Archive for Activities

Probing for Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Wastewater – Ocean Chat – UPR Sea Grant

UPR Sea Grant held its first 2012 Ocean Chat seminar titled Probing for Antibiotic Resistance Genes as Molecular Indicators of Wastewater Pollution in Coastal Habitats.

This research project is of utmost importance because it concerns various areas of human health and the status of our marine and coastal ecosystems.

The Ocean Chat was held in the Centro de Recursos para la Información y Educación Marina (Physics Building, UPR-Mayaguez, Room 310) at 9:30 AM on Thursday, April 19, 2012.

The following paragraph is a short summary of the topic that was presented by the main speaker, Dr. Rodríguez-Minguela:

Doctors Carlos M. Rodríguez-Minguela, Rafael Montalvo-Rodríguez, and Sandra L. Maldonado-Ramírez, from the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus, Department of Biology, have studied antibiotic resistant genes in fecal bacteria. Their UPR Sea Grant funded study is titled: “Molecular Ecology of Integron-encoded Antibiotic Resistance and Prevalence of Fungicide Resistance in Microbial Populations from Critical Coastal Habitats Impacted by Sewage, Animal Waste, and Wastewater Treatment Plant Discharges”. Samples were collected from coastal mangrove, beach and estuarine habitats exposed to high levels of wastewater pollution. These genes are encoded by integrons which are genetic elements that mediate the assimilation of fragments of DNA molecules, floating in the environment, into bacterial hosts. The assimilation creates new strains. In effect, this provides an evolutionary process which can produce antibiotic resistance and new pathogens dangerous to human health. Their data indicate that polluted coastal habitats are stable reservoirs of antibiotic-resistant bacterial and fungal populations and that cassette PCR assays targeted at class 1 integrons have the potential to serve as dual indicators of fecal contamination and inconspicuous risks to human health.

 

[Spanish version]

UPR Sea Grant organizó el primer Conservatorio Marino (Ocean Chat) del año 2012 titulado Estudio de los genes resistentes a antibióticos como indicadores moleculares de contaminación por aguas usadas en hábitats costeros.

Este proyecto de investigación es de suma importancia debido a que trata aspectos trascendentales de la salud humana y la salud de nuestros ecosistemas marinos y costeros.

El próximo párrafo es un resumen del tema que fue presentado por el presentador principal, Dr. Rodríguez-Minguela:

Los doctores Carlos M. Rodríguez-Minguela, Rafael Montalvo-Rodríguez y Sandra L. Maldonado-Ramírez, del Departamento de Biología de la UPR-Mayagüez han estudiado genes resistentes a antibióticos en las bacterias fecales. El Programa Sea Grant ha titulado el proyecto de la siguiente manera: “Molecular Ecology of Integron-encoded Antibiotic Resistance and Prevalence of Fungicide Resistance in Microbial Populations from Critical Coastal Habitats Impacted by Sewage, Animal Waste, and Wastewater Treatment Plant Discharges”. Se han colectado muestras de manglares costeros, playas y hábitats estuarinos, expuestos a altos niveles de contaminación por aguas usadas. Los genes están codificados por integrones, los cuales son elementos genéticos que media en la asimilación de fragmentos de moléculas de DNA, flotando en el ambiente, en los huéspedes bacteriales. La asimilación crea nuevas cadenas. En efecto, esto provee un proceso evolutivo que puede producir resistencia a los antibióticos y nuevos patógenos peligrosos para la salud humana. Sus datos indican que los hábitats costeros contaminados son reservas estables para bacterias y poblaciones de hongos resistentes a los antibióticos y que los integrones sirven como indicadores duales de contaminación fecal y riesgos para la salud humana que pasan inadvertidos.

