By Harry Jack
From May 12, 2018
My name is Harry, I’m one of the students in this year’s tropical marine ecosystems and conservation course on the beautiful island of St. Lucia. Recently, we had the incredible opportunity to sail north from Soufriere to the small fishing village of Canaries to teach three resident divers how to conduct coral reef surveys! These divers work with an organization called Ridge to Reef (follow them on Facebook!), a non-profit organization that focuses on bolstering the resiliency of every ecosystem in the watershed, from the mountains to the ocean. Once these divers become proficient at surveying coral reefs, Ridge to Reef aims to establish a coral nursery in Canaries bay.
After sailing an hour North to Canaries, we met up on shore with the local divers and gave them a briefing of what goes into a coral reef survey, in this case a point intersect survey. In this survey, three 30 meter transect tapes are laid on the reef and then divers record what is touching the tape at 10 centimeter intervals for the first 10 meters. After the briefing, we gathered up the divers’ gear and headed back out to the sailboat to gear up and begin the survey dive.
We conducted one dive on a shallow fringing reef no deeper than 5 meters, with a bottom time just short of 1 hour. During the point intersect surveys, we tried to “quiz” the divers as often as possible on coral identification at or near the transect tape. Once the three transects were done, we continued swimming along the reef and identified some species of fish, teaching the divers the various underwater hand signs for each fish.
With patience and practice, soon the Ridge to Reef divers will be proficient at reef surveys and they will be able to collect valuable data to conduct their own research. As for me, the opportunity to combine my love for diving, science, and teaching made this experience unforgettable, and I’m so glad the opportunity was given to us on this trip! For science!
The authors of this blog are students enrolled in Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation, field courses run in the Caribbean by the University of South Florida. In 2019, the course went to the Carmabi research station in Curaçao and dived around the island over a 10-day period, for training and to carry out research projects. In 2018, the group went to Soufriere, Saint Lucia, and took part in various projects in partnership with the Soufriere Marine Management Association. In this blog, students will document their activities and how they relate to course material.