / communicating underwater is extraordinarily powerful. Essentially “text" is the enemy - it needs to be interpreted / understood and brings the educational background of learner into play.  Assumed knowledge is a formidable barrier to learning and the Coral Finder’s visual logic overcomes this problem.  Empowering the interested person to identify coral genera easily / reliably has been very satisfying but over time a troubling realisation emerged from watching our workshop participants: "how did you know it was a coral in the first place"?    

Indeed after 6 years of running workshops I am convinced the problem most in need of urgent attention is basic ocean literacy. The dive industry struggles with an enormous diver drop out problem and has published estimates of the half life of a diver to be five years. i.e. half of all newly trained divers cease diving within 5 years.  The industry analysis of the causes are intricate and varied and fail to mention, in my view, a key reason: that divers have nothing to do and get bored!  i.e. they tend to be receivers of knowledge (usually after the dive) and less so participators in the getting of wisdom. Despite the increasingly technical nature of diving and the publication of ever more comprehensive guidebook tomes - the essential craft of teaching natural history to hominids that go underwater has largely been abandoned by the industry. (Note: I’m speaking generically of the industry here - so profuse apologies to the many individuals whose passion for educating divers burns like a torch in dive centres worldwide.)      

For me this realisation really sank in about 4 years ago and I determined to create the missing link ocean literacy tool, that, like the Coral Finder, demotes the "tyranny of text” / assumed knowledge and promotes the great human cognitive advantage: the eye-brain supercomputer we take on every dive. Enter the Reef Finder a Visual Decision Tool (VDT) (designed to be used underwater or topside) that empowers the interested person to be able to identify anything without knowing anything. It is currently being manufactured in China and will be available in May, 2015 but you can access a taster here:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/pwiv2u16rsgx1lj/Reef%20Finder%20sample%20pages.pdf?dl=0 <https://www.dropbox.com/s/pwiv2u16rsgx1lj/Reef%20Finder%20sample%20pages.pdf?dl=0>

If you subscribe to the notion that humans are more prepared to conserve what they understand and love… then addressing the fundamental need for Ocean Literacy should be a priority for individuals in general and for the dive industry in particular. Visual Decision Tools (like the Coral Finder and Reef Finder) have advantages in this regard because they can be designed to:  
(a) go underwater to the coalface - the reef itself... 
(b) overcome the problem of assumed knowledge, text interpretation and the reality that we can not talk underwater…
(c) engage our most powerful cognitive advantage - our eye-brain supercomputer…
(d) powerfully link back to to formal hierarchical knowledge  - post dive…
(e) solve specific learning problems 

With regard to (e) above - you can design a VDT to solve learning problems yourself - just follow these 3 rules.
(a) minimise text and apply a ruthless "You can only say what you can see" rule -  i.e. no assumed knowledge! 
(b) get the user to a visual choice as quickly as possible - ideally two steps. 
(c) keep visual choices to no more than 5.

Have fun!


Russell Kelley
Writer, project manager, science communication consultant.
Author: Indo Pacific Coral Finder

www.russellkelley.info <http://www.russellkelley.info/>
www.byoguides.com <http://www.byoguides.com/>
www.coralhub.info <http://www.coralhub.info/>
Ron Kelley 1920-2013 Tribute <https://vimeo.com/70763934>

Int. + 61 (0) 7  47804380 ph.
Int. + (0) 419 716730 mob.
P.O. Box 1859, Townsville, 4810, AUSTRALIA
ABN 66208215206
GMT + 10 hours
Email: russellkelley at mac.com
Skype: wireruss

Program Director
Coral Identification Capacity Building Program

Adjunct Senior Lecturer
School of Marine & Tropical Biology
James Cook University


