Divers invited for reef research

| 21/10/2008

(CNS): The Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) is inviting advanced open water divers with at least 50 logged dives to participate in their Dive With A Researcher (DWAR) programme on Little Cayman 10 through 17 January 2009. Participating divers will help scientists determine whether the loss of corals is resulting in detrimental effects on other components of the reef system. (Photos by Diana Schmitt)

The DWAR Biodiversity and Reef Resiliency project will also look at whether there are changes in how the reef functions, and if marine reserves are capable of protecting our coral reef biodiversity. This project will document the abundance of the major organisms that are competing with, and possibly out-competing, corals, such as tunicates, sponges, anemones, and fleshy algae using visual surveys and underwater photography techniques.

Participants will have the opportunity to assist with surveys of bottom dwelling organisms using transects to detect long term changes in community structure and the effects of no-take Marine Parks, and with surveys to document the diversity, abundance and habitat preferences of benthic species.

The Reseacher for the project is oceanographer, Dr Carrie Manfrino, who is also the president and founder of CCMI, and who headed a team of marine scientists that completed the first and largest regional expedition to understand the distribution and structure of the reef communities around all three Cayman Islands. This study continues to provide a reference for current and future research.

Any passionate certified diver who is looking for a better understanding of coral reefs and the research that is taking place to preserve this environment can apply. Successful applicants will stay at the Little Cayman Research Center (LCRC), which has dormitory style sleeping accommodations, a screened in dining area, an off-the grid sustainable development bathhouse, laboratories, library, boats and a multi-media classroom. During a morning 2-tank dive, participants will be asked to perform certain tasks to aid the researcher in data collection. The afternoon s are free for bird watching, snorkeling, iguana watching or just relaxing in the warming Caribbean sun.

Over the last 25 years, coral reefs in the Caribbean region have declined, and globally reefs arefacing an increasing number of severe threats; pollution, human population pressure, global warming and simple carelessness are putting our marine environments under great stress.

The DWAR program was developed to give passionate divers, a resource to learn more about what they love, while simultaneously helping support the research operative, a CCMI release explains. One of the research goals of this non-profit oranisation is to gain a better understanding of what is causing the decline in health of our reefs and what could contribute to a more resilient reef. One way to reach this goal is to get the word out to the public and get people involved.

Other DWAR weeks are planned for later in the year. For more information, go to www.reefresearch.org or email coppage@reefresearch.org



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