December 12, 2007

Year in Review: EcoAction Program

by Reef Check Program Manager, Cori Kane

Following a successful start at the end of 2006, Reef Check’s EcoAction program has continued to grow at a rapid pace throughout the year. Building on the newly incorporated coral reef monitoring training programs, we have expanded the breadth of the program to include nearly twice as many countries as in 2006. The EcoDiver certification program has attracted a wide variety of participants, from fishermen to businessmen to fellow conservationists, and is receiving spectacular feedback. Over the course of the past year Reef Check has certified more than 195 trainers from 17 different countries. In turn, those trainers have continued on to certify more than 216 EcoDivers, creating a vast new suite of volunteer surveyors to help monitor the health of the world’s coral reefs.

With the help of these new volunteers, Reef Check teams have submitted survey data from more than 450 reefs in 32 countries, with more data coming in on a regular basis! Reef Check remains the world’s largest volunteer monitoring network and our data are continually being utilized by managers and scientists to establish coral reef health and aid in determining their future.

Reef Check’s EcoAction program has also continued to build collaborative partnerships with businesses, educational institutions and other non-profits. Some noted successes of the past year include teaming up with the Aquarium of the Pacific to conduct trainings inside the aquarium. Reef Check also collaborated with Yacht Aid on a new endeavor to engage the yachting community in coral reef conservation through the distribution of education and conservation materials to school children in Panama. This novel venture created great results for the crew, owners and especially the children, and we are looking forward to increasing this effort next year. Reef Check’s EcoAction program has also continued to increase its academic partnerships this year by collaborating with the University of California’s Wrigley Institute, University of North Carolina, the State University of New York, and international institutions such as the International School of Aruba and Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, on monitoring trainings and other conservation efforts.

Lastly, the EcoAction program has expanded into expeditions with both current and new expedition partners. In 2007, at least 7 expeditions were led featuring the Reef Check monitoring methodology with partners including Biosphere Expeditions, the Shedd Aquarium and Earthwatch. New partnerships were created with Sail Caribbean and Guided Discoveries, who offer expeditions in the Caribbean for middle and high school aged children. These joint ventures seek to increase the knowledge and awareness about the state of coral reefs and hope to continue to create measureable change towards protecting these beautiful and valuable resources!

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An EcoDiver during a survey in Aruba (Photo: Sue Hieter)