10 Jul A HERO TO CORALS
For this blog I decided to pay attention to other projects that Biscayne National Park does pertaining to the Fish and Wildlife Inventory and Monitoring Program (FWIMP). After a month at the park, I have learned that there are a range of conservation projects that are dedicated to protect the health and elevate the resilience of the different marine ecosystems within the bay. The one that highly caught my attention because of the amount of news I read about its increased level of degradation was coral restoration. To better portray the scope and impact of the project, I decided to interview Catherine Gelston, or Cate, who is a Master Degree Graduate in Marine Conservation from the University of Miami. She was born and raised in South Florida, and now is working as a biological science technician in natural resource management, especially with coral restoration and conservation here at the park.
#1: Cate's work at the park
She is part of the habitat restoration program. The program’s primary goal is to “protect, preserve, and restore habitats in the park”. There is a range of different marine ecosystems that this team focuses on such as coral, seagrass, mangrove, and coastal forest habitats. More specifically, she mentioned that the projects to achieve restoration include “removal of marine debris, coral out-planting, stabilization of storm damaged corals, coral larvae collection, and removal of invasive plant species”. “The work is generally very dynamic and changes depending on funding availability, season, and park management goals”
#2: Coral restoration explained
“Most of our coral restoration in the park is concentrated on removal of marine debris from coral reefs. Technicians remove items such as anchors, derelict fishing gear, and trap line that can damage delicate corals and the reef structure”. The habitat restoration program also works with a range of partners, such as Mote Marine Laboratory and the University of Miami, to out-plant several species of corals. Cate and the team mainly focus on coral species that are enlisted as endangered, and the ones that have been impacted by Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease.
Essential consideration: “Larval-based (sexual) propagation is essential for restoring populations because it enhances genetic diversity, supporting diverse traits. The more diversity, the stronger their populations are, so it’s an essential step in coral reef recovery”.
Cate on the right side
But, what is Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease?
According to Biscayne National Park, since the 1990s corals have been under higher stress that increases with each passing year due to warmer water temperatures. When corals are under stress they cannot fight diseases as easily and fast as when they are healthy. Unfortunately, “stony coral tissue loss disease spreads much faster, affects more coral species, and is more lethal than any other known coral disease.” But Cate and many other scientists are doing all they can to stop coral disease spreading and heal and protect this unique and key habitat for marine survival.
#3: health status of the Bay from Cate's perspective
“Biscayne Bay is an incredibly vulnerable and delicate ecosystem”, and the health is decreasing. The most important contributor to this is the poor quality of the water. Cate believes that urban development in South Florida has led to “pollution, altered hydrology, marine debris, and other human-induced problems”. She recognizes that many actions are needed to improve the bay’s health.
#4: most valuable lesson cate has learnt working at Biscayne national park
“I’ve learned the importance of teamwork and morale. Working in conservation and resource management can be draining and daunting at times. The work is largely physical and demanding, and things like climate change, marine debris, water quality, and other human impacts take a toll on our resources. It’s hard to stay positive and committed sometimes, so the right team and attitude are crucial.”
#5: why is conservation and preservation important and Cate's perspective on the limitations and recommendations for the park for the sake of biscayne bay
Biscayne Bay offers a range of different natural benefits including human ones. The bay provides essential habitat and nurseries for several economically important species, and is a food source and home for fish and wildlife. She mentions the importance of the mangrove forests in providing coastal protection against storm surge and hurricanes. Let’s not forget the importance of the seagrass meadows in sequestering carbon and acting as a buffer for climate change.
“I think the fields of marine science, and STEM in general have historically been dominated by one specific sub-section of the population (typically those who grew up with certain socio-economic privileges and advantages). I think it’s prudent to offer opportunities to underserved communities to encourage folks to get involved and contribute to this field. We need more diversity to really change the narrative, provide more resources to those who need it. I’m a huge believer in open source software and open access publications. Traditionally, education was inaccessible to the general public, but with the introduction of the internet, we’ve seen less gatekeeping and more access to information than ever before in human history. I hope we continue this trend so more and more people develop passion and contribute to conservation efforts.”
- Providing more permanent opportunities, higher paying positions, and more park housing for staff would be beneficial.
- It is essential to invest in qualified employees to increase staff retention long term.
Investing in newer technologies, such as mobile tablet devices for data collection, would benefit natural resource management and facilitate meeting the park’s management goals.
It is so important for people working in the conservation field to receive the help and resources that are needed to be able to perform better for the sake of our endangered ecosystems. also, it is important to change our practices and behaviors based on hierarchal and pyramid power-based levels to better educate and motivate people about the importance of protecting our natural resources, and to avoid endangering more of these.
Pelican in the bay (really close to the mangrove forests)
Oysters growing in the Mangrove’s roots
Manatee I see all the time whom I named Lucy
Seagrass Meadows inside the bay