 

Photo: Archive Shutterstock

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Workshop – Collection and Identification of Ciguatoxin-Producing Microalgae (PCUPR)

The Virtual Monitoring Network of Marine Resources (Red Virtual de Monitoreo de los Recursos Marinos, http://www.recursosmarinos.org) from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico (PCUPR) will be hosting a workshop in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (PR-DRNA), inviting scientists, professors, and resource managers with interests in collecting and identifying ciguatoxin-producing microalgae.

During the workshop, several topics will be covered:

1. The use of sampling networks

2. Handling and management of samples

3. Discriminating target species

4. Documenting oceanographic parameters

This workshop also aims to establish partnerships with the NOAA’s Phytoplankton Monitoring Network and local volunteers to support efforts made by the Virtual Monitoring Network of PCUPR.

The workshop will be held online in the Encarnación Valdés Library at the PCUPR-Ponce Campus on Friday 27, 2012 from 1:00-4:00 PM.

To make a reservation, click here. Spaces are limited!

For the Spanish version of this announcement, please click on the image.

 

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Conrado M. Calzada Cordero

Coordinator

Virtual Monitoring Network

cmcalzada@pucpr.edu

(787) 841-2000 ext. 1550 or 2557

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New tools and models for social and ecological analyses of MPAs – IMCC 2011

The 2nd International Marine Conservation Congress – “Making Marine Science Matter” (IMCC 2011; http://www.conbio.org/imcc2011/), sponsored by the Society for Conservation Biology Marine Section (http://www.conservationbiology.org/marine) on 14-18 May 2011 at the University of Victoria (Victoria, Canada), provided an exciting opportunity for scientists and experts worldwide to share their knowledge on marine conservation. It also gave us the opportunity to identify the current trends, gaps and information needed to better management and conservation strategies. Topics that have been discussed in the past, such as sustainable fisheries, the effect of climate change, and the efficacy of marine protected areas, were contemplated upon once again.  Interestingly, this year’s IMCC explored other issues that highlighted the importance of incorporating a historical perspective when assessing the state of the marine environment and the need to communicate to key audiences about marine conservation.

Technological advances for socioeconomic analyses of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

Throughout the conference, special emphasis was made on the social aspects that significantly influence management and planning strategies. Several experts presented marine environmental assessments that incorporated these components with the help of recent technological advancements. For example, a new version of the widely-used MARXAN software for managers, MARXAN with Zones (developed by Matt Watts, Ian Bell, and Hugh Possingham at the University of Queensland, Australia; http://www.uq.edu.au/marxan/ index.html?page=77654), was designed to enhance the previous features of the previous version, and provides “alternative multiple-use zoning options in geographical regions for marine conservation”. Another software, Marine InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Trade-offs; http://www.naturalcapitalproject.org/InVEST.html), was recently developed by the Natural Capital Project as an ArcGIS-based tool for mapping, and modeling coastal and marine ecosystem services that can: (1) illustrate the cost and benefits of resource management; (2) assess changes in renewable energy based on ocean waves; (3) determine which coastal habitats can serve as buffers for storm waves; and (4) create relevant scenarios that can provide better alternatives to management strategies. Resource managers and scientists alike will benefit from these advancements in software, which provide more information and enhanced tools to make better informed decisions regarding marine and coastal spatial planning.

Video – Marine InVEST training at the IMCC 2011

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxyBwcKlb3s&rel=0

An innovative decision framework, known as Integrated Ecosystem Assessments (IEA), is currently being used to better spatial planning, scientific information and management of marine ecosystems. Presently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States encourages the use of IEAs to support an ecosystem approach to management (EAM) strategy (http://coastalscience.noaa.gov/about/iea.aspx). This approach includes a formal synthesis and quantitative analysis of information about natural and socioeconomic factors associated with specific ecosystem management goals. With the help of this approach, several studies have incorporated local knowledge from small-scale fishing activities using geographic information system (GIS) as a tool to help build a useful source of information.

