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Reef Encounters: Lee Goldman

We caught up with Lee Goldman who leads educational snorkeling tours, as part of International Year of the Reef, who is teaching people the importance of coral reefs through educational tours.

What is your typical day?

Breakfast. Snorkel until lunch. Lunch. Snorkel until dinner. Dinner. Bed.

  • Snorkeler in the Banda Islands, Lee leads tours in the Coral Triangle, a marine area encompassing the tropical waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Papua New Guinea, Lee Goldman
    Lee leads tours in the Coral Triangle, a marine area encompassing the tropical waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Papua New Guinea, Lee Goldman

When did you first know you wanted to work in this area, and how did you get into your work?

The moment my facemask hit the water in Palau, I knew I wanted to work in this part of the world. I began guiding in Palau and several years later I completed my Master’s degree in marine biology as a way to further my guiding career.

Shortly after finishing school, I had the opportunity to design and lead snorkeling tours for several high-end travel companies like Wilderness Travel and WWF travel programs. After many years of this, I started my own travel business with a colleague of mine and we continue to offer high-quality snorkeling programs.

  • PNG_snorkeler, "The moment my facemask hit the water...I knew I wanted to work in this part of the world", Lee Goldman
    "The moment my facemask hit the water...I knew I wanted to work in this part of the world", Lee Goldman

What inspires you in your work?

Snorkeling amongst healthy, colorful, and productive reefs.

What would your message for the future of the reefs be?

At this point, with things going the way they are, there isn’t much of a future for reefs as we recognise them today.

Reef communities will change, and whether they will change for the better or worse will be revealed, but if the world wants to have the reefs of today for generations to come, we will need a major change in the way we all approach life.

  • Raja Ampat_1, "If the world wants to have the reefs of today for generations to come, we will need a major change in the way we all approach life.", Lee Goldman
    "If the world wants to have the reefs of today for generations to come, we will need a major change in the way we all approach life.", Lee Goldman

What’s your favourite creature on the reef, and why?

People ask all the time, but I honestly don’t have a favorite.

For me seeing a healthy reef community is my favorite thing.

What’s the oddest thing you’ve seen at sea?

I guess the oddest thing I have seen would be the time Orcas chased a seal onto the swim-step of our research boat. I don’t know if that counts as oddest more than rarest, but it stands out for me.

The oddest creature would have to be the pearlfish.

  • Pearlfish, Pearlfish are peculiar due to their habit of hiding inside sea cucumbers
    Pearlfish are peculiar due to their habit of hiding inside sea cucumbers

What kit do you use when taking photos?

Lumix GX-7 on a Nauticam housing. Twin Inon 240z lights. My favourite lens is the 60mm (120mm equivalent) macro.

  • Snorkeler, "For me seeing a healthy reef community is my favorite thing", Lee Goldman
    "For me seeing a healthy reef community is my favorite thing", Lee Goldman

What’s the next big thing for your work?

New destinations. Each year we try to explore a new area for snorkeling.

We have new itineraries in Papua New Guinea, Halmahera, and the Solomon Islands on the horizon.

  • Split reef scene PNG, "Each year we try to explore a new area for snorkeling.", Lee Goldman
    "Each year we try to explore a new area for snorkeling.", Lee Goldman

Who’s your ‘reef hero’ – someone doing great work or advocacy for the future of reefs?

Any scientist that is putting their research time and money into solving the root of the reef-health problems.

In other words, I greatly admire the type of scientist who is developing new techniques for waste management in 3rd world countries to stop reefs degrading in the first place.

  • Wart frogfish, The warty frogfish can change its colouration to blend in with its surroundings, Lee Goldman
    The warty frogfish can change its colouration to blend in with its surroundings, Lee Goldman

Reef Encounters: Dr Michael Sweet

As part of International Year of the Reef, we're speaking to people who work with coral reefs, from filmmakers to fish taxonomists. Dr. Michael Sweet, researcher and lecturer at the University of Derby, tells us how 'with a bit of luck and a lot of work' we can save coral reefs around the world.

What is your typical day?

As a full-time academic, each of my days is very different. Like all in my position, a good 20% of my time is taken up by administration. I am then in charge of a large and very active research team with five Ph.D. students and three Post Doctorates and so time is spent in meetings with these early career researchers and in the field, assisting with sampling when possible. Of course, I try to cram in some teaching along the way as well and make myself available to the even younger minds which need inspiring.

Then, and only then, I might get in the lab myself to start on a new topic or write up some of the work we have already analysed.

  • Dr Michael Sweet 01, Dr Michael Sweet collects snails for study from Porites Turbinaria, Dr Michael Sweet
    Dr Michael Sweet collects snails for study from Porites Turbinaria, Dr Michael Sweet

When did you first know you wanted to work in this area, and how did you get into your work?

