Walking out towards a group of people in the beautiful weather today, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I was about ten minutes late, which did not help with my confidence in the slightest.
Luckily, I was welcomed with warmth and humour, and felt immediately at ease. Smiles on everyone’s faces and a very relaxed atmosphere, in no small part assisted by shining blue skies, provided a great start to our volunteering. As with (I’m guessing), most others who are just starting a new job, or joining a new group, I was nervous about not knowing anything and having to have everything explained to me. Yet again I was in luck because of the six people who came out to do the survey, only two others had done them before.
The first thing we did when we got out onto the reef was to learn how to identify different species. There were three main molluscs, black nerite (Nerita atramentosa), Austrocochlea species and Bembicium species. Once we learnt how to tell the difference between these species, we were almost ready to go. Reef Watch project officer, Carl Charter, then showed us the difference between brown, red and green algae as well as a few of the common substrates that cover the reef.
I was partnered up with Kyra and we laid out our tape measure to create a 20 metre transect line. We did four passes (one survey method per pass) over about 90 minutes.
Our first pass along the transect line determined what was above water and below water (percentage cover of rock pools). Then we surveyed the depth of sediment on the reef. Next, we recorded percentage of different substrates including tubeworm, mussels, rock, sediment or sediment with algae. Our 20 metre line was a little difficult because it was incredibly patchy. I think the last pass was my favourite. This is when we set out squares 50 centimetres by 2 metres (1m square). In each of these we identified and tallied the molluscs present. My training through my university degree really helped with this. Plus, it was really fun trying to find all of the different things. We even saw a small crab in our search.
Luckily for me my shoes liked to let water in, but didn’t like to let it out. And so I got to walk along with soggy feet for the majority of the day (I’d recommend reef shoes or wet suit boots).
I’ve done a few volunteering activities with a number of organisations and groups. My experiences range from amazing to really unorganised and not well thought out. But I would definitely rank this right up there with amazing. Everyone was lovely and friendly. Carl was kind, and open and really willing to share his knowledge. The activity was fun, interesting and a good way to learn new things about a local area. And I think my favourite part was the remarkable weather in a beautiful location with some wonderful and friendly people. For anyone out there getting interested in a new project and doing some volunteering, you should definitely try out the intertidal surveys!