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Meet the Townsville scientists helping to save the Great Barrier Reef

Master Reef Guide exploring Townsville’s section of the Great Barrier Reef.

Master Reef Guide exploring Townsville’s section of the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Supplied

The Great Barrier Reef is an Australian treasure and our best marine experts are working towards its healthy future.

Scientists are finding innovative new ways to regenerate and protect the reef, and in many ways taking the experiences of visitors into their monitoring programs.

Much of this action is taking place in Townsville as the headquarters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which is perfectly positioned in the central section of the Great Barrier Reef, a global icon that runs more than 2300 kilometres along the east coast of Queensland.

“It covers a space that’s larger than Italy or 70 million football fields worth of space,” explained Fred Nucifora, director at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

“Townsville is centrally located when you think about the geographic extent of the park from far north to the tip of Cape York Peninsula all the way to the southern part of the park in Bundaberg.

“Townsville is essentially the capital of North Queensland or Northern Australia, some would contest. So accessibility-wise, it’s one of the reasons why we’re in Townsville. Logistically, we can access pretty much the entire park.”

Great Barrier Reef

Townsville is at the epicentre of efforts to preserve the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Supplied

The authority uses a variety of ways to manage the health of the reef including drone and radar technology. It also developed an app called Eye on the Reef that allows visitors to do their part in helping to monitor the reef.

“The Eye on the Reef app is like having a ranger in your pocket, so essentially when you go out into the Great Barrier Reef it tells you exactly where you are and what zone you are in on the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.

The app acts as a monitoring program, letting users record reef health, animal sightings or incidents.

In other developments, Stephen Rodan at the Beyond Coral Foundation has invented a coral-farming robot. The Coral Husbandry Automated Raceway Machine (CHARM) is an automating coral growing machine that Rodan has spent three years developing.

Great Barrier Reef

Townsville is the headquarters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Photo: Supplied

The engineer earned approximately $250,000 in investment for CHARM after appearing on reality TV series Byron Baes. He has since begun engraving the coral he is growing with the names or logos of sponsors.

“You can engrave people’s name or logo on the coral plate (plug), which they can see in images or a video feed, much like owning a Tamagotchi pet,” he said.

Rodan is hoping this personalised approach is a step towards a wider ownership of the reef’s ongoing health and care.

“Finding a way to bring people into the experience of saving the reef is really important,” he said.

“I think if we can demonstrate this model works I think there’s a chance everyone can get involved and we can bring positive and regenerative tourism to the islands around the Great Barrier Reef.”

Learn more about Townsville, epicentre of the efforts to preserve the Great Barrier Reef.

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