A Force for Good: The Researchers

Everyone knows that global environments in general, and the oceans in particular, are threatened. Climate change, coral bleaching, over fishing, runaway plastics – it’s a long list and every day, another study makes the list longer and more daunting. It may seem like everyone’s jumping on the bad news bandwagon, but I look at these reports in a positive, enabling way: the future we don’t want must be predicted to avoid it.

healthy-coral-reef-manta-ray

So, besides studying current issues, marine and environmental researchers show us problems before they arise. For example, in August marine scientists Wortman, Paytan and Yao (University of Toronto and University of California, Santa Cruz) released a study that suggests that, beyond warming, elevated atmospheric CO2 would reduce oceanic oxygen, making the deeper depths toxic and significantly damage fisheries through it effect on the food web. Yes, that’s bad news, but thanks to these researchers we know now, while we still have time to do something about it.

And, this leads to the second reason researchers are a crucial force for good. It’s about predicting problems, but also finding the solutions andsharing them. In a previous blog, I mentioned Dr. Vaughan’s breakthrough in coral restoration – shared research that directly addresses a massive global challenge that’s close to the heart of all divers. In Cuba’s Guanahacabibes National Marine Park, biologist Dr. Dorka Cobián Rojas teams with global scientists and “citizen scientist” divers to research causes and implement solutions to coral loss and the invasive lionfish. There also, Dr. Osmani Borrego similarly researches plastic pollution. These are critical research efforts because Guanahacabibes’ reefs are healthy, making them a biological resource oasis needed to find the problems and solutions we need to protect, preserve and restore the world’s reefs and fisheries.

healthy-coral-reef

Let’s not overlook “citizen scientist” involvement, because it is vital. Professional full-time researchers like Rojás and Borrego do not have the time or resources to gather all the data and trial the solutions. Solving massive, world-scale problems calls for massive, world-scale participation – in the ocean, that means you and me. As Project AWARE likes to say, don’t let your dives go to waste. Every dive we make can contribute to research. Dive Against Debris, for example, isn’t simply about picking up litter underwater or pointing fingers – it’s part of finding out how we can stop it.

Another effort is Reef Life Survey, founded by Dr. Graham Edgar, which trains volunteer divers to survey marine organisms. More than 200 RLS divers have already surveyed more than 2,000 sites in 44 countries, creating one of the largest global biological databases in existence. Using these data, researchers expect a shift in fish and invertebrate distribution as the oceans warm – a conclusion only possible thanks to these citizen scientist divers.  India.mongbay.com reports that in India, scientists train fishermen and other volunteers to dive (if they’re not already divers) as citizen scientists for involvement in multiple initiatives, and it has another benefit – public support. “The research also gets community buy-in when their people are involved,” the report quotes University of Kerala’s aquatic biology department head A. Biju Kuma. Go online and you can find literally dozens of ways scientists embrace divers like you and me in researching the solutions to environmental threats.

coral-reef-cuba

There’s a lot to do, so let’s make every dive count. Join Dive Against Debris if you haven’t already, and/or any other citizen scientist effort. We can be researchers while still making images, exploring or doing everything else we love about diving. And, let’s be restorers who use what we’re learning to rebuild, revitalize and recreate a healthy global environment. Let’s be reachers and teachers who use diving to spread what we’re learning and doing, and pass it to the next generations.

Regardless of what today’s trends are, the future is not inevitable. With 25 million PADI Professionals and Divers helping lead the way, and with a new generation of divers to come, we’re already changing course to a different tomorrow with a thriving, healthy global environment. When it comes to gazing into the crystal ball, I like what author-educator Peter Drucker said:

“The best way to predict the future
is to create it.”

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

 

4 Tips for Hosting AWARE Week Activities

Written by Tara Bradley

In celebration of AWARE Week, a co-branded PADI® and Project AWARE® initiative aimed at empowering more divers to look after the underwater world, PADI dive operators and shops around the world will join together in a global movement for ocean protection by running conservation-minded events and activities from 15-23 September.

