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Reef Encounters: Dr. Laurie Raymundo

As part of International Year of the Reef, we're speaking to people who work with coral reefs, from filmmakers to fish taxonomists. Dr. Laurie Raymundo is a Professor of Marine Biology at the University of Guam, she told us about saving coral reefs and seeing a humpback whale "poop".

What is your typical day?

I spend quite a bit of time in front of my computer writing and analysing data, and much of the rest of the time is spent in the water on my research projects. I also do a bit of teaching here and there and, of course, I spend time mentoring my students, either via meetings in my lab or out in the water, teaching them the skills they will need to accomplish their thesis projects around the world.

When did you first know you wanted to work in this area, and how did you get into your work?

When I was 11, I was snorkeling in the Philippines where I grew up, on Apo Island, before it was a Marine Protected Area.

My father was diving at the time. Even though I’d been snorkeling since I was six, that particular day was absolutely mesmerising underwater.

I was so caught up with what I was seeing that I ended up with the worst sunburn of my life but it was a pivotal event that I didn’t realise until much later would drive me to want to work in those systems for the rest of my life.

  • LJR UW by Cie, a photo taken of me by my son-in-law on Gabgab reef, Apra Harbor, Guam, watching a late afternoon spawning aggregation., Dr Laurie Raymundo
    a photo taken of me by my son-in-law on Gabgab reef, Apra Harbor, Guam, watching a late afternoon spawning aggregation., Dr Laurie Raymundo

What inspires you in your work?

The innate beauty of coral reefs keeps me going. The wanton destruction that the human species casually subjects these systems to is a difficult reality to cope with.

What would your message for the future of reefs be?

We must reduce CO2 emissions on a global scale. While I suspect corals and reefs are more resilient than we give them credit for, we have already lost much. If we can make this global effort, it will have lasting positive repercussions on many systems, including our own.

That is worth doing.

  • LJR, Taken in the Philippines, surveying for disease, Dr Laurie Raymundo
    Taken in the Philippines, surveying for disease, Dr Laurie Raymundo

What is your favourite creature on the reef, and why?

Do you mean aside from corals? My favorite coral is Galaxea archelia, which I find particularly beautiful.

Aside from corals, I’m really fond of cuttlefish of all kinds. They are so much fun to watch and play with because they are so intelligent and curious. They’re just seriously cool animals.

  • Galaxea_acrhelia, Galaxea archelia, CC BY 4.0: Michelle Jonker
    Galaxea archelia, CC BY 4.0: Michelle Jonker

What’s the oddest thing you’ve seen at sea?

That’s a hard one. My students and I usually vie to see the coolest thing, which can sometimes be very odd.

Among my favorites would be seeing a humpback whale poop alongside our boat. My daughter was three years old at the time we saw this, so that was a really big thing for her.

Seeing guitarfish off Heron Island in Australia was also odd because guitarfish are odd.

  • Giant_guitarfish_georgia, The Guitarfish (right) is a type of ray found in warm waters., CC BY-SA 2.0: John LaPierre
    The Guitarfish (right) is a type of ray found in warm waters., CC BY-SA 2.0: John LaPierre

What’s the next big thing for your work?

Climate change-induced coral bleaching has really devastated reefs in Micronesia, where I live and work now.

My lab has begun focusing on coral propagation, culture, and restoration work for certain key species that we feel are vital to the future of Guam’s reefs. So, that is what I will continue to focus on into the foreseeable future.

Who’s your ‘reef hero’ – someone doing great work or advocacy for the future of reefs?

There are so many great people doing incredible work.

I think it would have to be the fisherman on the island of Gilutangan in the Philippines, who was head of their Bantay Dagat (Watchers of the Sea) organisation.

These organisations are set up in coastal villages all throughout the country, for the purpose of protecting community-organised Marine Protected Areas.

The fisherman told us stories about how, when the MPA was first being established, his wife would yell at him about why he was giving up fishing grounds when he had a family to feed, but he understood why they needed the MPA, why they needed to control their fishing and allow a part of the reef to be protected and unfished. He was thinking about his children, about tomorrow, about the fact that he could no longer catch big fish.

A few years later, a local politician was trying to take over their MPA so he could build a resort on that island and push out the fishers and open the MPA. It was totally illegal, but he was more powerful than the fishers were. I don’t know what happened after that. I hope the fishermen won.

