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2071

Ocean Health

Investigating Reefs and Marine Wildlife in The Bahamas

How can we protect fragile coral reefs and still benefit from their resources? Help scientists answer this critically important question.


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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

For fish, variety is best: studies have shown that living in reefs connected to mangroves may increase the weight of some species by over 100%

Marine biologists have little information to help them decide which mangroves and patch reefs to prioritize for protection.

You’ll help biologists fill in knowledge gaps by surveying the mangroves and patch reefs of the Bahamas. They particularly want to know what increases the abundance of fish in these habitats. Abundant fishy life tells scientists that a coral reef is healthy: fish graze on algae that would otherwise stifle corals, so a strong fish population keeps algae in check, which helps coral reefs flourish.

But what do the fish themselves need? Among many other things, food and shelter from predators. Some species get all of their resources from a single habitat, and they live there for their entire lives. But others need to move as they grow. They start their lives in nursery habitats: as babies, they settle into seagrass beds, which have fewer places for predators to hide.

Protecting Reefs in the Bahamas

Help find answers by snorkeling in the clear waters off the Bahamas, identifying fish and observing their behavior.

They then often move into food- and shelter-rich mangrove creeks as they grow. And when they outgrow this habitat, they migrate onto patch reefs and then onto coral reefs—the perfect place for many adult fish.

But researches still know surprisingly little about how this process actually works. How far do fish move as they grow? What factors influence their choice of habitats? And how does the loss of crucial habitats specifically impact fish: for example, does the stress cause them to feed less effectively, grow more slowly, or reproduce less? These questions are difficult, but your help brings answers ever closer.

About the research area

Eleuthera Island, Bahamas, Central America & The Caribbean

Daily life in the field

Itinerary

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The Scientists

MEET THE LEAD SCIENTIST

Alastair
Harborne
Coral Reef Ecologist, University of Queensland

ABOUT Alastair Harborne

Dr. Harborne has done coral reef work for 20 years. He is a coral reef ecologist with interest in fish and coral ecology, and an overarching aim of using ecological insights to aid biodiversity conservation.

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Accommodations and Food

Accommodations and Food

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