If you dive on a coral reef today and you are over 36, you are doing something that a child born today might never be able to do.
“It was the abundance that was most striking. Sheer abundance of life. I have never experienced anything like it. So much movement, so many colours, it was like an underwater Eden,” remembers ex-teacher and explorer, Jamie Buchanan-Dunlop.
In 2012, Jamie was working with the Catlin Seaview Survey on Agincourt Reef, a part of the Great Barrier Reef and experienced the reef for the first time. With some experts estimating that the world’s coral ecosystem may be in terminal decline by 2050, this first experience was particularly poignant.
“The loss of coral could mark the first example of total ecosystem collapse. No more coral reef, a complete world destroyed. And then there’s the knock-on impact on the 500 million people who rely on the coral reef for food and livelihoods.”
Two years after this first dive, Jamie is returning to the reef, but this time is taking classes round the world with him. As part of the Catlin Oceans Education programme, Digital Explorer is inviting thousands of students to join an expedition to Timor Leste in South East Asia’s Coral Triangle to investigate the awe and wonder of the coral reef. The expedition team will be specifically investigating the fragile habitats and ecosystems of the reef, the impact of human activities, local conservation efforts and the future of the Coral Triangle.
“Our vision for Coral Live 2015 is that as many classes around the world as possible have the chance to speak live to a marine scientist or expedition team member about this unique ecosystem and the diversity of life that depends on it,” said Digital Explorer’s Jamie Buchanan-Dunlop.
“It’s so important that young people can experience some of the reef, if only by satellite link-up. I can’t bear the thought that some of the classes that I am speaking to may never be able to see the reef for themselves.”
According to a recent report by the Asian Development Bank and the Coral Triangle Initiative, effective marine management could hold the key to protecting coral reef systems such as establishing ‘no take’ zones, managing the issues of land run-off and the rehabilitation of mangrove forest. So, Jamie and team will also be speaking to communities, scientists and government in the region as the basis for an education programme on the sustainable management of coral reefs.
From 20 to 29 January 2015, schools will be able to connect and interact live via satellite with Jamie and the expedition in Timor Leste from the comfort of their classrooms. There is also a full education programme available to accompany the expedition on the Digital Explorer website based on the research and journeys of explorers and scientists taking part in the Catlin Seaview Surveys since 2012.
The Coral Live education event allows an innovative and engaging approach to educating young people. To follow Jamie’s journey check out the Digital Explorer blog, sign up to Skype in the classroom and access the accompanying world class resources. The beautiful and fragile ecosystem of the coral oceans is dependent upon the protection of future generations, so it is more important than ever to engage students from a young age in the protection and preservation of our environment.
17 December 2014