News & Blog

Scientists Race to Decode Disease Devastating Florida Coral Reefs

Article published by Oceans Deeply May 16 ,2018

Oceans Deeply is designed to help you understand the complex web of environmental, social and economic issues facing the world’s oceans.

Story by Amelia Urry:

As a mysterious but persistent pathogen threatens the last remaining healthy coral ecosystem in the continental United States, researchers are struggling to understand how the disease spreads and to devise ways to stop it.

In 2014, coral reefs in Florida started to turn bright white. But this was not the heat-stress bleaching that has become a familiar and deadly phenomenon in recent years – this was a disease. Coral tissue sickened and died, leaving a bare white skeleton. Like a contagious flu strain, it spread quickly through the corals of southeast Florida and the upper Florida Keys. Then, unlike almost every other coral disease scientists know of, it refused to go away.

Four years later, the mysterious disease – one of a group of tissue-loss diseases that affect corals – continues to spread, though its precise cause is still unidentified. On some reefs it has reached, between 60 and 100 percent of corals are infected; many eventually die.

A group of scientists, government agencies and nonprofits, backed by an emergency $1 million grant from the state, is now trying to understand the disease as it moves toward the lower Florida Keys, where it threatens the healthiest remaining stretch of coral reef in the continental United States – and the estimated $6 billion that reef-related activities bring to the state.

For more of the story, read the full article here.

Photo on front of news item – photo credit Phil Dustan.

 

Bahamas hosts AGRRA Train the Trainers workshop May 6-11, 2018

Students conduct in-water monitoring during the “Train The Trainers” workshop, Eluethera, The Bahamas, May 6-11, 2018

 

AGRRA scientists Ken Marks and Judith Lang and  Ana Giro Petersen, the Guatemalan Coordinator for Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative, conducted an AGRRA “Train The Trainers” workshop in Eluethera, The Bahamas, May 6-11, 2018. Participants from The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Antigua and U.S took part in this week long field and classroom training to certify new AGRRA Lead Trainers ahead of the 2018 monitoring season.

Evening presentations during the “Train The Trainers” workshop

The “Train The Trainers” workshop will help to expand reef conservation among Caribbean countries.

Thank you to the Perry Institute for Marine Science, Healthy Reefs Initiative, Bahamas National Trust, Disney World Conservation Fund, Atlantis Blue Project Foundation, FUNDEMAR, Cape Eleuthera Institute, The Turks and Caicos Reef Fund and the governments of Antigua, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos for their cooperation and support for this AGRRA workshop.

For additional information, see Facebook post for Reef Rescue Network

 

A prodigal coral genus returns: Undaria is again Agaricia

A prodigal coral genus returns: Undaria is again Agaricia pending further taxonomic research

Budd et al. (1994) classified species of bifacial Agaricia (agaricities, tenuifolia, humilis) as species of Undaria, and this genus name was adopted by AGRRA in 2013. We have since learned that Undaria is an invalid genus name according to the rules of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (G. van Moorsel, pers. comm.). Pending the results of what we hope will be further molecular and morphological research, Agaricia is replacing Undaria in the AGRRA training and database.

 

Reference: Budd, A.F., T.A. Stemann, and K.G. Johnson. 1994. Stratigraphic distribution of genera and species of Neogene to Recent Caribbean reef corals. Journal of Paleontology 68:951-977.)

Effective May 3, 2018:The AGRRA training materials and database have been updated to reflect this change.

TAKE THE PLEDGE! 10 things you can do to help Coral Reefs

International Year of the Reef 2018

In acknowledgement of the International Year of the Reef 2018, the International Society for Reef Studies (ISRS) is urging its members and all others interested in or concerned about coral reefs, to take one or more of the practical steps in their day-to day living listed below, to help save coral reefs from the existential threat that they now face.

  • Ten Things YOU CAN DO to Help Save CORAL REEFS

 

Turn back your heating or air conditioning by at least 1 degree Celsius or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit and replace all your lights with LED bulbs OR invest in a renewal energy source or electric car

Keep flying to a minimum: aim for no more than THREE return air-tickets in a year and offset all your flights, for example with the WorldLandTrust

Reduce your meat and dairy consumption; we suggest eating meat no more than TWO times a week

Make sure ALL the fish and sea-food you consume comes from sustainable sources

Watch at least ONE film and read at least ONE book on Climate Change

Explain to at least TEN contacts THREE or so key facts behind climate change and its impacts

Join ONE campaign to help protect reefs or oppose climate change

Organize at least THREE educational talks and/or showings of the film Chasing Coral

Write to at least THREE local elected representatives about corals and climate change

Participate in or support at least ONE REEF CONSERVATION ACTIVITY. If you will be diving or snorkeling, learn how to recognize the different types of damage that can severely impact coral reefs, and send your observations to a relevant organization. Alternatively, take part in or otherwise support a citizen science or volunteer project.

