Camden Haven High School students have explored the ocean while conducting vital coral reef research at the Great Barrier Reef.
Year 12 marine studies students undertook the study at Lady Elliot Island, funded by a NSW Transport grant and Camden Head Pilot Station manager Hayley Proudfoot.
Dr Deb Geronimi, from Camden Haven High School, said students flew from Coolangatta to the island and spent four nights where they snorkelled from sunrise to sunset in the pristine waters surrounding the island.
"The students would have found the cost of the trip very difficult without the funding for the flights and bus transport to and from the island," she said.
"The students are extremely grateful for the amazing and life changing experiences that they have had.
"It was a mind blowing experience because the students snorkelled on incredibly beautiful reefs with hundreds of different fish species such as green turtles, hawksbill turtles, loggerhead turtles, black tip reef sharks, white tip reef sharks, wobbegong sharks, manta rays, sting rays and moray eels.
"Importantly because this island is a marine park/sanctuary zone and a 'no take' zone the size and abundance of fish is world class.
"The students were able to put into practice what they had learnt in the classroom about coral reef biology, ecology, conservation, management and scientific research into real world experience.
"This is the fourth time that this trip has been made possible. We are very lucky to have squeezed it in especially with the latest COVID outbreaks. The students and staff are extremely grateful."
Data about coral health collected during the trip is contributed to the University of Queensland coral watch study. The study monitors the health of corals around the world and helps determine if any coral bleaching events or disease outbreaks are occurring around Lady Elliot Island.
The most recent data suggests the corals are very healthy around Lady Elliot Island in comparison to a previous trip in 2017 when they showed signs of stress and bleaching because of a extremely hot summer.
Camden Head Pilot Station manager Hayley Proudfoot said the pilot station secured the funding for the island trips.
"We go for the funding for transport every two years so that the community have better access to get the kids to Lady Elliot," she said.
"There is also a study running for the platform at Washhouse Beach and through this there is now a comparative study between the two.
"I think it's a wonderful thing for the students because it gets them out of their comfort zone and out diving in a new location. They are away from their parents on a long trip so there is a lot of responsibility for them.
"In some ways this can help get them ready for life after schools and university. We want to continue the partnership with the school and we will continue to apply for funding from multiple sources."
During the trip students also enjoyed a glass bottom boat trip to see manta rays and turtles.
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