The VIZ community has evolved over time. It started with the goal of sharing visibility reports, then looking at all that content falling into the oblivium of the Facebook feed we thought to start collecting the most interesting information (sea turtle sightings, seasonal behaviours), like filtering gold nuggets with a strainer, and returning them to the VIZ group after being formatted in graphs.
The second step was extending the reach to the general public and not limiting the social impact to the VIZ community. The Sydney Underwater Gazette Facebook page was created, ABC Radio Sydney weekly segments started in June 2020, this website for storing the content and participation to in-person events whenever possible.
The third step, that established the role of VIZ as a bridge among the marine stakeholders, was establishing relationships with the public sector, nonprofit organisations and businesses. In this role, VIZ is offered as a platform for those entities to connect with the marine enthusiasts. VIZ supports and enables all sort of interactions between its members and those entities when it comes to marine education, citizen science, social mobilisation for cleanups and environmental action.
In the diagram below, all the entities we have been dealing with. If we forgot anyone, please let us know and will be added.
Mission of the VIZ community
Enhancing the diving experience
Divers in our community help each other by posting timely information on the conditions of the dive and snorkel sites of Sydney and surroundings (from Nelson Bay to Shellharbour) on the Facebook group VIZ - Sydney Diving Visibility Reports . Information include visibility, fish sightings, media, but also anything else worth mentioning such as parking, access to the water, safety tips, etc. Each of us is incentivized to be a reporter and by doing so we give back the value we receive when reading others'. To maximize participation and impact, our audience is wider than the other thematic groups and includes scuba divers, snorkelers, freedivers, spearos and swimmers. This heterogeneity implies rules of mutual respect, such as the ban of posting pictures of fish catches, but we believe that the exposure to different categories of ocean enthusiasts carries an intrinsic value that is lacking in the traditional monothematic communities, and it may help a few of us to discover the ocean from a different angle.
Enhancing the Marine Life awareness of the general public
The byproduct of our reports, our social impact goal, is to raise awareness of what lies beneath the surface. Awareness is a key ingredient of advocacy and responsible behavior to hand over the same enjoyment to our offspring. We do this by summarizing and disseminating to the general public the most relevant sightings and media from the VIZ group, via the Sydney Underwater Gazette Facebook page and the Underwater Bulletin on ABC Radio every Saturday morning.
Whenever feasible we also attend sea life-themed events to extend our reach, as we did with Ocean Day 2019.
Advancing knowledge with novelty assets
We harvest the information contained in the visibility reports and produce dashboard showing the observed monthly presence of the 10 target species across a number of sites. For sea turtles we track individuals by identifying them via the patterns on their skin, allowing to know how many turtles are sighted across the coast of Sydney and how long they stay.
Having recognized a lack of quality underwater maps for the dive sites of Sydney, we commit to using the available technology and develop innovative methods to produce precise geo-referenced maps. With them, current and future generations of divers can explore more without the dangers of venturing in the unknown.
The short history of VIZ - by Marco Bordieri
The VIZ Facebook group starts with the intent of helping divers sharing and finding underwater visibility conditions, previously randomly scattered across various groups: spearos, scuba divers, freedivers, snorkelers. Initially I had to go diving myself for posting some visibility reports so people could see the value of it in action and little by little members started growing and posting. Other friends, Daniel, Adam and Steve joined me as moderators to help managing the growing community and have some fun together in doing that.
VIZ takes part into Ocean Day in Manly with our own stall, adorned with our own signage and 80 printed pictures provided by our community, plus a tv screen showing the beauties of our shores thanks to professional videographers part of our community. This is our first contact with the outer world and it made we wonder what was actually our mission beside just helping fellow divers with visibility reports, whether we should aim to a social impact on a wider scale. The wish list started to form: sharing experiences, educating, bringing to the surface what's happening underwater, fostering ocean advocates, especially the members of the general public who are not divers. We still did not know how to achieve all that, but the goal was set.
With the extra think time courtesy of the Covid-19 lockdown, an idea came up: harvesting the information that is published daily by the members, in terms of fish sightings, in order to put together graphs to summarise the presence and behavior of 10 target species. That's the "VIZ Tracking Project" a citizen science project that takes me a few hours of work every month to review hundreds of posts and taking note of sightings across those 10 species. Among them, Sea Turtles get a special treatment: I identify individuals by looking at the scales on the head, so now we know how many individual turtles have been spotted and their movements. This become our first innovative content to be shared within our group, but it was clear that others could have been interested too.
The Sydney Underwater Gazette Facebook page is started, to make all the content we are producing available to non-members. It's also the first port of call for the listeners of our Underwater Bulletin segment on ABC Radio on Saturday morning at 6:15, which Steve and I have been doing since then.
A third media outlet is added, this website, for storing and making content more accessible, especially since Facebook has been slowly modifying their social media by privileging conversations over content sharing (such as the default "New activity" feed sorting).
At 4400 members, our community becomes the largest diving community in Australia.
The first underwater map is released: Bare Island. The result of 25 dives and about 200 hours of work across 4 months. More to come.
In the diagram below, the 3 media outlet and the different vocations and content of each of them. Feel free to join the group, follow the page, bookmark this site for future reference. We have exciting plans for 2021, stay tuned!
The assets we produce, across our social media outlets
Marco Bordieri - Founder and admin of: VIZ Facebook group, The Sydney Underwater Gazette Facebook page, VIZ On Web.
PR, branding, marketing, special projects (VIZ Tracking Project, dive maps, DIY), ABC Radio speaker for the Underwater Bulletin, interviewer.
Adam Were - VIZ moderator, Photo Shootout manager, sydneygazette Instagram manager, merchandising.
Daniel Williams - VIZ moderator
Steve Coutts - VIZ moderator, Photo Shootout manager, ABC Radio speaker for the Underwater Bulletin