WHAT WE NEED FROM YOU
Location: Region where they can find the deep reef, Cuba and all regions of North Caribbean
Berths: Minimum four (ideally six).
Duration/timing: 2-4 weeks
Necessary equipment: Small RIB for access to dive sites. Four (ideally six) sets of scuba equipment.
Coral reefs are experiencing severe degradation worldwide with serious implications for marine biodiversity and national economies. However, the extent of coral reefs is underestimated because of failure to account for mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs); twilight reefs, found in the slightly deeper areas beyond typical scuba depths of 30m (found 30-200m depth). The distribution and biology of MCEs are poorly studied worldwide because they fall in the gap between SCUBA diving and deep-submergence technologies. Critically, MCEs may act as refugia for shallow-water reef ecosystems because they may be partially protected from anthropogenic stress. We have a 200m depth-rated remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that can be used off any yacht platform with which we can undertake visual surveys of these unexplored twilight reefs to learn about what animals live there, the species richness, and if the same animals live on the shallower reefs.
BERTHS, DURATION AND EQUIPMENT REQUIREMENTS
A minimum of four berths is required with access to a RIB and scuba equipment. Should six berths be available, at least one student from the University of Essex will join the expedition and receive training in expedition logistics, organisation, and management, as well as having access to video data for their research project.
The impact of recent hurricanes on BVI coral and fish communities will be investigated and a baseline for future studies laid in order to accurately monitor future structural recovery. The team will also collect coral specimens to establish sources of coral reef regeneration and monitor any shifts in fish abundance, diversity, biomass and feeding patterns post-hurricane. Techniques used will include video and visual belt transects of fringing reef sea-bed communities, stereo-video transects and 3D habitat models. Genetic samples will be also taken to see which species are returning to impacted areas.
LEAD SCIENTIST: DR MICHELLE TAYLOR
Dr Taylor is an international expert in coral reef ecology, deep-sea population genomics, global ocean biodiversity, and conservation. She was recently the Principal Scientific Officer on a six-week NERC-funded sea-going expedition on the RRS James Cook. She has also participated in a superyacht-based science expedition to the British Indian Ocean Territories and understands the collaborative approach required to work on such vessels.
More information on Dr Taylor can be found here www.taylorlab.science
In her own words
“The devastation caused by two recent back-to-back hurricanes impacting the BVI represents a unique opportunity to ‘experimentally’ test early stage recovery on coral reefs by looking at the number and variety of juvenile corals. We shall be using technologically advanced stereo- and 3D-video imagery to take baseline surveys of the reefs. By matching this with traditional visual survey techniques we hope to extend and improve the 25-year dataset of monitoring available for this area – something very rarely achieved.”