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Welcome back

Welcome to the last newsletter of the year with an update on ReefBlitz, info on the latest bleaching, a new CoralWatch how-to-use data guide and opportunities to get everyone involved in reef monitoring over the XMas holidays!

ReefBlitz Australia was a great succes

Thanks to all our ReefBlitz participants! CoralWatch conducted 90 surveys monitoring 1570 individual corals on at least 22 different reef locations by 34 different surveyors. The data was collected diving (14%), reefwalking(12%) and snorkeling (74%).

Apart from the actual surveys, an additional 600 people learnt about the reef and citizen science through our outreach activities variying  from Moreton Bay cruises, market stalls, presentations, school visits and pub events.Our youngest citizen scientist was 5 years old and the oldest around 70.

This event would not have been possible without the support of the Great Barrier Foundation, Moreton Bay Education Centre, ReefMagic, Passions of Paradise and many others.

Bleaching update GBR

Waters on the Great Barrier Reef have cooled down and researchers re-visited reefs they surveyed earlier this year. Photos and videos taken in the northern part of the GBR reveal more evidence of the long-term global coral bleaching event and many of the bleached corals have eventually died. Dead corals are slowly overgrown by algae which also affects the rest of the environment, including fish species abundance and diversity. For example, coral eating parrotfish have moved on and are largely absent from these algal dominated reefs.

Bleached corals are weakened and much more prone to other stressors and diseases such as Crown of Thorns starfish and drupella snails which caused part of coral death on the GBR. Around Lizard Island live coral cover has dropped from 40% (March 2016) to 5% (October 2016). Luckily, on most of the central GBR reefs corals are slowly recovering from the bleaching event and are getting back their colours while regaining their algal symbionts (Zooxanthellae). On those reefs live coral cover is still around 40%.

This year’s coral spawning event just after full moon in November is most likely reduced as the high stress levels corals are coping with reduce the ability to produce sperm and/or eggs for reproduction. Bleaching was not as severe on the southern GBR and expected is that spawning will be close to normal on those reefs.

For photos and an interactive map with videos from local reefs (preview above) please visit the ARC Centre of Excellence website.

NOAA Coral Bleaching predictions

The NOAA Coral Reef Watch program's satellite data provides current reef environmental conditions to quickly identify areas at risk for coral bleaching. Currently La Guajira (Colombia) is on bleaching Alert level 1 and a bleaching warning has been issued fo the Virgin Islands, Wake Atoll (Micronesia), Phoenix Islands (Kiribati), North Sulawesi, Western Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan. Find out more on NOAA website.

Help CoralWatch to collect more data! Long-term monitoring is important and for this we need regular surveys over time to pick up trends in for example recovery after the current bleaching events.
Find the latest on bleaching in Indonesia on this reefcheck website.

Teacher Professional Development Cairns

During the teacher PD workshop in Cairns we visited Michaelmas Cay on the Great Barrier Reef. This reef has never been surveyed before and with 15 high school teachers and 2 CoralWatch staff members we surveyed 217 corals. On average, plate corals were the darkest (scored the highest coral colour), while branching corals were the lightest.

Michaelmas Cay - Figure 1 shows that more than 50% of the surveyed coral types were soft corals, while plate corals were surveyed the least.

Figure 2 shows that mean coral colour on a scale from 1 to 6 (with 1 a white bleached coral and 6 a dark coloured healthy coral with lots of zooxanthellae in the polyps) was around 3 for each of the 4 coral types.

Are you interested in a teacher PD or community workshop?
We can tailor workshops to suit your needs and include coral ecology lectures, field surveys and practical data opportunities for classroom or research projects using CoralWatch resources. See workshop flyer. Please contact us if you are interested.

CoralWatch data

Data to do calculations like the above and much more is available to everyone and can be downloaded from our CW website for free. Go to the data tab, search and download your own data or from your favourite reef and compare this with other reefs or other surveyors or see what is happing over time with this reef. Download our new CoralWatch How-To-Guide for Data.

CoralWatch has volunteers analysing your collected data, but if you are using the data or Coral Health Chart in a paper or report please inform us. CoralWatch is always interested in knowing who is using our data and/or charts for science, education or management.

CoralWatch gift for XMAS

CoralWatch gifts for XMAS
Do It Yourself Coral Health Monitoring Kit incl. Coral Health Chart, underwater data recording slate with pencil and cable tie, instructions and information brochures, sticker and postcards. All packed in waterproof folder. Only 10 AUD

Power of One Package incl. Coral Reefs and Climate Change Book and DVD, DIY kit, virtual reef, FAQ flyer, scientific paper. Packed in CoralWatch bag. Normally 95 AUD, XMAS special 85 AUD!

Help to get others involved in citizen science - Order now

Events and latest media links


(past) 22 October, Brisbane. CoralWatch participated in the Rights of Nature Tribunal.

19 November, N.Stradbroke Island - Open day Moreton Bay research station

Latest media links

26 October - Scientists assess bleaching damage on Great Barrier Reef - ARC CEntre of Excellence Coral Reef Studies

26 October - Great Barrier Reef: Most coral now dead north of Port Douglas off far north Queensland, scientists say - ABC News

25 October - Citizen data monitors coral bleaching - Science Meets Business website + Australian National Data service

25 October - “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” - DivePlanlt

11 October 2016 Coral Bleaching - ABC TV Catalyst

13 September 2016 - Great Barrier Reef's bleaching to seriously hinder this year's spawning event - ABC News

New! CoralWatch video. Justin Marshall and Kyra Hay talking about CoralWatch and the current bleaching on Lizard Island.

Latest papers

PeerJ - A citizen science approach to monitoring bleaching in the zoantharian Palythoa tuberculosa - PeerJ

A Citizen Science Approach: A Detailed Ecological Assessment of Subtropical Reefs at Point Lookout, Australia. PlosOne

Have you published a paper or written a report and used CoralWatch data or our Coral Health Chart, we would love to know about it.