By: Georgia King, Go Pro Costa Rica
Our team at Oceans Unlimited and Go Pro Costa Rica always loves learning about the underwater world. This last March, with much excitement, we began our Reef Check EcoDiver training. We had been looking for a way to track the health of our local reef here in Manuel Antonio, and we found the Reef Check EcoDiver training and methodology ideal. As well as learning more about our local environment, we want to use the information that we gather to monitor our new coral restoration project, Marine Conservation Costa Rica. By analyzing our local reef data, we can see what changes the coral restoration project is making on the reef as a whole.
The start of our training was very exciting and important to us. Our four senior instructors began the day with lots of enthusiasm. Cristina, our Reef Check EcoDiver Trainer, began with a brief history of Reef Check and an overview of the program. We then started with Fish Identification. Between the four instructors, we had the advantage of around 40 years of experience of diving in this area- I’m happy to say our fish identification was pretty sharp! Grunts and Snappers will forever be tricky to identify for me but I certainly learned some useful tips from Cristina to help. No matter what level I get to and how much I dive, there is always more to learn. This is one of the things I love about diving and the marine world.
After a bit more methodology and planning, we headed out to the reef for the afternoon dives. We set up our 100m transect and identified and counted key fish families and invertebrate species. It was fun being out as a team, as we don’t often get to dive together without the responsibility of catering to students. The Reef Check dives were challenging- it’s always tricky to look at things in a different way and use new methodology, but new practices bring new perspectives that reveal even more beauty on the reef!
The second day we were in the classroom in the morning, taking quizzes, looking deeper at invertebrates and working on our substrate classification. It was extremely interesting to learn about the different types of algae and which ones are nutrient indicators and which are not. We all learned something new and it’s going to give us a whole new way to look at the reef. On our afternoon dives we focused on substrate; this sounds easy but with 10 different substrate classifications and monitoring every 50cm, with a bit of a swell, this was the hardest survey for me.
On the last day, we worked as a Reef Check team and put all the elements together for two reef surveys. We deployed the 100m transect and then each took turns with Fish, Inverts, Substrate, and Site data, like depth, temperature and conditions. To challenge ourselves we each took the roles we found hardest, so I did invertebrates for one site and substrate for the other site. We managed to complete all data collection successfully after our excellent training.
Back in the classroom, Cristina showed us how to enter data on the Reef Check forms so we can upload our data onto the Reef Check website. Reef Check teams are uploading their data from around the world and we can see how reefs are changing over the years. It’s wonderful to be part of this and to be able to monitor our reef with Reef Check. We hope that we can make it even healthier with our reef restoration project. Thank you, Reef Check!