We are sad to announce that the 2012 NOAA ship Nancy Foster mapping mission has come to an end. But, before we left the mission for good, we had one more set of activities. Today aboard the ship, docked at the U.S. Coast Guard Station in San Juan, we had a morning Reef Smart education program for students, and in the afternoon we had a meeting with resource managers from Puerto Rico to discuss coastal mapping needs.
NOAA’s Reef Smart
The three-hour NOAA Reef Smart education program is a fun opportunity for the students to meet mission scientists and ship crew, learn more about the 2012 Caribbean mission, discover high-tech tools used to collect underwater data, gain a better understanding of Puerto Rico’s marine resources, and explore the variety of careers in marine science.
Thirty-four students (grades 6-10), five teachers and a few parents from two schools in Puerto Rico participated: Escuela Intermedia Teresita Nazario de Guanica and Colegio Sagrado Corazon. They boarded the ship and the program began with ship safety, a brief description of the 2012 seafloor mapping mission and a short National Geographic video about the 2011 NCCOS/Coral Reef Conservation Program seafloor mapping mission in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The students and teachers split into three groups to take three interactive classes covering coral reef ecosystems, the research tools scientists use to study them, and a ship tour. In the coral reef class they learned about the basics of coral reef ecosystems, and the importance and benefits of these unique resources at risk. They found a buddy and surveyed a coral reef (in the mess hall!), identifying and counting reef species and habitats using a field guide and a survey sheet.
Next, the students learned about the tools used to map the seafloor bottom type and study fish aggregations. They learned how cameras mounted on remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are used to help explain the data that the ship sonar system collects on the seafloor. They also got to tour the ship, including a chance to wiggle into “Gumby” survival suits! The program ended with a quick quiz and they all received a NOAA bag with educational materials. The kids and teachers piled off the ship for some group pictures and (hopefully) left with some new ideas about the amazing coral reefs nearby and some careers to consider in marine science.
Bringing Data to Coral Reef Ecosystem Managers
Following the activities for the students, we quickly set up for a Reef Smart event intended to connect scientists with the people who use our data the most: local managers, academic researchers, and specialists from local nongovernmental agencies, the University of Puerto Rico, the Environmental Protection Agency and other organizations came from across the island to participate in the event. Chief scientist Tim Battista and fishery acoustic scientist Erik Ebert shared some of their findings from the mission in the Northeast Great Reserve and explored ways NOAA technology and expertise can be leveraged to support the needs of local managers and coral reef priority areas.
After a quick tour of the dry and wet labs, the group heard directly from representatives of the local management community. Dr. Miguel Canals and Humberto Figueroa — managers of Guanica Bay and the Northeast Reserve and Culebra, respectively — presented highlights of their management areas and focused on the most pressing needs for both regions. The event ended with a lively discussion on how to keep lines of communication open between managers and scientists.
Special thanks to all the presenters, partners and participants for making both events a success!
Be sure to visit this blog often for field updates, pictures and videos posted by members of the science team.