Reef Storytellers – a spotlight on citizen science for the future of the Reef


The Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF).

What makes this special

The fight to save the beauty and diversity of the Great Barrier Reef is driven, in large part, by the collective action of local communities and organisations who consistently rally conservation and citizen science campaigns to protect and conserve the Reef. These voices are given very little space in our mainstream media, yet have the power to engage, galvanise and inspire others to support the cause. Training and support was required, in simple and effective storytelling techniques, to help bring these important stories to life.

The opportunity

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation works with a variety of stakeholders at the intersection of multiple sectors, all invested in a healthy future for the Reef. The Reef Trust Partnership’s Community Reef Protection Component granted funds to support the work of 15 citizen science and local action organisations. These projects collectively build knowledge and collect data about the condition of the Reef’s habitats through citizen science, stewardship actions and empowering community leadership. Ranging from university research units to grassroots initiatives, they are fostering enduring outcomes. 

Video storytelling is a key way for these projects to amplify their efforts by inspiring others, changing behaviours, demonstrating capacity to deliver impact, and raising vital awareness about the status and predicted future of the reef.  

The solution

Our team delivered an innovative digital storytelling capacity building program to provide these local action and citizen science initiatives with the skills and tools to tell their stories effectively to procure further support to their missions. 

We ran a six-week “Stories for Impact” Bootcamp, in which participants learned how to find, make, edit and share their stories for the Reef. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the course was facilitated entirely online. We also provided dedicated one-on-one story support and consultation for participants.

What emerged

  • 37 Reef Champions, from 13 organisations across Queensland, were supported to create their own Stories for Impact
  • 13 beautiful films and stories of hope were produced, for all to share and enjoy, like this one called Get Your Mangroove On! by EarthWatch
  • A Virtual Watch Party film premiere event on Facebook, organised by Digital Storytellers, that with nearly 3000 views, had over a hundred comments and shares, and reached over 10,000 people
  • Participants learned valuable storytelling skills like shooting interviews and editing archival footage which they can put into practice for anything from tenders to presentations and even Instagram stories  
  • Participants have taken their films back to their organisations and are already using them to leverage the support they need from their communities.

“The Digital Storytellers program organised by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation was a fantastically focused program that improved my film making abilities. I loved the self-paced online learning platform complemented by the interactive virtual face-to-face weekly meetings. These enabled cross organisation collaboration which was an excellent bonus outcome. Getting to meet other like minded people in my industry and collaborate to share ideas was an added benefit. “ – Nathan Cook, Reef Check Australia 

The three things we learned

  1. Bringing different organisations from the same field together, to go on a storytelling journey, opens up possibilities for sharing learnings, insights and sparking collaborations. 
  2. Having an organised, specific opportunity to share the stories that were created (such as through a Facebook Watch Party!) is a motivating and rewarding experience for storytellers who took part in the program and an effective way to drive audience engagement. 
  3. Through citizen science, everyone can contribute to the scientific data required to save the Reef! 

If anything were possible

We envision these stories directing more resources and action towards addressing threats to the future of the Great Barrier Reef, including climate change, coastal development and water quality. Future endowments to the conservation of the reef should be forthcoming and be allocated in an inclusive, transparent, participatory way. 

We want to do anything and everything in our power as storytellers to help promote healthy Reef thriving for many generations to come, supported by the skilled storytelling of its local communities and traditional custodians. 

“What did I love? Everything! Daniela’s presentation, the new skills in the effectively structured online course content, sharing tips and challenges with the group, meeting and connecting with new people.”  – Jen Sutfin, Earthwatch Institute




communications, conservation, digital storytelling, environmental storytelling, marketing, smartphone filmmaking, storytelling training, video training