The URG provides a unique opportunity for members to be involved in research programs and surveys. These research programs are “community based”; whilst they adhere to the basic principles for conducting scientific research, we adopt research projects and designs which are simple, pragmatic, and allow for a broad range of people to be involved. There are research roles for underwater photographers, data recorders, water and substrate sample collecting, equipment and boat handling.
Underwater research has been a focal point of URG diving activity since the club’s inception. Copies of the club Bulletin from the earlier years document many research projects, including articles on how to conduct basic research. A recent issue of the bulletin discussed current research methods (download the bulletin).
In the last few years, the Club has completed a range of projects relating to marine life, human impacts and history. Underwater research activities are best described as “citizen science”. They do not require members to have previous scientific research experience; rather, they require diving skills, time and dedication. The required scientific skills are generally provided via training activities in the club.
Whilst we adhere to the basic principles for conducting scientific research, we adopt research projects and designs which are simple, pragmatic, and allow for a broad range of membership to become involved. URG has several members who are certified to high levels including Divemaster and Scientific Diver, however Open Water is sufficient qualification for many research activities. There are research roles for underwater photographers, data recorders, water and substrate sample collecting, equipment and boat handling.
Current and recently completed research activities include the following:
Reef Life Survey
URG has several members who are certified for Reef Life Surveys. These are the most challenging, but also the most rewarding surveys that you can do as a citizen scientist. They follow a strict protocol, gathering fish and invertebrate data over a 50 m transect. Divers identify species, abundance and size class for every fish and most invertebrates in the transect. Every time you do a reef life survey you learn new species, behaviours or relationships in the ecosystem. Best of all, the data is gathered in a large global database that is used by scientists to analyse the health of our marine ecosystems and has contributed to several high profile scientific papers.
URG does Reef Life Survey regularly, several times a year in various different locations around Australia. In 2015 we have done RLS in Sydney, Jervis Bay and Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.
Dragons of Sydney – Citizen Science Program
The Dragons of Sydney Program is a collaboration between scientists from UTS, volunteer divers from URG NSW and supporting organisations including NPA NSW and potentially SIMS and AMCS. In 2016 we will continue to be involved in this project but focusing in just 5 key sites in Sydney to gather weedy density data, ie. how many weedies per area.
Project Aware – Adopt A Dive site
URG is participating in Project AWARE’s Adopt A Dive Site initiative. As part of this initiative, we will be doing monthly cleanups at Camp Cove to record trends in debris accumulation and ultimately reduce the amount of harmful debris found underwater.
The general idea is to repeatedly survey the same area using the Dive Against Debris methodology, collect any harmful debris we find (e.g., plastics), categorise our findings, and report the results to Project AWARE so they can be included in the Dive Against Debris Database. These results may then be used for academic research or to inform policy decisions.
Nelson Bay Sea Slug Census
Nelson Bay sea slug census is conducted four times a year and it is a joint partnership between Southern Cross University & Combined Hunter Underwater Group Inc (CHUG). In 2017, the census will held on 11 March, June (date TBA), September (date TBA) and in December (date TBA) and URG members have always participated in the census a couple of times a year. Read more about Nelson Bay Sea Slug Census.
Sydney Sea Slug Census
URG together with Southern Cross University’s National Marine Science Centre will be hosting the Sydney Sea Slug Census this year in Nov 2017. Last year in 2016, a rare sea slug Macleay’s spurilla was found in Sydney Harbour during Sea Slug Census on 19 Nov 2016. Read ABC’s report about this find.
The URG Research vessel is a Star 5.9m single hull, aluminium vessel, capable of carrying up to 6 divers with two tanks each and a non-diving skipper. The boat carries a mermaid line, safety equipment including oxygen, radio, EPIRB and other gear to reflect it’s focus as a dive platform.