Current Projects

11 February 2021

Sargsink

This project will investigate the potential of free-floating macroalgae Sargassum to be used for long-term carbon storage and therefore mitigate the impacts of climate change. Focusing on the Caribbean, the project will involve Sargassum and water sample collection, on-deck and on-site experiments, that will provide a better understanding of Sargassum growth rates, stoichiometry, sinking behaviour and carbon sequestration potential. The results would give the local communities a starting point to learn about the potential climate-mitigation benefits of sinking Sargassum by bursting its bladders before reaching and destroying their coasts.
11 February 2021

Untethered free-vehicles

Exploration of the Earth’s major trenches is one of the last frontiers of oceanography and poses great technological challenges. At ~8350 m, the Puerto Rico Trench is the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean and uniquely isolated from the other deep trenches of the world. Although arguably the closest trench to the US mainland, its water column, especially below 6000 m, is largely unstudied. This project will attempt to explore and characterize the physical properties (e.g. temperature, salinity, and density) of the entire Puerto Rico Trench water column via untethered free vehicles. This work will provide a baseline for future stewardship and investigative efforts of this region.
11 February 2021

Sargassum Blooms

Since 2011 influxes of blooms and beach landings of the pelagic seaweed Sargassum in the tropical Atlantic have increased in frequency and magnitude. Large Sargassum influxes are generating high levels of concern among policy makers due to their impacts on economies, health, and society. This project aims to use GPS trackers to track Sargassum seaweed blooms in order to map its transport pathways. The collected data will be used to validate remote sensing (satellite) data, and help develop early warning systems and predicting Sargassum bloom pathways and landings.
11 February 2021

Cetacean Occurrence

The Florida Straits is an ecologically and commercially important region in the United States, dominated by the Gulf Stream and where shipping transits between the Gulf of Mexico to the east coast of North America. However, to this date no dedicated research on cetaceans has ever been carried out. Through visual transect surveys the project aims to document the spatial distribution, species diversity, and relative abundance of this charismatic and poorly known group. Identifying important cetacean habitats in this region that is strongly impacted by vessel traffic, acoustic disturbance, and other anthropogenic impacts will be critical for future conservation and management of cetaceans.
10 February 2021

Marine Phytoplankton

Ships’ smokestacks emit aerosols that represent a major source of pollution to the open ocean. These aerosols settle over the ocean along shipping lanes and affect marine life, including phytoplankton. Phytoplankton do half of all photosynthesis on Earth and sequester carbon dioxide, thus affecting global climate. This project will explore how phytoplankton respond to ship emissions via controlled experiments aboard sailboats to simulate their response to the addition of previously collected ship-emitted aerosols. The research will identify oceanic areas most impacted by this form of pollution and forecast locations most at risk in the next 100 years, as the shipping industry and the ocean continue to change.
8 February 2021

Giant Manta Rays

This project aims to explore remote and hard to access areas of the vast Maldives archipelago to discover and document new populations of manta rays, the reef manta ray (Mobula alfredi), and its larger cousin, the oceanic manta ray (Mobula birostris). To ensure effective protection regionally of these vulnerable species, it is essential to have accurate estimates of their population size, structure, and habitat use. The collected data will complement previous observations by the Manta Trust and help identify the extent, if any, of connectivity between the populations seen in this region and those being fished by nearby nations, like Sri Lanka.
8 February 2021

Deep Scattering Layers

Acoustic deep scattering layers (DSLs) are ubiquitous in the world ocean, and comprise aggregations of fish, crustaceans, cephalopods and gelatinous organisms. DSLs are important prey-fields for deep-diving predators (e.g. king penguins, elephant seals, mantas) and commercially valuable fish (e.g. tuna). Understanding global-scale variability in DSLs structure will be an important step towards ecosystem-based management of deep waters beyond national jurisdiction. This project aims to use echosounder data from vessels in order to map DSLs in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. The collected data will be added to the team’s growing global database and help refine global biogeography of the global ocean.
8 February 2021

Submerged Ocean Waves

Submerged ocean waves (known as internal tides) measuring up to 700 metres exist beneath the surface of the ocean. These massive bodies of water, driven by ocean currents, are most obvious when they meet barriers such as seamounts, mid-ocean ridges or continental shelves. When they break, they create turbulence that drives an upward flux of nutrients from the deep ocean (which is light-limited but nutrient-rich) to the photic zone above (which is nutrient-poor).
8 February 2021

Coral Reef Ecology

Like many small island nations the BVI need healthy coral reefs for their protection and economic stability. Hurricanes Irma (largest in 10 years) and Maria caused considerable terrestrial and marine damage in late 2017. Hurricanes and the multi-stressor impacts (overfishing, climate, and land-based development) over the past 50 years have compromised mechanisms of coral reef ecological recovery. This project will examine patterns of coral recruitment, benthic and demersal fish populations post-hurricane, in order to assess coral recovery and any shifts in reef community composition. The data generated will set the basis of future application for larger scale finance to study cross-Caribbean genetic connectivity and recruitment dynamics, especially post-hurricane.