by Reef Check Executive Director Dr. Gregor Hodgson
From May 4-7, the Buccoo Reef Trust and the Tobago Fisheries Department hosted 20 participants from dive shops, non-profits, and government agencies for a Reef Check EcoDiver Training of Trainers (TOT) Workshop. By the end of the Workshop, 15 were able to pass their exams and were certified as EcoDiver Trainers. Included in the group was Jim Catlin from Coral Cay Conservation who will be training all their volunteers in Reef Check methods this year. The TOT Workshop participants spent the first day in the classroom viewing the EcoDiver training DVD and learning the history, philosophy, methods and identifications of Reef Check Global and Regional Indicators. “During a TOT Workshop,” says RC Founder Dr. Gregor Hodgson, “it is really important for the participants to not only learn the technical methods used by Reef Check, but to also understand how our approach is different from a standard ecological survey, and how it was designed specifically for use by volunteers who are not trained scientists. Reef Check carefully selected a set of about 30 proxy indicators for human impacts which are easy for a volunteer to identify. Together, these global and regional indicators such as lobster and grouper allow us to judge the health of any coral reef in the world.” The morning of the second day of the EcoDiver Training Workshop was spent snorkeling on a shallow reef to practice transect deployment and in-water identifications. In the afternoon, participants returned to the Fisheries Department classroom to practice data input. The final day of the TOT was spent carrying out a complete survey at Store Bay Reef and then taking the Trainer Examination.
An extra day was added to include a “Designing a Monitoring Program Workshop,” the next in a series of training workshops offered by Reef Check. During the Monitoring Design Workshop, Dr. Hodgson introduced the group to the philosophy and science of monitoring and then all participants contributed to marking up a map of Tobago with existing and new priority monitoring sites. The final product was a draft map including nearly 100 sites covering most of the coast of the 26 km long island, along with commitments from the Fisheries Department, Buccoo Reef Trust, Coral Cay and the Institute of Marine Affairs to publicize dates when the sites will be monitored this year. “Tobago is in the enviable position of having boats, fuel and trained personnel to carry out the planned surveys,” said Dr. Hodgson. “With the draft monitoring plan in hand, they are now ready to begin.”
Additional 2009 TOT/Monitoring Design Workshops are planned for St. Maarten, St Vincent, and Puerto Rico. If you would like to learn more, join a planned Workshop, or would like to schedule an EcoDiver Monitoring, Training of Trainers Certification, Monitoring Design or Coral Reef Management Workshop offered by Reef Check please see http://reefcheck.org/ecoaction/about_ecodiver.php or contact Jenny at email@example.com. “It was hard work,” said Buccoo Reef Trust’s Hyacinth Armstrong, “but the participants really enjoyed the Workshops and we now have a trained and certified monitoring team and a written plan so that we can begin our surveys and start producing a standardized annual report on the status of Tobago reefs.”