By Antares Ramos Álvarez, Entry 1
Guest Blogger Biography: Antares Ramos Álvarez works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as Puerto Rico’s Coral Management Liaison and Coastal Specialist where she assists with both coral reef conservation and coastal zone management issues for Puerto Rico (where she is from) and is a dual report to NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program and Coastal Programs Divisions. She works closely with Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and provides support for their coral reef and CZM programs, and also works closely with other coral reef resource managers and partners from the NGO and academic community in Puerto Rico. She is a social ecologist finishing her Ph.D. in Marine Ecology from the University of Oxford, where she is studying the Ecology and Sustainability of Puerto Rico’s Marine Ornamental Fishery. This work will culminate in providing policy recommendations for Puerto Rico’s fishing regulations. She has a Master’s in Geography from the University of Oxford’s Biodiversity Conservation and Management Program, as well as a B.A. in Psychology from Yale University. Antares has worked on the Yucatán Peninsula México as a Coral Reef Outreach and Education Coordinator in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. She is a certified dive instructor, has served as a social scientist on several conservation projects in Puerto Rico dealing with user perspectives and community outreach, has worked on coastal conservation initiatives with several NGO’s and while working at the International Institute of Tropical Forestry with USDA’s Forest Service co-authored and developed La Cartilla de la Zona Marítimo Terrestre – a reference publication directed towards educating stakeholders, policy makers, managers and the general public about all aspects of the coastal maritime zone in Puerto Rico (social, physical, ecological, policy). As part of her PhD work, she spent three years in Puerto Rico counting fish…as well as interviewing fishermen, working together with marine resource managers and academics and carrying out marine habitat assessments.
On Our Way to Northeast Great Reserve
I’m Antares and I’ll be writing about this mission for the next six days. I’m a geographer and marine ecologist, working for the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource under NOAA’s National Ocean Service. I’m based in Puerto Rico (PR) where I serve as Coastal Specialist and Coral Management Liaison between the Territory and NOAA. Some of the work I do is provide support to PR’s Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) and NOAA in project management and planning (related to coral reefs and the coastal area), promote collaboration between local and federal agencies, NGO’s, and stakeholders in the conservation and management of marine resources, and serve as the on-the-ground contact for NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program and Coastal Zone Management Program. As a NOAA Scientific Diver, I also get to help out with in-water fieldwork. It’s my first time on the Nancy Foster so I’ll admit I’m like a child in a toy store!
Today we set sail for the Northeast Great Reserve leaving from Old San Juan. We made several passes into and out of the harbor to calibrate and troubleshoot the acoustic sonars onboard the ship to make sure they are operating properly. The sonar data collected in the channel will be used to support navigational safety for ship traffic entering the San Juan Harbor. We also surveyed some of the area’s known sunken treasures: a Spanish galleon. In years past we have found several uncharted shipwrecks. We hope our luck continues. Seeing the details of the shipwreck on the sonar image makes you think about how times have changed. This now peaceful El Morro Fort used to watch out for its island’s resources…standing firm and elegantly in the mouth of the San Juan harbor, bidding us farewell as we leave the old town and head to the eastern part of the island, where some of the most beautiful marine resources are found.
The mission of the scientists on board is to map the natural treasures of the northeastern side of Puerto Rico and further understand what resources are part of that treasure, with the ultimate goal of protecting these marine wonders. While the fortification of centuries past served their purpose to protect the coastal waters of Puerto Rico, today we are using ocean science to guard and protect the rich ecology of Puerto Rico. Guess times haven’t changed that much…we’re not building forts to protect the island’s resources, we’re now using high end technology to build upon our knowledge so we can design and implement plans of attack (well, management strategies) to avoid those resources disappearing.
Stay tuned, we’ll be providing updates on the mission, talking about life on the ship and portraying some of the crew. To see the the Nancy Foster throughout the 2012 mapping mission, visit the NOAA ship tracker site and click on “Enter NOAA’s Ship Tracker link, then scroll down to “NF – Nancy Foster” in the box on the upper right of the screen to see where she is at any given time!
Be sure to visit this blog often for field updates, pictures and videos posted by members of the science team.