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Learning about reef restoration to bring balance to coastal environments

Growing up, Madelaine Hooper always felt drawn to the ocean but when she discovered that she wasn’t going to be able to make a living as a professional surfer she changed her focus and studied economics and international business instead.

But her love of the ocean and a growing interest in the environment couldn’t be silenced, so she returned to university to study environmental science and then joined Cardno’s Victorian Coastal and Marine team.

“Economics and environmental science seem like completely disparate items, but actually there are a number of similarities between them,” she said.

“A sound understanding of economics is a great way to approach scientific work – especially when you work in a commercial environment.

“A lot of our work centres around helping clients find the balance between achieving their sustainable development objectives and also meeting environmental compliance obligations so solutions need to be both environmentally and economically feasible.

“We invest a lot of time designing sampling programs, establishing baseline conditions for environmental impact studies and developing solutions to minimise potential impacts of infrastructure or dredging activities,” Madelaine said.

Last week Madelaine added a new skill to her tool kit when she attended a course on Orpheus Island Research Station to learn about coral reef restoration.

“The Great Barrier Reef isn’t in good shape due to climate change driven impacts such as declining water quality, ocean acidification and rising temperatures and I was keen to learn more about reef resilience and restoration methods to add to the services we can offer to our clients,” Madelaine said.

Photo of Madelaine Hooper

Environmental Scientist, Madelaine Hooper

“Reef restoration is a growing field in environmental science that aims to build resilience of reefs and mitigate further damage to their delicate ecosystems.

“During the course we spent a lot of time studying the reef rehabilitation zone near the island to evaluate the health of the local coral using GBRMPA Reef Health Impact Surveys.

“We also learnt about the restoration methods being used in different environments.

“Researchers are having good success with the use of micro-fragmentation, mineral accretion and mid water coral tree frames, which are structures that hold coral cuttings in an ocean nursery until they grow big enough to be attached back to a reef to regenerate a damaged section.

“We also learned about how legislation in the marine park is enabling a more proactive approach to reef management and helping industry-based pilot reef restoration studies.

“There were lots of great discussions about what areas should be focused on, the importance of involvement from local communities, and which success metrics can be used to demonstrate real progress,” she said.

Madelaine will be sharing the learnings from her course with her colleagues over the next few months.

“It’s exciting to learning skills that are shaping the future of reef management and working towards positive environmental outcomes which bring more balance back to the health and resilience of our reef and coastal ecosystems,” she said.

Learn more about Cardno’s work with coasts and oceans.