Mr Fixit Shawn makes CReefs Australia expeditions happen

Shawn Smith.
Image: Gary Cranitch


By Angus Livingston
 Wednesday 27 May  2009
WHEN scientists turn up to Ningaloo reef, plug their laptops in, fill their dive tanks and start collecting samples, they have Shawn Smith to thank.
Shawn is the AIMS project manager for the CReefs trips and it's his job to do all the organising and setting up before everyone gets here.
First of all he organises the location.
"Heron Island and Lizard Island are pretty easy because they've got research stations. Here [at Ningaloo] it's a bit more difficult," he said.
Then he books dates and makes sure they don't clash with school holidays – or the shearing season, in the case of Ningaloo.
The next step? 
"Put the word out and see who's keen. Then I work out how the people are going to work together," Shawn said.
Some scientists have dive qualifications or employer regulations that restrict who they can dive with.
"The dive stuff is half the job," Shawn said.
Flights and accommodation are booked, and contracts are sent out to those employed for the trip, such as the cook and journalist.
This site has presented extra challenges due to its remote location, so Shawn had to schedule flights to limit the amount of long drives to the airport and back.
Equipment also needed to be organised, and some of the bookings had to be made up to 12 months in advance.
Boats, compressors, generators and people to drive the boats all had to be procured, as well as the necessary communications equipment.
Shawn arrived a week before everyone else got here to set up, and while the expedition is running he oversees the daily dive schedule and paying of invoices, among many other things.
Once everything is wrapped up, Shawn has to pack up and send off the cases of marine samples collected during the trip.
"A lot of  [the equipment here] will be stored in Exmouth until next year," he said.
Then it's back to Townsville to begin planning for the next expedition