Read more details on the Ten Steps.

Show your commitment by signing up for the ISRS IYOR pledge.

Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative releases 2018 Mesoamerican Reef Report Card

PRESS RELEASE – JANUARY 16th. 2018

A DECADE OF MAKING A DIFFERENCE CONSERVING OUR MESOAMERICAN REEF

The Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI) based in the Smithsonian Institution, released its 2018 Mesoamerican Reef Report Card last month.

Healthy Reefs Initiative 2018 Mesoamerican Reef Report Card

The report is based on a new study of 319 coral reef sites along 1000 km of the Caribbean coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, which were monitored for living coral cover, fleshy macroalgal cover, herbivorous fish biomass (parrot and surgeonfish) and commercially important fish biomass (snappers and groupers).

The 69 partner organizations in HRI are working together to successfully improve management and reef health. The 2018 Report Card records an improvement in reef health from ‘Poor’ in 2006 to ‘Fair’ this year, with increases in three of the four indicators over the decade.

In addition to documenting a number of major findings, the report describes County-specific findings and Calls to Action for Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.  Read the full version of the Press Release.

Access the Report Card here.

 

Seasons Greetings from AGRRA

Abundant herbivores and queen triggerfish in Turks & Caicos, May 2017 AGRRA workshop. (c) Ken Marks

 
Wishing you a Joyous Holiday Season and Happy New Year!

Thank you to all our partners and contributors who helped make 2017 a great year.

With your support and participation, we were able to train 60 partners from 8 countries and expand stewardship of our coral reefs in the Caribbean.  We look forward to sharing more news and details of our work in our upcoming newsletter.

To our friends and colleagues whose homes and lives have been affected by this year’s hurricanes, we wish you a speedy recovery and peace during this time.

May the wonders of the seas continue to inspire you in the coming year.

Happy Holidays! 

Philip Kramer, Patricia Kramer, Judith Lang, Kenneth Marks
Shirley Gun, Lynnette Roth

Support Hurricane Relief Efforts in the Caribbean

Coral Reef , Cuba. Copyright Don Wilman

These past few weeks have been very difficult for our friends, co-workers, families and neighbors affected by the devastating and destructive effects of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria as well as the series of earthquakes in Mexico.

Our thoughts, prayers and well wishes are with all those affected including colleagues and partners across the Caribbean region.

The ORE Board and team joins with our partners in the region to express sympathy, and hope for speedy recoveries and building stronger for greater resilience in future storms.

Many of the countries affected, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, The Bahamas, Dominica, and the Turks and Caicos Islands, include our partners who live and work on these islands, often with limited resources. They perform amazing work through non-profit organizations and small government departments and they will undoubtedly require assistance to stabilize conditions as even they themselves have lost their homes and offices.

Specifically, ORE supports the following efforts:

Cuba – Two of Cuba’s most important marine research stations, the Center for Coastal Ecosystems Research (CIEC) in Cayo Coco and the Center for Marine Research (CIM) of the University of Havana suffered structural damage, power outages and equipment losses. Click here to support rebuilding of these facilities.

Dominica  – Aid to fisherfolk in Dominica – many of them lost their homes and gear. if you would like to assist in their recovery, please visit this gofundme page developed by The University of Florida to help friends and colleagues in Dominica.

Puerto Rico – Rural communities in the south, west and central regions of Puerto Rico have been affected the most and are predicted to be without power for 4-6 months. Ridge to Reefs and the Institute for Socio-Ecological Research are providing these communities with water purification and solar power systems. 

 

To assist other communities in their recovery please also consider donating to any of the hurricane relief efforts listed below.

Thanks to ORE Partners – GCFI (Gulf & Caribbean Fisheries Institute) for compiling this list.

August 2017 – AGRRA conducts workshop in Veracruz, Mexico

Background

Platform and fringing reefs with well-developed frameworks grow to maximum depths of about 21 m off the city of Veracruz in a naturally turbid environment on the narrow continental shelf in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico. The reefs have been impacted in recent decades by increases in terrigenous sediments and by pollutants, coral diseases, overfishing and other stressors. The possibility of further endangerment by ongoing expansion of the Port of Veracruz resulted in a request for training in the AGRRA survey protocols.

Participants at the AGRRA monitoring protocol workshop, Veracruz, Mexico. August 2017

During the period Aug 21-26, 2017, AGRRA’s Judy Lang, Lorenzo Alvarez-Filip of UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) and Marisol Rueda Flores of HRI (Healthy Reefs Initiative) presented a training workshop in Veracruz, Mexico on coral, fish and benthic ID and monitoring techniques, using the AGRRA protocols.

Eighteen participants attended the workshop from NGOs, dive centers, and research centers in Veracruz and Mexico City.

