With Earth Day upon us, now is the perfect time to start thinking about ways to give back to the planet. Taking part in a citizen science program is an excellent way for anyone to help our environment and have fun while doing it. Since 2002, All Star Liveaboards has implemented reef restoration trips focused towards the protection and education of marine ecosystems. During the dive vacation, guests on board All Star Cat Ppalu learn about the various marine habitats located in the Exuma Cays. Passengers can also contribute to the cause by participating in projects such as coral restoration, Diadema sea urchin relocation, and algae removal.
Diadema, or long-spined sea urchin, is a keystone herbivore species that feeds on algal turf around coral ecosystems inherently maintaining the balance between the two populations. Without the urchin present, the algae can then overgrow and destroy the reef. Previously, there was an abundance of Diadema throughout the Bahamas, but in 1983 there was a massive die off from disease that caused a loss of 92 to 99 percent of the population in the area. After the plague became apparent, scientists started to notice the decline in coral health and increased abundance in algae coverage. With so much algae and no urchin to eat it, the coral was now suffocating underneath and dying. Since then, researchers have been working on solutions to this issue. One of those solutions is Diadema relocation projects like the ones conducted on All Star Liveaboards Citizen Science trips.
What do we do?
Once settled in, guests will be able to sit down with the Marine Biologist on board to hear a presentation on the different corals and algae present in the area. During the week, all who would like to join in are encouraged. The goal for the week is to clean up the reefs and relocate urchins to areas where they are needed the most. Since urchins feed at night, we must wait until the sun goes down to collect them. When the boat arrives at the new site, passengers have the opportunity to go down and prep the area before release by cleaning algae from the suffocating corals. Once clean, the urchins are brought down in baskets on scuba and released. Watching them race to find the best hiding spot is an entertaining sight to see! Though coral restoration and urchin relocation is the focus, this is not the only issue you are able to gain knowledge about while on this marine conservation trip.
Along with translocating urchins, the marine biologist on board will have presentations on other topics pertaining to the area. All passengers are encouraged to participate in other topics such as mangrove ecology, blue holes, fish identification, and shark migration. All of which are experiences that you might encounter while doing a liveaboard in the Bahamas. Throughout the week, you can soak up knowledge and get answers to questions you might have about marine life. There is no need for a degree to become a citizen scientist, only a love for the ocean and the will to give back to the planet.