Although several methodologies have been used efficiently to assess the condition of MPAs, the “Ecological Scorecard” approach initiated by the North American Marine Protected Areas Network (http://www.cec.org/Storage/98/9685_Marine_scorecard_en.pdf) is pleasantly surprising. Consisting of 14 questions divided into three categories (Water Quality, Habitats, and Living Marine Resources), it is capable of assessing the “current ecological status of an MPA in understandable terms from assigning expert judgment value scales” (IMCC2011, Full Program, p. 62) that can be used to take specific actions needed to improve the “value judgment” over a certain period of time (about 5 years). By incorporating current monitoring data, another Scorecard can be later developed. When assessing MPAs, it is important to understand the social values of these areas. With this in mind, several yearly assessments have taken into account the comments made by key stakeholder groups to help identify changes in resource use, perceptions and attitudes towards MPAs.

Tools for Habitat and Ecological Models in Ecosystem-based Management

Current approaches to planning strategies that include ocean utilization patterns are focusing on protecting critical habitats, such as deep-sea corals and sponge beds, to avoid conflicts between ecosystem management and energy development (e.g., use of tides and waves).  However, information concerning seafloor habitats is either scant or of poor quality, especially for deep water coral ecosystems. With this in mind, the use of one-person submersibles to explore areas that have been identified as consisting of corals and commercially-important fish species is currently underway and is of great interest to local stakeholders. Meanwhile, spatially-explicit models are being developed to generate maps that identify potential areas of conflict for management.

One of the most ambitious approaches to resilience and ecosystem-based management (EBM) was presented by a group that supported the establishment of Gwaii Haanas in 2010, Canada’s first National Marine Conservation Area. Three collaborative research projects are currently underway, which include an integrated “contemporary quantitative ecology with traditional knowledge and archaeological data to reveal the long-term dynamics of these social-ecological systems, inform their conservation, and sustain the adaptive capacity of coastal communities.” (IMCC2011, Full Program, p. 75) The latest version of the Reef Resilience (R2) Toolkit (http://www.reefresilience.org/), developed by The Nature Conservancy, was also presented as an excellent tool that provides a guideline for managers of coral reefs and MPAs on how to build resilience in their local communities. To predict reef resilience, several studies have applied reef resilience factors with multivariate analysis to determine which indicators are the most useful.

Regarding ecological monitoring of MPAs, Hypoxia Online (IMCC2011, Full Program, p. 153) was presented as an innovative tool to assess the rapid decrease of dissolved oxygen in coastal and estuarine areas due to human activities and climate change. This technique involves analyzing photo transects for community composition, species behavior and sediment characteristics. The model CORSET (Coral Reef Scenario Evaluation Tool; http://www.reefscenarios.org) is another great online tool for predicting future responses of reef ecosystems to multiple threats and for evaluating the effectiveness of alternative management strategies. The emphasis remains that there is a need for the effective protection of marine benthic habitats, which are difficult to define and identify in well sampled areas. Therefore, the challenge for resource managers and researchers is to discover general patterns that could be applied to habitats that are currently unidentified and lack sufficient data.

 

“Blue Carbon” Payments and Conservation Agreements

The use of monetary payments for “blue carbon – carbon that is captured and stored by coastal wetlands or is converted to avoid emissions” – was presented as a practical method to help improve policy changes that favor the protection of coastal habitats, such as mangrove and seagrass beds (IMCC2011, Full Program, p. 87). By defining economic values in terms of blue carbon, payments for ecosystem services may be established for those marine environments that are considered economically viable. A “contract-theoretic model for conservation agreements” (IMCC2011, Full Program, p. 87) was also presented, which characterizes the efforts made by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local communities for marine conservation in terms of cost and availability of funds. Conservation agreements may provide ecosystem services, particularly for biodiversity protection, that prevent certain areas from being further exposed to incompatible activities. These agreements may also help to change local user’s habits, making their activities more compatible and sustainable for marine ecosystems.

