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Volunteer divers needed to survey Great Barrier Reef coral and help assess climate change impacts

By Earthwatch

Research will review how the reef is recovering from recent cyclones and how such extreme physical stress on the reef systems influence coral disease outbreaks.

One of the Great Barrier Reef's most spectacular and diverse marine habitats, the fringing reef surrounding Orpheus Island, is at risk from rising sea temperatures.

Earthwatch Australia has developed a new research project ‘Recovery of the Reef’ together with the Australian Institute of Marine Science and is calling on volunteer divers to work with scientists to assess the growing prevalence of coral disease on this landmark site.

Richard Gilmore, Executive Director, Earthwatch Australia says “volunteers will get to experience this unique marine park filled with an unusually wide variety of reef habitats, clam gardens as well as submerged indigenous sites and recent shipwrecks, while helping scientists understand more about the factors influencing the health of coral reefs.”

“It’s a great way to experience something different, while making a difference to this important World Heritage Site.”

Dr David Bourne, Research Scientist from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, says “the research will review how the reef is recovering from recent cyclones and how such extreme physical stress on the reef systems influence coral disease outbreaks. The ongoing research will also assess the seasonal dynamics of coral diseases and the role of other ecosystems stresses such as light, temperature and water quality on disease progression.

“Working across a variety of dive sites volunteers will conduct underwater surveys tagging and photographing diseased areas, which will then be monitored over time to assess the condition of the coral.

Located 1189 km (739 miles) northwest of Brisbane, Orpheus Island is only 11 kilometres long and approximately one kilometre wide, most of which is national park dominated by eucalypts with patches of rainforest and grassland. Part of the Palm group of islands and within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area Orpheus Island offers secluded, sheltered bays, spectacular fringing reefs and stunning scenery.

The first Recovery of the Reef team kicks off on 12 March and runs through until 19 March, with a second team to follow on 30 August, 2012.

To sign up call Earthwatch on 03 9682 6828 or visit earthwatch.org.au