  • Methods_working on nursery, myself, students, and volunteers doing basic maintenance and assessment on nursery corals, Dr Laurie Raymundo
    myself, students, and volunteers doing basic maintenance and assessment on nursery corals, Dr Laurie Raymundo

Jellyfish husbandry and coral fragging

For volunteers week we spoke to our former Aquarium volunteer, Sophie, about how her experience has helped her forge her own career.

My name is Sophie Palmer and I am a former volunteer at the Horniman Museum and Gardens. I spent a number of years volunteering once a week in the Aquarium working with Jamie Craggs the Aquarium Curator. When I started, Project Coral had not been set up but the Aquarium still housed an impressive coral display.

On my first day, Jamie and James Robson, the former Deputy Curator, walked me through the various stages of jellyfish husbandry, which would become one of my duties over the next few years. I was also taught how to maintain various tanks and displays and specific feeding practices.

In the early days of my volunteering, I was shown husbandry techniques of various animals including tree and dart frogs, giant clams, flamboyant cuttlefish, corals, and of course jellyfish. These practices required a variety of skills, such as maintaining habitats, observing animal behaviour, experimenting with different diets, reading research papers, counting eggs, and fragging (making cuttings of) coral for further growth and research.

It was an exciting time to be working at the Aquarium. Project Coral was set up and as it started to build momentum and gain recognition, the Aquarium acquired sophisticated equipment to maintain the corals, and I was learning more about water chemistry and how the new equipment worked.

Jem, one of the aquarists, showed me how to maintain the live food that was fed to the animals at the Aquarium. These included different types of algae, Artemia, and Mysis.

Michelle Davis, the new Deputy Curator, started to involve me in jellyfish husbandry in more depth and suggested I attend a weekend workshop run at The Deep in Hull. This gave me the opportunity to learn more about breeding and maintaining jellyfish as well as networking with other jellyfish enthusiasts.

In 2017, two new aquarists started at the aquarium - Chris, who has a strong background in pathology, and Chloe, who is now revamping the flamboyant cuttlefish breeding programme. Having Chris and Chloe there in the last few months of my time volunteering proved invaluable as I was able to shadow two extremely knowledgeable aquarists.

I loved my time volunteering at the Aquarium. It helped me onto the path of a fantastic new career - I now work at an aquarium and seal sanctuary in Northern Ireland - and the team there are really enthusiastic and happy to teach. There is no lack of passion at this Aquarium and it makes all the hard work you put in worth the effort.

Reef Encounters: Adriana Humanes

As part of International Year of the Reef, we spoke with Adriana Humanes, a marine ecologist, who believes we need to "be more responsible for our actions" to save our coral reefs.

What is your typical day?

My typical day starts with a cup of tea and a good breakfast after which I jump to work, either in the office or the field.

None of my days are identical. Every single day is different and that’s what I love about being a scientist.

I might spend some days reading new papers about corals, while others I might be diving in a beautiful reef.

  • Adriana Humanes, "None of my days are identical. Every single day is different.", Adriana Humanes
    "None of my days are identical. Every single day is different.", Adriana Humanes

When did you first know you wanted to work in this area, and how did you get into your work?

I realised I wanted to become a marine ecologist after taking a course on animal biology during my undergraduate career.

That was taught by an incredible woman who three years later became my supervisor. Her passion for coral reefs and marine organisms was just contagious and inspired me to discover the fantastic world that lives under the sea.

What inspires you in your work?

Corals are my inspiration, they are great organisms to study. They’re diverse and complex which allows you to test some really interesting hypotheses.

However, they are really difficult to work with, since it is extremely hard to maintain corals in aquarium conditions and it’s also difficult to conduct research in their natural habitats.

  • Coral Reef, "Corals are my inspiration, they are great organisms to study. They're diverse and complex.", Adriana Humanes
    "Corals are my inspiration, they are great organisms to study. They're diverse and complex.", Adriana Humanes

What would your message for the future of reefs be?

Every activity we do has an effect on the environment, and most of them will affect the oceans considering that they cover 71% of the Earth's surface.

Every time you buy something think if it’s indispensable in your life, or if you would be able to continue living without it. We need to stop producing so much waste. Instead, we should reuse and recycle as much as possible.

If you want your children and grandchildren to be able to see the beauty of coral reefs as we know them today, we need to change our consumption behaviour and be more responsible for our actions.

