Thursday, 29 November 2012

Perth High School pupils link up with the Great Barrier Reef

On Friday 23rd of November pupils at Perth High School found themselves connected directly with researchers on the other side of the world in a live internet link up organised by the company Digital Explorer. Digital Explorer and Perth High were brought together by Dr Joyce Gilbert, the Education Officer at the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.  

On a wet and windy November morning the Higher Managing Environmental Resources and Advanced Higher Biology classes were transported to warmer climes as they took part in a live Skype chat with researchers on the Great Barrier Reef off the north-east coast of Australia.  Pupils spoke to a marine biologist and a geographer who were aboard their research vessel some 15,000km away, and learned about some cutting-edge research which is now underway.  
The pupils were fascinated to hear about their innovative research project, their adventurous dives, and their findings so far.  Amongst other observations, the researchers reported evidence of coral bleaching on the reef and a close encounter with Tiger sharks earlier that day!  Pupils also got an interesting tour of the boat, which gave them a great insight into life aboard a research ship.  

The time difference meant that it was 7pm there, so pupils even caught a glimpse of the crew having their dinner and gave them a wave!  It really brought class work on coral reef ecosystems to life, and inspired a few ideas about future careers and adventures.

S6 pupil Scott Watson said “I liked getting to see someone who works on the reef and knows what they are talking about.  They really knew their stuff – they had just been doing it that very day!” 

Brook Moran, another pupil, agreed “I liked the depth of the answers that were given.  It helped me understand coral reefs more.” 

Perth High Geography/Geology teacher Rachel Hay said: “It was really exciting (and quite surreal) to be able to bring a scientific expedition on the other side of the world into the classroom, and help pupils to understand how the material they study in class relates to the ‘real-world’.  

“We got a fascinating insight into the work marine biologists and geographers are doing out there, and into life on board a research ship.  There was a lot of ‘buzz’ amongst pupils and staff after the Skype linkup as they went off to their next classes with talk of future travel, adventures, and ‘dream jobs’!  A huge thank you to everyone who made this link-up possible.”

The researchers are  involved in The Catlin Seaview Survey. This project has been set up to study conditions on the reef so that the scientists can monitor how coral reefs are changing due to climate change, ocean acidification, and human pressures such as overfishing. 
During their time on the Great Barrier Reef, the research team will be diving as deep as 100m to research and record the condition of the reef using underwater tablets and 360° cameras.  The project’s partnership with Google will allow all of us to access the images through Seaview, the underwater equivalent of Streetview.  

For more information on the Catlin Seaview Survey(and inspirational virtual tours of the reef) please visit

Digital Explorer is a company on a mission to provide a world-class global citizenship education for young people. They do this by creating unique collaborations between explorers, scientists, teachers and pupils.