Check out our recent publication on the 'Impacts of parrotfish predation on a major reef-building coral: quantifying healing rates and thresholds of coral recovery' in Coral Reefs! A read-only open access version is available here: https://rdcu.be/b5Vgl
Summary: We monitored coral tissue regeneration from parrotfish predation scars on endangered Orbicella annularis coral colonies on St. Croix and Bonaire in the Caribbean. We evaluated differences in coral healing between islands in response to a number of variables including the initial scar surface area, scar abundance per coral colony, colony surface area, and water depth. We found that initial scar surface area was the single most important predictor of scar healing and used a predictive model we developed to estimate coral tissue loss from the standing stock of bite scars. Overall, our results suggest that the majority of scars may fully heal and the immediate negative impacts of parrotfish predation on coral tissue loss appear to be driven primarily by a few exceptionally large bite scars.
We are excited to share this video talk by master's student Hannah Rempel as part of the Global Coral Reef Week conference. Learn about the patterns of coral healing from parrotfish bite scars in one of the most intensively grazed Caribbean coral species:
Both graduate and undergraduate students alike gave fantastic presentations on their work at the Western Society of Naturalists conference in Ensenada, Mexico. Congratulations team!
See photo captions for more details on individual presentations on our labs ongoing coral reef and pismo clam research:
Travel support for undergraduates was provided by Bill and Melinda Frost. Travel support for graduates was provided by Cal Poly Graduate Education. We thank you for your support!
Our lab is excited to welcome Erin Johnston as a Master student in September of 2019. Before joining the lab at Cal Poly, Erin worked on yellowtail (Seriola dorsalis, formerly Seriola lalandi) distribution, life history, and age in the Southern California Bight in San Diego, where she received her BS in Marine Biology from UCSD. She then worked on recreational fisheries catch data in Orange and LA County for the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife. She will be investigating the effects of climate variability on nearshore groundfish species of the Central California coast in collaboration with the Wendt lab. Welcome Erin!
Where in the world is the parrotfish research team? Master's student Hannah Rempel and undergraduate research assistants Emma Barton and Peter Vanderbloomer are studying the impacts of parrotfish grazing on coral communities for three months this summer on Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean. This work is part of a broader study comparing patterns and impacts of parrotfish grazing across multiple regions of the Greater Caribbean.
The focus of our work this summer is to: (1) track the healing of an endangered, frequently targeted coral species from parrotfish grazing scars, and (2) compare how the intensity of parrotfish predation on corals varies on islands with high coral cover (e.g. Bonaire) compared to ones with comparatively low coral cover (e.g. St. Croix).
What have we been up to? So far, we have mapped and monitored >100 coral colonies with >250 parrotfish grazing scars! We photograph these individual scars every few days and analyze these images to determine coral healing rates. We are also recording information on parrotfish feeding preferences, parrotfish population size, and coral community composition. Later, we will assess what characteristics of scars, corals and reef sites influence coral recovery rates.
When we are not underwater, we've been organizing a citizen science project with Dive Friends Bonaire to monitor populations of the largest three Caribbean parrotfish species. In addition, Hannah is giving public talks on this research in both English and Dutch Caribbean creole at the Bonaire National Parks Foundation (where she worked before starting her master's) .
It is time for the team to get back underwater and get more data! We look forward to sharing the results of our work with you all in the future.
Thanks for your interest in our field work! Masha danki, muchisima gracias, dank u wel!
Both a graduate student and undergraduate from the parrotfish project team have been awarded funding to support their upcoming research this summer:
Master's student Hannah Rempel has been awarded research grants by the Harvard Travelers Club Permanent Fund, American Museum of Natural History Lerner-Gray Fund for Marine Research and the Dr. Earl H. and Ethel M. Myers Oceanographic and Marine Biology Trust. This summer, Hannah will be leading field research on the impacts of parrotfish predation on coral communities on Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean. This work was also made possible by a in-kind donation by Dive Friends Bonaire, who are providing scuba tanks for this research and from private community donors both in the US and Bonaire.
Undergraduate Student Emma Barton has been awarded a Bill and Melinda Frost undergraduate research award to support her work as a field research assistant this summer. Emma has been a member of the lab for 4 years and is an avid scuba diver– this will be her first opportunity to conduct coral reef field research. In addition, Emma was awarded a Sea of Tomorrow Scholarship & Sid Aconsky “Measure Twice, Cut Once” Scholarship to support her purchase of scuba gear for this research.
Congratulations Hannah and Emma! We thank all who have provided both funding and logistical support for this upcoming field work!
Hannah was awarded Best Poster Presentation at the Association of Marine Laboratories of the Caribbean! Congratulations Hannah! Check her poster here.
She was also awarded a AMLC Student Travel Award and a Cal Poly Graduate Presentation Award that allowed her to attend this conference and is thankful for funding to support her travel to present at this conference!