What's your favourite creature on the reef, and why?

I love mushroom corals since I find fascinating that a single polyp can reach such large sizes. Also, I like the fact that they are not attached to the substrate and move across the reef and that some species are able to change sex according to the environmental conditions.

  • Mushroom Coral, "I love mushroom corals since I find fascinating that a single polyp can reach such large sizes.", Jonathan Zander (CC BY-SA 3.0)
    "I love mushroom corals since I find fascinating that a single polyp can reach such large sizes.", Jonathan Zander (CC BY-SA 3.0)

What's the oddest thing you've seen at sea?

Reefs in Palau that develop in the base of the Rocky Island are really unusual. They have such dramatic colours and it’s home to coral colonies with the strangest growth forms I have ever seen.

In those reefs it’s also common to see trees in the slope of the reef since the forest develops just above the water, so when trees fall they land on the reef.

  • Palau Reefs, "Reefs in Palau that develop in the base of the Rocky Island are really unusual.", Adriana Humanes
    "Reefs in Palau that develop in the base of the Rocky Island are really unusual.", Adriana Humanes

What kit do you use when taking photos?

I don’t stick to a single camera since usually I use the camera available in the laboratory. We now have an Olympus TG5 and GoPro Hero 4.

I think that the gear is not as important as the eye of the photographer. If you understand how the camera works you can get amazing pictures with basic equipment.

What's the next big thing for your work?

We are currently trying to find a method to improve the survivability of coral produced in laboratories.

It may sound simple but it's a really challenging task. It is a real bottleneck and is preventing us from developing successful restoration techniques for coral reefs.

  • Adriana Humanes, "Every single marine biologist working actively in research and conservation of coral reefs is my hero. Even more, I admire every single woman leading a research team", Adriana Humanes
    "Every single marine biologist working actively in research and conservation of coral reefs is my hero. Even more, I admire every single woman leading a research team", Adriana Humanes

Who’s your ‘reef hero’ – someone doing great work or advocacy for the future of reefs?

Every single marine biologist working actively in research and conservation of coral reefs is my hero.

Even more, I admire every single woman leading a research team, since women, in addition, need to fight against gender inequality in STEM.

For me, Sylvia Earle, Nicole Webster, Sheila Marques Pauls, Carolina Bastidas, Katharina Fabricius, Barbara Brown, Betty Willis have been important role models shaping my career.

I love mentoring the next generation of marine ecologists and I consider myself an advocate for diversity and gender equality in STEM. 

Reef Encounters: Lee Goldman

We caught up with Lee Goldman who leads educational snorkeling tours, as part of International Year of the Reef, who is teaching people the importance of coral reefs through educational tours.

What is your typical day?

Breakfast. Snorkel until lunch. Lunch. Snorkel until dinner. Dinner. Bed.

  • Snorkeler in the Banda Islands, Lee leads tours in the Coral Triangle, a marine area encompassing the tropical waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Papua New Guinea, Lee Goldman
    Lee leads tours in the Coral Triangle, a marine area encompassing the tropical waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Papua New Guinea, Lee Goldman

When did you first know you wanted to work in this area, and how did you get into your work?

The moment my facemask hit the water in Palau, I knew I wanted to work in this part of the world. I began guiding in Palau and several years later I completed my Master’s degree in marine biology as a way to further my guiding career.

Shortly after finishing school, I had the opportunity to design and lead snorkeling tours for several high-end travel companies like Wilderness Travel and WWF travel programs. After many years of this, I started my own travel business with a colleague of mine and we continue to offer high-quality snorkeling programs.

  • PNG_snorkeler, "The moment my facemask hit the water...I knew I wanted to work in this part of the world", Lee Goldman
    "The moment my facemask hit the water...I knew I wanted to work in this part of the world", Lee Goldman

What inspires you in your work?

Snorkeling amongst healthy, colorful, and productive reefs.

What would your message for the future of the reefs be?

At this point, with things going the way they are, there isn’t much of a future for reefs as we recognise them today.

Reef communities will change, and whether they will change for the better or worse will be revealed, but if the world wants to have the reefs of today for generations to come, we will need a major change in the way we all approach life.

  • Raja Ampat_1, "If the world wants to have the reefs of today for generations to come, we will need a major change in the way we all approach life.", Lee Goldman
    "If the world wants to have the reefs of today for generations to come, we will need a major change in the way we all approach life.", Lee Goldman

What’s your favourite creature on the reef, and why?