Efforts for Public Awareness and Outreach

Innovative ideas for public awareness activities and outreach efforts were also an essential part of the IMCC’s theme. For example, REDMAP is a web-based database and mapping facility (http://www.redmap.org.au/) that allows the public to submit data (photos and sightings) of different marine species that are uncommon along the Tasmanian coast or other coastal zones. This database is an excellent example of obtaining valuable information from researchers, communities, and stakeholders to increase data availability and public awareness. Contributions made by recreational divers, referred to as potential citizen scientists by several experts, serve as an important source of data and may help evaluate the relative success of management strategies. The development of science blogs (e.g., SouthernFriedScience.com) was also shown as an effective way for scientists to create public awareness and to promote marine science education. A more modern twist to public awareness and outreach efforts is the use of music to educate local communities, promote public consciousness and attract sponsorships for marine conservation.

Written by: Daniel Matos Molina, Graduate student, UPRM-Department of Marine Sciences

Edited by: J. Seda, CRA Project Assistant

Reference:

Second IMCC 2011. Full program. http://www.conbio.org/imcc2011/docs/IMCC2011_FullProgram_Web.pdf

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UVI Sea Grant & VINE to host Reef Fest 2011

In the US Virgin Islands, the Sea Grant Marine Outreach Program is busily preparing for the 2011 St. Thomas Reef Fest, scheduled for early November, come rain or shine.

As you probably guessed, Reef Fest is a festival to celebrate the reef.  More than that, it is about empowering the local community to protect coral reefs.  It is a day dedicated to learning about the bond between humans and the reef, and about what each person can do to cultivate that relationship in a positive way. As a progressive strategy for bridging Caribbean culture with environmental education, Reef Fest invites citizens to enjoy the recreational value of reefs and learn how activities on land can affect the health of the marine environment and, in turn, the economy, culture, and heritage.  By providing experiential outdoor (both land and sea) learning opportunities for entire families, Reef Fest is an inspiring way to garner appreciation and catalyze positive conservation practice at the grass roots level.

The fun lasts all day with educational and family-oriented activities!

  • Participants demonstrate what they know about reefs via the Reef Rap contest (cash prize!)
  • Show off your sculpturing skills and sand knowledge with the Sand Sculpture competition
  • Learn how to snorkel appropriately around coral
  • Borrow kayaks, paddles, snorkels, and other water activity gear to learn about reefs
  • Take a reef or coastal tour guided by local naturalists
  • Listen to environmental historians
  • Engage in family-friendly educational games (Human Ocean Bingo or Marine Jeopardy)
  • Visit booths decked out with take-home information about the unique island environment
  • Delicious local food and beverage paired with the rhythms of local musicians performing on stage makes Reef Fest an event not to be missed!!

The first Reef Fest kicked off in 2009 at the locally coveted Smith Bay Park of St. Thomas as a launch pad for the NOAA–sponsored “The Reef is Closer Than You Think” social marketing campaign still underway throughout the USVI. Through multi-media messaging and by enlisting community support, this campaign raised broad sector awareness for the value of coral reefs.

Youth and children learning and singing about the importance of reefs in Reef Fest 2009 (Photos: C. Settar, H. Hitt and L. Noori).

Since 2009, residents of the sister island, St. John, adopted the event as part of their own Earth Week celebrations.  Located at the National Park Service’s Hawksnest Beach, St. Johnians initiated Reef Fest in April 2010 with a repeat commemoration this past April.  Similarly, on the island of St. Croix, Crucians jammed out at their fourth annual Reef Jam on May 29, 2011 (http://reefjam.com/).

Reef Fest 2011 is coordinated by UVI Sea Grant and members of the Virgin Islands Network of Environmental Educators (VINE), which is a group of environmental volunteers and professionals (http://www.usvircd.org/VINE/ ) that work to increase environmental stewardship within the USVI Territory.  Because the event is about community empowerment, Reef Fest coordinators spend many pre-event hours engaging the community to support the cause in various ways. Many generous people, businesses, agencies, and groups come forward with supplies, food, equipment, funds, talent, education, and almost anything that can be useful in preparing for the festival. In the spirit of the reef, islanders come together for a good cause and have a lot of fun together while learning how each person can make a difference in the future of coral reefs.

