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Five minutes with: Marine biologist, Darcy Justin 

“From my experience, Australians are more aware and thoughtful towards their reefs than Americans,” says our intern and James Cook University Marine Biology Masters student, Darcy Justin.

“In the US, I’d say there are many people that are not aware of the Florida Reef Tract, let alone the impact recent bleaching events have had on it.

“The need to educate broadly about the importance of corals — or even what they are — is still absolutely critical. Once people learn, they do care. I believe this.”

Originally from landlocked Indianapolis, a holiday among the corals of the Cayman Islands hooked Darcy to become a dive-hard scientist and advocate for coral health.

“Like any marine biology student, I dreamt of coming to the Great Barrier Reef,” she says of her two years of study in Australia.

“Reefs around the world face similar issues — climate change, acidification, runoff— but I came to Townsville and realised I’d never seen anything like the coral and marine life you have here.”

Alongside our technical team Darcy is developing a Coral StoryMap — an online narrative tool to guide readers through the wonders and realities of our local coral species.

The work means diving into GIS mapping and sharpening her science communication skills. Through her internship she’s also been out with our partners, Port of Townsville, participating in groundwater and marine water quality monitoring.

“It’s mind-blowing to discover how quietly complex corals are, and how all the environmental pressures they face are so interconnected,” she says. “My challenge through this project is to turn such a complicated story into something simple and engaging — I’ve definitely had to get creative!”

“Darcy joined the Dry Tropics Partnership for Healthy Waters through her Masters program at James Cook University and brings her experience at Florida’s Coral Restoration Foundation and Indiana University Bloomington to our team,” says our Executive Officer, Kara-Mae Coulter-Atkins. “We’re grateful to have her international perspective and expertise to see our local StoryMap brought to life.”

Returning at the end of this year to the States, it’s the easy access to nature that Darcy says she’ll most miss about living in the Dry Tropics.

“The Reef, the waterfalls, the bush that’s at the doorstep — Townsville has been a good home.”

Connect with Darcy here and look for the release of our Coral StoryMap in 2024.