People ask all the time, but I honestly don’t have a favorite.

For me seeing a healthy reef community is my favorite thing.

What’s the oddest thing you’ve seen at sea?

I guess the oddest thing I have seen would be the time Orcas chased a seal onto the swim-step of our research boat. I don’t know if that counts as oddest more than rarest, but it stands out for me.

The oddest creature would have to be the pearlfish.

  • Pearlfish, Pearlfish are peculiar due to their habit of hiding inside sea cucumbers
    Pearlfish are peculiar due to their habit of hiding inside sea cucumbers

What kit do you use when taking photos?

Lumix GX-7 on a Nauticam housing. Twin Inon 240z lights. My favourite lens is the 60mm (120mm equivalent) macro.

  • Snorkeler, "For me seeing a healthy reef community is my favorite thing", Lee Goldman
    "For me seeing a healthy reef community is my favorite thing", Lee Goldman

What’s the next big thing for your work?

New destinations. Each year we try to explore a new area for snorkeling.

We have new itineraries in Papua New Guinea, Halmahera, and the Solomon Islands on the horizon.

  • Split reef scene PNG, "Each year we try to explore a new area for snorkeling.", Lee Goldman
    "Each year we try to explore a new area for snorkeling.", Lee Goldman

Who’s your ‘reef hero’ – someone doing great work or advocacy for the future of reefs?

Any scientist that is putting their research time and money into solving the root of the reef-health problems.

In other words, I greatly admire the type of scientist who is developing new techniques for waste management in 3rd world countries to stop reefs degrading in the first place.

  • Wart frogfish, The warty frogfish can change its colouration to blend in with its surroundings, Lee Goldman
    The warty frogfish can change its colouration to blend in with its surroundings, Lee Goldman

Reef Encounters: Dr Michael Sweet

As part of International Year of the Reef, we're speaking to people who work with coral reefs, from filmmakers to fish taxonomists. Dr. Michael Sweet, researcher and lecturer at the University of Derby, tells us how 'with a bit of luck and a lot of work' we can save coral reefs around the world.

What is your typical day?

As a full-time academic, each of my days is very different. Like all in my position, a good 20% of my time is taken up by administration. I am then in charge of a large and very active research team with five Ph.D. students and three Post Doctorates and so time is spent in meetings with these early career researchers and in the field, assisting with sampling when possible. Of course, I try to cram in some teaching along the way as well and make myself available to the even younger minds which need inspiring.

Then, and only then, I might get in the lab myself to start on a new topic or write up some of the work we have already analysed.

  • Dr Michael Sweet 01, Dr Michael Sweet collects snails for study from Porites Turbinaria, Dr Michael Sweet
    Dr Michael Sweet collects snails for study from Porites Turbinaria, Dr Michael Sweet

When did you first know you wanted to work in this area, and how did you get into your work?

For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be in some form of zoological career. My mum was a countryside ranger so I spent many an evening and weekend in the wilds of my home county of Lancashire. I may not have been exactly close to the marine environments I now study I grant you, but we spent a few holidays by the coast which inspired me further.

When University came around I toyed around between choosing marine biology or zoology and opted for the latter. I then spent four years traveling around the world working on a variety of projects from individual identification in whale sharks, to research on the most endangered bird at the time, the black robin of the Chatham Islands. I then moved in the direction of getting a Ph.D. and this was where the coral work started.

  • Dr Michael Sweet 02, Dr. Sweet is well known for his work on coral diseases but also takes part in a variety of other studies, Dr Michael Sweet
    Dr. Sweet is well known for his work on coral diseases but also takes part in a variety of other studies, Dr Michael Sweet

What inspires you in your work?

My inspiration starts with the teaching of the undergraduate students who really show the passion for their chosen career and ends, if it ever really ends, with my team of excellent researchers who work tirelessly to answer some very interesting questions.

Every day is different, every day is exciting, and every day we work to try and make our world a better place. A better place for us as humans but also a better place for the rest of the organisms we share our home with, be they the smallest viruses or bacteria, the corals or sponges, or the fish in our oceans and rivers.

  • IMG_1418, 'Every day is different, every day is exciting, and every day we work to try and make our world a better place', Dr Michael Sweet
    'Every day is different, every day is exciting, and every day we work to try and make our world a better place', Dr Michael Sweet

What would your message for the future of reefs be?

