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Citizen scientists support final seagrass flower harvest for season

Published:16 December 2020

CQUniversity Australia’s Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre has hosted its final seagrass flower harvesting trip in Gladstone Harbour for the season.

Passionate citizen scientists have joined researchers from CQUniversity Australia’s Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre (CMERC) to collect seagrass flowers in Gladstone Harbour, for the final harvest of the season.

Led by CMERC Director Associate Professor Emma Jackson, the group sailed from Gladstone to Pelican Banks on Curtis Island for the research-vital work on Saturday 12 December 2020.

The harvest supports research at CQUniversity’s $6.6 million CMERC facility, where A/Prof Jackson and her team have been is germinating seeds from the flowers, to replant and regenerate seagrass meadows.

Through citizen scientist initiatives, the researchers have been recruiting volunteers from the community to help harvest seagrass flowers to collect seeds – with careful precautions to avoid resident crocodiles, and manage heat and mud challenges.

“We do that in a way that doesn’t impact the seagrass meadows, and it’s a great way to get people involved,” A/Prof Jackson said.

Local volunteers on Saturday included Josephine Sidhu, Penny Buckwell, Jason Gavin and Morgan Parker, and research assistant Elizabeth Andrews said it was a productive session.

"The flower collection went well and was successful, despite it being a bit windy and coming to the end of the flowering season," she said.

Seagrass meadows are an important coastal habitat which provide food for dugong and turtles, habitat for juvenile fish and shellfish, and act as the kidneys of our Great Barrier Reef, filtering out nutrients and sediments.

Proudly supported by the Queensland Government’s Queensland Citizen Science Grants, CQU’s Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre (CMERC) received $29,573 for their project Sea Flowers: growing community engagement for seagrass restoration, across locations in Gladstone, Bundaberg and the Sunshine Coast.

A/Prof Jackson was thrilled that the project allowed more people to understand coastal ecosystems.

“Seagrasses are disappearing at an alarming rate, but the Sea Flowers project will contribute to the restoration of this vital flora.

“Through citizen science, we are able to involve local people, voluntary organisations and apprenticeship schemes to become involved in the non-destructive collection of seagrass flowers.”