CCMI makes waves with coral research

| 02/05/2016 | 0 Comments
CNS Local Life

(L-R) Interns Olivia Reda, Abby Treadwell, Lizzy Monaghan and Aimee Cook with CCMI’s research technician Hunter Hughes

(CNS): The Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) recently presented their findings on Cayman’s marine ecosystems at the 45th Benthic Ecology Meeting in Portland, Maine. From 16-19 March, the annual conference welcomed more than 400 top marine ecologists and benthic researchers from a variety of fields.

CCMI’s research technician, Hunter Hughes, was joined by interns who participated in the Research Experience for Undergraduates programme funded by the US National Science Foundation – Aimee Cook, Lizzy Monaghan, Olivia Reda and Abby Treadwell. The team gave poster and oral presentations on a variety of topics, from ancient corals to sea urchin densities.

Hughes wrapped up the conference on Saturday morning as he gathered CCMI’s findings on the impact of the 2015 El Niño warming event on Little Cayman’s corals.

El Niño is the warm phase of a naturally occurring weather phenomenon – the El Niño-Southern Oscillation cycle (ENSO) in the Pacific Ocean. ENSO has been occurring more frequently in the last 50 years.

“Sea surface temperatures increased through the summer and the Caribbean experienced the highest prolonged temperatures since 2009, causing corals to pale and bleach,” reported Hughes.

With National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists predicting mass bleaching since the summer of 2014, it was feared a similar situation would arise here in the Cayman Islands, reported co-author and CCMI assistant director of research, Dr Kristi Foster.

The paper presented by Hughes and others indicates that weather patterns going into the fall can be unpredictable across the Caribbean, but welcome relief arrived in October last year in the form of storms and high winds that churned the water, cooling it down and halting the bleaching progress. Corals surrounding Little Cayman were recovering.

In 2005, CCMI opened its field station, the Little Cayman Research Centre, which serves as a home base for scientists to conduct vital research, playing an integral part of the Integrated Coral Observing Network, which alerts coral scientists worldwide when corals are at risk of bleaching.

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Category: Marine Environment

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