URI Student Monitors Fish Returning to Restored Coral Reefs in British Virgin Islands
Source: My Central Jersey
August 20, 2012
"KINGSTON, R.I. — Sarah Merolla took a scuba diving class at the University of Rhode Island last spring, figuring that it might come in handy once she becomes a marine biologist. She put her newfound skills to use sooner than she expected as she spent three weeks this summer diving twice a day on a restored coral reef in the British Virgin Islands to monitor whether fish populations have returned to the reef.
The reefs on Guana Island died decades ago from a combination of warming waters, damage from boats, and natural causes.
“When the reef dies, the fish disappear because they have no habitat,” said Merolla, a native of Hillsborough, who will be a University of Rhode Island junior in September. “Previous students have been restoring the reef with elkhorn coral, which is growing well, so now there is a lot of available habitat. My job was to monitor the reef to see if the fish have returned.”
Under the guidance of URI Professor Graham Forrester, Merolla focused her search on juvenile three-spot damselfish, a small reef fish that is known to prefer structurally complex habitats, such as elkhorn corals, during their larval stage. If juvenile damselfish are observed at the reef, it suggests that the larval fish have re-colonized the reef."
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