Started in 1986 by Wendy Morris.
Reef Biosearch began operations in March 1986, with the aim of combining tourism, education and research. Originally, Ms Morris offered Quicksilver Connections her services as a marine biologist, providing an educational slideshow to passengers, and chatting to them about the reef. In return, she was allowed to offer snorkelling tours off an inflatable dinghy. Reef Biosearch has grown into a department with up to 10 fully qualified marine biologists, 2 specially built aluminium catamarans and a host of awards, including the inaugural Golden Fin award (presented by the pioneering underwater photographer, Hans Hass).
Reef Biosearch believes that environmental awareness comes from education.
Reef Biosearch has been involved in many research projects over the years, such as;
- We were the first to research the distribution and abundance of a previously undescribed species of marine algae (now known as Chrysocystis fragilis). At the time, this algae spp had not been observed to occur on the Great Barrier Reef. The motivation of this research was to ensure that its presence was not directly the result of the marine tourism industry.
- Reef Biosearch implemented the first detailed environmental monitoring program on coral reefs associated with marine tourism, in particular the effects of a man made structure on the reef. This was done prior to such studies being a permit requirement of the federal regulatory body GBRMPA when issuing permits for reef tourism operations.
- Reef Biosearch has an ongoing relationship with Flinders University, where we take on one of their tourism students for a month long internship, so they can get a feel for the industry needs and requirements.
- The first permitted coral transplantation project to window dress small discrete patches of coral at a site degraded by a COTS (Crown of Thorns Starfish) outbreak in the late 1990’s.
- Involved with a cross shelf water monitoring project in conjunction with UQ (University of Queensland).
- On of the first companies to be given advanced ecotourism accreditation, allowing Quicksilver Connections to obtain an extended 15 year operational permit.
- A sampling program to investigate the presence of offshore marine stingers 10-12 days after the full moon on the outer reef. This has led to the discovery of several new species.
- The implementation of a marine studies unit in the local schools curriculum. Quicksilver Connections also offers every year 7 student in the local area the chance to travel to Low Isles with their school.
- A project in conjunction with JCU (James Cook University - Townsville) to investigate the sudden widespread mortality of giant clams in the local area (and the subsequent transplantation of giant clams from a mariculture project at Orpheus Island to restock affected areas).
- Marine biologists provide talks to local primary and secondary schools about reef issues, as well as more detailed discussions with tertiary institutions regarding government policies, etc.
- Reef Biosearch liaised with local schools to become involved with the GBRMPA’s (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority) Reef Guardians program.
- Reef Biosearch started the longest logbook data base of marine observations on the Great Barrier Reef (ongoing for 20 years). This information has been expanded to included our sister company Sable Lake, to allow us to observe trends and changes in the marine environment, and to allow Quicksilver Connections to manage our site usage to preserve our environment. This data base has evolved into the GBRMPA’s program “Eye on the Reef”, which has been embraced by the regions marine operators.
Crown of Thorns
(Image © AIMS)
As well as all these projects, Reef Biosearch acts as the environmental watch dog for Quicksilver Connections. This involves investigating the environmental qualities of certain products, assisting in reducing waste, conducting internal environmental audits and ensuring best practices within the company.
Since Reef Biosearch started, more than 70 biologists have worked with the company. Most have moved on to bigger and better things, such as the Port Authority, environmental consultants, EPA, EA, international boards (UN), education (Secondary schools), GBRMPA, media (as science reporters), universities, land management, etc.