For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be in some form of zoological career. My mum was a countryside ranger so I spent many an evening and weekend in the wilds of my home county of Lancashire. I may not have been exactly close to the marine environments I now study I grant you, but we spent a few holidays by the coast which inspired me further.

When University came around I toyed around between choosing marine biology or zoology and opted for the latter. I then spent four years traveling around the world working on a variety of projects from individual identification in whale sharks, to research on the most endangered bird at the time, the black robin of the Chatham Islands. I then moved in the direction of getting a Ph.D. and this was where the coral work started.

  • Dr Michael Sweet 02, Dr. Sweet is well known for his work on coral diseases but also takes part in a variety of other studies, Dr Michael Sweet
    Dr. Sweet is well known for his work on coral diseases but also takes part in a variety of other studies, Dr Michael Sweet

What inspires you in your work?

My inspiration starts with the teaching of the undergraduate students who really show the passion for their chosen career and ends, if it ever really ends, with my team of excellent researchers who work tirelessly to answer some very interesting questions.

Every day is different, every day is exciting, and every day we work to try and make our world a better place. A better place for us as humans but also a better place for the rest of the organisms we share our home with, be they the smallest viruses or bacteria, the corals or sponges, or the fish in our oceans and rivers.

  • IMG_1418, 'Every day is different, every day is exciting, and every day we work to try and make our world a better place', Dr Michael Sweet
    'Every day is different, every day is exciting, and every day we work to try and make our world a better place', Dr Michael Sweet

What would your message for the future of reefs be?

To be honest, it's looking bad but we should not lose hope. If we all do our bit we can certainly make a difference and hopefully, with a bit of luck and a lot of work we can preserve reefs for future generations. They may not look exactly how we know them to be but I do believe that life will find a way and corals as a whole will keep on fighting.

  • bleaching, Coral bleaching occurs when coral expels the algae they rely on to survive from their tissues, Dr Michael Sweet
    Coral bleaching occurs when coral expels the algae they rely on to survive from their tissues, Dr Michael Sweet

What’s your favourite creature on the reef, and why?

I should probably say the corals themselves but I have a soft spot for octopuses – so beautiful, so clever – I just think they are so amazing.

  • Dr Michael Sweet 03, Above-average sea temperatures caused by global warming have been identified as the leading cause of coral bleaching incidents, Dr Michael Sweet
    Above-average sea temperatures caused by global warming have been identified as the leading cause of coral bleaching incidents, Dr Michael Sweet

What’s the oddest thing you’ve seen at sea?

A whole container full of toilets sunk in the Red Sea was a little weird.

  • Dr Michael Sweet 04, In 2016, bleaching events killed between 29% to 50% of coral on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Dr Michael Sweet
    In 2016, bleaching events killed between 29% to 50% of coral on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Dr Michael Sweet

What kit do you use?

Cannon PowerShot G9X with custom housing.

  • Dr Michael Sweet 05, 'If we all do our bit we can certainly make a difference and hopefully, with a bit of luck and a lot of work we can preserve reefs for future generations', Dr Michael Sweet
    'If we all do our bit we can certainly make a difference and hopefully, with a bit of luck and a lot of work we can preserve reefs for future generations', Dr Michael Sweet

What’s the next big thing for your work?

We’re exploring the implications of ‘human-assisted evolution’ with some collaborators with regard to restoration efforts for some areas. In particular, we are focusing on the importance of coral's bacterial communities known as the microbiome in coral resilience and susceptibility to aspects of climate change.

Who’s your ‘reef hero’ – someone doing great work or advocacy for the future of reefs?

I always struggle with this. I guess my obvious hero would be my old mentor and supervisor Professor John Bythell who took me in to complete my Ph.D. and nurtured my interest in corals and the diseases which plague them.

However, there have been a number of others whose work inspire me on a daily basis and not just the well-established researchers. My students keep my passion alive and make me feel that what we do is worthwhile.

Furthermore, the dedication I see from other groups and fields of interest such as hobbyists and aquarium curators is also heroic. Their knowledge is second to none, in what makes a coral tick and how to look after them and it’s these guys who may well be the unsung hero in the field of coral reef biology.

Reef Encounters: Pawel Achtel

As part of International Year of the Reef, we're speaking to people who work with coral reefs, from filmmakers to fish taxonomists. In this post, we hear from Pawel Achtel, who is drawn to the "immense beauty, unusual behaviour, and diversity of marine life" as a filmmaker.

What is your typical day?

Most of the time there is no typical day. My focus changes depending on what I’m working on at the time. When I’m in the field filming, the morning starts with an equipment check followed by breakfast and then we head out to sea for filming.

The evening is filled with footage offloading before checking and setting up the cameras for the following day. I like to have my equipment all set up a day earlier to avoid last-minute surprises.