> On 5 Apr 2015, at 2:46 am, Alex Brylske <brylske at me.com> wrote:
> Steve:
> The reason for this in the diving community is really no different than in society at large. For example, how many patients question their doctor when he tells them they should stop smoking, exercise and eat a healthy diet? Virtually none because there’s no large commercial interest that has anything to loose by this advice. (Big tobacco gave up years ago.) We now have the same scientific confidence about climate change as for any public health policy involving CVD. However, climate change flies directly against the interests of many big-time commercial interests, so—like tobacco once did—they have done all they can to muddy the water. 
> As you know as a dive center owner, there are lots of red meat tea baggers in high levels of our industry. So do the math. It may be different outside the US—and I hope it is—but I don’t believe we’ll ever see any real levelship from the dive community on the climate change issue. If one does develop, it will come from the bottom-up, not top-down (couldn’t resist the coral reef reference).
> Alex
>> On Apr 3, 2015, at 5:49 PM, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net> wrote:
>> Doug is right on point as usual. The only thing that I might add is that it is very curious that the dive industry is science-oriented on so many of its principle teachings and beliefs. We embrace physics (pressure and depth , squeezes and the bends), chemistry, (nitrogen absorption, oxygen toxicity, Nitrox and Trimix) and even touch on marine biology. But when it comes to climate change, warming oceans and acidification there is suddenly a rejection of the prevailing scientific thought and assumptions. Hmm, I wonder what could possibly explain this peculiar inconsistency? 
>> Steve 
>> Sent from my iPhone
>>> On Apr 3, 2015, at 4:59 PM, Douglas Fenner <douglasfennertassi at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>   My memory is that Steve has been concerned for some time that the dive industry has done nothing to support action on climate change.  They seem to show no interest.  Steve's interest in climate change is because it is the 800 pound gorilla in the corner.  If we don't do something about that, the reefs will be damaged far more from that than anything else.  I agree.
>>>   I think we've gotten off the topic.  But it does reflect what divers think.  When they think of damage to the reef, they think, "divers damage the reefs."  Most divers know that at one time or another, they've kicked a coral or grabbed hold of something, and many of us have seen anchor damage, and/or too many dive boats tied up to a float.  Working on reducing diver impact does help the places where lots of divers dive.
>>>   However, this misses the big picture.  What are the major threats to coral reef in the future?  Sorry, but diver damage isn't even on the list of the top 14 threats NOAA reviewed threats to corals in its "Status Review Report" as a basis for making its decision on whether corals were endangered.  They came up with a ranking similar to that done in the "Reefs at Risk" project.  The 19 risks they evaluated and their evaluation of the level of risk are as follows:
>>> 1. Ocean warming
>>> 2. Coral disease
>>> 3. Ocean acidification
>>> 4. reef fishing-trophic effects
>>> 5. sedimentation
>>> 6. nutrients
>>> 7. sea level rise
>>> 8. toxins
>>> 9. changing ocean circulation
>>> 10. changing storm track/intensities
>>> 11. predation  (think crown-of-thorns starfish and Drupella snails)
>>> 12. reef fishin- habitat impacts/destructive fishing
>>> 13. ornamental trade
>>> 14. natural physical damage (think storms like hurricanes, and tsunamis)
>>> 15. human-induced physical damage
>>> 16. aquatic invasive species
>>> 17. salinity
>>> 18. African/Asian dust
>>> 19. changes in insolation
>>> Diver and snorkeler damage are included in number 15, along with coastal construction and ship groundings.  They don't say what proportion of human-induced physical damage they think diver damage is, but it appears to me that if it was by itself, it might not rank in the top 19.
>>>   We can argue about the rankings, but I think the message is clear, reducing diver damage is helpful to the reefs that are heavily dived, and so to dive operations.  But divers dive on a tiny tiny fraction of the world's reefs, and compared to many other things, is a very minor, even negligible effect effect on the world's coral reefs.
>>>    Net effect is, working on reducing diver damage is re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  Reducing diver damage is good, but it is a drop in the bucket.  If we don't solve the big problems, reducing diver damage will not save reefs, in fact they will die anyhow.  Bleaching alone killed about 16% of the world's reefs in 1998.
>>>    I think we're back to where Steve and I started at the beginning of his concerns, many months ago.  The dive industry needs to speak up saying that humans need to switch to renewable energy sources, as well as advocate for tackling the main local threats: sedimentation, nutrients,overfishing, and disease.  Mind you, we have little idea of how to tackle disease, except to reduce stresses on corals, including the high temperature events that often lead to disease events.  But no one ever said it would be easy.
>>>    But apathy seems to reign supreme in the dive industry, and the few that are concerned are focusing on one of the most minor threats: diver damage.  Well worth doing for the high-value reefs divers dive on.  But won't do a thing to stop the decline of the world's reefs, sad to say.  Unless, somehow, instilling a conservation ethic in divers can be used to lead to a desire to get out political leaders to tackle the big issues that really will make a difference.  Maybe that's our best hope???
>>>> On Fri, Apr 3, 2015 at 2:44 AM, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net> wrote:
>>>> Hi John,
