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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au

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Diving for data: What this oceanographer is learning from coral reefs

03
Apr 2018

Posted By

ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies

Drive a mere 777 miles north of Perth, take a dive beneath the waves, and you’ll find the Ningaloo Reef – the world’s largest fringing reef, stretching 162 miles along Western Australia’s coastline. While the reef is best known for its whale sharks and tropical fish, it’s the 250 species of corals that draw oceanographer Thomas DeCarlo to its waters.

Dives to remote reefs may not be a day-to-day experience, but they are one of the more exciting aspects of DeCarlo’s work as a postdoctoral research fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at The University of Western Australia.

“[As an oceanographer] you get to go to places where you aren’t even allowed to go as a tourist,” DeCarlo said. “So they are completely undisturbed, really beautiful reefs. [Visiting] is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

And it’s hard work too: scuba diving for science isn’t the same as a leisurely swim.

“Usually we have two or three dives planned,” DeCarlo said, describing his outing to the Ningaloo Reef. “Sometimes it would just be as simple as taking photographs—several hundred photographs—so we can look at what corals are there. Other times we’re using an underwater drill, and we’re actually drilling into the reef to get coral samples. It’s pretty intense diving, and then afterward you’re always labeling your samples, trying to write notes [and] keep track of everything.”

A central New York native, DeCarlo didn’t envision a future underwater when he began college—he initially chose to attend the University of San Diego for its business program.

“It was all set to go,” DeCarlo recalled. “Before I actually showed up, I was like ‘I don’t want to wear a suit and tie and be in a cubicle.’ I just looked through their list of majors and saw marine science. So I was like, ‘Well, I love the ocean. Let’s give that a try.”

For DeCarlo, trading in cubicles for corals was an exercise in adventure that would take him across the globe. He recently received his doctorate from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution through MIT’s joint program in oceanography, applied ocean science and engineering. In his current role, working under the Australian Research Council, he’s part of an institution that boasts the world’s highest concentration of coral reef scientists. Now, the reefs accomplish both personal and academic goals.

“It’s personal in that I like the coral reefs and diving, and more intellectual in that we actually really need to do this work, and it’s really important,” DeCarlo said.

Read the full blog post here.

Excerpt reproduced with permission from Ritu Prasad.

 

Dr DeCarlo collects core samples from living colonies on the Great Barrier Reef as part of his postdoctoral research with CoralCoE.
Dr DeCarlo collects core samples from living colonies on the Great Barrier Reef as part of his postdoctoral research with CoralCoE.

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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au