Little Cayman Reef to Collect NOAA Data, Cayman Net News, 07/04/06
Source: Cayman Net News
As scientists record a decline in the health of coral reefs world wide, marine biologists from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have identified a site at Little Cayman for a new research station as part of a global project to identify the cause.
This project is the Integrated Coral Observing Network (ICON), and NOAA will work in partnership with the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) and its research centre on Little Cayman at this site.
According to CCMI, this ICON Station will consist of an array of instruments to measure the physical and chemical characteristics of the ocean and atmosphere.
Data collected will include salinity, temperature, ultra-violet radiation penetration, water clarity, currents and weather conditions.
The first ICON station to be put into operation is in Lee Stocking Island, Bahamas, which has been producing data since May, 2001. Stations have also been set up in St Croix in the US Virgin Islands, and La Parguera in Puerto Rico.
ICON stations in the works are on Heron Island, Queensland, Australia; Discovery Bay, Jamaica; Puerto Morelos, Mexico; and Antigua, in the Lesser Antilles, as well as in Little Cayman.
The proposed site of the LC station is located right in front of the CCMI Little Cayman Research Centre (LCRC) and a short distance east of a famous dive site, Bloody Bay Wall.
It will be set in 20-feet of water, according to Dr Jim Hendee, a scientist with NOAA Coral Health and Monitoring Program. A high diversity of corals, sponges and fishes were identified at a beautiful reef just north of the new site at a depth of 40-feet, he said.
The station will provide long-term data sets for Little Cayman that can be compared to all major US coral reef areas, according to information issued by CCMI and may also have an underwater camera which will broadcast images over the Internet.
The station will be set on a 40-foot pylon, with twenty feet above water and twenty below. The "brain" will sit at the very top, where data is collected and sent via satellite to a laboratory in Miami, said Dr Hendee.
In this way, they will be able to look for combinations of parameters that are conducive to coral bleaching and other marine behavioral events, and thereby continually refine their theories.
CCMI President, Dr Carrie Manfrino, said that, in the early days of planning for the LCRC, she had developed the idea of having an Ocean Observatory so that the Cayman Islands community and youth could relate to the important work that scientists actually do on a day to day basis.
"The Partnership between CCMI and the NOAA is the realization of this idea and has major implications for CCMI's efforts. It also provides important funding opportunities that will benefit the Cayman Islands economy," she said.
One of the major benefits of the ICON project is that observed long-term trends will allow local environmental managers and researchers to make better informed decisions for the reef area, said Dr Manfrino.
Near real-time feedback is important because it allows researchers to visit a site right away to see if modeled conditions are met, and also to give the coastal and coral managers a means of knowing more precisely the immediate status of the Park in question.
Government's GOES Satellite System, which is part of NOAA's National Weather Service. The organization, headed by Dr Manfrino also anticipate this project becoming one of the major attractions for scientists and that it will subsequently increase the grant funding that would normally not be available to the Cayman Islands.
This project will be instrumental in increasing technological capabilities in the Cayman Islands and the data will be available instantly through the World-Wide-Web and will be serviced by NOAA.
NOAA/AOML is a part of the US Department of Commerce (DOC) and is located in Miami, Florida.