Local school students will be keeping a close eye on the inhabitants of the Kāpiti Marine Reserve and the wider local marine area through a new citizen science project called "Big BRUVer" that has recently been launched by the Guardians of Kāpiti Marine Reserve.
The project aims to engage local students in a marine monitoring project using baited remote underwater video (BRUV) to identify and count different types of fish and other marine life attracted to the bait and captured on a video mounted on the BRUV rig, using a well-established scientific monitoring protocol called max fish count.
Students participating in the project will learn about local marine biodiversity, develop their marine science and environmental monitoring skills and contribute valuable data to the body of scientific knowledge about the marine reserve and the role it plays in protecting key local marine species such as blue cod.
"I've been really impressed with how quickly the students learnt how to apply the max fish count methodology and am looking forward to seeing their data as they work their way through the video footage," Guardians chairman and Big BRUVer project manager Ben Knight said.
"The project also provides students with a window into the underwater world and the secret lives of fish, something they may not otherwise get an opportunity to experience.
"They also get to see first-hand the much greater abundance and size of common local fish species such as blue cod inside the reserve compared with outside, providing them with some important insights into the impacts of overfishing within the wider marine area."
Species recorded by the students so far include blue cod, snapper, tarakihi, wrasse, crayfish, conger eels, sting rays and carpet sharks.
Knight expects the students will see some seasonal variations in species and numbers and hopes they may even see unusual or rare species such as the mystery fish that was spotted in the reserve several years ago and captured the interest of marine scientists from around the world.
"There is a huge amount still to learn about our marine environment, with up to four new species discovered each week in New Zealand alone.
"There is also an increasing amount of pressure on the coastal marine environment in particular, with over-fishing, sedimentation and climate change all potentially taking a toll on the health of the local marine ecosystem.
"We hope the insights gained through this project can help to inform the future management of the marine reserve and wider Kāpiti marine environment and look forward to sharing what we learn with the wider public as the information becomes available."
To learn more and get involved join the Guardians on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/GOKMR/