A REDLANDS student is set to play an important role in preserving Queensland's marine ecosystems, embarking on a two month expedition to the Great Barrier Reef this week.
Run by Wellington Point-based Science Under Sail Australia, the trip will see two Queensland students living and working alongside professional scientists to conduct surveys on the reef, including collecting data and diving to inspect the ocean floor.
They will sail from Bundaberg to Cairns, leaving on Friday.
SUSA director James Udy said the expedition was designed to fill a hole in the Great Barrier Reef monitoring program, where large areas of the reef had not been surveyed in many years.
"We don't know what habitats exist and hence how best to protect them," he said.
"We are currently developing a baseline of habitats from shallow subtidal to 20 metres deep, including seagrass, bare substrate, algae and coral.
"This will help the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority estimate risks and threats to these habitats and plan the best ways of protecting them."
Among those on board will be Redlands College Year 12 student Sophie White, who said she was honoured to play a role in protecting the reef.
"For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by marine life especially dolphins and how the ocean is a completely different world to on land," she said.
"This kind of work ... helps me give me a sense of satisfaction knowing I am doing my part for the ocean and giving me new insights into what I can do to allow future generations to enjoy the beauty I have seen.
"(It) will allow us to understand and see if the health of an ecosystem is improving and if new species of sea grass or more is growing than seen in previous years."
Redlands College marine science teacher Brad Lawrence said the school had worked with SUSA in the past to create field work programs on Moreton Bay for senior students.
"The hands-on field work has given the students an extra level of connection to their local area and it brings to life the coursework in a meaningful way beyond just having some coral in a tank in a classroom," he said.
"This opportunity will give not only Sophie ... but also those in the classroom at school, the chance to experience via video conferencing the current state of health of the reef up along the coast and to see how undertaking surveys can help us better understand the impact of climate change and catchment run-off on the Great Barrier Reef."
Mr Udy said trips were partly subsidised by end users in exchange for the data collected on the trip.
"It runs as a real win win where the students get to experience what its like to be a marine scientists and meet some of the school curriculum requirements and the environmental managers get high quality data," he said.
Follow the expedition online via scienceundersail.com.au.