Bali's Biorock Reef Restoration: Integrating Technology, Science, and Storytelling

Latest update June 17, 2019 Started on July 11, 2018

The oceans need our help. Working with National Geographic Student Expeditions, we teach the importance of integrating technology, storytelling, and science to preserve our marine environments. Next trip: Bali's Biorock Reef Restoration.

July 11, 2018
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I always like to know more about the people behind the posts, so I thought I'd share a little bit more about myself.

Though I was raised in the high desert of Burns, Oregon, I've always been an ocean girl at heart. I studied marine biology at Oregon State University (Go Beavs!) and have been working as an Undersea Specialist with Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic since 2015. I work with this company from pole to pole to help people better understand the marine ecosystems of the area we are traveling. I often scuba dive to take underwater videos and then show that footage to guests aboard the ship in the evening while discussing the ecology and species of the area. I've found that photography and videography are excellent tools for education. Aboard the National Geographic ships, we have other fun tools to help us explore and engage, like hydrophones, plankton nets, and ROVs. Most people only get to see what lives on land, so using these exploration tools to help people better see and understand the marine environment is crucial to understanding the big-picture of the ecosystem. We're a blue planet, after all. People often ask me my favorite place I've ever been diving. It's a hard question because places are so unique and excellent in their own way. Though I'd probably have to answer with Antarctica. Diving in Antarctic waters makes me feel like an explorer, and I love being able to show people the vibrant life that lives at depth; people are always surprised!

I also work with National Geographic Student Expeditions during the summer months and absolutely love the energy of working with youth; the students are so passionate and eager to fight for a better Planet. Working with students always restores my faith in humanity. I seriously cannot wait to meet a new group of students in Bali in 10 days!

Though my work diving and sharing the marine world is truly my passion, I also enjoy: COFFEE, fun patterns, window seats, piglets, long naps, nudibranchs, driving small boats through brash ice, flowy pants, reading by the fire, knitting/sewing, asking people personal questions, and grandmothers (especially my own).

If you want to see my professional profile, check out my LinkedIn:

I also use my Instagram (Save.Our.Plankon) as a portfolio of my underwater work and for science outreach. Check it out!

Stay Salty, Shaylyn

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My interest in the Trident ROV started during a recent training session with Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic at NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL). The NBL houses a LARGE indoor pool where astronauts may perform simulated tasks in preparation for upcoming missions in space.The pool is 62m long, 31m wide, 12.34m deep, and contains 23.5 million liters of water. It also contains a full-scale mock-up of International Space Station. How cool is that?!

We were lucky enough to get to do some scuba and ROV training at this incredible facility (and we got to see real astronauts training in the pool!). With excellent visibility and no current, it was a great location to test our Trident ROV. The first thing I noticed about the Trident was its ease of transport, which something I'm always looking for in exploration gear (I need to be able to get it out in the field!). It was also really zippy, easy to use, and recorded nice video footage. I never thought I'd be using an ROV to look at a replica of the International Space Station, though I'm definitely not mad about it!

After using the Trident at the NBL I started to think about the different applications it could have in research, education, and engagement. I'll delve more into some ideas in a future post. The opportunities for exploration that new technology is offering us is truly amazing! Check out photos of my co-leader Brett and me with the National Geographic Expeditions flag and while training at the NBL.

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In The Field

As I stated in my last post, I led the National Geographic Student Expeditions trip to Bali last summer. I had so much fun working with the bright and energized students that I decided to lead the trip again this summer!

We spent 5 days in Pemuteran working closely with a dive shop involved in the  Biorock® project. Each student was able to twist wire in the shape of his/her/their name and attach it to the sunken  Biorock® structures. So cool to think that one day all of our wire names will have coral growing on them! We learned about the community's history, how  Biorock® technology works, and helped scrub algae off of sunken structures to allow room for new coral growth. It was an excellent learning opportunity and I enjoyed watching the students get so excited about marine conservation; so much hope for our future!

Check the video attached to see our  Biorock® adventures last summer!

As I plan for this upcoming trip, I'm trying to brainstorm ways to make a great program even better. In all of my educational outreach programs, I aim to help others get a better grasp on ways to integrate new technology into their current work. What could we integrate into the  Biorock® program to make it better this year? My main thoughts:

1) Technology that helps us better explore the  Biorock® area (as it's underwater and only some of the students can scuba dive).

2) Better science communication/outreach about the project (how many of you have NEVER heard of  Biorock® technology and its reef restoration success?).

To reach these goals, we have decided to use a Trident ROV and this Open Explorer platform. The Trident ROV will allow students who don't want to scuba dive or snorkel to actively participate in the program. We can also use the ROV to go to greater depths than we can dive and compare the damaged reef area to the surrounding reef. By sharing our expedition on this platform, we hope to educate others about the  Biorock® project. It's always our goal to share fun ocean activities and create more ocean advocates (the World desperately needs them!).

Adding ROV technology and better outreach to this year's program isn't JUST about the immediate results, it's also about teaching lifelong lessons. I feel that it is SO important for the students to take these ideas (creative tool use and science communication) and be able to utilize them throughout life in different fields of study.

I can't wait to meet the students. I hope they are as excited about this trip and project as I am! We'll also be meeting up with National Geographic Explorer and blue whale researcher Dr. Asha de Vos during our time in Pemuteran. I'm sure Asha is excited, too.

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I led the National Geographic Student Expeditions trip to Bali last summer and thought our entire trip was excellent. However, being a marine biologist and giant ocean nerd, I especially loved our time working in Pemuteran on the the  Biorock® project.

Some background information about  Biorock® technology and the Pemuteran project:

Pemuteran is a small village on Bali’s north coast. In the late 90s in the midst of a tough economic situation, dynamite and cyanide were used by fishermen to increase catch size. Unfortunately, these fishing methods quickly and greatly damaged the coral reefs and other surrounding marine wildlife.

It was clear that major changes needed to happen to preserve the longevity of that coastal community. In 2000, the  Biorock® project began.

 Biorock® is a patented method based on Mineral Accretion Technology that supplies safe, low voltage electrical currents through seawater. This causes dissolved minerals to crystallize on structures and creates ideal conditions for coral growth. This method has proven to grow coral 2 to 10 times faster compared to standard restoration projects and also increases the coral survival and reisistance to environmental stressors (high temperature, pollution, etc.).

To learn more about Biorock® and the Pemuteran project, visit the websites below:

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Expedition Background

Through National Geographic Student Expeditions, myself and a colleague will be leading a group of high school students to Bali, Indonesia where we will help them complete various marine biology and photography on-assignment projects. An overarching theme of the expedition will be helping the students understand the importance of integrating technology, storytelling, and science for successful marine conservation. We will be spending time working on the Pemuteran Biorock Reef Restoration project and will have an opportunity to better engage the students using our Trident ROV.

The two main goals of our expedition:

1) To help the group of students understand the importance of using different exploration tools in the field. With both technology and the ease of social connections on the rise, integrating innovative technology and visual storytelling into science and science outreach is becoming more important.

2) To help the students use various exploration tools on the Biorock reef so they can best visualize the coral reef restoration process. We will be snorkeling, scuba diving, viewing past photographs, and using an ROV to get a complete picture of the current condition vs past condition of the reef. The ROV will allow the non scuba certified students to actively participate and help us see depths greater than we can dive. We will compare the restored reef to the surrounding healthy reef, and also to the surrounding damaged/non-restored reef.

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