If you have had the opportunity to scuba dive or snorkel on coral reefs, you know that life beneath the ocean surface is simply spectacular. There are different and amazing animals like corals, fishes, crustaceans, dolphins, sharks and so on, that you can admire for hours. What most people do not know is that coral reefs cover less than 1 percent of the ocean floor and about 25 percent of marine species rely on them . Also, coral reefs provide humans economic and environmental services worth $375 billion each year . These facts make coral reefs worth attention and protection.

Providencia Island is just a beautiful coral reef. Photo: @phmontoya

My passion and love for the ocean began in 2010 when I became an Open Water Diver. But exponentially increased in 2017 when I became an Ecodiver at the first Reef Check Expedition organized by Corales de Paz in Santa Marta-Colombia. I learned how to monitor coral reefs, which includes identifying coral diseases, impacts, substrate, fishes and invertebrates, that indicate if coral reefs are healthy or not. Practicing diving with purpose (buceo con propósito) made me understand how coral reef works, how human activities negatively impact coral reefs and its balance. Moreover, having in mind that in order to protect these important ecosystems we need accurate data I decided to participate in more reef check expeditions.

My fourth and latest expedition was in Providence Island, where only trained Eco divers could participate. Most of them also participated on the first Reef Repair training program – a reef restoration course developed by Corales de Paz – in San Andrés Island held by Corales de Paz before the Reef Check Providencia. We spent two weeks together, scuba diving every day and at the end it felt like a small united family, working together to make change happen.

Reef Check is an internationally recognized citizen science program that allows recreational divers to assist scientists in the collection of coral reef health. Photo: @phmontoya

In Providence island we monitored four diving sites, this time it was a different experience from other expeditions because we only focused our attention on monitoring and not training new eco divers, allowing the team to share the findings and knowledge previously acquired, extending our understanding of coral reefs, their health and the impacts in comparison to other Colombian coral reefs. Also, for the first time, I had the opportunity and privilege to witness sharks and turtles, an indicator that Providence’s coral reefs are still healthy.

Sharks on the reefs are a sign of good reef health. Photo: Angela Alegria
A Green turtle, another sign of a good environment. Photo: Maria C Pertuz

Therefore, knowing that the data we collected and that will be collected in future expeditions are important and necessary to protect Providence’s coral reefs, made me feel proud of the group, Corales de Paz and myself. If you are interested in participating in a Reef Check expedition, do not hesitate and sign up! you would not feel any regrets. Remember that you do not need to be a scientist or biologist, you just need your passion and love for the ocean and all the amazing living creatures depending on it.

María Cecilia Pertuz Molina. Political scientist and Magister in Public Policy. Advanced Open Water Diver, Reef Check Ecodiver (four expeditions). Photo: @phmontoya

By María Cecilia Pertuz Molina. Political scientist and Magister in Public Policy. Advanced Open Water Diver, Reef Check Ecodiver (four expeditions).

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