BAC Wins Science Grant to Take Students to the Great Barrier Reef

Did you hear the news that Brisbane Adventist College (BAC) has been awarded a grant of almost $15,000 from the Queensland Government's Engaging Science Grants program? We announced it in the last Fast News Friday of Term 2. This unique Department of Environment, Science and Innovation grant will financially support our 2024 Year 12 Aquatic Practices students as they embark on a unique Citizen Science project! Set to take place off the shores of Great Keppel Island this term, the Aquatic Practices project enables them to practice their skills in a real-world setting of the Great Barrier Reef while fostering a deeper understanding of environmental conservation.

Engaging Science Grants are administered by the Department of Environment, Science, and Innovation, which has allocated $500,000 to community groups, education professionals, scientists, and citizen science projects in this round. The grants are designed to inspire Queensland students to study STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects, promote STEM careers, and support citizen science groups. In the latest round of funding, 28 education projects in Queensland received up to $20,000 each, with a particular focus on ecotourism citizen science.

Why this trip is significant

The Science Department at BAC is deeply committed to fostering our students' love for science and the natural world, and this is the main reason BAC offers Aquatic Practices in the curriculum for senior students! It offers hands-on experiences—from maintaining a marine fish tank to obtaining open-water scuba diving licences—and “epitomises our mission to inspire students to appreciate and preserve nature,” says the Head of Science at BAC, Mr Jackson.

However, the grant is a result of careful planning that started in 2023 when Mr Jackson and the Aquatic Practices teacher, Mr Cherry, designed and submitted a detailed proposal for the Citizen Science project titled: "Coral Reefs of the Keppel Islands: Connecting Urban School Students with Citizen Science Opportunities." They argued that they wished to provide students with a memorable and educational experience and to help them communicate a powerful message to the community about how we can each make a difference through ecotourism. The project represents the intersection of community and ecology. As visitors to the reef, our Secondary students will be guided by an accredited ecotourism operator as they survey and contribute valuable data to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Eye on the Reef. Information like this is vital in monitoring and preserving the reef's delicate ecosystems, roughly the size of Italy (2300 km).

Queensland Chief Scientist Professor Kerrie Wilson emphasised in her media statement the importance of projects like BAC's in encouraging everyone to contribute to biodiversity research and the recovery of threatened species in protected areas and national parks.

With something as simple as a smartphone app, visitors to the reef have helped the Marine Park record sightings of endangered species: “Having people out on the water as our eyes and ears taking photographs and sending them in to us is a practical way to expand our information. We’ve had more than 12,000 sightings of 300 different species [including whalesharks, dugongs, humpback whales dolphins, and a variety of turtle species] throughout the Great Barrier Reef. The app also has more than 270 species listed, with information about their GPS position, habitat, behaviour, and size as well as images and videos—all captured by those out on the water,” says the Marine Park Authority’s Fiona Merida.

Excitement builds

Mr Cherry recently challenged our students to take the lead in documenting their experiences and communicating with our community back home. They are tasked with capturing footage and creating informative social media clips to update us while they are away. Upon their return, they will construct an immersive multi-media experience, to act like a virtual portal in educating other students and community about reef conservation and citizen science initiatives.

The Year 12s are feeling the excitement! “I’m as keen as to hit up the GBR and check out all that sweet coral,” says Aquatic Practices student Joel—who means (in teen-speak) that he is looking forward to the experience! Fellow student Juanu can't believe they will see and work at one of the 7 Wonders of the Natural World: "Does it get any better than that!?" Blake is keen to bring back a piece of the Great Barrier Reef through photographic and video evidence to "show our experience to our community here." Hayley has discovered a passion for scuba diving since getting her licence and can't wait to experience more.

With the help of this grant, our long-held dream of taking BAC students to the Great Barrier Reef is finally a reality. We thank the Queensland Government and the Department of Environment, Science, and Innovation for making this incredible opportunity possible. This grant is a testament to their commitment to education, science, and environmental conservation. As we prepare for Term 3’s grand adventure, we'd also like to congratulate the other recipients of the Engaging Science Grants.