People, Environment

Great Barrier Reef Research Expedition Planned

Great Barrier Reef Research Expedition PlannedGreat Barrier Reef Research Expedition Planned

A scientific research expedition funded by a private tourism operator will undertake the first significant underwater study of remote northern sections of the Great Barrier Reef, which were severely damaged by recent coral bleaching.

Nonprofit organization Great Barrier Reef Legacy will launch a 21-day research trip on a 32-meter charter boat, offering at least 10 free spaces to scientists, including Charlie Veron, according to an exclusive report by the Guardian. As part of the expedition, Veron and other researchers will search for “super corals”–species that are most able to cope with rising temperatures.

 “If you identify species of corals that appear to be resistant to bleaching – then the question is why. If you can find that out … it’s a step towards a cure or a way forward,” he said.

Veron, a former chief scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science who is credited with discovering 20% of the world’s coral species, said having access to a vessel was invaluable, especially for researchers like him who are not currently affiliated with a university or government agency.

The mission will also attempt to provide an ecosystem health assessment, examining how the reef coped with the back-to-back mass-bleaching events in 2016 and 2017.

Some tourism operators have turned a blind eye to the unprecedented damage that warming seas have inflicted on the Great Barrier Reef. The Australian government has sought to downplay the impacts ostensibly to protect the tourism industry.

In addition, a different tourism-funded reef conservation effort closely associated with climate-change deniers has sought to minimize attention on bleaching.

But in a sign of change within the tourism industry, the new expedition was made possible by funding and in-kind donation by Northern Escape Collection, which contributed $160,000 and the use of a boat. The private tourism company owns the Orpheus Island Lodge near Townsville and the Daintree Eco Lodge.

The expedition also received $30,000 in donations from the public, exceeding the group’s crowdfunding goal of $20,000.

It will be the first close-up look scientists get of the remote northern sections of the Great Barrier Reef since this year’s recent wave of bleaching.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority estimates as much as half of the coral on the reef was killed between 2016 and 2017, with the worst damage occurring in the remote northern sections–previously the most pristine.


Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints