Reef watch is a volunteer-based research and fundraising event taking place this Saturday using ‘citizen scientists’ to monitor the health of Bermuda’s reefs systems. *Photo by Chris Burville
Reef watch is a volunteer-based research and fundraising event taking place this Saturday using ‘citizen scientists’ to monitor the health of Bermuda’s reefs systems. *Photo by Chris Burville

There is still time for volunteers to sign up to this Saturday’s Reef Watch event which will use teams of volunteer citizen scientists to monitor the health of Bermuda’s economically important reef systems. Nearly 20 boats are already signed up, each raising at least $500 towards reef research. Volunteers decide what time to leave — the research is estimated to take about one hour and a volunteers’ dinner will take place at Barr’s Bay Park at 4pm. There will be a training session this evening where Thaddeus Murdoch, Chief Scientist at BREAM (Bermuda Reef Ecosystem Analysis and Monitoring Programme), will train the teams on fish and coral ID and how to collect data using specially designed data slates (see below for details). 

We spoke with Dr Murdoch about the importance of this event going forward. 

How much is this event going to help the BREAM team at BZS with its research?

This will be very helpful with our research. BREAM has been good at getting external support, but the loss of core funding affected our ability to attract external funding. The Reef Watch initiative will provide needed financial support and will give folks on the island a chance to be part of the research programme.

What will the money go towards?

The funding will go to support coral reef research by BZS scientists, including myself and my BREAM programme. Since 2002, my team has mapped all the reefs and other marine habitats in Bermuda, and then collected baseline data from over 180 sites where we measured the condition of coral reefs, seagrass meadows and fish stocks across the island down to 120ft depth. 

The BREAM programme has trained 15 Bermudian undergraduate and graduate students, as well as over 20 university students.

What new research is taking place?

Starting this year we will start Reef Watch Plus in which we will start monitoring a subset of around 50 sites located across all zones of the Bermuda reef atoll. Our more intensive scientific surveys will complement the Reef Watch citizen science data and information on reef health from both sources will be made available to the public as it becomes available. 

Our primary goal is to empower the public to understand that a healthy reef system and abundant fishes are critical to our survival here on our small island.

Could this be an annual event?

We definitely plan for this to be an annual event. We are already working with (key sponsor) Hiscox Re to plan the 2014 event. Also we want to empower the Reef Watch citizen scientists to monitor the reefs throughout the year, and we will post new data to the ReefWatch websites at www.bermudaBREAM.org and www.bzs.bm.

Visit www.bzs.bm to register a boat and team of four to take part in the Reef Watch. Each boat must raise a minimum of $500, sponsorship forms are online. A training session takes place tonight at the Bermuda Aquarium from 6pm until 8pm.