Volunteer scientists collect data and rubbish to save Great Barrier Reef
A Queensland initiative to save the Great Barrier Reef from pollution has seen 50 volunteer citizen scientists collect more than 175 kilograms of waste from Great Keppel Island beaches.
ReefBlitz will see hundreds of people take part at events in Moreton Bay, central Queensland, Cairns and Port Douglas this month as part of the project’s bid to save the world’s largest coral reef.
Shelly McArdle from Tangaroa Blue and Capricorn Catchments said the project was more than just picking litter up off the beach.
“ReefBlitz is all about empowering local people to gather data to essentially be scientists,” she said.
“If we ever want to stop the rubbish ending up on our beaches we have to gather scientific data to quantify the types of rubbish that we’re finding on our beaches, therefore begin to gather a picture about where this debris is coming from.
“With that knowledge we can then work towards source reduction.”
ReefBlitz is a project run by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation in partnership with Tangaroa Blue, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Capricorn Catchments.
Ms McArdle said there was a lot the average person could do to help protect the Great Barrier Reef.
“Target the single-use plastics — the key ones are plastic bags, single-use plastic bottles and containers and straws,” she said.
“Just say no to plastic bags, bring your own bottle wherever you go and don’t use a straw. We don’t need a straw; you can drink from a cup.”
Holly Lambert from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said recruiting locals was paramount to collecting large quantities of data.
“Citizen scientists are basically anybody in the community, from kids to adults: the average joe,” she said.
“They’re basically programs put together by scientists that are really quite simple and easily accessible to the community, which allows scientists, universities and organisations like ours to access lots of on the ground data that we just don’t have the manpower to seize.”
President of the Capricorn Coast’s Surfriders Foundation John McGrath believes the key was utilising “people power”.
“I reckon more people are interested, but you have to transform interest into action,” he said.
“Days like today I think will convince the 50 people that have come along that you can do conservation work and have a heck of a lot of fun at the same time.”
Mr McGrath said there was also economic benefit to this kind of conservation work.
“When tourists go somewhere and it’s dirty, they’re not going to come back,” he said.
“It’s of immense value to an area if they can support their community groups who are involved in cleaning up things like beaches.
“[To] order to make them safer, but also to make them enjoyable by being aesthetically beautiful in order to retain the tourists and make sure they come back and spend their dollars to feed the local economy.
“Last time I checked that was really badly needed right now in the Capricorn region.”