Report #1: Turneffe Atoll Ocean Acidification Expedition


From Calabash Caye:
The expedition team, composed of a committed group of citizen scientists, and sponsored in part by the Explorers Club, is now on day 3 of learning to identify and record climate change effects on this largest reef in the western hemisphere.
The team ages range from age 20 to 75, and everyone is eager to contribute by learning various survey techniques. They include tallying dead vs. live coral and the general type (see, REEF fish counts,  quadrat sampling of dead, damaged, living corals, and sediment sampling for Dr. Ken Cullings of NASA (microbe-driven biochemistry).
We have completed four dives over the past couple days, and in my opinion, the three sites we have seen have for the most part been drab and monotone in comparison to the mostly healthy reefs I saw while doing research in the Indo-Pacific 18 yrs. ago.
There is a large degree of what I can only describe as rubble. Yes, much of it is hurricane damage, as expedition leader Ed Sobey remarked. However, some bleaching is evident. More significantly, there are many instances of sick-looking fan, brain, and other types of corals. Biodiversity in general seems low.
The metaphor that comes to mind is of a person who has a compromised immune system and develops secondary illnesses as a result.
Excuse any typos; I am reporting from a small screen.
–Dida Kutz