Cape RADD, a marine field station in Simon’s Town which serves as a platform for researchers in the False Bay area and greater Cape Town, is calling on residents to work with them and help their community.
They specialise in long-term projects that serve to monitor the biodiversity of a global hotspot with more than 3500 endemic marine species.
Marine biologist, co-founder and course director of Cape RADD, Mike Barron, says the community can get involved by joining local beach cleanups and marine events, picking up litter on their own trips, and making sure they reduce their use of single-use plastics. “The community can also join the Cape RADD Citizen Science Experience where you join biologists in the water to snorkel or scuba and assist with collecting data on the biodiversity of the Cape. Anyone and everyone can join us; kids must be over 12 years old. That’s the beauty of the Cape RADD Citizen Science Day – no experience is needed. For those less experienced, we choose more protected, shallower sites to take you,” he says.
The Citizen Science Experience is designed by marine biologists to give people a deeper understanding of the Cape peninsula and the marine world. “You will learn about the marine habitats and the endemic species which live here. You will be given a short presentation on the reasons for the biodiversity hotspot of the Cape, then have a short fish identification workshop before kitting up and heading in for the snorkel/dive where you will be given the chance to get hands on and assist biologists with data collection on the marine species,” he says.
This science experience has three options. Option one is the kelp forest ecology and fish identification survey: Learn about and record the fish you see in the beautiful and diverse kelp forests. Option two is to learn about the white sharks and Cape fur seals of False Bay before jumping in with the seals and learning about their inquisitive behaviour whilst monitoring numbers and entanglement in fishing line and plastics. Option three is to join an exploratory free dive in deeper water in search of larger species of sharks and to learn and practise some basic free-diving skills which can double your breath hold time.
“The Cape RADD marine field course is designed for students and graduates with an interest in biology or conservation that are looking to gain extra knowledge and field experience, and build new skills. This is also the ideal course for dive professionals, newly trained dive masters or dive instructors who would like to add more knowledge, dive skills and scientific insight to their diving, allowing them to provide a better product to their own dive clients. However, we are open to all levels of experience and backgrounds, from keen conservationists or scuba divers who want to gain a deeper understanding of the marine environment, to biologists looking to gain knowledge and field experience to pursue a career in their chosen scientific field,” explains Barron.
Do people really understand the impact they have on the oceans and what can be done to raise awareness?
Barron thinks people are slowly becoming more and more aware of the conservation issues and the impact humans are having on the health of our oceans. “However we have a long way to go, especially in terms of plastic pollution. Our relationship with single-use products in general needs to change to reduce the impact of humans on the planet. We all need to be more conscious of our ‘footprint’ and make steps towards changing our daily routines and habits to improve the plight of the planet for the future.”
Part of Cape RADD’s research includes assessing the success of different management strategies in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), monitoring the diversity and abundance of marine species, white shark population estimates, shark deterrent strategies, and some large-scale citizen science programmes. “Our research utilises various techniques including Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV), scuba roving divers, line transects, quadrats, photoquadrats and dropcams, mark-recapture, and other novel techniques. At the core of our values is passing on our expertise to early career scientists and those with a passion for the ocean.”
Barron says they love spending time with their students and day guests. “Spreading our knowledge and seeing their enthusiasm and excitement when they come back out from a dive or snorkel survey and feel like they have contributed to the bigger picture as well as learnt more about the underwater world and connected with nature.” He adds that they love exploring the ocean, learning new things and teaching others and spreading the word about marine conservation.