There’s never been a more important time to learn about the conservation of coral reefs

With 2016 being the hottest year ever recorded on earth the impacts of climate change on tropical marine habitats such as coral reefs, seagrass and mangroves have been widespread around the world.

Puerto Rico 2017 trip snorklingThese habitats are of vital importance to the continuation of life on earth as we know it, so learning how to conserve these centres of biodiversity and marine productivity in a changing environment has never been more important.

‌‌With this in mind 24 Swansea University students studying for degrees in marine biology, zoology and biology embarked on a two week tropical marine biology study trip to Puerto Rico.

 

 

 

Puerto Rico 2017 trip small group

Based at the Isla Magueyes, University of Puerto Rico the students conducted short team research projects on aspects of the ecology of tropical marine ecosystems (Predation, herbivory, Fish adaptation, habitat connectivity, reef fish ecology).

 

 

 

The work programme included:

  • Snorkelling on coral reefs, seagrass and mangroves developing skills in the identification of tropical marine fish and corals
  • Visiting mangroves forests and learnt about their value to our coastal environments
  • Surveying seagrass meadows ‘the prairies of the sea’ to understand their health and status
  • Taking part in a marine mammal survey using cutting edge acoustic listening equipment to survey their populations 
  • Learning about how to manage tropical marine habitats to be more resilient to environmental change
  • Conducting a dissection of the invasive Caribbean Lionfish that is decimating reef fish communities around the region
  • Taking part in international science programmes such as AGRRA, SeagrassWatch, SquidPops and SeagrassSpotter
  • Snorkelling at night to experience the world famous Bioluminescent Bay, see bottlenose dolphins and stay on an island over run by large Iguana

 The study module is led by Swansea University academics Richard Unsworth and Nicole Esteban with assistance from Penny Neyland, Ed Pope and Ian Horsfall.

Speaking about the vital research field trip Professor Richard Unsworth said:  “Students at Swansea got to experience incredible tropical marine habitats and their associated biodiversity, but they also observed the stress these systems are under from climate change and poor environmental management.”

Puerto Rico 2017 trip group ‌Our students share their thoughts on their fascinating experience:

  • “ The trip is a fantastic opportunity to develop new skills” - Kirei Hankins
  • “ Really enjoyable, with lots of hard work but well worth it for the experiences” – Lyle Boyle
  • “ Brilliant experience, science in action in the field” – Charlotte Bryan