Joanna Smart's December Photo Journal: An Our World Underwater Rolex Scholar Journey

For the first few weeks of December, I headed to Port Gregory in Northern Western Australia with the University of Western Australia’s Wernberg Lab which specializes in research on the Great Southern Reef (GSR). The GSR stretches around the southern coastline of Australia and provides an important habitat for all kinds of creatures, many of which are endemic to the region.


This area provided fascinating diving as it is a transition zone between temperate and tropical habitat, where kelps and corals can be found in the same location. Our work comprised of various tasks, including collecting corals for heat-wave experiments, sampling seaweeds to examine genetic information and collecting samples of sediments and turfing algae. I also found a new use for my Panasonic Lumix GX9, taking photos of benthic fauna through a microscope!

From Western Australia, I headed back to my home state of Tasmania to dive the deep sponge gardens of the eastern coastline. Often unknown as a dive site, these gardens are found in below 25 m depth and their life and colour rival that of even the best coral reef. These gardens proved to be a new photography challenge, with the limited light, strong currents and effects of narcosis in cold and deep water testing my abilities. I was incredibly happy with the lighting provided by my Inon S-2000 strobes in these tricky conditions. I also really appreciated the compact size of my mirrorless set up when dealing with strong currents and large swell on the surface.