To be honest, it's looking bad but we should not lose hope. If we all do our bit we can certainly make a difference and hopefully, with a bit of luck and a lot of work we can preserve reefs for future generations. They may not look exactly how we know them to be but I do believe that life will find a way and corals as a whole will keep on fighting.

  • bleaching, Coral bleaching occurs when coral expels the algae they rely on to survive from their tissues, Dr Michael Sweet
    Coral bleaching occurs when coral expels the algae they rely on to survive from their tissues, Dr Michael Sweet

What’s your favourite creature on the reef, and why?

I should probably say the corals themselves but I have a soft spot for octopuses – so beautiful, so clever – I just think they are so amazing.

  • Dr Michael Sweet 03, Above-average sea temperatures caused by global warming have been identified as the leading cause of coral bleaching incidents, Dr Michael Sweet
    Above-average sea temperatures caused by global warming have been identified as the leading cause of coral bleaching incidents, Dr Michael Sweet

What’s the oddest thing you’ve seen at sea?

A whole container full of toilets sunk in the Red Sea was a little weird.

  • Dr Michael Sweet 04, In 2016, bleaching events killed between 29% to 50% of coral on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Dr Michael Sweet
    In 2016, bleaching events killed between 29% to 50% of coral on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Dr Michael Sweet

What kit do you use?

Cannon PowerShot G9X with custom housing.

  • Dr Michael Sweet 05, 'If we all do our bit we can certainly make a difference and hopefully, with a bit of luck and a lot of work we can preserve reefs for future generations', Dr Michael Sweet
    'If we all do our bit we can certainly make a difference and hopefully, with a bit of luck and a lot of work we can preserve reefs for future generations', Dr Michael Sweet

What’s the next big thing for your work?

We’re exploring the implications of ‘human-assisted evolution’ with some collaborators with regard to restoration efforts for some areas. In particular, we are focusing on the importance of coral's bacterial communities known as the microbiome in coral resilience and susceptibility to aspects of climate change.

Who’s your ‘reef hero’ – someone doing great work or advocacy for the future of reefs?

I always struggle with this. I guess my obvious hero would be my old mentor and supervisor Professor John Bythell who took me in to complete my Ph.D. and nurtured my interest in corals and the diseases which plague them.

However, there have been a number of others whose work inspire me on a daily basis and not just the well-established researchers. My students keep my passion alive and make me feel that what we do is worthwhile.

Furthermore, the dedication I see from other groups and fields of interest such as hobbyists and aquarium curators is also heroic. Their knowledge is second to none, in what makes a coral tick and how to look after them and it’s these guys who may well be the unsung hero in the field of coral reef biology.

Reef Encounters: Pawel Achtel

As part of International Year of the Reef, we're speaking to people who work with coral reefs, from filmmakers to fish taxonomists. In this post, we hear from Pawel Achtel, who is drawn to the "immense beauty, unusual behaviour, and diversity of marine life" as a filmmaker.

What is your typical day?

Most of the time there is no typical day. My focus changes depending on what I’m working on at the time. When I’m in the field filming, the morning starts with an equipment check followed by breakfast and then we head out to sea for filming.

The evening is filled with footage offloading before checking and setting up the cameras for the following day. I like to have my equipment all set up a day earlier to avoid last-minute surprises.

  • Day Pawel action shot close with 3Deep and lights, Pawel taking to the water with his equipment, Pawel Achtel
    Pawel taking to the water with his equipment, Pawel Achtel

When did you first know you wanted to work in this area, and how did you get into your work?

When I first visited the Great Barrier Reef about 30 years ago and put my head down I realised this was something I wanted to pursue. After returning from my holidays, I completed a scuba diving course. I bought a broadcast-quality camera and housing, and since then almost never dived without one in my hands.

What inspires you in your work?

The immense beauty, unusual behaviour, and diversity of marine life motivate me to try to capture some of those moments. A well shot 3D spectacle is the ultimate reward. I want to share these experiences with others.

  • DSC00232.small, Pawel getting up close to a school of fish, Pawel Achtel
    Pawel getting up close to a school of fish, Pawel Achtel

What would your message for the future of reefs be?

When we watch pristine marine habitats we often take these environments for granted, but from the perspective of my 30 years of diving, I can tell you that the reefs are dying.

