'Citizen scientists' unite to protect the reef in the face of threats

EYES GLUED: An Eye on the Reef forum will be held Thursday.
EYES GLUED: An Eye on the Reef forum will be held Thursday. Contributed

WHITSUNDAY guardians of the Great Barrier Reef will come together today, as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority hosts an Eye on the Reef workshop at the crew training room, Abell Point Marina, from 5.30pm.

The Eye on the Reef program is all about promoting "citizen science” whereby local operators practise their role as the eyes and ears of the reef by undergoing daily monitoring of factors such as marine animals, coral health and incidents.

Participants then submit their findings for the authority to consider.

GBRMPA spokesperson Nathan Cook said with coral bleaching returning in the northern part of the reef between Townsville and Cairns it was important to offer a refreshment on what to look out for.

"We require information across the industry like tourism operators and anyone with up to date information from a lot of remote locations so we can extend our reach to cover reef-wide extending from Cape York to Capricorn,” he said.

"The evening presentation will focus on the current health of the reef and the things to look out for considering it's summer and if we are experiencing a bleaching event this is when it happens.”

There will be demonstrations given of the online training system and Eye on the Reef database and reporting system including data entry and operations Nature Diary graphs.

The Eye on the Reef workshops were also held in Port Douglas on Monday and Cairns on Tuesday.

Mr Cook said while different parts of the reef faced different issues, there was a lot of common ground covered across the workshops.

"Around 80 to 90% of the content would be very similar because we want to encourage people to be involved in Eye on the Reef and to monitor the organisms that live there,” he said.

"Crown of Thorns starfish is more of an issue north of Townsville rather than what you get in the Whitsundays, but generally everything will be pretty consistent.”

While the event is tailored to attract tourism operators and staff, anyone passionate about taking a stand on the health of the reef is welcome to attend.

"These workshops are targeted to tourism staff but open to everybody.

"We write to and invite tourism industry members but we are open to public.

"If anyone has got any friends or colleagues please bring them along,” Mr Cook said.

Whether new crew seek to learn skills or experienced hands require a refresher course, everyone is welcome to benefit from the event.

Pizza will be offered on the night.

For any enquiries call 47500863.

Topics:  abell point marina eye on the reef gbrmpa whitsunday

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