‘The godfather of coral’ joins reef research expedition


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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A three week expedition to the most affected parts of the Great Barrier Reef will give leading scientists direct access to coral through the GBR Legacy initiative. IMAGE: GBR Legacy.
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CHARLIE Veron, the world's leading expert on coral reefs, has committed to joining a Great Barrier Reef Legacy expedition to determine the health and study the resilience of the remote northern reef ecosystem.

The Townsville-based Veron is the first name to be added to a list of the world’s top 10 marine scientists who will embark on this trip from November 15 to December 5 this year. Since its inception, the GBR Legacy has strived to be the Reef’s only independent research institute through private, public and corporate funding.

In confirming this today, Dr Dean Miller, Legacy’s Director of Science and Media, said it is a huge coup to have “the godfather of coral” on board.

“We are offering 10 free spaces to the world’s top marine scientists and invitations have already been extended. We hope to finalise our list over the next few weeks,” he said.

Dr Miller and Legacy director John Rumney will lead the expedition.

Dr Miller said he is also indebted to The Northern Escape Collection, a tourism company owned by the Morris Group, who had generously donated $160,000 and the use of their 32m luxury vessel the Flying Fish to make the expedition possible. Flying Fish is berthed at the Reef Marina in Port Douglas.

“It was an easy decision for the Northern Escape Collection to support this initiative as we have been alarmed by the recent incidents of bleaching occurring over the last two summers and are very concerned about the health of the reef in general.

“We believe the more information the public know, the more pressure will be put on politicians to take actions to protect it. Being part of the Queensland tourism industry we are also concerned about what these events are doing to such an integral part of Queensland’s identity,” said Hayley Morris, Managing Director of Northern Escape Collection.

Dr Miller said this is the first major financial support from the tourism industry, showing that the future and health of the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s greatest natural asset, is important and that GBR Legacy can achieve outcomes that benefit us all.

“The past two years have seen the largest recorded mass coral bleaching events and die-offs of the Great Barrier Reef, linked to climate related heat stress,” he said.

Dr Miller said a main driver for this expedition is because researchers have observed that the far northern section has been hardest hit, it’s remote, large and difficult to access.

"This is why we are launching this expedition. To provide essential access and support for scientists so we can understand how the reef has fared and report directly to the public.

“This is a good news story for the reef – unlocking the secrets of the survivors offers hope for safeguarding coral reefs into the future but also for dealing with a warming climate brought about by our fossil fuel dependence.

“The far northern region represents what the future of the entire Great Barrier Reef might look like if bleaching events continue to push further south and that information is critical to researchers, managers and the public alike.”

Dr Miller said by making the data available to professional and citizen scientists around the world and sharing this voyage of discovery, GBR Legacy aims to increase awareness of our reefs and encourage communities to work together to find solutions.

He added that a public forum would be held in Port Douglas at the conclusion of the expedition.

GBR Legacy was created by dedicated scientists, tourism operators, media professionals and educators to address the urgent need to ensure the long-term survival of the Great Barrier Reef and coral reefs worldwide. This will be achieved by redefining the way research, education, communication and conservation projects can be funded to solve environmental problems of the highest significance.

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