Throughout the classroom portion of the workshop, participants and instructors were able to share experiences of how to use the data generated with the AGRRA methodology to make recommendations on the management of the Veracruz Reef System. Observations showed that, despite the many threats that these reefs face, such as inadequate wastewater treatment, some colonies of large and healthy-looking corals can still be found.

Benthic student trainee. Photo courtesy of Lorenzo Alverez-Filip.

On the final day and a half of the workshop, students conducted in-water monitoring of three sites adjacent to the new Port of Veracruz. In addition to this, some were able to experience coral spawning.

Special thanks to Dr. Horacio Pérez Espana of the Instituto de Ciencias Marinas y Pesquerías of the Universidad Veracruzana and Dr. Jorge Brenner of The Nature Conservancy for organizing this training and to Manuel Victoria of Dorado Diving for assisting with the in-water and classroom training.

 

Fish students celebrate a successful completion of the workshop.

AGRRA appreciates the opportunity to work with partners to continue training workshops focused on marine conservation and reefs.

Robert Nathan Ginsburg (1925-2017) – Scientist, mentor, visionary

To our AGRRA community of friends and partners:

All of us with the AGRRA team are saddened to announce the loss of our colleague and dear friend, Dr. Robert N. Ginsburg who passed away July 9, 2017. As many of you know, Bob has been the guiding visionary force, mentor and “father” of AGRRA’s efforts for 20 years and has supported the AGRRA program through his foundation, The Ocean Research and Education Foundation (ORE).

What started off with Bob’s seemingly simple question in 1993 of “What is the status of our coral reefs?” turned into a collective global quest to better understand and protect these underwater ecosystems. Motivated by numerous colleagues and students, many of whom are now life-long friends, Bob became a spokesperson for the importance of coral reef science and rallied behind the urgent call to action to increase the protection of coral reefs.

Bob had a unique way of weaving together science, exploration, history, field trips, education, conservation, art, humor, storytelling, good food and music. Bob’s eloquent and thought-provoking speaking style and endless source of interesting stories not only piqued our scientific curiosities but engaged us in caring more about the future of coral reefs. He delighted in using analogies to explain the complexities of reefs in more simpler terms such as how corals are like apartment buildings or how Diadema urchins are the lawnmowers of the reef. Yet, he encouraged us as colleagues and students to think on larger spatial scales and broader geologic time frames and to consider how to make our scientific endeavors more relevant.

With AGRRA, Bob’s initial goals were to provide a standardized assessment of key structural and functional indicators to reveal spatial and temporal patterns of regional reef condition. Priority was placed on conducting baseline assessments of remote reefs such as Cuba, The Bahamas, Panama and Los Roques and on creating educational materials and leading training workshops for in-country partners around the Caribbean.

Now 20 years later, we have collaborated with many of you to collectively conduct over 2,300 reefs and collect 10,000’s of data metrics; have built one of the largest open-access public databases of coral reef condition, and contributed to numerous peer-reviewed publications, management plans and educational materials.

In addition to Bob’s many academic and geological contributions over his lifetime, we honor and celebrate the chapter of his life dedicated to coral reefs. Bob has inspired new generations of ocean scientists, enthusiasts, educators and conservationists. We are grateful for his wisdom, humor, and friendship.

We invite all of you who can to send us a photo or “Ginsburg or AGRRA-inspired” story to the email below to add to the collection we are collating for his memorial this weekend and for a future celebration of his life later in the fall. We thank all of you who have participated in AGRRA over the years and look forward to collaborating in the future to further Bob’s vision of better understanding and safeguarding our coral reefs.

Read more about his life here:  Miami Herald Tribute

Sincerely,

Philip and Patricia Kramer, Judith Lang, Kenneth and Tammy Marks, Shirley Gun, Lynette Roth and all of us with the AGRRA team.

If you would like to contribute a story or photo or would like more information on our plans later this fall for a celebration of Bob’s life, please contact info@agrra.org.

Caribbean Coral Restoration Webinar: Coral Genetics Research & Restoration, 3 May 2017

NOAA’s Restoration Center and The Nature Conservancy are hosting a series of webinars and discussions with the Coral Restoration Consortium focused on Caribbean coral restoration. Join us for the second webinar on Wednesday, May 3 from 1-4 PM EDT.

Dr. Iliana Baums from Penn State University will give an overview of current genetics research, highlighting the various methods of genetic analysis and providing guidance on when it is appropriate to use each method. An hour-long presentation by Dr. Baums will be followed by Q&A and discussion about where genetics research is headed and how it can help support our restoration work. Both a recording of the webinar and a PDF of the presentation will be available to view after the webinar. Register here.

Reminder Date & Time- May 3, 2017
7 AM – 10 AM HST
10 AM – 1 PM PDT
1 PM – 4 PM EDT