Inspiration Collaboration Story:
Eyes of the Reef “First Responder" Training
A group of community members on the island of Oahu completed the first Eyes of the Reef (EOR) Verification Training program in November 2014. Over the course of three two-hour evening lectures and three half-day weekends filled with hands-on exercises, the nine graduates were trained by ocean scientists on identifying coral species and lesions, and using basic underwater survey techniques. These volunteers, which included private citizens, university students, marine biologists and television news personnel, now have the skills and knowledge necessary to help ocean scientists verify general public reports of coral disease, bleaching, and crown of thorns sea star outbreaks around Oahu’s waters. Their efforts will play an important role in assisting scientists and managers in understanding the extent and severity of such events.
The advanced training is a part of the EOR Network volunteer reporting program initially launched in 2010 as a part of the Hawaii Rapid Response Contingency Plan (RRCP). The RRCP was developed through several workshops held in 2007-08 that included managers, scientists, Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s), and ocean users and summarizes Hawaii’s framework for responding to coral bleaching, disease, or crown of thorns sea star outbreaks. Greta Aeby, assistant researcher in the Marine Diseases Research Lab at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology and also the Oahu EOR Coordinator, was a part of that planning team. “We decided that we needed to get the community involved in monitoring the reefs because there are too many reefs for just scientists to keep track of. There is also no common database of events so we don’t know what the normal patterns are. EOR is the link between the science, the resource, the community and the management agency, the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR).”
Eyes of the Reef (EOR) plans to conduct more advanced EOR Verification Training programs. Aeby envisions having a large group of these volunteers located across the islands able to easily access the reefs near their homes. “We need lots of people trained as volunteers to spread out the workload.” The EOR Network also offers free basic two hour trainings to give people with all levels of ocean knowledge (i.e. community members, reef users, tourists, fishers, commercial operators, scientists, reef managers) the skills to identify and report threats to Hawai‘i’s reefs. Interested members of the public can visit the EOR website (eorhawaii.org) or go to the EOR Facebook page to find more information about the program and to contact their island’s EOR coordinator about upcoming trainings.