Fleet Science Center to screen the “Great Barrier Reef” beginning Friday

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The world’s largest living wonder is coming to the giant screen when the new documentary Great Barrier Reef makes its West Coast premiere at the Fleet Science Center on Friday, July 6, 2018. Narrated by acclaimed Australian actor Eric Bana, the film celebrates one of the planet’s most beautiful and biodiverse ecosystems as well as the “citizen science” movement, where volunteers help researchers gain a more comprehensive understanding of the natural world.

With stunning images shot exclusively for the giant screen, Great Barrier Reef gives audiences an up-close view of the fascinating creatures that live on the reef. Audiences will enjoy playful encounters with Dwarf Minke whales, thousands of migrating green sea turtles and their hatchlings, a Maori Wrasse named Wally whose epic photo-bombing skills have made him a local legend, a male seahorse giving birth and fluorescent corals whose kaleidoscopic colors are especially vivid when viewed at night.

Great Barrier Reef follows young underwater photographer and reef native Jemma Craig on an expedition to document the work being done by volunteers, researchers and citizen scientists to better understand and protect the reef and its inhabitants. Viewers will visit the Great Barrier Reef’s first sustainable eco-resort on Lady Elliot Island—where Peter Gash has rehabilitated the remote cay from devastation caused by mining in the late 1800s—and the Fitzroy Island Turtle Rehabilitation Center, where dedicated volunteers nurse injured sea turtles back to health. Audiences will see the cutting-edge coral husbandry research being conducted at the Australian Institute for Marine Science—where scientists are studying the impact of long-term environmental changes and developing hardier corals that will survive—and meet citizen scientists who are helping scientists track the health of the reef.

“Great Barrier Reef is an epic adventure into an incredibly vibrant, living world where we tell the story of the reef from the perspective of people who have an intricately close relationship to it,” said film director Stephen Amezdroz. “We follow researchers and volunteers who work and study on the reef and who are leading the efforts to ensure the Great Barrier Reef has a healthy future. We hope the film inspires people to get out and explore nature and become engaged in conservation efforts no matter where they live.”

“Getting to know nature by being there is the first step towards wanting to take care of it,” says Jemma Craig. “We want to inspire kids to think ‘I can have a positive effect on the world.'”

“A primary theme of Great Barrier Reef is conservation and appreciation of our natural landscapes,” said Steve Snyder, President and CEO of the Fleet Science Center. “We hope that our visitors will all leave the film with a renewed appreciation of the wonders of nature and the importance of preserving them.”

“Nature has the power to bring us together—and seeing it in an immersive, giant screen experience makes it seem even bigger than life,” says film producer Matt Downey. “Everyone is connected to the reef in some way, and we want people to leave the theater feeling inspired to get involved in conservation and be part of the solution.”

Great Barrier Reef is a December Media film produced in association with Slattery Family Trust, Biopixel, Soundfirm, Film Victoria and Screen Queensland, and is distributed by MacGillivray Freeman Films. This is the fourth giant screen film from December Media, following its trio of giant screen films that explore the origin and evolution of planets: Hidden Universe, The Search of Life in Space and The Story of Earth. Great Barrier Reef is executive produced by Emmy®-award-winning producer Tony Wright and Stuart Menzies, produced by Matt Downey and directed by Stephen Amezdroz. The film features a musical score by Dale Cornelius.
Great Barrier Reef is family friendly and has a running time of 40 minutes.

ABOUT RICHARD FITZPATRICK
Where I work
One of our many projects at the moment is studying the reef sharks (grey and whitetip) at Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea off the north-eastern coast of Australia. Osprey Reef is an isolated sea mount rising vertically from 2,400 metres to less than one metre below sea level. It lies approximately 220 kilometres due east of Cape Melville on the Queensland coast and some 125 kilometres from the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. The diving out there – on the edge of reef walls that drop straight down 1,500 metres in crystal-clear water – is amazing, among the best in Australia!Sharks are abundant in the area, with grey reef, whitetip reef and silvertip sharks the staple species, while the prized hammerheads (both scalloped and great) are spotted regularly.

What I do
Shark ecotourism is a growing multi-million-dollar industry worldwide and many dive companies market trips specifically to feed sharks. Although the practice is controversial, information about how provisioning sharks, or tourism in general, affects their health and natural behaviour is still limited. Research therefore needs to be done so that the positive effects of shark ecotourism (for example, benefits to the local economy and creating public awareness that becomes an aid to conservation) can be weighed against its potential to adversely affect a target species by altering the animals’ natural behaviour.Our previous work at Osprey Reef shows that tourism does alter the daily activity patterns of whitetip reef sharks and has the potential to affect their metabolic rates, net energy gain and overall health. However, nothing has been reported on the effect tourism may have on sharks’ energy budgets. The findings of our 2011 paper ‘Variation in depth of whitetip reef sharks: do shark feeds change their behaviour?’ (Coral Reefs 30: 569–577) and the increasing popularity of shark provisioning suggest that this topic needs to be addressed in much greater detail. In view of the life history of sharks and the escalating rate and magnitude of human activity in the world’s oceans, research into human–shark interactions has never been more important.Our research involves attaching electronic tags to whitetip and grey reef sharks to determine their activity levels, routine metabolic rates and energy budgets and then comparing these on days when shark feeds are conducted and when they are not. From the results, tour operators and conservation management bodies will be able to draw up guidelines for best practice in shark ecotourism so that there is minimal effect on the animals’ behaviour and health.

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