By Allison Delashmit
Learn to monitor for coral bleaching — a significant challenge for Florida Keys reefs — during the next talk in Mote Marine Laboratory’s monthly lecture series from 3-4 p.m. Saturday, June 23, at the Marathon Branch Library. These monthly events are free to the public and will feature a presentation from a marine scientist followed by a question and answer session.
The June lecture will feature Cory Walter, Staff Biologist and Coordinator of the BleachWatch program at Mote’s Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration (IC2R3). Walter will train divers and snorkelers interested in volunteering for the Florida Keys BleachWatch program. This program provides early warnings of potential coral bleaching events in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary during the warm summer months.
Bleaching occurs when heat or other stressors cause corals to lose their zooxanthellae — the algae that live inside their tissues and help supply the coral with necessary nourishment. If corals don’t recover their zooxanthellae over a period of time, they could ultimately die. When BleachWatch volunteers provide early warnings of a coral bleaching event, their data and that collected by researchers will help ground-truth NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch Program’s satellite prediction models.
“BleachWatch invites people to be our eyes on the water,” Walter said. “It is fairly simple to volunteer, and you’ll be helping us detect bleaching rapidly and document its severity in a standardized, quantitative way. We will provide the findings to resource managers with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, our partner in BleachWatch. We also work with The Nature Conservancy’s Florida Reef Resilience Program, which uses BleachWatch reports as an alert to direct more rigorous scientific surveys of coral bleaching, and ultimately, survival or death.”
Recreational and professional divers, as well as snorkelers, are invited to attend this 45- to 60-minute training session. No scientific background is needed. Visit the BleachWatch page on Mote’s website and the BleachWatch Facebook group to learn more.
Mote’s BleachWatch program has operated for more than a decade in partnership with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). BleachWatch results are synthesized with NOAA’s monitoring data to provide scientists, resource managers and the public summaries of current conditions on Florida reefs during summer. Data are also available to support better predictions of bleaching and reef management planning. BleachWatch receives funding from NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and from the Protect Our Reefs grants program, which distributes funds from sales of Florida’s Protect Our Reefs specialty license plate.
No RSVP is required. The training will start promptly at 3 p.m. The Marathon Branch of the Monroe County Library is located at 3251 Overseas Highway, Marathon, FL 33050. For questions, contact Allison Delashmit, Florida Keys Community Relations Manager at email@example.com or (305) 509-9141. For future dates visit mote.org/summerland.