PARTNERSHIPS: The Growth of Collaborative Research at a Regional Level Series, Part 1: Overview with Dr. Chris Jeffrey

In an effort to give readers a sense of how research changes over time, building on historical approaches, informing future study directions, NOAA Ocean Science Blogger sat down with NOAA’s Dr. Chris Jeffrey of the National Centers for Coastal Ocean ScienceCenter for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment, Biogeography Branch, to talk about one such project which took place in the Tortugas region off the coast of Florida. 

This is Part 1 of a three-part series on the Tortugas Ecological Reserve, Part 2 with NOAA’s Office of National Marine SanctuariesDr. Bob Leeworthy covers the socioeconomic part of the project while Part 3 is an interview featuring Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary‘s Superintendent, Sean Morton on the role of research within a Sanctuary.

Thank you for speaking with our readers, Dr. Jeffrey.
Glad to be here!

Can you tell me briefly about the goal of this study?
The NOAA Tortugas Integrated Biogeographic Assessment presents an analysis of demographic changes in living resource populations, as well as societal and socioeconomic benefits that resulted from Tortugas Ecological Reserves during the first five years after their implementation. The NOAA announcement is here.

Who were the partners in the NOAA project?
Nearly two dozen scientists, researchers and managers contributed to this report. Partners include: NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, ONMS, National Marine Fisheries Service’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center (NMFS, SEFSC); University of Miami; and University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

What was the goal of the project?
The TER Integrated Assessment had two broad goals: 1) to determine if expected demographic changes such as increases in abundance, average size and spawning potential of exploited populations occurred in the Tortugas region after reserve implementation; and 2) to determine whether short-term economic losses occurred to fishers displaced by the reserve.

What needs were you hoping to fill by completing this project?
This was the first effort to provide a compendium of information for the Tortugas region through the synthesis of existing data on living resource distribution; analysis and interpretation of existing data to demonstrate the ecological effectiveness of marine reserves in reducing fishing mortality and increasing economic benefits of adjacent fisheries.

Map of study area demarcated by read and purple boundaries.  Darker blue is water.

Islands and management zones of the Tortugas region, Florida Keys. The two sections of the reserve—Tortugas Ecological Reserve North and Tortugas Ecological Reserve South—are shown in the yellow-and- green-striped boxes. Map: C.F.G. Jeffrey.

How did you develop the idea for this project?
As the research capacity within NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS), NCCOS is responsible for supporting ocean research and conducting scientific investigations on coastal habitats and the interconnectivity between habitats and resources.  The goal of this assessment was to develop a case study to demonstrate how a biogeographic assessment approach could be used to determine the ecological and societal benefits of implementing reserves, thereby providing data to the regional management community about the effectiveness of various management approaches in meeting ecological and societal goals for resource management.

By engaging other NOAA programs and offices, state and federal agency, and academic researchers, we, as a team, designed an assessment that would meet regional stakeholder needs while leveraging cross-office, agency and sector talent and expertise.  That collaborative approach was both efficient as well as effective for meeting our shared goals for this assessment.

underwater photo of fish and coral

The coral reef ecosystems of the Tortugas Ecological Reserve support a diverse faunal assemblage.            Photo credit: NCCOS/CCFHR

What process did you follow to plan and carry out this work?
We coordinated with relevant scientists working in the Tortugas region as well as other NOS and NOAA programs to obtain data, conduct the analyses, and develop the final report over the course of several years.

Can you describe additional types of projects this assessment has led to since its completion and some broader applications of this approach?
Since its completion, the assessment has spurred additional monitoring and research as well as related projects at ONMS, NMFS, University of Miami and University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

ONMS continues to look at the economics of this region and NMFS continues to monitor fish populations. University of Miami and University of Massachusetts have continued field research and my NCCOS colleagues at the Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research (CCFHR) are planning to publish their fish acoustic results from this study next summer. This work is also informing a biogeographic assessment currently taking place, on a much broader scale, for the Florida Keys Reef tract.

The National Park Service also issued a report in 2012 talking about resources within the NPS boundaries.

African American man with gray sweater and glasses

Dr. Christopher Jeffrey

NCCOS Blogger Biography: Dr. Christopher F.G. Jeffrey is a CSS-Dynamac contract marine biologist with NCCOSCenter for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment, Biogeography Branch. Dr. Jeffrey is an ecologist with specialized expertise in coral reef ecosystem science, geospatial statistics, conservation biology, sustainable use of resources, and quantifying spatial [landscape] patterns in the distribution and occurrence of marine organisms. Dr. Jeffrey joined CCMA in 1999, where he is a currently a scientist with CCMA’s Biogeography Branch.  Prior to joining NOAA.  Chris earned his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees from the University of Georgia and a B.S. from the University of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Before emigrating to the U.S Virgin Islands in to attend college in 1989, Chris lived in the 133 square-mile tri-island state of Grenada, Carriacou, and Petit Martinique.

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This entry was posted in Benthic Mapping, Biogeography Branch, Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research, Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment, Coral, General, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, NOAA's National Ocean Service, Ocean Exploration, Ocean Field Work, Ocean Research, Partnerships and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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