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Reef Guardian Schools Program Turns 20

The Reef Guardian School Program turns 20 this year and there’s a lot to celebrate in this region, thanks to the work of 100 Wet Tropics schools, 50,000 students and more than 2000 teachers.

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100 schools and 50,000 students take part in the program in the Wet Tropics

Fourteen-year-old Charlie Hard is looking at a coral trout swimming beside plating corals. It’s the 1000th photo he’s opened on his laptop to identify coral for the Great Reef Census, a massive citizen science project involving analysis of almost 80,000 reef survey images.

“It’s helping scientists work out what all the reefs are like and what dangers they’re facing,’’ he says. “It’s pretty cool to be able to help protect the reef by sitting for an hour or so at home and identifying branching and plating corals.”

Charlie is one of 300 Newman Catholic College students who’ve been part of the Reef Guardian School Program over the past two years – an initiative that’s led to project work with marine biologists on Green Island and annual community days on Palm Cove jetty where the students promote sustainable fishing habits.

If he had one message for others, he says it’d be this: “It’s important to have things like green zones (no-take areas). Some people want to make the whole reef ‘green’. That wouldn’t work for the fishers. They need areas. But we also need to get the fish populations back up, to give fish somewhere to reproduce.”

Teacher Matt Radburnd says the school’s Year 7 and 8s love the chance to have marine experiences.

“Next we are hoping to be involved in rehabilitation of an area affected by cyclone, coral bleaching or crown-of-thorns starfish. We’d also like to link in with Tropwater at James Cook University Cairns to help with seagrass projects.”

Across the Wet Tropics region, primary and high school students have been involved in beach clean-ups, habitat restoration and citizen science initiatives including with the Authority’s Eye of the Reef app, with Tangaroa Blue and Mangrove Watch. There have also been projects to reduce energy consumption and waste and to increase recycling.

These reef enthusiasts are among 350,000 students and 10,000 teachers in Queensland who have now been part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Reef Guardian School Program.

“The Reef Guardian initiatives are a great example of what we can achieve, and the impact we can have, when we think global and act local,” Reef Authority Chief Executive Officer Josh Thomas says.


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