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New frontier

Ocean Sciences Centre to launch Reef Life Survey Canada


Memorial University is set to launch a Canadian branch of the Reef Life Survey on Oct. 22.

The Reef Life Survey (RLS) program started at Australia’s University of Tasmania and is a volunteer-driven citizen science program in which trained divers undertake more than 11,000 biodiversity surveys of coral and rocky reefs from 54 countries around the globe.

Dr. Amanda Bates and Dr. Tomas Bird conduct a pre-dive buddy check near the Holyrood Marina.
Dr. Amanda Bates and Dr. Tomas Bird conduct a pre-dive buddy check near the Holyrood Marina.
Photo: Jasmin Schuster

However, since the program began 10 years ago, there has been limited survey data collected from Canadian waters. RLS Canada is hoping to change this.

Underrepresented area

The launch comes after months of planning by Dr. Amanda Bates, an associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Marine Physical Ecology in the Faculty of Science’s Department of Ocean Sciences, and a dedicated team of PhD students. It will involve training SCUBA divers from Dr. Bates’ Physiological Diversity lab, Memorial University’s Field Services Unit, and Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.

“Canada represents a new frontier for the Reef Life Survey, with only a few surveys previously done in the west,” said Dr. Rick Stuart-Smith, Reef Life Survey co-founder and research fellow at Australia’s University of Tasmania.

“We are excited to include new species in the global database and provide more data for the colder parts of the northern hemisphere which have been underrepresented so far in the global picture RLS has been painting of the biodiversity found on shallow coral and rocky reefs.

Jasmin Schuster practices BCD removal and recovery underwater.
PhD candidate Jasmin Schuster practices buoyancy compensator device removal and recovery underwater.

“The establishment of more ongoing monitoring locations around the world is so important for being able to track biodiversity change from such varied reef systems in a standardized and informative manner,” he added. “And it goes without saying, working with such motivated and incredible scientists is always exciting, no matter where in the world!”

Dr. Bates echoes this sentiment. She is excited to launch a field program with such a skilled and enthusiastic team.

“The data we collect will live forever and we hope to get a better understanding of the species that are living on our rocky coastlines in Newfoundland and Labrador,” she said. “I am so excited and I can’t wait to see what is under the water. I hope the data we gather on which species are present and how abundant they are will be of value to communities around Newfoundland and Labrador.”

The program launch will take place from Oct. 22-26 with dive training workshops and an open seminar led by Dr. Rick Stuart-Smith at 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25 in the Challenger Room of the Ocean Sciences Centre. All are welcome to attend. For more information on Reef Life Survey, visit www.reeflifesurvey.com.

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