It’s hard to watch. Every year we are losing marine habitats one after another and they take many years to recover. Some of them never do.

I try not to think what the future is going to be like. I try to focus on how to preserve as much as we can and educate others about the importance of these marine ecosystems.

  • Day Pawel filming bommie, Pawel filming an offshore reef or 'bommie', Pawel Achtel
    Pawel filming an offshore reef or 'bommie', Pawel Achtel

What’s your favourite creature on the reef, and why?

I love marine mammals. A humpback whale would be my number one. They are so powerful, yet so gentle. So different, yet so intelligent. Every time I look into a whale’s eye I see a warm, intelligent being.

  • Pawel Whale, Pawel filming a humpback whale, Pawel Achtel
    Pawel filming a humpback whale, Pawel Achtel

What’s the oddest thing you’ve seen at sea?

Sydney’s pygmy pipehorse (Idiotropiscis lumnitzeri).

  • Sydney pygmy pipehorse, Sydney pygmy pipehorse,  John Turnbull
    Sydney pygmy pipehorse,  John Turnbull

What kit do you use?

I film almost exclusively in 3D. My setup is two RED Epic Dragon cameras, 3Deep titanium housing, Denecke Genlock, Nikonos 15mm submersible lenses, Keldan 24X lights with custom reflectors, custom TrueBlue OLPF filters.

  • DSC02397 fixed, Pawel making use of this equipment, Pawel Achtel
    Pawel making use of this equipment, Pawel Achtel

What’s the next big thing for your work?

I’m currently filming an IMAX film called Sea of Love 3D about reproduction and relationships in the ocean.

Who’s your ‘reef hero’ – someone doing great work or advocacy for the future of reefs?

Dr John (Charlie) Veron.

  • IMG_1795, Pawel taking a moment to catch his breath, Pawel Achtel
    Pawel taking a moment to catch his breath, Pawel Achtel

Reef Encounters: Yi-Kai Tea

As part of International Year of the Reef, we're speaking to people who work with coral reefs, from filmmakers to fish taxonomists. In this post, we hear from Yi-Kai Tea, a fish taxonomist at the University of Sydney, currently studying under Dr. Anthony Gill as a graduate student in taxonomy and systematics.

  • Yi-Kai Tea at work, Yi-Kai Tea photographing specimens in a tank on the shore, Yi-Kai Tea
    Yi-Kai Tea photographing specimens in a tank on the shore, Yi-Kai Tea

What is your typical day?

I'm always working on something. If I’m not doing research, I’m writing articles or researching up on future things to tackle.

If I’m at the lab, I mostly do counts and take measurements of various fish specimens. Otherwise I’m at the museum looking through the literature.

There's always something to do.

When did you first know you wanted to work in this area, and how did you get into your work?

I spent many years in high school and college writing for various fish magazines and blogs. I was offered a little writing gig after being picked out from a local forum. In the years of writing about reef-fish I’ve noticed so many undescribed species go by without a name for years, often wondering why scientists didn't want to do anything about it.

Years later I decided to become a fish taxonomist myself, and the first species I ever named was the very fish I wrote about on a blog years ago, the same species that made me ponder about the short comings of taxonomy!

I now realize that there aren't many taxonomists around these days, certainly not enough to keep up with the rate at which we're discovering new species.

The first step to conserving anything is to first give something a name. Without a valid scientific name, you technically cannot put a species on a conservation list, even if its habitat is threatened. That is why, to me, taxonomy and systematics is so important.

  • Cirrhilabrus isosceles fish, The Cirrhilabrus isosceles fish, Yi-Kai Tea
    The Cirrhilabrus isosceles fish, Yi-Kai Tea

What inspires you in your work?

This is going to sound really cliché but I am inspired by so many things. I often have periods where I’m totally obsessed with something, and I’ll think to myself, that would make a great name for a fish someday.

I had a moment where I was very into Doctor Who, and I named my second new species of fish after the Sycorax Warriors from the show! A group of lesser known warriors that wore red capes and robes. I've also named a species of anthias after the alcoholic beverage tequila sunrise.

  • Synchiropus sycorax , Synchiropus sycorax, named after Doctor Who creatures the Sycorax Warriors , Yi-Kai Tea
    Synchiropus sycorax, named after Doctor Who creatures the Sycorax Warriors , Yi-Kai Tea

What would your message for the future of reefs be?

