June 27, 2011

Successful Reef Check EcoExpedition in Honduras


Submitted by Biosphere Expeditions’ Kathy Gill

Photos: Biosphere Expeditions

This March, a small international team of volunteers joined a Biosphere Expeditions trip to Honduras to undertake important Reef Check surveys on some beautiful sites in a marine protected area just off the coast. The team was made up of qualified divers with lots of dive experience, but no knowledge of Reef Check – they left with an amazing experience under their belts, a brilliant knowledge of coral reef ecosystems and having contributed a whole load of important data to the worldwide fight to understand what is happening to our reefs. The following are extracts from the team’s diary:

21 March
Today saw the first aquatic day for the Honduras Reef Check expedition. The team of eleven are all experienced divers and after a day spent brushing up on critical skills such as buoyancy control, they are ready to go underwater with the tools of research.

We are on the Cayos Islands, between the Honduran mainland and the Bay Islands, in a fantastic location where we find ourselves marveling over hummingbirds, big iguanas, pink boas (not the feather variety) and fluorescent green tree lizards on a daily basis. That’s to say nothing of the life beneath the waves.

Tomorrow we will be running the first trial underwater survey. It will be a challenging exercise as it entails the use of various apparatuses, the identification and counting of numerous indicator species and the usual load of regular diving-related tasks. I’ve no doubt the crew will shine in their duties.

\"\"24 March
We are now well into the survey phase and the team has come together as a well oiled critter-counting machine. The set-up of the sites for the Reef Checks is quick and the processing of the sites enjoyable and efficient. People are logging their data before lunch and with very little direction. All this after only two days of actual surveys!

We’ve also fit in a visit to the school that is set up on one of the nearby islands. The children are taken here by boat from the neighbouring islands and it is great to be able to come here and talk to them about what we are doing and how they can help to protect the life in the seas all around them. It’s also fun to hear their ideas and stories.

27 March
A well-earned day off from survey diving was almost unanimously spent diving! The three team members who did not come to the Roatan Banks for a morning of pleasure diving, walked through the lush and beautiful rainforest of the island. Those who did dive the Banks saw something big- the first person to put their head under the water came up swearing in three different languages. “WHALE SHARK” and the boat ditched its contents like a cliff full of lemmings. We spent the next 10 minutes following the world’s biggest fish as it rose and fell below us. I have seldom seen a more excited bunch of divers in nearly 25 years of diving. The Roatan Banks seamount itself was pretty awesome as well, absolutely pristine, with visibility at easily 30m and probably more.

Tomorrow morning we plunge back into the surveys, reinvigorated and doubly aware of what it is that we are working to protect.

30 March
The final day of data collection has capped off a perfect sequence of survey dives. We had a dive without our slates to celebrate the completion of a very successful expedition. All that remains is to pack it all up and ship out, which we will do over the next day, our last on Cayos Cochinos.

Thanks to the team and the fantastic support crew!

The Honduras EcoExpedition is the first of three this year organized by Biosphere Expeditions, upcoming are trips in September to the Maldives and an October trip to Musandam, Oman. If you are interested in joining an expedition, please visit http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/