The heart of any conservation or resource management program is good research. Careful research and long-term monitoring is vital to know:
- What are the important living and non-living components of the ecosystem we are managing?
- What is the current health, abundance, and biodiversity of the reefs?
- How does the reef change over time (for good or bad)?
- What threats are present?
- What can be done about those threats?
- Did the action work, and how could the project be improved in the future?
Most of the research at the NHRCP falls under the Ecological Monitoring Program (EMP). This program is designed to provide detailed and readily available long-term data for biodiversity, abundance, and health of our local reefs. Data for this program is collected along permanent transects in 11 locations around the island for fish, invertebrates, substrate, and corals (see bottom of page for statistics on our research program and other info). We try to visit each site once per month, and have a database going back 7 years. In addition to data collection, participants in our program can also be certified in the PADI EMP or SSI EMP program.
This basic techniques for the EMP program are easily modified, when necessary such as in the case of bleaching events, disease outbreaks, boat groundings, or other disturbances. During the mass coral bleaching event of 2010 our program collected vary detailed information on the extant of bleaching, temperatures, recovery, mortality and more, down to the genus level of the corals. Many of our interns have also used the EMP data as the foundation of their master’s degrees, PhD Thesis’, or bachelors projects. You can find many of these interesting projects and scientific publications on our student publications page.Also be sure to check out our page on the Status of the Coral Reefs of Koh Tao for more information coming out of the EMP program.
But research doesn’t end at the EMP, we also have many other specific monitoring programs for seahorses, giant clams, sea turtles, coral nurseries, drupella snails, Crown of Thorns, and in fact, all of our current projects also have a research aspect or component.
The world of scientific diving is not only fun, informative, and rewarding; but it can also open doors for future school or career opportunities. Through our program divers can be learn about and be certified in a wide range of internationally recognized research diver programs, including:
- SSI or PADI Koh Tao Ecological Monitoring Program (EMP) for invertebrates, fish, and corals.
- PADI Shark Conservation Diver
- PADI Coralwatch Diver
- Coral genus and compromised coral health assessments
- Coral disease surveys
- Coral growth monitoring
- CPCe photo analysis for growth or coverage
- Giant Clam Growth and health
- Sea Turtle Growth and Health
- Seahorse population and ecology studies
- Quadrant and photoquadrant surveys
- And much more. . .
Note: the above graph shows only surveys in which data collected through the NHRCP Program is entered into the database, surveys are performed weekly, but only those conducted by experienced and certified research divers are included in this list. The chart does NOT include data entered by other dive centers or groups.
Note: 2010 was a major bleaching year on Koh Tao and throughout the South China Sea, and thus research efforts where greatly increased during that time.