Please stay tuned for more details regarding the much-anticipated return of Reef Fest to St. Thomas and for a report on the “The Reef Is Closer than You Think Community Campaign”.  For more information, contact Christine Settar at csettar@uvi.edu or (340) 693-1392 and befriend the UVI Center for Marine and Environmental Studies on Facebook for updates!

Check out this short clip of the recent St. John Reef Fest!

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/23239420[/vimeo]

Written by: Christine Settar, Marine Stewardship Coordinator, Sea Grant Marine Outreach Program, University of the Virgin Islands

Edited by: J. Seda – UPR Sea Grant

The Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service (VIMAS), a part of the University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant Program, is located within the Center for Marine and Environmental Studies (CMES) at the University of the Virgin Islands. VIMAS was established on the St. Thomas campus of UVI in 1984 and on St. Croix in 1990.

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Assessing impacts of climate change, a long-term process – VII Congress of Caribbean Biodiversity

The term “biodiversity” has become a household name within the scientific community and has been used to describe habitats and organisms as varied and diverse as cacti in deserts to birds in mangrove coastlines. On February 1-4, 2011, the VII Congress of the Caribbean Biodiversity (sponsored by the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo) celebrated the importance of our biological corridors in sustaining our region’s biodiversity. In light of this, we surveyed several participants (n=11) at the conference, with the help of members from the Interdisciplinary Center for Coastal Studies (CIEL, in Spanish; http://amp-org/ciel), on the types of studies or information needed to improve conservation and management of our marine and coastal resources within a 5- or 10-year period. Impacts of climate change (e.g., seawater temperature, sea level rise, beach erosion, species migration), developing environmental indicators and environmental/biological standards for public health, and studies on the carrying capacity and the influence of visitors and local resources users on coastal areas were seen as requiring at least 10 years to obtain sufficient data for better management strategies. Habitat utilization, effects of toxic metals and other pollutants, and assessments on the economic impact of management on commercial and recreational marine/coastal organisms were considered achievable within 5 years. With regard to obstacles that may be hindering better management practices, insufficiently trained and skilled personnel was deemed the most common along with the lack of consistent and reliable monitoring of data collection.

For more information, please click here to read about CIEL’s contribution to this conference.

Video – Caribbean Coral Reef Biology and Ecology (Dominican Republic Project.org)

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NSPS Specialists request more Land-use and Island Planning

Non-point source pollution (NSPS) managers and researchers from the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico met on May 6-7 for the 10th NSPS Conference“Changing Direction and Directing Change: Solutions to NSPS” at the Wyndham Sugar Bay Beach Resort in St. Thomas, USVI (http://www.usvircd.org/NPS/). The conference was also open to the participation of local students in several workshops aimed to bring about awareness regarding environmental issues and their impact on our ecosystems.

Topics presented during the meeting include habitat impact and remediation, coastal and watershed management, land-use and island planning, and the importance of education and outreach. One of the main focuses was to encourage people to act responsibly when developing and constructing. Special emphasis was also given to attempting a more aggressive approach to increase public awareness by educating young students about the effects of NSPS and getting them more involved in community activities that encourage monitoring local areas prone to NSPS. Innovative strategies for public participation in NSPS management were also proposed to better the public’s knowledge about these environmental issues and their impact. However, most admitted that, in general, bad habits are hard to break.

