Building a lasting coalition to save coral reefs – Fiji field work, Part 1

February 21, 2019Dr. Helen Fox

As the Allen Coral Atlas develops regionally and then globally, our goal is to engage the wider coral reef science, monitoring, and management community and leverage existing efforts in order to verify and improve the products, ensure they are useful for planning and management at the local level as well for broader policy, and to have on-the-ground collaborators who can be activated once the change detection components have been developed. This field verification and community engagement will enable the product to scale more widely, reach more users, and achieve sustainability.

I was catching up with my friend and colleague Gabby Ahmadia of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) when she mentioned the workshop that she and Emily Darling of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) were organizing to bring together users and developers of Data MERMAID, the Marine Ecological Research Management AID.  This collaboration between WCS and WWF has yielded an online-offline web application for coral reef data collection, with the same goal as the Allen Coral Atlas: accelerate the transformation of data into decisions to save coral reefs. This struck me as a great opportunity both to learn more about potential linkages between MERMAID and the Atlas, and also to field test the verification methods I had been talking about with Chris Roelfsema of UQ and Sarah Frias-Torres of Vulcan.

I reached out to another friend and colleague, Sangeeta Mangubhai, Director of WCS-Fiji to talk both about the Atlas and how it could be helpful for her and her colleagues in the Government or in other NGOs in the region. She was excited and said she would help set up some meetings, and I couldn't wait either! As I started to prepare for the trip, we decided to bring in different cameras to test out the photo transect method that Chris uses in his lab. Paulina from Vulcan ordered the cameras (an Olympus Tough TG5 and a GoPro Hero), which arrived with one day to spare before my departure date. I quickly downloaded the software and made sure I could connect them to my computer.  I was off to Fiji!

I’ll write again soon with a report on the trip, including key lessons learned about keeping devices up to date to communicate with computers – stay tuned for another dispatch in the coming weeks.