Guardians of the reef

CItizen Scientists: (L-R) Chelsea Haebich, Ali Bloomfield, Ian McArdle, Ember Corpuz, Alex Lea, Amy Young, Emma Louise Daly, Kris OKeefe, Anthony Newbery, Tom Stewart and Daniel Brock.
CItizen Scientists: (L-R) Chelsea Haebich, Ali Bloomfield, Ian McArdle, Ember Corpuz, Alex Lea, Amy Young, Emma Louise Daly, Kris OKeefe, Anthony Newbery, Tom Stewart and Daniel Brock.

Ten volunteer scuba divers recently embarked on a survey of the Fleurieu Peninsula's rocky reefs alongside Department for Environment and Water (DEW) marine scientists.

The four-day expedition ran in late March across Rapid Bay and Yankalilla in the Encounter Marine Park, where together they collected information to help manage these important marine habitats.

The project was funded by the Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board along with DEW and aims to help train local divers in collecting high-level scientific data.

The work is a part of Reef Life Survey (RLS), a globally recognised dive program used by governments to help monitor and assess near-shore rocky reefs.

Scientific officer Jamie Hicks said the volunteers had interests in underwater photography and marine science, and ranged from university students to retirees.

"What they all share is a passion for diving and a desire to use that skill to give something back to the marine environment, which assists long-term monitoring of these critical ecosystems," she said.

"They are contributing to the state and Australian governments' long-term database of information used to manage our marine systems."

Hicks also said that although the dives are rewarding they can also be extremely challenging due to the high-level methodology involved.

"Few people have the skills to do this sort of diving, so the more volunteers we can train, the greater the network".

Once accredited under the program, divers can take part in a Reef Life Survey anywhere in the world. RLS trainer Danny Brock said volunteer divers are taught to identify more than 100 species of fish and invertebrates.

The citizen scientists also undergo extensive training to learn how to collect data underwater using scientific equipment and techniques, most of which is often under difficult conditions.

Fleurieu reefs are home to a variety of marine life, including the iconic leafy sea dragon, blue devils and rock lobsters. Healthy reefs play a crucial role in protecting the coast from erosion and in providing a sustainable habitat for marine creatures.

RLS volunteer divers Ember Corpuz and Chelsea Haebich

RLS volunteer divers Ember Corpuz and Chelsea Haebich