UQ launches global course for keen coral reef advocates

22 Nov 2023

Coral reefA newly launched online course led by The University of Queensland will equip learners from around the world with the knowledge needed to become versatile advocates for coral reef conservation.

The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is designed in partnership between UQ’s School of the Environment, the Coral Reef Rescue Initiative (CRRI), and WWF Australia for the Coral Reef Rescue: Resilient Coral Reefs, Resilient Communities project funded jointly by the Coral Reef Rescue Initiative and the Global Environment Facility (GEF)*.

UQ’s Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and this team led the development of the course, which has opened enrolments for the first of four programs designed to support the conservation and management of coral reef ecosystems.

“Primarily, our focus will be on coral reefs and their importance, but also on the serious problems these beautiful environments face,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

“This means that efforts can be focused on addressing local threats, giving these more resilient coral reefs the best chance of survival in a rapidly changing climate.

“Coastal communities that steward these reefs are integral to their survival, which is directly tied to the resilience and sustainable development of these coastal communities.”

UQ’s Erin Lord-Lynch will coordinate the course alongside Loren Recchi-Bannah, and said MOOCs are a unique global classroom that enable learners to link to with peers from all over the world and share their passion for the conservation of coral reef ecosystems. 

“This course will provide learners with access to world-renowned experts in marine biology, conservation, and more,” Ms Lord-Lynch said.

“Through a unique combination of biology, ecology and social sciences, the course offers an accessible introduction to the science of coral reef ecosystems, their threats, and the challenges posed to nearby coastal communities.

“It also covers key principles for developing effective solutions to these issues.

“The MOOC represents a first step in supporting CRRI countries and their coastal communities to conserve their globally significant coral reef ecosystems.”

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said the recent ocean heating events highlight the global significance of climate refuge coral reefs.

“We may lose these beautiful ecosystems altogether if we don’t take swift action – so we must improve our understanding of their importance and fragility,” he said.

“This course provides a solid foundation in multidisciplinary concepts, enabling learners to actively participate in coral reef conservation, whether they’re directly involved in reef management, passionate about raising awareness and advocating for change, or live or work near a reef.

“With the broad understanding you’ll gain from this course, you’ll be ready to make a meaningful impact.”

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said access to graded coursework and a certificate upon completion is available at a highly discounted price, given the urgency to conserve our reefs.

“It’s estimated that around 70 per cent of the least exposed to climate change corals reefs can be found in just seven countries, so supporting those communities is crucial,” he said.

“By empowering community members with the right skills and knowledge, positive impacts can be made to protect these vital ecosystems.”

As part of the MOOC launch, UQ has also opened the Resilient Coastal Communities fund, with proceeds going towards vouchers for stakeholders from focal coral reef rescue countries to complete the course and gain a verified certificate of achievement.

“This training will empower people and coastal communities to steward and protect their reefs, fisheries, seagrass meadows and more, so we want as many people from these communities involved as possible,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

“Any and all donations will enable vital training of reef champions in these communities.”

Visit the program homepage for more information on the course and how to enrol.

*UQ, through UQ International Development, is the lead executing agency for the GEF Coral Reef Rescue Project, which aims to strengthen capacity and find solutions to ensure the long-term survival of coral reef ecosystems and the communities dependent on them.