By Kyrsteen Webster
From May 10, 2018
Today, USF students studying Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation in Soufriere, St. Lucia, met with Joe Bishop from the Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) division of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to talk about the NEXENS CB9-C Buoy they are preparing to station in St. Lucia. The purpose of this project is to conserve and manage coastal ecosystems and monitor and prepare for climate change. By working cooperatively with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), they plan on placing a total of five buoys in the Caribbean islands in 2018. St Lucia is their third site in the Caribbean this year. The NEXENS CB9-C is part of a Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) and will be measuring wind, barometric pressure, precipitation, temperature, and salinity, as well as the amount of light that is both above and below the surface with photosynthetically available radiation (P.A.R) sensors. They measure PAR to determine the effect to the coral reefs below that operate within a narrow range of environmental conditions and use light as an essential resource for their survival. The sensors are powered by solar panels on the buoy and send data straight to NOAA where they can monitor and analyze it to determine whether the climate is changing the conditions needed for the coral to stay healthy and thriving. Coral reefs provide natural habitats essential for many fish and invertebrate species as well as many economic benefits to the people who live in the Caribbean. The NEXEN CB9-C is being placed in 60 feet of water roughly a mile off the shore line of Soufriere, that has a fringing reef and a quick drop off close to shore.
After NOAA monitors both the placement and data received from the buoy for one week they will leave St. Lucia and continue their work collaborating with the local meteorological agencies and fisheries departments on site to make sure the buoy and its sensors are kept clean and working properly. Monitoring this kind of equipment will require routine checks every 2-4 weeks for a year to complete the 2018 data collection.
The authors of this blog are students enrolled in Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation, field courses run in the Caribbean by the University of South Florida. In 2019, the course went to the Carmabi research station in Curaçao and dived around the island over a 10-day period, for training and to carry out research projects. In 2018, the group went to Soufriere, Saint Lucia, and took part in various projects in partnership with the Soufriere Marine Management Association. In this blog, students will document their activities and how they relate to course material.