  • Day Pawel action shot close with 3Deep and lights, Pawel taking to the water with his equipment, Pawel Achtel
    Pawel taking to the water with his equipment, Pawel Achtel

When did you first know you wanted to work in this area, and how did you get into your work?

When I first visited the Great Barrier Reef about 30 years ago and put my head down I realised this was something I wanted to pursue. After returning from my holidays, I completed a scuba diving course. I bought a broadcast-quality camera and housing, and since then almost never dived without one in my hands.

What inspires you in your work?

The immense beauty, unusual behaviour, and diversity of marine life motivate me to try to capture some of those moments. A well shot 3D spectacle is the ultimate reward. I want to share these experiences with others.

  • DSC00232.small, Pawel getting up close to a school of fish, Pawel Achtel
    Pawel getting up close to a school of fish, Pawel Achtel

What would your message for the future of reefs be?

When we watch pristine marine habitats we often take these environments for granted, but from the perspective of my 30 years of diving, I can tell you that the reefs are dying.

It’s hard to watch. Every year we are losing marine habitats one after another and they take many years to recover. Some of them never do.

I try not to think what the future is going to be like. I try to focus on how to preserve as much as we can and educate others about the importance of these marine ecosystems.

  • Day Pawel filming bommie, Pawel filming an offshore reef or 'bommie', Pawel Achtel
    Pawel filming an offshore reef or 'bommie', Pawel Achtel

What’s your favourite creature on the reef, and why?

I love marine mammals. A humpback whale would be my number one. They are so powerful, yet so gentle. So different, yet so intelligent. Every time I look into a whale’s eye I see a warm, intelligent being.

  • Pawel Whale, Pawel filming a humpback whale, Pawel Achtel
    Pawel filming a humpback whale, Pawel Achtel

What’s the oddest thing you’ve seen at sea?

Sydney’s pygmy pipehorse (Idiotropiscis lumnitzeri).

  • Sydney pygmy pipehorse, Sydney pygmy pipehorse,  John Turnbull
    Sydney pygmy pipehorse,  John Turnbull

What kit do you use?

I film almost exclusively in 3D. My setup is two RED Epic Dragon cameras, 3Deep titanium housing, Denecke Genlock, Nikonos 15mm submersible lenses, Keldan 24X lights with custom reflectors, custom TrueBlue OLPF filters.

  • DSC02397 fixed, Pawel making use of this equipment, Pawel Achtel
    Pawel making use of this equipment, Pawel Achtel

What’s the next big thing for your work?

I’m currently filming an IMAX film called Sea of Love 3D about reproduction and relationships in the ocean.

Who’s your ‘reef hero’ – someone doing great work or advocacy for the future of reefs?

Dr John (Charlie) Veron.

  • IMG_1795, Pawel taking a moment to catch his breath, Pawel Achtel
    Pawel taking a moment to catch his breath, Pawel Achtel

Reef Encounters: Yi-Kai Tea

As part of International Year of the Reef, we're speaking to people who work with coral reefs, from filmmakers to fish taxonomists. In this post, we hear from Yi-Kai Tea, a fish taxonomist at the University of Sydney, currently studying under Dr. Anthony Gill as a graduate student in taxonomy and systematics.

  • Yi-Kai Tea at work, Yi-Kai Tea photographing specimens in a tank on the shore, Yi-Kai Tea
    Yi-Kai Tea photographing specimens in a tank on the shore, Yi-Kai Tea

What is your typical day?

I'm always working on something. If I’m not doing research, I’m writing articles or researching up on future things to tackle.

If I’m at the lab, I mostly do counts and take measurements of various fish specimens. Otherwise I’m at the museum looking through the literature.

There's always something to do.

When did you first know you wanted to work in this area, and how did you get into your work?

I spent many years in high school and college writing for various fish magazines and blogs. I was offered a little writing gig after being picked out from a local forum. In the years of writing about reef-fish I’ve noticed so many undescribed species go by without a name for years, often wondering why scientists didn't want to do anything about it.

Years later I decided to become a fish taxonomist myself, and the first species I ever named was the very fish I wrote about on a blog years ago, the same species that made me ponder about the short comings of taxonomy!

I now realize that there aren't many taxonomists around these days, certainly not enough to keep up with the rate at which we're discovering new species.

The first step to conserving anything is to first give something a name. Without a valid scientific name, you technically cannot put a species on a conservation list, even if its habitat is threatened. That is why, to me, taxonomy and systematics is so important.

  • Cirrhilabrus isosceles fish, The Cirrhilabrus isosceles fish, Yi-Kai Tea
    The Cirrhilabrus isosceles fish, Yi-Kai Tea

What inspires you in your work?

This is going to sound really cliché but I am inspired by so many things. I often have periods where I’m totally obsessed with something, and I’ll think to myself, that would make a great name for a fish someday.

