Diving into field surveys - Fiji field work, Part 2

March 7, 2019Dr. Helen Fox

As I ended the last post, I was preparing to travel to Fiji to meet and work with coral preservation partners.  I had just received new cameras to test, and shipped off to Fiji – thanks to Paulina, everything had arrived just in time!

I arrived at the workshop location (Leleuvia Island, accessible from Suva) a day early to recover from jetlag and to get started testing the methodology. I borrowed a small weight from the dive shop to be a “plumb bob” to ensure an invisible meter squared quadrat would fit in the photo frame. I took pictures of the GPS screen showing the time, put it into a dive bag to keep it dry, and attached that to a swim kickboard that I towed behind me as I snorkeled.  I swam along taking pictures of the bottom every 2 to 4 meters – and enjoyed saying hello to the amazing coral reef ecosystem again!

Back on land, the first snag was that my GPS (left over from my PhD work on reef rehabilitation in Indonesia) was so old that it had no way to connect to my laptop. We sent a frantic message to Yash at WCS - Fiji to ask if she could bring their GPS. Too late - she had already left for the island. But when she arrived she called the office to help them find it and give it to Sangeeta, who was coming the next day. Once we had a modern enough GPS to use, the next challenge was to download the software to link the GPS track to the photo time stamps. The UQ team had written a start of a manual to explain the methodology, and Chris helped me troubleshoot via Zoom calls, and Yash helped too – it takes a village! I look forward to working with the team to scale this model and provide resources for scientist and managers around the world to help with field verification.

After the workshop was over I spent the day in Suva in Fiji in the meetings Sangeeta had set up, talking to them about how the Atlas could help them with ocean and marine protected area planning.  As a treat on the last weekend, I went scuba diving. It was such a treat to see healthy corals amidst the general doom and gloom of how corals are bleaching and dying because of climate change.  I felt so lucky to have this opportunity and to be working on this project with such a committed team to be “mapping coral reefs to inform coral conservation.”

Check back soon for more from the Coral Atlas team, and reach out to us in the meantime if you have questions or topics you’d like us to cover in the blog.