October 30, 2020

Little Cayman: CCMI partners with the Earthwatch Institute for new citizen science programme


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Data L CThe Central Caribbean Marine institute has partnered with the to implement a new citizen science programme helping endangered coral species in Little Cayman.

The Earthwatch Institute is an international non-profit organization founded in 1971 and is one of the largest global underwriters of scientific field research. Their mission is “to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment”.

“CCMI is pleased to partner with such an illustrious organization,” said President and Director of Research, Dr. Carrie Manfrino. “This new partnership will help us to expand our research and create a greater understanding and appreciation for our marine environment with the public.”

“Accelerating global change is altering the face of the planet – and we need more people involved through hands-on action than ever before in our history,” said Earthwatch CEO Larry Mason. “We are thrilled to partner with CCMI on this exciting coral reef project.”

Little Cayman is home to the “Great Eight” EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) coral species: staghorn, elkhorn, star, pillar, boulder star, rough cactus, elliptical star, and mountainous star corals.

Earthwatch volunteers will assist with mapping the distribution of EDGE corals around Little Cayman to determine the conditions under which they thrive naturally. Volunteers will also use underwater photography to monitor the survival, health, and growth of staghorn corals within CCMI’s nursery and outplanted to the reefs.

“Between 1999-2004, bleaching and disease caused live coral cover in Little Cayman to drop from 26% to 14%,” said Assistant Director of Research, Dr. Kristi Foster. “Since then, the corals have shown remarkable resilience; as of 2013, average coral cover was back up to 20%, Little Cayman’s reefs could tell us what conditions lead to their recovery and how can we use that information to improve coral reef health.”

By studying resilient corals in Little Cayman, researchers will help to inform management plans to protect coral reefs elsewhere in the Caribbean, and the world.

The Central Caribbean Marine Institute was founded in 1998 and is committed to sustaining marine biodiversity through research, education, and conservation. For more information about CCMI’s programs, email our Field Station Manager, Peter Quilliam at [email protected] or call 948-1094. Visit our homepage at www.reefresearch.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@reefresearch).

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