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Recovery of the Great Barrier Reef

Be part of the team undertaking active recovery efforts on and around Magnetic Island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Coral reefs face a multitude of threats, from climate change and storm damage, to sediment and nutrient run-off. Join us in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef to help scientists develop best-practice methods for coral recovery.

On this expedition, you will be part of the research dive team, making baseline measurements of environmental conditions and assessing fish and invertebrate diversity and abundance, as well as actively removing algae and deploying coral recruitment (settlement) tiles.

In contributing to this research, you’ll be at the forefront of active reef restoration science. You’ll be helping researchers on experiments that aim to develop best-practice methods for removing macro-algae and allowing coral to regrow. You’ll also be directly involved in filling in knowledge gaps that will help reef managers to make evidence-based decisions about active interventions that will support the Great Barrier Reef’s recovery, and the recovery of reefs around the world.

Important Information

This expedition is open only to occupational divers and experienced snorkellers. All divers must meet the requirements of the James Cook University Dive register. Please contact Earthwatch for more information regarding this process. Read our comprehensive briefing to find out more about the research, daily life in the field, accommodations, meals, and travel planning & packing tips.

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Scuba Diving in Magnetic Island: What to expect

Use your scuba skills for good! Accredited divers can actively participate in local reef conservation whilst exploring the iconic Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Magnetic Island, located just 20 minutes from Townsville in North Queensland, is a haven for nature enthusiasts, boasting 23 beautiful bays and beaches, extensive bushland trails, and the largest koala colony in Northern Australia.

Dive sites: Fringing reef (located near the shore of Arthur Bay and Florence Bay)

Entry type: Shore and boats

Minimum water depth: 3m / 9.8 ft

Maximum water depth: 10m / 33 ft

Average visibility: Variable based on winds and season. Ranges between 2–10m / 6.6–33 ft.

Marine life: The area is home to many reef fish species, hard and soft corals, rays, jellyfish, and marine turtles. Sightings vary by day and by dive site.

Number of dives: Approximately 2–3

Dive gear: Contribution cost includes using BCD, regulator and tanks for the duration of the expedition. Participants are required to bring their personal dive computers. Participants are advised to bring their portable equipment, including snorkel, mask, fins, dive boots and wetsuit. However, the contribution cost also includes the loaning of this equipment should you need it.


For more information or to book contact our office (03) 9016 7590 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dannielle Kennedy | February, 2023 

I attended the Great Barrier Reef Expedition at Magnetic Island in July 2022 and it was a wonderful experience. The Earthwatch scientist and field staff were knowledgable, well organised, professional and experienced but importantly they were also very friendly, welcoming and inclusive. They made the expedition a wonderful, safe, educational experience for myself and the other volunteers. I really enjoyed spending time in a beautiful location while being part of a worthwhile and important cause.


Amanda Carson | 2022 

I enjoyed the expedition immensely, the JCU team were amazing and passionate about what they were researching. They were informative and inclusive every step of the way. Made some great contacts and would be very interested to join the expedition again in the future. The JCU team really explained the research they were doing which was very interesting. We were also lucky enough to visit AIMS so we learned even more about corals and the types of research being done. I think they did an amazing job informing the volunteers and keeping us interested.


Neil Moodley | 2020 

The experience was great and really opened my eyes to the damage the inner reefs are facing on the GBR. They were great team to spend time with focused on the job at hand and good to share dinner and a few laughs with over dinner.


Stellios Falieros | 2022

Extremely well organised and informed every step of the way.


Trent Mulligan, Portfolio Manager QBE | Woolooware NSW

Sitting on a plane back to Sydney let me reflect on what an incredible week I was so privileged to be a part of. Getting to spend nearly 6 hours underwater and countless hours on the surface with some of the best minds in the business and assisting with their research is something I never dreamed I could be a part of. And knowing I was able to make a real contribution is just so rewarding. Through the guidance of Hillary Smith and Dr David Bourne, I gained an incredible understanding of the part they are playing in researching Macroalgae and the affects it may or may not be having on what I consider to be Australia’s, if the not the world’s, greatest asset - the ocean and the Great Barrier Reef. I took many learnings from this experience but above all it showed me that no matter what part you play, no matter how small it may be, it is better than doing nothing.


Laura Birley, Principal HR Consultant | Seaford VIC

Hillary and David were great; I really liked the fact they were more than happy to answer questions. Nothing was 'dumbed' down so to speak. The guys made a real effort in challenging weather conditions to provide lectures, talks and excursions that were fantastic. The knowledge and experience gained was invaluable and really increased my love for the subject. I saw baby coral larvae and I was completely hooked! Loved it!

Duration: 5 days