Project Reef Life Updates


Project Reef Life have been busy over the last couple of months giving TEDx talks, inspiring school kids, developing technology and installing art!

Since Project Reef Life’s marine scientist Josh, addressed NZUA’s AGM back in June 2018 there have been a number of exciting developments.  

In November 2018 the Project’s volunteer engineer, Richard Guy, was recognised at the Taranaki Community Awards for his significant work not only on the Project but in the significant lengthy Committee roles he has been in as a member of the South Taranaki Underwater Club.

Project Reef Life's Richard Guy with the Mayor at the Taranaki Community Awards
Project Reef Life's Richard Guy with the Mayor at the Taranaki Community Awards

Joint Project lead, Karen Pratt, became a Curious Minds Ambassador in July 2018 invited by Dr Victoria Metcalf, National Coordinator Participatory Science, Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor. Karen was asked to do a TEDx talk in New Plymouth in July 2018 about her journey with Project Reef Life which you can watch online here. Another speaking event arose for her at Victoria University’s Women in Tech conference in August 2018 about the technology used in the Project.

In 2018 the project was successful in obtaining a programme grant for three years from the TSB Community Trust a which enables the Project to gather and maintain data, build educational resources, engage with primary and secondary schools and continue to offer Charter Vessel trips to high school students. The Project also received a capital grant to build a Mark II version of the in situ camera, construct a baited underwater frame (BUV) with Go-Pro as well as a Plankton net. Leith helped build the Mark II camera and a video he made during construction showcases its complexity.  

The Project was successful in obtaining Creative Community Funding for a mural of the reef to be painted in central Patea (11km away from the reef location) and for metal shapes of marine life to be installed on poles leading leading to the beach. The unveiling involved local Hapū and Iwi who gave a blessing.

Patea Reef Mural
The Vibrant Patea Reef Mural

In August 2018 data from the Hawera High School fishing surveys was used for a winning science and technology fair entry and the students donated their cash prize of $300 to Project Reef Life.

Students giving science fair donation to richie for project reef life
Students Oliver and Sam presenting their donation to Project Reef Life

In December 2018 the team were delighted to have captured footage of a seven gill broad nosed shark in their BUV footage. After each BUV trip, Josh our marine scientist meets up with students so they can learn more about how and why the survey technique is used. Interestingly the Project has found that analysis of the BUV footage by students is one of the most enjoyed sessions, with a sense of competition to find the one frame with the greatest number of blue cod!  

The Project was most appreciative to have a net donated from NIWA out of old stores stock, and our Project Engineer Richie then built a metal hoop and rope pulley mechanism. While there is limited data on zooplankton in the South Taranaki Bight, the region is considered very productive. The Patea shoals in a NIWA survey was found to be the area with the highest biomass dominated by salps, juvenile euphausiids and copepods. The Project is delighted that Charlotte Borra, a scientist with skills in plankton has moved recently to Taranaki and has joined the Project Team.

Armed with a greater wealth of knowledge, the South Taranaki Underwater Club was successful in engaging with the Taranaki Regional Council, DOC and Iwi, to have the Project Reef recognised as having outstanding value in the draft Coastal Plan but Trans-Tasman Resources Limited have opposed the Project Reef being recognised as outstanding in the Coastal Plan. The Hearing for the Plan is in June/July 2019.

Puke Ariki Museum has invited Project Reef Life to be a permanent exhibit with the opening intended for late 2019. The Project Team is presently working on a fortnightly basis with curators to develop this. In Late April the NZ Geographic team spent two days at the reef taking VR, drone and camera footage of crossing the bar for the upcoming exhibition.

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