Current Projects

10 November 2021

Coral reefs of the Twilight Zone

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 mesophytic 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.
9 November 2021

Save Eagle Island

Save Eagle Island is the Chagos Conservation Trust’s ambitious project that aims to ecologically restore the BIOT, Chagos Archipelago’s second largest island and see the return of thriving seabird populations, which recent science demonstrates can significantly contribute to the resilience building of the island’s surrounding coral reefs.  Invasive rats and abandoned coconut plantations have decimated native plants and seabird populations that should call this island home, the Save Eagle Island project will produce ecological conditions that could rectify this historic environmental catastrophe. 
8 September 2021
White shark in ocean

Mediterranean White Shark Search

An unprecedented expedition to detect, film, and tag white sharks in the Mediterranean Sea. This is one of the most endangered and least understood white shark populations in the world, and the expedition will collect important data to study these sharks and avoid their extinction in the region.
18 May 2021

Species Interactions & Reef Recovery

Two mass coral bleaching events occurred back-to-back in 2016 and 2017 for the first time in recorded history, affecting 93% of the world’s largest reef system - the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). However, observed impacts were not uniform, with some habitats and regions performing better than others. Using the GBR as a natural laboratory, this project aims to better understand the structure, function and recovery of coral reefs in the aftermath of mass coral bleaching. For the 500 million people who rely on coral reefs for food, tourism, and coastal protection, their more complete understanding will help them effectively manage them now and into the future.
18 May 2021
Ocean coastline

Sharks, Rays & Seabirds

Globally, sharks and seabirds are under considerable threats. Evidence suggests that seabird colonies on remote, uninhabited islands fertilize adjacent coral reefs, thereby enhancing fish growth and population size. It remains however unknown if this enhancement is relevant for more mobile animals like sharks and rays, which typically feed higher in the food chain. The survey will focus on the Chagos Archipelago and generate critical information for shark, ray and seabird conservation, with implications for the design of marine protected areas. For each surveyed island, a high-resolution map of both the adjacent coral reef and the forest will be produced.
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.