UniDive volunteers conduct marine surveys.
UniDive volunteers conduct marine surveys.
25 June 2015

The University of Queensland’s underwater club, UniDive, has demonstrated the power of volunteers with its victory in the 2015 Healthy Waterways awards.

UniDive’s Caring for our local reefs conservation project won the Stewardship and People’s Choice awards this week.

Project organiser Dr Chris Roelfsema said the awards recognised the dedication of volunteers and highlighted the importance of local reefs as marine ecosystems.

“The project demonstrates how citizens can be involved in an ecological assessment that provides scientific data for conservation of these reefs,” he said.

More than 500 dives were logged by 45 volunteer divers examining the North Stradbroke Island Shag Rock, Flat Rock and Manta Ray Bommie dive sites.

“The results highlight the uniqueness of these reefs – they have a high biodiversity of fish and coral and charismatic mega fauna such as turtles, manta rays and a variety of sharks,” Dr Roelfsema said.

“The project documented physical damage to the corals, hence the volunteers are discussing with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services and the dive community to improve dive practices and the potential installment of permanent moorings.

Volunteer UQ marine researchers trained the volunteers in fish, invertebrate, coral and algae identification, underwater surveying and mapping techniques.

Ecological assessment methods were based on the internationally recognised Reef Check and UQ's CoralWatch program and mapping methods were developed by UQ’s Remote Sensing Research Centre.

The data, maps and scientific report are available online and a peer review publication is being prepared.

A coffee table book containing information and almost 200 photos has been created by volunteers to raise awareness of the rocky reefs.

The book, Straddie: Flora and Fauna of the North Stradbroke Island Dive Sites, is on sale at the north Stradbroke Island museum, with proceeds going to the local community.

“The Straddie book tops off this great project and shows the biodiversity and keystone species present within a short distance of Brisbane, a major city,” Dr Roelfsema said.

“The book and recognition through awards encourage Unidive volunteers to continue their research.

“We are seeking funding for our next project, an assessment and mapping of Flinders Reef.”

The Point Lookout project, supported by a $23,000 grant from Redland City Council and Sibelco, repeated similar research conducted in 2002 and 2003.

You can view a gallery of images here.

Media: Dr Chris Roelfsema 0400 207 401, c.roelfsema@uq.edu.au.