By Reef Check EcoDiver Giulia Zini
It’s a cold December morning in Italy. Out the window a thick fog is enveloping everything it meets, but my mind races back and I immediately remember an image of a coral garden. Just two months ago on the other side of the world, I opened my eyes underwater and enjoyed a new landscape I had never seen before: through my big mask I explored the seafloor in front of Bangka, an island in Sulawesi, Indonesia at the center of what is called the Coral Triangle.
Together with other young marine biologists from all over the world, we went there, sharing the same great passion and the same goal: to learn more about the fascinating world of corals, which are among the most threatened ecosystems in the world. Humans, directly or indirectly, are responsible: overfishing, water pollution, climate change, along with other factors are to blame. We went to Indonesia to research and find out more about how to protect coral reefs from these threats, because we want to save the oceans we love. That’s why we participated in this workshop, that’s why we applied and traveled for so long—some more, some less—before finally arriving in this paradise, and it absolutely is. Believe me.
In Bangka, we alternated between theoretical lessons, seminars and sea sessions, allowing us to put our knowledge into practice. We learned how to distinguish the species of coral, methods to measure their health and how to estimate bleaching, and more. These are methods designed by Reef Check for volunteers. This citizen science encourages ordinary people to participate in scientific research, providing the scientific community with important data, which are then made available to everyone.
I think research should not be confined to the scientific community. It’s important to share the results with the community; otherwise, discoveries remain only relevant for science and not the general public. Conservation must not be the sole business of conservationists; it must be achieved by everyone or we risk not being able to reach our goals. Thus, I believe it’s important for people to contribute in whatever way they can; a good start would be participating in projects such as the one conducted by Reef Check in tropical and temperate seas.
Reflecting now, more than two months later, I would love for anyone to witness what I experienced in Indonesia. The days were intense—seminars and dives occupied most of our time—and I was always eager to arrive the next day and learn more so that I could apply the new skills on a dive; diving with new awareness is like seeing with different eyes. Things which were there before now appear differently and full appreciation comes with knowledge.
I met so many young people in Indonesia who likewise had a strong desire to learn and this experience, on the other side of the world, helped me grow. This is what we need: an ongoing learning process. We must continue conserving the oceans and we can achieve this goal with the help of people all around the world who have the same hope. I will treasure this awareness wherever I’ll go and the experiences I had will remain indelible in my memory. Today, I’m feeling really grateful to share this experience with you.