What we're doing...
If our reefs disappeared tomorrow, do YOU know what the impact would be?
Reef Monitoring is striving to establish a base line set of data. An on-going snapshot of our current valuable marine resources residing on our natural and artificial reefs. This data can be used for a variety of purposes including providing an economical value of our resources, assessing the health of fish stocks and even provide an early warning of contamination or pollution in our waters.
Reef Monitoring was formed in 2005 in response to the massive Red Tide and Low Oxygen kill we had in the near-shore waters of Tampa Bay, Florida. At the time, Sean Patterson was an undergraduate student at the University of South Florida. Working under the supervision of Dr. Heyward Mathews of St. Petersburg College, the original project was to track the recovery of one natural reef and one artificial reef in state waters. Fish counts and invertebrate counts were taken by the diver transect method as well as random quarter-meter coverage assesments of the reef substrate. Algae samples were taken and analyzed as well.
With the spectre of off-shore oil drilling becoming more prevalent in Florida, the project continued and shifted direction. More fish counts were needed across a much wider area to asses and establish a base line set of data that was necessary in case we suffer any damage to our ecosystems. There was a bill in the Florida legislature being considered that would allow oil drilling in State waters off Florida's beaches. This would not have been deep ocean drilling. This would have been within 9 miles of the beach. Any pollution resulting from the drilling would have an immediate impact on our beaches and reef systems. In response to this, St. Petersburg College teamed up with a local dive shop, Mac's Sports, to get the local community involved. The goal is to train local sport divers to begin collecting the much needed scientific data on these reefs.
In the fall of 2009, a series of lectures was conducted by Dr. Mathews and several other college professors at Mac's Sports as well as training sessions in their pool to teach divers the scientific method of collecting the data.
Sport divers are invited and highly encouraged to participate in the collection of this data. To begin, the first step is to attend a training course conducted by Reef Monitoring. The training course consists of a lecture and a pool session which will teach the divers how to conduct the transect survey as well as identify the species on the datasheet.
Once a diver has been to training, they are free to contact any one of the local dive shops in the Tampa Bay area that has a set of survey gear ready. They will check out the gear for the day and proceed to go diving. The datasheet will have the species listed as well as the environmental factors such as water depth and temperature, location of the reef, etc...
The divers may conduct as many surveys as they like that day. The more surveys they can take, the better as we need all the data we can get!
The gear will be returned to the dive shop after diving and the datasheets can be submitted to the dive shop as well. An on-line data submission process is in the works and will be available soon.
Heyward Mathews, PhD
Professor of Oceanography, SCUBA Instructor
Monica Lara, PhD
Professor of Marine Biology, Larval fish expert
Capt. Sean Patterson
Capt. Cory Trier
Director of Operations
Captain, SCUBA Instructor
Reef Monitoring Inc.
Location: Clearwater, FL
Areas of Expertise:
Marine research, reef site mapping/planning and analysis, photography/videography, larval recruitment, UVC