Data forms the base for research and is the foundation of conservation. Which means research, surveys and doing cool scientific stuff in labs are as crucial to the well-being of the environment as are capacity building, spreading awareness, outreach, active restoration and so on. Data collection leads to research opportunities which leads to processes like analysis, experiments, etc., which finally give us enough information to be able to understand how different components of an ecosystem work.
Research helps us maintain the ecological balance and further refines our relationship with the environment.
Data collection being the first step can be carried out using several different methods underwater depending on the characteristic features of the site. This is usually done through survey methodologies.
These surveys more than requiring accuracy, need to done periodically and with consistency. This ensures that data collected is reliable and different sets of it can be easily compared to get a better idea of how the state of an ecosystem of a particular area is doing over that period of time.
Temple Reef Foundation members are no scientists but we have had the privilege of being able to carry out some surveys of our own with the help of external expertise.
Our very own in-house marine biologist, Suneha Jagannathan received a grant from WTI to build and deploy an artificial reef in Pondicherry. The entire operation was carried out under her guidance and supervision. Needless to say it was a success!
A preliminary analysis was carried out to make sure the right dive site was chosen for the deployment. This was followed by reef construction, awareness and outreach activities as it is very important to keep every stakeholder in the loop.
This included conducting awareness events to celebrate World Wildlife Day along with birdwatching boat trips across a mangrove path in Pondicherry. We also addressed divers on artificial reefs and their importance in enriching marine life on a local scale. We also conceptualised, designed and printed brochures titled “Marine Life of Pondicherry” to inform the public on the vast local marine biodiversity.
The complete process was well executed and the deployment was successful! But our work did not end there. To make sure that the artificial reef is truly a successful one, we had to adopt data collection methods in order to assess the same. These data collection dives required site inspection first to understand what kind of materials would be needed to collect the data.
We used the following very simple methods to carry out the surveys:
- Line Transects
- Swim slowly from one point to the other, record species or take pictures
- Square Transect
- Place square transect flat on one area and take a record of the life there
- Area Transects
- Place camera in a way that one particular area is visible, take 1 minute video
The surveys were carried out periodically and the data was later entered to maintain a record of how the reef has been doing for that duration. This reef which we later named “New Reef” became home to over 50 species of fish, crabs, molluscs and a whole lot more!
But it wasn’t always easy since the ocean conditions are never consistent or perfect, sometimes we weren’t able to collect any data at all because of poor visibility or rough surges and sometimes we’d just have to turn our monitoring dives into dives against debris!
Unfortunately due to some unregulated and unsustainable fishing activities, our New Reef was dismantled but it continues to accommodate all of the marine life even in its ruined state.
We have our Temple Reef site with the artificial reefs still going strong and TRF continues to engage in reef building and monitoring activities.
TRF encourages you to join us in our endeavours!
If you are interested- you know what to do!