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Florida Sea Grant Agents Train Scuba Divers to Survey Diseased Coral

Florida Sea Grant Agents Train Scuba Divers to Survey Diseased Coral

Florida’s coral reefs are under threat from
multiple areas. They are facing threats associated with climate
change, land-based sources of pollution, coastal construction, and of course, here in Miami-Dade
County, we have a population of 2.7 million people. And that’s a lot of pressure. So that’s why getting a better understanding,
and if necessary, applying intervention strategies to save some of these keystone coral species
is really extremely important. We took the lead in developing training materials
that we will use to teach recreational scuba divers how to identify stony corals and how
to identify this particular disease outbreak so that they can perform underwater surveys
that will not only help us determine how far the disease outbreak has moved, but also keep
monitoring in areas where the disease has already run through to monitor recovery in
those sections of the reef tract. Since the Florida Reef Tract covers such a
great extent of the coastline, it’s impossible to have enough eyes on the water at any given
time. And so the idea behind this citizen science
scuba diving monitoring is to increase the understanding of where the disease is traveling,
whether if it keeps progressing beyond the lower Keys to Key West or further, as well
as how the corals that have survived the disease event, what status and what shape that they’re
in. And so things that you can do are to make
sure looking around your home, making sure that your rain gutters are positioned over
grass and not a cement or impervious surface so that way rain water is caught in the grass
and filtered and does not then travel over pavement and cement and pick up pollutants
that ends up in our stormwater system. People, private citizens, homeowners, even
tenants, can look into proper fertilizing of their plants or lawns and same learning
about proper pesticide application so that those contaminants are minimized from entering
the watershed. And it’s not as much of an output into the
local water bodies. Additionally making great choices about products
that are used. For example, sunscreen. Sunscreen has gotten quite a bit of attention
in the last couple of years because there are several chemicals in sunscreens that are
unsafe and can actually harm the living coral animal. So looking at sunscreens that don’t contain
any benzones or anything that ends with an “one.” But things that are safe are things like zinc
oxide or titanium. And becoming an informed consumer and learning
to read the labels and looking for what’s truly safe versus not is also really important.

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