During the conference, we asked several experts and researchers (n=16) to answer a few questions regarding the short- and long-term studies needed to improve management of NSPS and the obstacles that are often encountered. Of the participants, 94% stated over 6 years of experience in the field and, of these, 38% possessed more than 16 years (Fig. 1). More than half of those questioned are or have been employed by the government (56%), whereas 38% are associated with a non-governmental institution (Fig. 2). Land-use and island planning was most frequently identified as a short-term research need for NSPS, with watershed management as the second most recurrent need selected (Fig. 3). Long-term research needs varied widely including the importance of linking ecosystem assessments to public health, the effects of public awareness, baseline data on physical-chemical-biological parameters of NSPS, impacts of climate change, impacts of wastewater treatment on local farms in small islands, and soil nutrient budgets. Obstacles that are commonly found include the failure to apply research information in resource management and conservation, and the lack of participation of local resource users in management processes (Fig. 4). Not enough skilled and trained personnel was also considered a major concern.

Figure 1. Percentage of participants that are or have been employed by the government.


Figure 2. Years of experience by participants in an NSPS-associated field.


Figure 3. Short-term studies needed for improving NSPS management.


Figure 4. Obstacles that hinder effective NSPS management.


Sea Grant Puerto Rico would like to thank those that participated in our survey and we will be disseminating this information to National Sea Grant and NOAA. We expect that some of our sponsored research projects will help address these issues of main concern regarding NSPS management.

More information about NSPS management:

What is nonpoint source pollution? Basic Information (EPA)

Video – What is nonpoint source pollution? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgJzkmJ-lwU&rel=0

An Overview of Land Based Sources of Marine Pollution (UNEP-CEP)

“Greening” Storm Water with Rain Gardens – Virgin Islands RC&D Success Story (USDA NRCS)

Plan para el control de la contaminación  por fuentes dispersas en la zona costanera de Puerto Rico (PR DRNA)

Photo: Sea Grant Archive

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Funds and Baselines – Major Concerns for Caribbean FMC

The Caribbean Fisheries Management Council (CFMC; http://www.caribbeanfmc.com), a regional agency involved in establishing important regulations on commercial and recreational fisheries in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, held its last regular general meeting on December 15-16, 2009 at El Conquistador Hotel in Fajardo, PR. Approximately 30 attendees from public and private sectors participated. Among these were included the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, US Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources – Fish and Wildlife Divisions, various consultants and local fishermen from the US Virgin Islands. Establishing annual catch limits (ACLs) by groups of fish or by specific species was largely debated because of the lack of data on the exact number of species caught (according to one source, >50% are unreported catch) and catches are not accurately identified. Identification of fish species is one of the problems encountered by most fishermen and is a major concern when establishing fishing regulations. With this in mind, Sea Grant PR has considered making efforts to help local fishermen with identifying fish species using posters and information sheets. However, a major limitation when determining ACLs is the scarce amount of data presently available, especially those from recreational activities.

Using this meeting as an opportunity for networking and given that several fishery experts were present, we conducted a brief survey consisting of three questions about research and information needs for fisheries management (click here to view our questionnaire). Of these questions, we asked participants about the type of research that is presently required on short (<5 years) and long (5-10 years) terms in order to deal with fisheries management effectively. We also inquired about the obstacles that are presently hindering research/assessments that can help improve fisheries management. More than 50% of the attendees (n=20) participated in our survey. Results showed that 80% of those that answered our questions have more than 16 years of experience in fisheries and 58% presently work for a government agency/institution. Establishing baselines and development of fisheries management policy tools were most frequently chosen as the short-term research presently needed. Critical information that is needed for long-term research varied, but the most frequently mentioned was better data collection of species-specific catches and ages. Lack of funding was the obstacle most frequently selected among our participants along with insufficiently trained and skilled personnel.

Sea Grant Puerto Rico would like to thank the CFMC members and attendees for participating in our survey and we will be disseminating this information to National Sea Grant and NOAA. We expect that some of our sponsored research projects will help address these issues of main concern among the fisheries community.

