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Richard

Richard STUART-SMITH

Year of Award: 2011 Award State: Tasmania Environment > Water
Science > General
To investigate the establishment of a marine research and conservation network of scientifically-trained volunteer divers - Seychelles, Maldives, Tanzania, Bonaire, UK
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A passionate SCUBA diver and flyfisher, for Rick it is all just about being close to fish. His education and career have taken him from sampling fish in cold Tasmanian highland lakes to recording fish species on underwater paper on coral reefs in the Red Sea. His day job is as a marine biologist at the University of Tasmania, where his research focuses on ecology and conservation. On weekends, evenings and holidays he runs a diving- based citizen science program with Professor Graham Edgar. Together they founded the Reef Life Survey program (RLS; www.reeflifesurvey.com), in which they train and direct a network of volunteer divers to collect detailed data on marine biodiversity.

Rick’s Churchill project was focused on building this citizen science network by learning from others who have faced the same hurdles that the Reef Life Survey program was facing. He travelled to the Maldives, Seychelles, Tanzania, London and Bonaire to visit and work with other environmental organisations that train volunteer participants in challenging coral reef biodiversity surveys. He learnt how these organisations deal with many aspects of program management including volunteer recruitment, retention, logistics in remote areas, obtaining and maintaining funding, and training methods.

Reef Life Survey has now trained over 200 divers and has teams of volunteers around Australia, Spain, the USA, UK, New Zealand, South Africa, Nicaragua and Panama, which have together undertaken over 8,000 reef surveys in 45 countries, and still counting. The insights, experience and knowledge Rick gained from his Churchill project have been invaluable for the growth and success of Reef Life Survey.

Excerpt from “Bringing Knowledge Home” published by the Churchill Fellows Association of Tasmania (2016) 

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