UVI Contributes to Large Scale National Coral Reef Monitoring Program Surveys
UVI CONTRIBUTES TO LARGE SCALE
NATIONAL CORAL REEF MONITORING PROGRAM SURVEYS
It has been a very busy summer for faculty, staff, and students at Center for Marine and Environmental Studies (CMES) at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) as focus on coral reef health in the Territory continues.
Participants from CMES are contributing to the large scale operations of the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program in the territory. Dr. Marilyn Brandt, a Research Associate Professor at CMES, is leading the UVI efforts, which include performing fish and coral surveys at hundreds of sites across the territory. Beginning this week and continuing into next week, four CMES staff and twelve UVI graduate students in the Masters of Marine and Environmental Science (MMES) program are joining with staff from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the University of Miami, and the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) to perform surveys at over 400 coral reef sites around St. Thomas and St. John.
Every two years, the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program (NCRMP) performs wide-scale surveys of coral reefs in the USVI to gauge general reef conditions for reef fishes, corals, and benthic habitat. The objective is to determine status, trends, and changes in reef fish populations and benthic communities within the USVI territories. Data collection occurs at sites across a range of coral reef habitat types and depths. NCRMP surveys are also performed in Puerto Rico and the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Texas. Because the data collection techniques are identical across all regions, data on these critical habitats from the US Virgin Islands can be compared with data sets from other regions.
In May, Dr. Brandt helped to coordinate training operations for this year’s mission which occurred on the UVI St. Thomas campus. In June, the trained UVI staff and students joined with over 25 other staff from the different agencies to perform NCRMP surveys at over 200 sites on St. Croix. Current surveys around St. Thomas and St. John will be completed by August 4th, but UVI staff and students may continue to collect data from deeper coral reef habitats in the fall.
"The National Coral Reef Monitoring Program allows UVI staff and students to contribute to a very important national database on the condition of coral reefs that will be used to make important management decisions at the federal level. We are proud that UVI is one of only a few universities where our students have the background, training, and scientific SCUBA diving experience necessary to contribute to a national program like NCRMP."