US students research Little Cayman’s reefs

| 30/06/2015


Cayman News Service

Undergraduate Hayley Bedwell conducting experiments on coral during CCMI 2014 summer programme

(CNS): Undergraduate students from around the US are spending the summer at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute on Little Cayman where they will gain firsthand experience researching the threats facing coral reefs and exploring ways to improve the chances for coral survival.

The programme is the result of a National Science Foundation Division of Ocean Sciences grant that provides for practical field research experience to future scientists. Running from 20 June to 14 August at the Little Cayman Research Centre, the CCMI programme pairs each of the eight selected students with a professional scientist mentor.

Complementary to their mentor’s research, students will design and complete projects on topics ranging from the effects of ocean acidification and climate change to transplanting nursery-raised corals and controlling lionfish invasions.

“This programme is an invaluable opportunity for college students to learn about reef ecosystems outside of the classroom and really understand the importance and challenges of field research,” said Dr. Karsten Shein, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist and one of the programme mentors.

“Our generation of scientists probably won’t solve all of threats facing the reefs, so it’s critical that we engage this next generation to share our passion for reef conservation.”

After their fieldwork, which includes scuba diving to collect data and analysing samples in the CCMI lab, students are encouraged to present their research formally to the scientific community.

Coral reefs are among the most diverse, fragile, and economically important ecosystems on the planet. They cover 0.1 percent of the ocean, but are home to over 25 percent of ocean species. Sustaining millions of people, they have an annual global economic benefit of nearly $30 billion. Worldwide, threats such as warming waters, pollution, and overfishing have damaged or destroyed many reefs, and current scientific projections suggest that without significant intervention, a majority of the world’s reefs will be lost by mid-century.

Founded in 1998, the CCMI is guided by its mission to conduct and facilitate research, education, outreach and conservation programmes that will sustain marine biodiversity for future generations. The centre hosts numerous research and educational programmes for groups ranging from elementary school to university faculty.

For more information, visit the CCMI website or email Kristi Foster.

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Category: Education, Environment

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