A Celebration of Citizen Science

People of all ages from around Australia (and beyond) joined ACEMS' Great Barrier Reef Citizen Science Challenge to help monitor the reef during National Science Week.

The challenge centred around the ACEMS/QUT collaborative citizen science platform, Virtual Reef Diver. Individuals and teams, including students from more than 20 schools and seven universities, signed up as "Virtual Reef Divers" to classify photographic images from the Great Barrier Reef. 


Taleah McGrigor awarded 1st place by ACEMS Deputy Director Kerrie Mengersen and QLD Chief Scientist Hugh Possingham

During National Science Week they contributed more than 55,000 classifications! This data will help our researchers to improve models and predictions to help monitor and protect the Great Barrier Reef.

“That information is a huge gold mine. That has changed the way that we are able to make predictions on the whole of the Great Barrier Reef,” says QUT Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen, an ACEMS Deputy Director.

ACEMS was pleased to recognise the contributions of citizen scientists, including individual and team winners of prizes, and those who developed their citizen science classification capabilities. On 10 September 2021, a celebratory event was held at ACEMS QUT with special guests, including Queensland Chief Scientist Professor Hugh Possingham.  

Professor Possingham delivered a talk highlighting the importance of citizen science contributions, and shared how software he co-developed has helped the Great Barrier Reef. 

“Our view is the more people we can support to get engaged in citizen science, the more they start asking critical questions about whether the management of the Great Barrier Reef is delivering key outcomes,” says Professor Possingham.

The individual and team prize winners included school students and teams in and beyond Queensland.  First place winner Teleah McGrigor, a year 9 student from Forest Lake State High School, won the ultimate holiday adventure to the Great Barrier Reef, and is there with her moth as we speak. She is spending time with master reef guides from Reef Teach and will co-create a special "Reef Today" film, to premiere at ACEMS Retreat, with a marine biologist underwater filmmaker Stuart Ireland. 

“I am very passionate about caring for the future of our environment and this challenge has helped me to see a possible career pathway in this field,” says Teleah.

Second place individual winner Samuel Soo, a student from NSW, said, "I found classifying images of the reef a very exciting and enriching experience and I look forward to continuing to participate in this project in future." Third place went to Taleah's school mate from Forest Lake State High, Adelyn Dinh.

In the teams challenge category, the top prize winners were all school teams.  

ACEMS decided to extend prizes to teams from other states too. The winning Queensland team, St Patricks College Townsville, shared this thank you video message.

Teacher Ms Holly Whiting, who led the winning team, also said "We are very excited to have placed 1st in this challenge and the activity was incredibly beneficial for my class. The girls will be attending Orpheus Island in Term 4 where one of the activities is identifying corals and marine life as part of practicing data collection and analysis."  


As part of National Science Week celebrations, ACEMS QUT also hosted a launch event, featuring talks by some of our partners, researchers, and other reef-loving guests, which you can watch on ACEMS YouTube.  

Plus, during the week, ACEMS-QUT also hosted a visit from Queensland's Minister for Environment & the Great Barrier Reef, Minister for Science and Youth Affairs, the Hon Meaghan Scanlon MP. (pictured third from right)​, to learn about the challenge and related citizen science and other reef research. QUT Vice Chancellor Professor Margaret Sheil (pictured centre-front) also took part in the visit.


Visit to ACEMS-QUT by the Hon Meaghan Scanlon MP


1st Place Winner Taleah McGrigor (left) & 3rd Place Winner Adelyn Dinh


More details about the Great Barrier Reef Citizen Science Challenge