Welcome to our Discover Blog series, written by our one and only Marine Scientist, Adventures Skipper and Pilgrim Deckie, Bridie Lewis. Make sure you don't miss out on each edition, published regularly, on our social media platforms, providing a one of a kind insight to our marine worlds!
Let's dive in to our Island's underwater world's
As a marine scientist studying the captivating world beneath the waves, Magnetic Island's fringing reefs have become a place of exploration and awe. Join me as I dive into the shallows and uncover what I have had the opportunity to discover and learn from Magnetic Island’s fringing reefs.
Magnetic Island, with its sun-kissed beaches and azur waters, beckons visitors to discover the hidden wonderland beneath its surface - the fringing reefs. These coral formations stretch along the island's shoreline, creating a marine paradise for water enthusiasts from around the globe.
From a scientist’s perspective, the fringing reefs surrounding Magnetic Island are more than just picturesque seascapes. They are highly biodiverse ecosystems, teeming with marine life that all contribute to intricate ecosystem webs and functional roles that help create such productive ocean ‘hotspots'. Schools of colourful butterfly fish gracefully navigate through the coral maze, while giant clams and sea turtles find refuge within branching corals and large ‘brain like’ coral domes. A map of these snorkel trails can be purchased for five dollars from Fish'n'Fuel in Nelly Bay or Pleasure Divers or the newsagency in Arcadia.
Two exceptional snorkel trails, Nelly Bay and Geoffrey Bay, offer immersive encounters with Magnetic Island's fringing reefs. These trails provide a front-row seat to site-seeing our key “reefal” residents. As you glide through the surrounding tropical waters, you'll be greeted by an array of distinctive fish such as the energetic coral trout, territorial wrasses or colourful parrotfish. You’ll discover small rarities such as nudibranchs, and giant 200kg clams that live for 100 years; both of these creatures are unbelievably unique and colourful - a feature to ward off predators and a reminder to keep a distance when snorkelling such treasures.
For those that would like to venture off the beaten-track, the fringing reefs of Arthur and Florence Bay offer an extraordinary underwater voyage. Descending into the bay, you'll witness an entirely different world unfold before your eyes - from the sandy shallows, to the reef ridge and reef flat. The friendly cod and dart fish, ever-curious, may even become your snorkelling companions, following you with boundless curiosity. Currently, the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) is monitoring water quality parameters such as water temperature, salinity, phosphates and nitrates/nitrites for better understanding of fringing reef dynamics in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). You may notice small, square tiles with cylindrical data loggers attached when snorkelling over the reef crest and reef flat which are doing just this! Arthur Bay and Florence Bay offer the perfect setting for ongoing research and monitoring as they are heavily protected green zones. On-going data collection and analysis is collaborative with research labs globally, allowing scientists to do their best to preserve and protect our natural wonders.
In partnership with AIMS and James Cook University (JCU), I have had some incredible opportunities to work with some of the marine life that call Magnetic Island home. My research on green sea turtles to hybrid coral growth, and epaulette sharks has allowed me to understand the crucial importance of these reef habitats and their residence’s, on the wider ocean dynamics. These reefs serve as vital habitats, nurturing a multitude of marine species and playing a crucial role in maintaining the health of the surrounding ocean ecosystem. Regrettably, like their counterparts worldwide, they face threats from climate change, pollution, and overfishing. As stewards of these delicate ecosystems, it is both our responsibility and privilege to safeguard them for future generations to cherish.
So, when you set foot on Magnetic Island, why not take the plunge and immerse yourself in the wonder of our fringing reefs. Explore the vibrant, amorphous coral gardens, whilst watching out for angelic marine life, and witnessing the interdependence that sustains these fringing reefs.
Stay tuned for more from your local marine scientist here at Pilgrim Magnetic Island, as there is more to discover and learn about our underwater world, most months with my Discover Blogs!
Until next month,
Shark Physiologist & Marine Scientist