My Coral Conservation Reality Check

Alvin going to the dive site

If I was to summarise the last few days of the EDGE training program, I would say it has been a huge eye opener. Having done a degree and masters in marine science I thought I knew what needed to be known about conserving coral reefs. I felt on top of the world and all set to go ‘’save’’ the reefs of Malaysia.

The first lecture during this training however was a huge reality check and made me realise my ignorance. We were simply asked if we could base conservation action plans on a detailed understanding of the fundamental biology of corals. This question baffled me because not only did I not have the answer to that question but I was also always under the impression that conservation was based on human activities and not on coral biology.

Dr. Bert W. Hoeksema lectures on coral identification was so interesting and knowledgeable that it left me with a whole new way at looking at corals and their symbioants. Thanks to him I now have a whole new respect and understanding even maybe passion for the simple mushroom corals.

The second set of lectures by Dr. David Smith was simply mind blowing! Every other line out of his mouth was something new and exciting. He introduced us to subjects such as evolution potential, resilience potential, variability, plasticity, paling, vircariance, and the list goes on and on. Every lecture from him was an information overload but each had great importance in how we could better conserve coral reefs back in out country.

The best part of this course is the amount of practical hands on training given to us each day. After each lecture we go to the field to put to practice what we have learned in the class, from coral identification (with help from out new coral finders) to monitoring methods to stereo videography and even quick reef assessments techniques. This kind of training is so valuable to me because it teaches me what no book can. Not forgetting also, the brain storming discussion that introduced us to conservation views in other countries like the Philippines and Indonesia and what problems and achievements they face.

Picking the brains of Dave and Bert these last few days has been a great experience. These big names in coral reef work have been so generous with their knowledge and experiences. Now I anxiously await to hear from Catherine Head about her experiences in conservation work. I’m sure her years of hands on conservation work will give us new ideas and concepts that I can bring back and use in my country.

I truly feel privileged to be among these three great minds as well as the other participants and am truly thankful to ZSL for this once in a life time opportunity.

The first  EDGE Corals Training Course  is currently taking place at Operation Wallacea’s field site in Hoga, Indonesia. The course is lead by Catherine Head  EDGE Coral Reefs Co-ordinator, Dave Smith from Essex University Coral Reef Unit, and Bert Hoeksema  from Naturalis Center of Biodiversity, Netherlands. To find out more about the course visit EDGE Coral Reefs Training Course.

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