CITIZEN SCIENTIST

You can become a Citizen Scientist and help Marine Biologist Tanya Kamerman with surveying coral reefs, translocating of diadema sea urchins and expanding our coral nursery and coral transplant program.

Tanya is working on 2 different aspects. One is helping restore diadema populations to struggling reefs by translocating them as well as beginning coral out planting. The out planting is in the very beginning stages because the nursery is still being built up and only a few corals have been placed onto a reef but hopefully in another 8-12 months that part will be expanding quite a bit. The urchin aspect will be ongoing and monitoring the reef sites is key but it will be slow so no changes are expected to be visible for a little while longer. She has selected 8 sites (4 in Exumas and 4 in Eleuthera) that urchins are being placed on and we have seen the relocated urchins months later so that is promising. The second aspect will be looking at a coral eating snail that has proven to be quite negatively impactful on reefs and the dynamics between them and their predators in relation to coral health. This will involve more of the same monitoring but putting more emphasis on the snail populations and looking at what eats the snail itself. Goals are all closely related for both of these. They are to help improve coral reef populations through the urchin moves, coral out planting, reef monitoring, and education to make as positive of an impact as we can to the struggling reefs. The data will hopefully be used in the future by Bahamian government affiliates to better protect these ecosystems.

About Tanya:

TanyaI graduated from Auburn University in 2004 with a B.S. in Marine Biology. After graduating, I began working as an aquarist at the Seas aquarium in Epcot at Walt Disney World where I took care of all animals and systems, including spending two years on Castaway Cay training and caring for southern stingrays. Through my time there I took a large part in elasmobranch conservation, particularly focusing on stingrays, and I participated in a coral reef restoration program working on the reefs surrounding Castaway Cay. The conservation projects caused me to begin working towards continuing my schooling here at Nova. My research focuses on Bahamian coral reef ecosystems and the relationship of the corallivorous snail, Coralliophila abbreviata. I am aiming to better understand the predators of C. abbreviata to see if their population can be controlled naturally, therefore improving the overall health of coral reef ecosystems.

 

Citizen Scientist Cost

$1,595 per person plus $125 in port fees

Includes:

Up to 19 dives
7 day/6 night accommodations
3 meals daily, snacks and beverages
Participation in research projects
Shore Excursions and use of SUP paddle boards and kayaks

Interested? Check Availability

 

Guest Reviews:

“I think I can probably speak for everyone on board, for sure our group of 4, that it was an incredibly rewarding experience.  One that we all look forward to doing again. Being able to get involved with research like this makes our sport of diving feel even more rewarding than it already is.  I think all future trips will feel diminished if it’s just all “rec” diving.  We will absolutely search out opportunities to do this work again.”

“Tanya was an amazing leader for this work.  She was very communicative on what we were going to do, why we were doing it, and how we should try and make bigger efforts in our shore life.  She was just awesome.  Best of all she really wanted feedback from us about how she could make it better.  I’m pretty sure she went home with a list of suggestions from her last two weeks of leading us rookies.  We were all thirsty for knowledge.  We spent many nights sitting around the table peppering her and Abby for stories and info about their lives as marine biologists.”

 

 

Diving Journal

There are 4 different corals, all elkhorn coral, that were originally outplanted in June of last year and the most recent photos of each corresponding fragment as well to see how they are growing. I’m pretty excited about how well they’re doing so far on Parrotfish Reef.
Currently we have outplanted 63 corals and translocated 1022 Diadema (long spine sea urchins). The nursery is still being stocked slowly but surely but so far we have ~100 coral fragments of staghorn and elkhorn growing well on the lines and have been using this stock for many of the new outplants. It has also already been hurricane tested thanks to Matthew and no corals were lost so it’s doing its job very well 🙂 .
This last trip helped move nearly 100 sea urchins, cleaned the entirety of the nursery, and outplanted almost 20 different coral fragments onto the reef.

We have been working together with world renowned Marine Biologist Craig Dahlgren from the Perry Institute and our on-site Marine Biologist Tanya Kamerman. Our Citizen Scientist program is in full swing now and we have relocated over 900 diadema, out planted 50+ staghorn and Elkhorn coral fragments, and have a nursery with over 50 corals waiting to be transplanted.

The weather was still pretty rough and I again was not able to spend much time in the Exumas and never made it to the park to check on the out plants or the nursery so I don’t have an update on the status of any of that. Hopefully on the Cat Ppalu trips we will make it over and can get some work done. Because of the weather issues both weeks I was limited on some things but since I am needing to start data collection for my thesis it worked out anyway. I was able to continue my surveys obviously focusing on reefs in Eleuthera and the northern Exumas. I can tell on several reefs, particularly in the Exumas, that the hurricane had an impact on the coral, some good some bad. Overall, the bleaching seems to have improved and I’m thinking it is due to Matthew cooling the water temps down. This also makes sense since I am observing a larger amount of coral heads with bleaching in Eleuthera where Matthew didn’t have as much of an effect. But there were also several colonies of corals that had notable damage particularly in the Exumas. Fortunately a lot of the algae also seems to have been wiped out most likely because of the hurricane so several of the broken corals have been able to successfully reattach. The Dog Rocks staghorn colony is now in about 4 or 5 groups spread out about 10-15 feet apart now but overall it seems to be in decent shape besides being broken. I collected a few of the broken pieces that were dying in the sand and brought them to Blacktip Wall (the closest I could get to the park) so I hopefully can put them on the nursery in February if they’re still there when I return.

For urchin updates, of the sites in the Exumas that I have relocated urchins I have only been able to get to Barracuda Shoals and Dog Rocks since August. I saw a few urchins on Dog Rocks when we happened to do a night dive there and I could check so that was exciting to see especially since the number of observed urchins prior to me coming was zero. Barracuda seems to be maintaining but I couldn’t get a visual confirmation on any of them but based on how the reef looks I have no reason to think they have died. I couldn’t get a night dive in here to get a better idea however and there are too many hiding spots on this reef to give an approximation. In Eleuthera I was able to dive all of the urchin sites which are Jake’s Hole, Split Coral head (the wall and the split rock), and Monolith Wall. Because of previous trips these sites have received fewer urchins overall and only a few urchins were spotted on Jake’s at night by some guests. In my opinion Monolith looks better than other wall sites but it’s probably too soon to presume this is due to the urchin relocations. As of now I have translocated 617 urchins to 8 different sites. The breakdown of exactly how many at each site is in the attached spreadsheet as well as the timeline of the day to day efforts. Because I haven’t been to the park in a while the nursery information on the spreadsheet is still being worked on in case you’re wondering why it’s mostly blank.