Coral reefs often go unnoticed because they’re underwater; but even though we don’t regularly pay much attention to them, they’re an extremely important part of our everyday lives. Coral reefs have been estimated to provide support for over a quarter of all marine species and this extreme biodiversity makes them a frequent source of discovery for new medicines that can help fight cancer and other diseases. They also protect our coastlines from storm surges, and provide millions of individuals with a source food and income.
“Why would you spend 35 days on a boat just to filter seawater?”
This was the most common question (second most common was: “Don’t you get seasick?”) that I received as I explained what I would be doing during the GOMECC trip to my friends and family. The biology component of the GOMECC trip does include lots of filtering of water onto specialty glass fiber filters, but the research does not stop there!
Have you ever wondered how we know what coastal sea rise is going to look like at the end of the century? Climate change and sea level rise are strongly connected and pose a threat especially for coastal cities and ecosystems, for example, including in the Florida Keys. The inhabitants of Key West are losing ground quickly and remote sensing can help us visualize what the future holds as the seas rise. Urban planners, policymakers and homeowners can then use that information to make more informed decisions about how to respond and prepare for rising seas.
The beauty of a healthy, thriving coral reef community is astonishing. These ‘rainforests of the sea’ are unique and their beauty is unmatched. While coral reefs only occupy less than 1% of the world’s ocean floor, they support more than 25% of all marine species. An estimated 85% of the United States’ reef area is located within the Hawaiian Archipelago that holds the largest marine sanctuary in the world, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.