I had a moment where I was very into Doctor Who, and I named my second new species of fish after the Sycorax Warriors from the show! A group of lesser known warriors that wore red capes and robes. I've also named a species of anthias after the alcoholic beverage tequila sunrise.

  • Synchiropus sycorax , Synchiropus sycorax, named after Doctor Who creatures the Sycorax Warriors , Yi-Kai Tea
    Synchiropus sycorax, named after Doctor Who creatures the Sycorax Warriors , Yi-Kai Tea

What would your message for the future of reefs be?

Coral reefs are such incredibly wonderful, diverse, awe inspiring ecosystems. I simply cannot think of anything else comparable.

To lose something as precious and valuable as this would certainly be a tragedy. They are resilient but they cannot do it without our help, and everyone has to do their part. Be mindful of the little things you do every day.

You may not think that you alone cannot make a difference, but if everyone thought like that, there would be no future for the reefs. It is a collective effort, and everyone should do their part. 

What’s your favourite creature on the reef, and why?

My favourite creature on the reef would most certainly have to be the clownfish. There is nothing more picturesque than a perfect little orange clownfish bobbing in her anemone home.

There is something so simplistic yet instantly iconic about this relationship, and I find the relationship so interesting and complex.

It really is the emblem of the reef I think.

  • Clown fish, A clown fish in the Horniman Aquarium, Connie Churcher
    A clown fish in the Horniman Aquarium, Connie Churcher

What’s the oddest thing you’ve seen at sea?

I once saw a decapitated Barbie doll floating out in the middle of nowhere whilst on a boat in Hawaii.

Odd, but a grim reminder not to litter!

What kit do you use?

I use a Nikon D7200 with a 150 mm Nikon macro lens. The camera body is equipped with a Nikon SB 900 fill flash.

I keep my photography set up very simple, but it gets the job done! I wouldn't consider myself a professional photographer by any means, but the photos I take do help a lot with my work and hobby.

  • Navigobius kaguya fish, Navigobius kaguya, Yi-Kai Tea
    Navigobius kaguya, Yi-Kai Tea

What’s the next big thing for your work?

I'm currently working on revising a group of wrasses with anti-tropical distributions.

It's an unusual distribution, from a biogeographic stand point. Interestingly, there are multiple groups of fish, all apparently unrelated and from different families and orders that share the same pattern.

I'm interested in seeing how this all fits in a broader context, perhaps temporally and spatially through biogeographic and evolutionary changes.

  • Pseudanthias bartlettorum fish, Pseudanthias bartlettorum, Yi-Kai Tea
    Pseudanthias bartlettorum, Yi-Kai Tea

Who is your ‘reef hero’ – someone doing great work or advocacy for the future of reefs?

David Attenborough.

I don't think I have anything to say about him that hasn't been echoed by the millions of hearts and minds that he has touched in his career. I just love him.

International Year of the Reef

We are celebrating International Year of the Reef at the Horniman, with a programme of activities throughout 2018.

As the Horniman is home to an acclaimed Aquarium and our Project Coral research, we want to celebrate the beauty and diversity of coral reefs. The programme includes a blog series, displays, talks and special events. We want to highlight the value of these reefs to marine life and to humans, the threats to these fragile ecosystems and the vital work done to preserve them.

What is International Year of the Reef?

2018 is the third International Year of the Reef. Did you know that coral reefs are one the most biological diverse habitats on earth? They take up less than 0.1% of the oceans floor they are home to 25% of all marine life.

But 60% of the world’s coral reefs may die within the next 20 years.

The International Year of the Reef seeks to change that by:

  • Raising awareness about the value of, and threats to, coral reefs and their ecosystems;
  • Sharing information on how to sustain coral reefs;
  • Managing conservation, increase resiliency and the sustainability of these ecosystems; and
  • Promoting partnerships on the management of coral reefs.

What can you expect?

Visit the live corals in the Aquarium

Most of our visitors will know we have an Aquarium at the Horniman. You can visit several different reef tanks to explore the corals themselves and the creatures who live in and among them.

See Karen Dodd’s Fabric of the Reef display

Inspired by the Horniman's Aquarium and Natural History collection, artist Karen Dodd uses woollen fabric – dyed and sculpted, and intricately bound and stitched – to draw attention to coral and coral reefs. Her work celebrates their beauty and raises awareness of coral vulnerability in the face of increasing environmental change.

Have a Reef Encounter

Meet some of the people who live or work with coral reefs around the world. Learn who they are, and find out why these Reef Encounters are so vital to the future survival of coral reefs, in this blog series running throughout 2018.

Come to our Late event

  • 17 May – Under the Sea Late
    Immerse yourself in all things under the sea as our Aquarium takes centre stage for this special evening event. Part of Museums at Night.

Read the research

Our Aquarium Team have also published their research about inducing coral spawing. Read the research online.

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