Coral reefs are such incredibly wonderful, diverse, awe inspiring ecosystems. I simply cannot think of anything else comparable.

To lose something as precious and valuable as this would certainly be a tragedy. They are resilient but they cannot do it without our help, and everyone has to do their part. Be mindful of the little things you do every day.

You may not think that you alone cannot make a difference, but if everyone thought like that, there would be no future for the reefs. It is a collective effort, and everyone should do their part. 

What’s your favourite creature on the reef, and why?

My favourite creature on the reef would most certainly have to be the clownfish. There is nothing more picturesque than a perfect little orange clownfish bobbing in her anemone home.

There is something so simplistic yet instantly iconic about this relationship, and I find the relationship so interesting and complex.

It really is the emblem of the reef I think.

  • Clown fish, A clown fish in the Horniman Aquarium, Connie Churcher
    A clown fish in the Horniman Aquarium, Connie Churcher

What’s the oddest thing you’ve seen at sea?

I once saw a decapitated Barbie doll floating out in the middle of nowhere whilst on a boat in Hawaii.

Odd, but a grim reminder not to litter!

What kit do you use?

I use a Nikon D7200 with a 150 mm Nikon macro lens. The camera body is equipped with a Nikon SB 900 fill flash.

I keep my photography set up very simple, but it gets the job done! I wouldn't consider myself a professional photographer by any means, but the photos I take do help a lot with my work and hobby.

  • Navigobius kaguya fish, Navigobius kaguya, Yi-Kai Tea
    Navigobius kaguya, Yi-Kai Tea

What’s the next big thing for your work?

I'm currently working on revising a group of wrasses with anti-tropical distributions.

It's an unusual distribution, from a biogeographic stand point. Interestingly, there are multiple groups of fish, all apparently unrelated and from different families and orders that share the same pattern.

I'm interested in seeing how this all fits in a broader context, perhaps temporally and spatially through biogeographic and evolutionary changes.

  • Pseudanthias bartlettorum fish, Pseudanthias bartlettorum, Yi-Kai Tea
    Pseudanthias bartlettorum, Yi-Kai Tea

Who is your ‘reef hero’ – someone doing great work or advocacy for the future of reefs?

David Attenborough.

I don't think I have anything to say about him that hasn't been echoed by the millions of hearts and minds that he has touched in his career. I just love him.

International Year of the Reef

We are celebrating International Year of the Reef at the Horniman, with a programme of activities throughout 2018.

As the Horniman is home to an acclaimed Aquarium and our Project Coral research, we want to celebrate the beauty and diversity of coral reefs. The programme includes a blog series, displays, talks and special events. We want to highlight the value of these reefs to marine life and to humans, the threats to these fragile ecosystems and the vital work done to preserve them.

What is International Year of the Reef?

2018 is the third International Year of the Reef. Did you know that coral reefs are one the most biological diverse habitats on earth? They take up less than 0.1% of the oceans floor they are home to 25% of all marine life.

But 60% of the world’s coral reefs may die within the next 20 years.

The International Year of the Reef seeks to change that by:

  • Raising awareness about the value of, and threats to, coral reefs and their ecosystems;
  • Sharing information on how to sustain coral reefs;
  • Managing conservation, increase resiliency and the sustainability of these ecosystems; and
  • Promoting partnerships on the management of coral reefs.

What can you expect?

Visit the live corals in the Aquarium

Most of our visitors will know we have an Aquarium at the Horniman. You can visit several different reef tanks to explore the corals themselves and the creatures who live in and among them.

See Karen Dodd’s Fabric of the Reef display

Inspired by the Horniman's Aquarium and Natural History collection, artist Karen Dodd uses woollen fabric – dyed and sculpted, and intricately bound and stitched – to draw attention to coral and coral reefs. Her work celebrates their beauty and raises awareness of coral vulnerability in the face of increasing environmental change.

Have a Reef Encounter

Meet some of the people who live or work with coral reefs around the world. Learn who they are, and find out why these Reef Encounters are so vital to the future survival of coral reefs, in this blog series running throughout 2018.

Read the research

Our Aquarium Team has also published their research about inducing coral spawning. Read the research online.