>>>> Your experience in Curacao mirrors many that I have had with students throughout the years. Come to think of it, many of us may have misjudged conditions on the reefs ourselves when we first started diving. Its likely that Gene Shinn could have schooled me on issues in the Florida Keys during my first dives there in the early 1970's. Without a firmly established baseline, who would know? That is why it is so critical that we find more effective ways to get the message across. I don't believe that it has to be all gloom and doom. If done right, it could actually stimulate interest among divers in the future of coral reefs around the world. William Alevizon's suggestion is another call for self circumspection. I know that as an underwater photographer I have taken liberties with marine life that are unacceptable. I can't change that, but I can set a better example going forward and encourage others to do so as well. Admittedly, its still hard for me to resist making gentle
>> co
>>>> ntact from time to time, but I am trying to reform. As for feeding, I've always been opposed and now the shark feeding craze has captivated the diving industry which sees it as a way of adding a much needed extreme edge to the "sport". In fact, there have been a number of scientific papers that seem to encourage the practice. It is clear that it won't be easy to gain universal consensus on a set of acceptable diving standards, but we must try hard to get the point across that coral reefs and marine life in general are in a critical phase which is very much dependent on human behavior and interventions. I hope that there is both the time and inclination to get this right.
>>>> Steve
>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>>> From: John Ware <jware at erols.com>
>>>>> Sent: Apr 2, 2015 11:41 AM
>>>>> To: "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
>>>>> Subject: [Coral-List] Fwd: Re:  Reassessing Coral Reefs
>>>>> -------- Forwarded Message --------
>>>>> Subject:       Re: [Coral-List] Reassessing Coral Reefs
>>>>> Date:  Thu, 02 Apr 2015 08:41:13 -0700
>>>>> From:  John Ware <jware at erols.com>
>>>>> To:    Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca>
>>>>> Hi List,
>>>>> As an anecdotal addition to Peter's comments:
>>>>> Some time ago my wife and I visited Curacao for a dive vacation. She
>>>>> came up from the first dive and expressed my feelings very well: "It was
>>>>> like diving over a graveyard."  All dead coral and few fish.
>>>>> However, the younger (20s, 30s) folks on the boat, with only a
>>>>> short-term view, were commenting about how beautiful the reefs and fish
>>>>> were.
>>>>> Depends on your perspective.
>>>>> John
>>>>> On 4/1/2015 11:01 AM, Peter Sale wrote:
>>>>>> Hi listers,
>>>>>> The issue of sport divers not knowing the difference between a living,
>>>>>> healthy reef and a dead reef is real, and a sad commentary on our times.
>>>>>> The main reason Alena Szmant and I put together the booklet, Reef
>>>>>> Reminiscences, in 2012, was because I realized that large numbers of
>>>>>> younger reef researchers and managers had never seen a healthy reef.  In
>>>>>> it, 12 older researchers reminisce about reefs they worked on when they
>>>>>> were young.
>>>>>> Perhaps the dive industry could also make use of it.  Its available for
>>>>>> download at http://www.petersalebooks.com/?page_id=1428
>>>>>> Its even free.  And it even has the story of Jack Randall's first wetsuit.
>>>>>> Peter Sale
>>>>>> sale at uwindsor.ca                 @PeterSale3
>>>>>> www.uwindsor.ca/sale           www.petersalebooks.com
>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>> Coral-List mailing list
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>>>>> --
>>>>>   *************************************************************
>>>>>   *                                                           *
>>>>>   *                      John R. Ware, PhD                    *
>>>>>   *                         President                         *
>>>>>   *                      SeaServices, LLC                     *
>>>>>   *                     302 N. Mule Deer Pt.                  *
>>>>>   *                    Payson, AZ 85541, USA                  *
>>>>>   *                       928 478-6358                        *
>>>>>   *                      jware at erols.com                      *
>>>>>   *                 http://www.seaservices.org *
>>>>>   *                                                           *
>>>>>   *                   Member of the Council:                  *
>>>>>   *            International Society for Reef Studies         *
>>>>>   *                                          _                *
>>>>>   *                                         |                 *
>>>>>   *   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~|~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ *
>>>>>   *                                        _|_                *
>>>>>   *                                       | _ |               *
>>>>>   *        _______________________________|   |________       *
>>>>>   *     |\/__       Untainted by Technology            \      *
>>>>>   *     |/\____________________________________________/      *
>>>>>   *************************************************************
>>>>> If you are a coral-reef scientist and you are not a member
>>>>> of the International Society for Reef Studies, then
>>>>> shame on you.
>>>>> Become a member of the International Society for Reef Studies
>>>>> http://www.coralreefs.org
>>>>> _______________________________________________
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>>> -- 
>>> Douglas Fenner
>>> Contractor with Ocean Associates, Inc.
>>> PO Box 7390
>>> Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA
>>> phone 1 684 622-7084
>>> "belief in climate change is optional, participation is not."
>>> Politics, science, and public attitudes: What we're learning, and why it matters.  Science Insider, open access.
>>> http://news.sciencemag.org/social-sciences/2015/02/politics-science-and-public-attitudes-what-we-re-learning-and-why-it-matters?utm_campaign=email-news-latest&utm_src=email
>>> Homeopathy ineffective, study confirms.
>>> http://news.sciencemag.org/sifter/2015/03/homeopathy-ineffective-study-confirms
>>> website:  http://independent.academia.edu/DouglasFenner
>>> blog: http://ocean.si.edu/blog/reefs-american-samoa-story-hope
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