Citizen science is a growing feature of our culture. It is where science becomes a community volunteer pastime that assists scientists with a level of real data that helps them understand how things work or indeed are failing to work.
In Australia we have many groups and some of the most interesting are those where divers give their time to monitor and share their findings.
Reef Check is a world-wide initiative that started out in 1996 and is now operating in 95 different countries! And Reef Check Australia (RCA) has been championing reef citizen science in Australia since 2001, primarily operating in Queensland and Western Australia.
In their own words:
Reef Check Australia is an innovative citizen science focused charity dedicated to educating and empowering community volunteers to better understand, appreciate and protect oceans and marine environments. We help people help reefs by providing the tools for the community to take positive action for our reefs. Through our network of volunteers, we engage in citizen science, connect people with reef science, and undertake local conservation projects.
AUSMEPA are happy to have our buddy, Reef Check Australia's Jodi Salmond as a friend and colleague. She has been with the Aussie version of Reef Check from the early days and has seen an amazing response from Australians wishing to look after our waters.
Reef Check Australia's primary activity is training experienced volunteer scuba divers how to monitor reefs for signs of reef health as part of a long term monitoring program using globally standardised methods, in addition to training community volunteers to use their REEFSearch reef identification and observation program to become engaged citizen scientists both above and below the water.
Schools aren't left out either. RCA have developed a very nice looking REEFSearch Marine Education Kit (see here).
They also have a two-day Reef Ambassador workshop to train community outreach volunteers to inspire, motivate and support their communities, but get in quick, as applications for their SEQ program closes shortly!
Organisations like Grey Nurse Shark Watch benefits also with data on the critically endangered species being collected.
And for those of you who can't commit to more, Reef Check Australia sponsors night talks from scientists on a variety of marine topics, often but not restricted to specific animal studies like Hammerhead sharks or Seajellies.
The RCA database houses all the monitoring that is done. Members have free access to the data.
Reef Check Australia works in partnership with several other partners such as Australian Institute of Marine Science, Universities, local Councils, June Canavan Foundation, QLD Government, the Port of Brisbane, Healthy Land and Waterways and AUSMEPA.