Contributed by J. Seda

Suggested reading:

Barnes, C. and K. W. McFadden. “Marine ecosystem approaches to management: challenges and lessons in the United States.” Marine Policy 32.3 (2008): 387-92. (Free full text in our database)

Dhoray, Shanta and Sonja Sabita Teelucksingh. “The implications of ecosystem dynamics for fisheries management: A case study of selected fisheries in the Gulf of Paria, Trinidad.” Journal of Environmental Management 85.2 (2007): 415-28. (Free full text in our database)

Videos:

Sea Grant Puerto Rico – Efforts for orientating local fishermen about the EEZ (Elusive Economic Zone) in the US Caribbean . (Audio in Spanish only).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-isjmHj15E&rel=0

The Endless Voyage: Introduction to Oceanography – Focus on fisheries management, mostly on overfishing and maintaining a sustainable use of our marine resources.

 

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Enhancing Products and Services – CaRA

On December 1, 2009, we participated in the General Assembly “Coastal data and information, a vital need in our islands” sponsored by the Caribbean Regional Association (CaRA, http://cara.uprm.edu)  at the Nautical Club in San Juan, PR. Several speakers were invited to present updates on products and services to CaRA members and participants, which approximated 50 attendees from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The status and future development of the CariCOOS (Caribbean Coastal Ocean Observing System), including facilities and services for direct observations of coastal conditions and forecasting abilities, were presented along with the establishment of a Products & Services Committee that represents different sectors of coastal data users. This committee consists of several groups that will evaluate the system’s ability to attend to the data needs of that particular sector and will educate other sectors on the products and services available through CaRA. In addition, identifying frequent users and their information needs in order to address these issues is also contemplated.

Observational and forecast needs most frequently solicited by users include data on coastal winds, waves, currents, inundation, water quality, bathymetry, temperature, salinity, and benthic habitats. Several implementation strategies were presented by Prof. Julio Morell, principal investigator, including the minimization of infrastructure deployment and maintenance (i.e., sparse network of real-time sensors complemented by higher spatial resolution), installing observing assets (e.g., buoys, radars, remote sensing) located in critical representative areas, and developing numerical model assets.

During the assembly, most of the members/participants expressed their concern about installing cameras in specific areas (e.g., beaches) for improving vigilance and safety, installing buoys and developing models for USVI and increasing the resolution of the data provided by the system. A major interest by users is the development of tutorials on how to use and interpret the data provided by the system, which may be directed towards helping specific users (e.g., divers, shipping companies, surfers, coastal managers). UPRSG is currently integrated in the Outreach & Education subcommittee headed by Dr. Yasmín Detrés and will be participating in efforts to educate CaRA users on how to efficiently utilize the online products and services.

coosbuoy_compressedThe first CariCOOS coastal data buoy, weighing approximately 6,000 pounds, for the US Caribbean region was deployed on June 9, 2009 on the south coast of the Puerto Rico insular shelf break off Caja Muertos Island. The buoy was anchored at a depth of 55 feet. Measurements of wind, air temperature, atmospheric pressure, waves, near-surface water temperature, salinity and ocean currents  throughout the water column are obtained in real-time. Buoys similar to this one will be deployed in the northern coast of Puerto Rico during March 2010 and in a region between St. Croix and St. Thomas sometime during this year.

Photo: CariCOOS coastal data buoy, http://cara.uprm.edu

Contributed by J. Seda

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Landing Data – a Priority for SEDAR

Our team attended the SouthEast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) meeting held in San Juan on January 26-29, 2009.  Reports from the meeting are currently available online (http://www.sefsc.noaa.gov/sedar/). One of SEDAR’s main goals is to improve the scientific quality and reliability of fishery stock assessments and encourage the participation of important stakeholders in the assessment development. Briefly, SEDAR presently recommends research in the area of data collection of landing data. Based on the information from the report titled “Consolidated Caribbean SEDAR Research Recommendations”, research is needed to design an appropriate trip-ticket data collection to make the data suitable for proper analyses of fisheries biology and economics, which include the need to allocate catches and quotas. The report also underscores specific recommendations for landed species. In general terms, better data collection techniques (and analyses) are necessary to assess stocks through fishery independent sampling efforts, surveys with hook and line and/or traps, visual surveys, and mark and recapture techniques. On potential social and economic research needs, the SEDAR report suggests that a better knowledge of the recreational fisheries is required, specifically in terms of effort and target species. Particularly referring to the U.S. Virgin Islands, SEDAR recommends studying management and environmental events and factors affecting catches. A key concern mentioned was the data gathering process in the local fisheries. Other areas or research themes that fishers and managers identified as needed:

