Paralenz – Indispensable Gear For Scientific Research

It’s easy to forget sometimes that our oceans demand just as much attention as the land we live on. Aichi 2022 have set targets for global biodiversity protection at 17% for the land but only 10% of our oceans, despite the fact that our marine environment covers over 72% of the planet. This disparity, whereby we prioritize the protection of the terrestrial environment is particularly evident in Sri Lanka where an impressive 30% of the country’s land is formally protected compared to 0.07% of the marine environment. This makes Sri Lanka’s waters some of the least protected in Asia.

Sri Lanka’s fringing coral reefs only cover 2% of the country’s coastline but host an incredible range of biodiversity. On the east coast of Sri Lanka alone there are an estimated 300 reef fish species and over 100 coral species. However, human threats are rapidly degrading the reefs in this area. Destructive fishing methods such as dynamite are obliterating entire patches of reef and tourists are increasingly trampling corals or snapping coral branches to take home as souvenirs. Reef fish are also collected in their 100’000’s a year for the aquarium trade around the world. Yet in spite of all of this, research into the impacts of humans on Sri Lanka’s coral reefs is seriously lacking.

This is where the Paralenz comes in!

This July I will be venturing to Passikudah on the East coast to study the corals here. What makes this area so interesting, is that the corals here appear to be more resilient to bleaching than the west/south coasts. The study will focus on coral recruitment and the survivorship of newly settled corals by establishing 4 x 50m long transects at varying depths. During each research dive, I will be recording variables such as herbivorous fish abundance, coral species richness, live coral cover, temperature, salinity, water motion and sediment to name a few!

This could be an incredibly overwhelming and daunting task but Paralenz is going to make my job 100 times easier and more efficient! By using a Paralenz attached to a mask or wrist strap I can focus on using my diving slate to record some of the data that the Paralenz cannot. This is the other thing that makes the Paralenz the perfect companion for scientific diving. No longer will I have to record the depth or temperature at each transect, the camera will do all of this for me and store each of my dives. The quality of the footage captured by the Paralenz will also ensure that I can identify all corals to best taxonomic resolution! Producing such high-quality footage of the amazing reefs here will also be a crucial step in pushing for change and encouraging the government to increase its range of marine protection to important areas such as this one. I hope sharing the footage captured on the Paralenz will additionally help educate local citizens on how beautiful and important their corals are.

I have no doubt that Paralenz is going to make the perfect research assistant for my time in Sri Lanka and I cannot wait to dive in!

By Grace Taylorson-Smith-Pritchard
MSc in Marine Environmental Management.