|Town/Region||Andaman & Nicobar Islands|
|Categories||Communities, Corals, Marine|
|Date||27 Jun 2016|
Across the world people are using and relying on citizen scientists as a cost-effective, involved and long-term way of collecting data for conservation and ecosystem management. Coral reef monitoring is a particularly expensive proposition given the gear (SCUBA units, safety equipment, etc.), training and infrastructure (boats, fuel, etc.) required to conduct surveys, and thus are seldom funded by governments or donors for an extended period of time. Organizations such as ReefCheck (USA) and ReefWatch Australia have sought to combat the resulting lack of long term monitoring by creating protocols that divers that can engage in – thus contributing to reef conservation and learning more about coral reefs – while enjoying their recreational activity.
This project seeks to implement a similar program for the Andaman & Nicobar Islands in India. We will bring together the dive community to choose a monitoring protocol that is not only easy to teach and conduct but also provides a high level of accuracy in data and is at a resolution that is useful for decision-making and analysis by forest officials and scientific experts. We hope to do this using different biological indicator species as well as combine photo quadrats for benthic composition studies. We will then create a course and study material to teach the program, create a government backed certification to award to participants and an online database where results can be uploaded by all participating dive centres. We will run workshops for dive instructors in the region to familiarise them with the protocol, equip them with the skills required to ID selected indicator species and to teach them how to manage and upload data.
We will create publicity material for the course, take it to various educational institutes in the country and encourage divers to undertake these ‘giving back’ dives in an effort to create a successful long term monitoring effort for coral reefs in the Andamans that plugs an important data gap - allowing governments to adopt adaptive management practices, researchers to test hypothesises that require long term data and allows for comparison and study at a global scale.
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