by Robyn Irwin, Director, Ocean Blue Education
“Win it for the reefs!” I cried to a student who was nimbly donning his dive gear to the rock and roll of the ocean’s swell against our beam. The dive deck on the stern of the sailing vessel/home/research station Morning Star, was a frenzy of activity. Ten young divers danced around each other grabbing up transect lines, dive slates, plumb lines and cameras in preparation for their final Reef Check survey in the Bahamas. In 20 days, the students of Ocean Blue Education (O.B.E.) had transformed from ocean enthusiasts to ocean crusaders.
We began our epic Bahamian adventure with 10 individuals traveling from places as far flung as Washington state and as close to home as Freeport, Grand Bahamas. It was some “connection” with the ocean world that had called each of these students to sign on to a marine science expedition at sea. One by one they stepped aboard the Morning Star, sharing nothing more than the same wide-eyed expression.
Throughout the program, the crew of high schoolers participated in core classes of sailing, diving, coral ecology, fish & inverts, photography, and real ocean research—including Reef Check monitoring. Reef Check was paramount in providing our students with the opportunity to utilize their new underwater skills and marine knowledge as EcoDivers.
As part of the Reef Check team, O.B.E. analyzed various reefs throughout the Bahamas this summer. Our goal was to assess and compare reefs inside the Exuma Land and Sea Park with other non Marine Protected Areas off of Conception, Long Island and the Northern Exumas. In total, we collected data from five locations with plans to establish more transects as part of a continued monitoring system. Each Reef Check diver gained awareness of their own relationship to the sea while gathering pertinent information as to coral cover, fish/invert populations, and site conditions. As the number of dives under Reef Check belts increased, each diver experienced a transformation in how they “saw” the reef: they were no longer just passive viewers of life beneath the waves, but had become active thinkers about reef conditions of the past and proactive eco-divers for healthy reefs in the future.
It was July 30th when we made our final port in Nassau. Each and every student stepping off the boat and onto their next adventure shared the same wide-eyed expression—wide open to the possibility of the reef actually “winning” some day.
Ocean Blue Education is excited to continue creating pathways for students and educators to dive into the adventure of ocean research and start making a change in our oceans’ future. We thank Reef Check for stimulating a community of science based reef monitoring. We look forward to working with Reef Check for many years to come through continued monitoring in the Bahamas and abroad.