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Create a marine ecosystem assessment of California’s remote Big Sur coast to contribute to the conservation of this unique environment
Create a marine ecosystem assessment of California’s remote Big Sur coast to contribute to the conservation of this unique environment
100 backers pledged $4,899 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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The one hundred miles of California’s Big Sur coast is one of the most remote, unique and pristine stretches of marine ecosystems along the west coast of the United States. But the same remoteness that results in less fishing and puts it out of reach of polluting industries and human population centers, also makes it difficult for scientists to study and manage this area. In this era of global environmental stressors like ocean acidification, rising sea temperatures and the vast reach of plastics pollution the knowledge of what changes are occurring in these remote ecosystems is key to successfully adapting management actions to protect these rich habitats. Therefore, we propose an expedition to conduct a Marine ecosystem assessment of the reefs along this coast. We will lead a team of trained volunteer citizen scientists to scuba dive and survey fish and other species using scientific protocols that are integrated with studies being done throughout the rest of California.

Big Sur Coast
Big Sur Coast

Our goal is to explore what lies beneath the waves along the 100 miles of the Big Sur coast. At each place we stop, a team of roughly 20 volunteer scientific divers will enter the water, and using well established scientific protocols, will count fish, invertebrates, and kelp to come up with a comprehensive picture of what the marine life on the this stretch of unpopulated coast looks like. Our oceans are changing and collecting this information will enable us to sustainably manage these unique ocean resources. California has established four Marine Protected Areas along this coast in 2007. Like underwater parks, they are supposed to protect the animals within them but right now nobody is looking to see how they are working. The data we collect will be made available through our online Global Reef Tracker (data.reefcheck.org) so that fisheries managers, researchers, and the public can view and analyze what we find.

A garibaldi fish and purple sea urchins are among many of the indicator species we use to monitor the health of California's reefs.
A garibaldi fish and purple sea urchins are among many of the indicator species we use to monitor the health of California's reefs.
Volunteer divers in action, surveying species.
Volunteer divers in action, surveying species.

If this expedition is funded, we will document the work and the ecosystems we find using Google Ocean’s latest specialized underwater camera to take panorama or “underwater street view" photos. We will upload these to Google Maps to help raise awareness of the conservation issues in this unexplored ecosystem. A successful expedition will be the beginning of a sustained effort by Reef Check California to survey the reefs off the Big Sur coast for years to come—just as we have done successfully for 10 years in other parts of California.

Climate change, plastics pollution, over-fishing—Our oceans are changing. California's Marine Life Protection Act gives the state not just the authority but the directive to sustainably manage our precious marine ecosystems. Unfortunately, managers are often missing the valuable data required to make the decisions needed to protect these habitats. In Big Sur, one of the most remote sections of our coast, managers must sometimes rely on guess-work to preserve this dramatic place, and huge changes could be occurring without anyone's knowledge. This project aims to fix this!

Risks and challenges

There are many challenges, such as weather, ocean conditions and logistics, associated with this expedition as there is with any trip of this size and scope on the ocean. Our experience conducting similar trips along California’s Channels Islands, north coast, and many other site makes us uniquely qualified to address these challenges.

In the event the trip is canceled due to weather, it will be rescheduled for another date, possibly the following year.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    A Reef Check membership and access to all the data we collect through the Global Reef Tracker.

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    A Reef Check bumper sticker and wristband

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    A Reef Check license plate holder.

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    A Reef Check beach towel.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    A Reef Check California hat.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    High quality framed print of an underwater 360 panorama photo from Big Sur survey.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Name one of our survey sites after you.

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Funding period

- (30 days)