CMES is now strengthening research in Environmental Analysis and Management. This work supports comparative studies of coral reefs and their adjacent environments to determine how ecosystem functions (such as calcification rates, nutrient cycling, population demographics, trophic cascades, resistance to disease, and resilience from human impacts) vary under a range of environmental conditions and oceanographic processes. An important component of this research is the study of the biology of diseases, as well as their spatial and temporal distribution. This research is key to facilitating communication among the components of the multi-disciplinary research at CMES and enables the processing, analysis, and interpretation of information across the systems and scales inherent to island ecosystems research.
Marine ambient nutrient monitoring program (Dr. Rick Nemeth)
Nutrient enrichment may negatively impact water quality resulting in impairment of coastal marine waters and adverse impacts on marine biota. In the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), there is concern that excessive inputs of nutrients - specifically nitrogen and phosphorus - from point and nonpoint sources are negatively impacting coastal marine waters and ecosystems, including threatened and endangered species. This work in collaboration with DPNR supports the Nutrient Criteria Development Program (NCDP) established in 2001 to improve our ability to monitor nutrient levels in territorial waters.
Coral bleaching and diseases (Dr. Tyler Smith; PDF)
Coral reefs of the Caribbean have been severely degraded over the last few decades through the impacts of coral diseases and bleaching. In this project high-resolution monitoring of coral stress factors is being used to elucidate the connection between local and global stressors as well as the causes and consequences of coral disease and bleaching on scales ranging from the seascape to individual corals.
Biomarkers of stress in reef building corals (Dr. Tyler Smith; PDF)
The coral reef crisis demands a greater understanding of the stress response to multiple interacting stressors and development of a tool that allows pre-emptive assessment of coral health, non-invasively and with high sensitivity. In this project we are investigating the interactive effects of high temperature and sediment stress on the health of the Caribbean coral Porites astreoides through the use of a non-invasive, mass spectrometric-based metabolomic approach to stress assessment.
The Adaptive Response of Reef Corals to Coral Bleaching (Dr. Tyler Smith; PDF)
This initiative has been using the continued recovery of reef corals from bleaching to investigate whether adaptive shifts in algal symbiont communities may have occured in these corals, and ensure adequate baseline data in preparation for bleaching events that are likely to impact these reefs in the future. Molecular genetic techniques are being used to identify and characterize symbiont communities over time in five key coral species.
Monitoring the health and trajectory of coral reefs of the USVI (Dr. Tyler Smith; PDF)
The USVI Territorial Coral Reef Monitoring Program (TCRMP) is providing a comprehensive assessment of the range of global and local stressors impacting coral reefs and the processes controlling trajectories of coral reef development. The goals of the TCRMP are to understand the processes affecting coral reef ecosystems in the USVI and develop scientifically based management strategies for the Caribbean.
Sediment monitoring on coral reefs (Dr. Rick Nemeth)
Ecology and Sociology of Ciguatera Fish Poisoning in the US Virgin Islands (Dr. Tyler Smith)
Ciguatera fish poisoning is caused by consuming fish containing dinoflagellate toxins and is a common illness associated with harmful algal blooms that has the potential for great public health and economic impact. We are investigating relationships among environmental stresses to coral reef systems in the USVI, the population dynamics of the dinoflagellate, fish toxicity, and associated cases of ciguatera fish poisoning in humans to be able to use this information to develop an early warning or predictive capability for the prevention of human illness
Development of enhanced and less toxic anti-fouling compounds (Dr. Tom Archibald)
Advanced marine coatings based on fluorinated oxetane polymers are superior to existing toxin-containing paints but improvements are needed to make these materials truly fouling-release. We are working to identify naturally existing chemicals produced by ocean organisms such as sponges that either inhibit attachment or enhance release properties of artificial coatings. We can then chemically attach these target molecules to oxetane monomers and copolymerize them with fluorinated oxetane monomers and prepare modified surface coatings. Preparation of the first completely fouling release marine coating will reduce environmental pollution due to marine coatings.
Human Knowledge and Behavior Towards Coral Reefs (Dr. Teresa Turner)
In the Caribbean, human impact has played a critical role in the deterioration of coral reefs. In order to improve coral reef management, data need to be collected on the human component as well as the other components of the ecosystem. This project examines knowledge and behavior of Virgin Islanders and explores the role of experience in the environment.
Caribbean Regional Association (CaRA; Dr. Nasseer Idrisi)
CaRA’s mission is to establish and administer a sustained observing system for the northeastern Caribbean region, the Caribbean Regional Integrated Coastal Ocean Observing System - CaRICOOS to provide observations and products that will provide substantial benefits to the economy, to security and environmental conservation. This is being accomplished by identifying data users and providers, enhancing data flow and communication between these groups, and filling identified data gaps.