Whether it’s becoming a debris activist, saying no to single-use plastics or making responsible seafood choices, no action is too small to protect and preserve our ocean planet. AWARE Week provides you with the tools and inspiration to encourage positive actions for the health of fragile underwater environments, fins on and fins off.

Interested in planning an AWARE Week event in your area? Here are some ways to get ready and bring together your student divers, friends and family to act for change in your local community.

  1. Get ready to teach Project AWARE specialty courses: If you’re not a Dive Against Debris® or AWARE Shark Conservation Diver Specialty Instructor, apply for your rating today. One hundred percent (that’s right, 100%!) of your application fee is donated to Project AWARE. Not a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor yet? No worries, PADI Divemasters can apply to teach the newly revised Project AWARE Specialty course after taking a Project AWARE Specialty Instructor Training course from a PADI Course Director.
  2. Mark your calendar and start promoting your AWARE Week activities:
    Download AWARE Week social banners to spread the word. Create a Facebook event and use the #AWAREWeek hashtag on Instagram and Twitter to encourage participation and join the online conversation.
  3. Make your dives count and help clean the ocean: If you want to make your dives count for ocean protection during AWARE Week, conduct Dive Against Debris surveys. Download your Dive Against Debris survey toolkit, which includes the must-have materials you need to successfully plan and conduct a survey dive including tips to choose your survey site.
  4. Display the AWARE Week video in your local shop and gather interest for the Project AWARE specialty courses: Dive Against Debris Specialty, AWARE Shark Conservation Diver Specialty, and the newly revised Project AWARE Specialty. Ask people visiting your dive shop to leave their contact details if they’re interested in taking part in AWARE Week. Closer to the date, send them an invitation to sign up for a Project AWARE specialty course during AWARE Week or to any other event you may organize, a club night, a fundraising challenge – you decide.

Whatever you do during AWARE Week, make it fun and make it count for ocean conservation. If your students complete a course during AWARE Week, make sure they receive the PADI limited edition card supporting Project AWARE’s conservation work, and use this opportunity to celebrate the beauty and wonders of the ocean!

From kids to seniors, non-divers to pros, we can all make a difference in our global community. Join the AWARE Week celebrations!

For more info or to download the AWARE Week Toolkit for help hosting an event in your area, visit the newly launched AWARE Week website.

AWARE Week – Save the Date

From 15-23 September 2018, the PADI® family will join forces with Project AWARE® to celebrate the -environment and education. The focus of AWARE Week for PADI Pros is teaching the three AWARE specialty courses – Project AWARE, AWARE Shark Conservation Diver and Dive Against Debris® – and inspiring divers to act on what they learn to protect the aquatic environment. Based on the successful 2017 AWARE Week project in the United Kingdom, this year’s AWARE Week has gone global.

WHY YOU NEED TO TAKE PART

Perfect Timing – As the dive season slows in northern climates and ramps up in the southern latitudes, divers are ready for events that get them in the water. The bonus is they get to learn more about things that matter to them and are able to contribute by diving against debris or observing sharks. It also helps them step up the continuing education ladder. Participating in AWARE Week allows you to really connect with customers while boosting your September certifications.

Build Advocates – The more divers know about the state of the ocean and the threats to aquatic resources, the more likely they’ll be to make better personal environmental choices and become advocates for change. Education is the key to supporting PADI’s Ocean Health and Marine Life Protection Pillars and furthering Project AWARE’s efforts. Training Dive Against Debris divers not only expands your participant list for your monthly Dive Against Debris dives, but it also creates more people who will say no to single-use plastics. Showing divers the continued pressure being put on the shark populations will create more people to defend sharks on both the local and global level.

Personal Improvement – If you already can offer all of the AWARE specialties, then teaching them during AWARE Week will help you build certifications toward your next professional level. If you aren’t authorized to teach Dive Against Debris or AWARE Shark Conservation Diver yet, then this is a great time for you to add to your professional qualifications. Get the training you need and/or send in your application soon so that you’re ready to teach in September. Also note that your instructor application fee is donated to Project AWARE.

WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO

Fill the Week – Connect courses with events to fill the week. Offering a big Dive Against Debris survey at your local dive site is obvious, but also plan to offer other activities. Invite local environmental experts to speak to your divers about sharks, rays or any other endangered or threatened species in your area. Show environmental videos that explain the extent of plastic pollution or highlight how to make better choices to protect the environment. Try to focus on what’s occurring locally because that’s where your divers can make the biggest change.

Download Tools – Go to projectaware.org to get all the tools you need to teach AWARE Specialties along with supporting promotional graphics from the AWARE Week host page.

One more important thing: The Project AWARE Specialty is being updated to guide divers through the “10 Tips for Divers to Protect the Ocean Planet,” including discussions about how to take personal action. Watch for announcements about the release of the new instructor guide as you prepare for AWARE Week.

For more information visit the AWARE Week host page for PADI Pros. 

Action on the Ground: World Oceans Day

It was so great to see so many communities coming together all over the world for World Oceans Day last month. With so much action on the ground and readily accessible education available, the future is bright and through these actions I believe it is possible to make a difference and help our ocean planet!

Chiara collecting trash underwater

The dive community in particular is in a unique position to lead this change as essentially, the ocean is our office and if the office lights are out where would we go to work?

Only when we show the world the beauty and wonder (along with the human impact) of our oceans will people learn to care and advocate for our oceans going forward.

Through education and initiatives by the dive community we can encourage everyone all over the world to start making life choices which will positively impact our planet.

Happy Dive Against Debris Divers

The small island of Gili Trawangan in Indonesia did exactly that last month for World Oceans Day 2018.  Coming together as a community, raising awareness, educating locals and tourists about ongoing action we can all take, the weekend was a huge success and something which can and should be emulated in the future.

In conjunction with the Gili Eco Trust – an NGO based on Gili Trawangan, many of the small islands dive businesses came together, promoting and running conservation events across the weekend of June 8th/9th. Both the local community (including many of the children), divers, instructors in training, and tourists got involved.

Hosting marine conservation presentations and encouraging divers to complete their PADI Dive Against Debris Specialty course, many divers learned techniques to safely collect the debris and used both the Project AWARE® Dive Against Debris® App and the data card to record and submit the data which is then added to a global map which is available to see here.

Reporting the data

Not only did the weekend create many new Dive Against Debris Specialty divers but one of the local Course Director’s who was in the middle of an Instructor Development Course also encouraged the candidates to complete their Dive Against Debris Specialty Instructor rating over the weekend.

All this action on the ground contributes to a global picture enabling us to see what specific items are found in specific locations. This helps identify areas around the world where waste prevention efforts are needed most.

Below is a global snapshot of what is currently being removed and reported to Project AWARE:Ten Branches Chart Slide Template 1

When we zoom in on the data provided by members in Indonesia, we find that the top 10 items found underwater in Indonesia based on past surveys are;

  • Food Wrappers (plastic),
  • Plastic Fragments,
  • Bags – Grocery/Retail (plastic),
  • Beverage Bottles: less than 2 litres (plastic),
  • Bags: Trash (plastic),
  • Cups, Plates, Forks, Knives, Spoons (plastic),
  • Containers: Fast Food, Lunch Boxes & Similar,
  • Clothing,
  • Cloth Fragments, and
  • Paper, Cardboard Fragments.

Happy divers getting involved!

Of course to encourage participation in events like this (and ensuring they are successful) making learning and participation fun is key! Games are a fantastic way of doing this when you have children involved such as having kids pick which trash goes in which rubbish bin.

Identifying which trash goes in which bin

Another idea is to show how easy it is to reuse trash – these kids and volunteers were making underwater critters out of recycled plastics and debris – jellyfish and sea turtles were just some of the marine creatures made.

Getting the children involved in key!

With a global movement underway it is fantastic to see this kind of passion from our valued members out there not only teaching the world to dive but including a message of conservation every step of the way!

A huge shout out to all our members who got involved, not only on World Oceans Day, but who do their bit every single day out there in all corners of the world!

For more information on how to get involved visit the Project AWARE Website or sign up for a conservation focused specialty instructor rating at your local dive centre or resort. Visit the conservation area on PADI.com to learn more about adopting a dive site in your local area.