Part of

The Coral Sea tank redisplay

Our Aquarium team are currently hard at work transforming our British Coastal tanks into a new display focused on the biodiversity of the Coral Sea. The Coral Sea is located in the South Pacific, off the northeast coast of Australia. It takes its name from its numerous coral reefs and islands. Rich in bird and aquatic life it is home to many different species of anemones, sponges, worms, lobsters, crayfish, fish and crabs. The world’s most famous coral reefs, The Great Barrier Reef, is found in this sea. It is the largest living thing on Earth and visible from outer space. Find out what amazing creatures you will be introduced to the tanks this week.

Orange clownfish

The Orange clownfish makes its home in different kinds of anemones, it is immune to their sting tentacles. In return for protection, the clownfish keeps its anemone clean and chases off intruders. This relationship is an example of symbiosis where both partners benefit.

Copperband butterfly 

  • Copperband butterflyfish Chelmon rostratus, Yi-Kai Tea
    Yi-Kai Tea

This butterflyfish has a long, narrow nose and mouth used for hunting in crevices for food, such as worms, clams, and molluscs. It has a false eyespot on the rear of the dorsal fin to scare away predators. 

Bridled monocle bream

 

  • Scolopsis_bilineata, Jens Petersen
    Jens Petersen

This fish exhibits bio fluorescence this is where an organism absorbs blue light and emits it as a different colour, usually red, orange or green. This may assist in camouflage and communication. 

Pearl scale angelfish 

 

  • Pearl scale angelfish, Centropyge vroliki Copyright Yi-Kai Tea, Yi-Kai Te
    Yi-Kai Te

These fish start their adult lives as females and are able to change to males for breeding.

Branching coral

These branching hard corals are found in the shallow waters of the reef. Their hard skeletons can survive waves crashing over them.

Finger coral

Finger corals are soft corals, which do not build stony reefs. Substances made by finger corals deter the growth of bacteria and may lead to new antibiotics.

Hump coral 

These hard corals build huge boulder shaped reefs in shallow waters. They can grow to a few square meters in width.

Ritteri anemone

  • Ritteri anenome Heteractis magnifica , N Hobgood
    N Hobgood

This anemone feeds through the photosynthesis of the symbiotic algae living in its tissues. It also captures small invertebrates, fry or juvenile fish with its tentacles. 

 

We'll be doing everything we can to ensure every new inhabitant of the Coral Sea tank feels right at home.

A Calm Visit to the Horniman

Want to find a quite and peaceful spot in our Museum? Engage Volunteer, Anahita Harding, has just the ticket. Here, she tells us her favourite calm spots and the best times to visit them. 

'Sometimes the Museum can feel quite busy and hectic but for those in the know, there are some places that are a bit quieter where you can get find some peace.

The Gardens are a lovely place to go when a quiet spot is needed but on a rainy day this isn’t always ideal. If you ever need a quiet spot to think and be calm, here are some indoor spaces I like to go to during my breaks.

Nature Base

If you want to see the harvest mice, come to the Nature Base in the morning, as this is the best time to see them running and climbing! The harvest mice are crepuscular, which means that they are most active in the mornings and in the evenings.

The quietest time tends to be in the morning when the Museum has just opened but the Nature Base can get busy during other times of the day.

  • A calm visit to the Horniman, The harvest mice in the Nature Base are best seen in the morning.
    The harvest mice in the Nature Base are best seen in the morning.

The Natural History Gallery balcony

The Natural History Gallery balcony has a variety of cases with interesting specimens in them. There is also a nice space here to read stories and books. A grand clock is near the staircase, and it gently chimes every fifteen minutes. It is called the Apostle Clock and was made during the 19th century in Germany.

Usually, the balcony is very quiet and is a nice space to learn while watching everyone in the gallery below. There is also a good view of the walrus!

  • A calm visit to the Horniman, The apostle clock is on the Natural History Gallery balcony
    The apostle clock is on the Natural History Gallery balcony

The Aquarium

Have you seen the jellyfish in the Aquarium? As you enter the Aquarium you will see a space lit up with a calming blue light, and jellyfish gently moving through their tank. It is lovely to watch them move. Above, you will see a large turtle hanging from the ceiling, can you find it? This is one of my favourite spots, and I hope you enjoy it too.'

  • A calm visit to the Horniman, Watching the jellyfish can be very calming
    Watching the jellyfish can be very calming

The Museum is at it's quietest after 2.30pm on weekdays during term time. 

Share your favourite peaceful spots from the Museum and Gardens with us using #horniman.

Find out more about volunteering at the Horniman

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