In January 2015, Reef Check Course Director and SCUBASiren, Nikole Ordway-Heath, from Florida was asked to come down to Tobago to get a Reef Check Team started. The scientists, Aljoscha Wothke and Lanya Fanovich, from Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville (ERIC) arranged for Nikole to come down to teach the Reef Check Eco Diver course to some local divers. She had nine students and some of them work with North East Sea Turtle (NEST) organization to help protect sea turtles in Tobago.
The land around Charlotteville is protected down to sea level; however, the underwater environment is not protected in this area. So ERIC would like to start changing this and help protect their coral reefs. For ERIC, Reef Check monitoring surveys are a stepping-stone to help them gather data to show what the reef system is like in their areas and how certain effects can be very damaging.
The training went very well, and all the students passed the above and below tests to become Eco Divers. We even conducted live surveys after the training to get the team started with collecting their data. The coral reefs in the Charlotteville area all differ from site to site. One of the dives called Pirates Bay is a great site to survey because it is close to shore and has different human impacts; such as, fishing, scuba diving, anchoring, and town pollution. In Pirates Bay there are lots of Gorgonians that line the substrate, at other sites around the island they have huge boulder corals and at another site a field of elkhorn coral was present. There was also an abundance of fish on the reefs and at one site massive spiny lobsters!
After we finished the Eco Diver training, three of the scientist that work at ERIC moved on in training to become Reef Check Trainers. They are now able to create more Eco Divers in Tobago to get more teams out there to survey. We hope to start seeing more from Reef Check Tobago soon and wish them luck with creating new team members! If you are planning a trip to Tobago and want to help out this Reef Check Team, contact firstname.lastname@example.org