  1. The role and effectiveness of bans, closures and MPAs for species protection
  2. Different factors involved in the variability of catches and in recruitment
  3. The role of local markets in shaping the structure of catches and selectivity of species and sizes.

Although not directly related to research, there was a concern on the flow of information from the scientists and managers to the fishers. The future construction of a research agenda will depend on the effectiveness of the shared information and the ability to successfully explain these findings to laypersons using complex graphics based on computer models.

Contributed by M. Valdes-Pizzini

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CaRA’s Efforts for Coastal Management in PR and USVI

We attended the Workshop on Ocean Observing in Support of Coastal Management sponsored by the Coastal States Organization (CSO) and the Caribbean Regional Association (CaRA) on Sept 3 and Oct 1, 2008 at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Casino in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The main goal of CaRA 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” (http://cara.uprm.edu) that are related to issues concerning coastal management and use. Members from the University of the West Indies, University of the Virgin Islands, and USVI-Sea Grant were active participants in this conference. The purpose of this workshop was to encourage the interchange of ideas and concerns of coastal managers and scientists from several government agencies and local institutions with the interest of improving and providing services for those particular needs from the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Various issues of main concern included:

1.     Lack of tools (e.g., topography maps and models) that would benefit the managers in performing their duties

2.     Accessibility to the most recently updated information in a user-friendly format

3.     Political will as a constant pressure in coastal development

4.     Long-term planning for climate change adaptation (e.g., beach erosion, flash flooding)

5.     How to best guide coastal development based on models and maps that are based on USVI environmental conditions rather than conditions in the US or PR

6.     Lack of human capacity needed to obtain up-to-date information on land use, water quality, etc.

7.     Lack of technical training and expertise to maintain databases and websites

8.     Lack of interconnectivity and sharing of information among divisions in federal departments

9.     Lack of interagency and institutional dissemination of recent information on projects focused on coastal management

10.   Lack of sufficient funds for personnel and projects

Among these concerns, high-priority data needs were mentioned that addressed specific matters:

1.     Up-to-date data on wind, waves and currents throughout the USVI

2.     Watershed and wetland sampling for water quality evaluation

3.     Shoreline mapping

4.     Layered data sets for land-use plans

5.     Tsunami warning system

6.     Identifying inundation zones

7.     Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) habitat imagery including seasonal variations

8.     Accessibility and evaluation of information

9.     Real-time monitoring of water quality and coral reefs

Being able to find, interpret, and apply the data available through the CaRA data website (http://www.caricoos.org) is one of the major difficulties reported by users. In a personal interview with CaRA’s Executive Director, Julio Morell, one of the main tasks that they will be working on this year is the training of coastal managers and mariners on how to access and understand the data that is generated daily by the sensors located at several stations in the waters of USVI and PR.

A stakeholder council meeting was later scheduled on December 9, 2008 at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Casino in San Juan, PR. Dr. Manual Valdes-Pizzini was invited to participate in this conference. The purpose of this assembly mostly focused on stakeholder needs and maintaining collaborative efforts and relations with national and local organizations/programs such as PR/USVI state government, NOAA, National Federation of Regional Associations of Coastal and Ocean Observing (NFRA), IOCARIBE, Interdisciplinary Center for Littoral Studies (CIEL), US Coast Guard Search and Rescue, National Weather Service, and the PR Sea Grant Program.

Contributed by J. Seda

Posted in: Activities

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