By Brooke Anderson & Angela Fadil
On May 17 2019
Today, our group collected data on the juvenile coral presence in Boka Sami East and Carmabi via photo transects. We laid a quadrat to the left of a transect tape at 2-meter intervals. We took a picture of the quadrat at each sampling point and looked to see how many juvenile corals were present inside it. Any corals between 1 centimeter and 5 centimeters in length were treated as a juvenile. If they were inside the quadrat, we would take an up-close photo of the juvenile along with a ruler for a size reference. These pictures were later used to identify the species of the juvenile. We sampled along two 50-meter-long transects at Boka Sami East and one 30-meter-long transect at Carmabi.
The results of our photo transect will support SECORE research efforts. SECORE is an international non-profit organization focused on coral reef conservation. In order to understand the current state of coral ecosystems in Curaçao, they conduct an analysis of new coral recruits in the surrounding waters. The research initiative is being spearheaded by Dr. Valérie Chamberland, an accomplished marine biologist who has been working in Curaçao for the past seven years. After our final dive today, Dr. Chamberland presented an overview of SECORE efforts to our group and specifically discussed the use of our photo transect results in her research. We spent a great deal of time learning about how SECORE executes coral restoration efforts, which involves creating coral embryos in a lab, cultivating them in a nursery, and placing the coral in the wild once they have matured. By understanding coral recruitment, SECORE can fine tune their long-term coral restoration strategies. As Dr. Chamberland pointed out in today’s presentation, there are unfortunately some coral species that SECORE struggles to restore. Due to limited funding, SECORE’s efforts are best aimed at restoring coral with a high likelihood of successful restoration.
Although this was our second consecutive day executing the same underwater project, our team enjoyed the work. Dr. Chamberland’s presentation reassured us that our work in Curaçao has meaning beyond learning scientific diving techniques. Even as students freshly exposed to the world of scientific diving, we are capable of collecting data that shape ecosystem restoration efforts both in Curaçao and abroad. We took pride in our work and look forward to continuing our research throughout the trip.
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. During these courses, students learn scientific diving techniques over a 10-14 day period and carry out research and monitoring of coral reefs at various sites. Many of these courses are done in partnership with local environmental organizations, like the Union Island Environmental Alliance and the Soufriere Marine Management Association. In this blog, students will document their activities and how they relate to course material.