Reef Lecture Series

CCMI hosts an annual Reef Lecture series that is open to the general public. These events engage citizen scientists and watersports industry personnel in the latest research and information to come out of the Little Cayman Research Station. These are great events for anyone who is interested to learn more about CCMI’s current research initiatives as well as other issues impacting the marine environment.

Reef Lectures are held on Little Cayman at the Southern Cross Club weekly at 6pm each Thursday. In Grand Cayman, Reef Lecture events take place 3-4 times a year at various locations on island and cover a range of topics.

All Reef Lectures are free and open to the general public thanks to the support of corporate sponsors; registration is requested due to limited seating at some events. We invite everyone to join us in learning more about our coral reefs and the important work being done to protect and restore them!

Reef Lecture: Impacts of isolation and protection: exploring long-term trends in coral community structure on Little Cayman Island 

Dr. Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley, Director of Research and Education, CCMI

Date: Monday, 5th June 2023
Time: 6:00pm- 7:00pm
Location: Ambassadors of the Environment, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman

We request advance registration as seating is limited. The event is FREE thanks to the support of our Healthy Reefs sponsors.


About the Reef Lecture:

Coral reefs are under continued pressure from the impacts of natural and anthropogenic stressors, leading to large-scale global shifts in coral reef ecosystems. The Caribbean has undergone extensive loss of both corals and fishes over the last 50 years, primarily from recurrent outbreaks of disease, the loss of key herbivores, overfishing, and climate induced coral bleaching. CCMI researchers have been monitoring reef community structure on an annual basis since 1999 on Little Cayman Island, tracking coral cover, diversity, colony size, and species composition as well as the density, biomass, and diversity of fish assemblages. Join us to learn what our long-running monitoring efforts tell us about the health and resiliency of these coral reefs.

Past Reef Lectures

Using temperature tolerance and disease resilience data to improve coral restoration techniques 

To mitigate continued declines due to natural and anthropogenic stressor, the practice of coral restoration has gained considerable interest, in which corals are raised in nurseries and outplanted to restore abundances on degraded reefs. However, many current restoration approaches lack research-integrated techniques and thus while corals can be grown well in a nursery setting, long-term survival post outplanting remains a critical failure point. In this study, we aimed to test the thermal resilience of corals in the established nursery at CCMI to determine if laboratory-based assessments of tolerance translate into higher rates of survival after outplanting. Results from this research provide valuable information for future outplanting strategies to maximize success.

Restoring Healthy Reefs for the Future

Join us for this Reef Lecture to discuss what we saw during our 2021 AGRRA surveys of Little Cayman’s reefs. This information is collected annually, and researchers analyze the data to see a snapshot of the how the reef is doing as well as notice long-term trends in the overall health of Little Cayman’s reefs.

Climate change and the decline of the world’s coral reefs

Coral populations that build coral reefs are declining worldwide. The creeping loss of corals directly impacts people and countless marine species that depend on healthy reefs. Dr. Bruno will talk about why this is happening, why it matters, and what we can do about it.

Is global warming or localized pollution causing worldwide coral decline?

Scientists agree that the coral populations that build coral reefs are declining worldwide. What’s up for debate is the relative, and potentially synergistic, roles of global climate change (e.g., ocean warming) and local problems like overfishing and pollution. Dr. Bruno will talk about different kinds of evidence (lab, field experimental, large scale descriptive, etc) for both ocean warming and localized pollution. Weighing evidence for both, we’ll go over some of this conflicting evidence and talk about how we might resolve the debate.

Insights on the impacts of coral restoration: How planting corals affects the entire ecosystem

This year (2022) marks a decade of restoration research at CCMI. During this time, we have made significant strides toward improving our methods for rearing corals in the nursery as well as improving survival after planting corals back onto the reef. Initiation of our coral-dome project has shown an increase in long-term survival of out planted corals from 8% to 73% and has given important insights to site selection and out-planting strategies.

Recently, we investigated how our out-planted coral-domes affected the resident fish populations. Nearly two years after creating a series of coral-dome sites, we found an increase in fish density and diversity over time at reefs where corals were planted, suggesting that not only does restoration impact corals, but potentially the entire ecosystem. These findings provide support for our continued efforts to restore populations of these threatened coral species, as it will have far reaching impacts towards improving reef health.

World Ocean Day: CCMI Research Update

CCMI has been monitoring the reefs in the Cayman Islands for over 20 years and began our long-term coral restoration programme in 2012. We have just launched a new Reef Ecology and Evolution Lab (REEL), which utilises cutting edge science to help understand climate change and how coral reefs can adapt for the future. Dr Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley, CCMI’s Director of Research, provides an update on CCMI’s work on coral reef ecology and restoration as part of our 2021 World Ocean Day activity.

Quiet Oceans: Assessing the Impacts of COVID-19 on Local Fish Populations

The oceans have been quiet in the Cayman Islands due to the border closures resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. This presents a unique opportunity to quantify how fish populations are impacted by reduced human activity, creating important insight as to how we could sustainably manage coral ecosystem health. 

This “Quiet Oceans” Reef Lecture & Webinar discusses our assessment of the impacts of Covid-19 restrictions on local marine biodiversity. Following the presentation of the study results, a panel featuring Dr Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley (CCMI), Dr Guy Harvey (Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation) and Catherine Childs (National Trust of the Cayman Islands) discussed what these findings mean for Cayman as we continue opening following the pandemic.

Protecting the Future of Cayman’s Coral Reefs through Resilience and Restoration

This talk, given by Dr Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley (CCMI), will discuss the more about the two most detrimental stressors currently impacting the survival of corals: bleaching caused by thermal stress and disease. As our ocean continues to warm and outbreaks of disease become more prevalent, it is critical to understand the capacity of organisms to adapt and/or acclimate to changing conditions and seek solutions to promote resilience and sustain biodiversity. Dr. Goodbody-Gringley discusses results from our past restoration studies and presents a new outlook for development of resilient coral populations through advanced restoration techniques that will shape the future of coral reefs in the Cayman Islands.

Cuba’s Hidden Treasures: An Underwater Adventure to Gardens of the Queen Coral Reefs

This talk, given by Dr Amy Apprill (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), will take you on an underwater adventure to the pristine coral reefs of Gardens of the Queen in southern Cuba. Learn about the unprecedented partnership between U.S. and Cuban scientists that studied these reefs and how we combined resources and training from our respective countries to present a holistic and technologically innovative view into this ‘crown jewel’ reef system of the northern Caribbean.

Two Decades of Resilience on the Reefs of Little Cayman

Since 1999, researchers at CCMI have been monitoring the health of the coral reefs around Little Cayman Island by surveying various aspects of the community on an annual basis. Long-term monitoring studies such as this enable assessment of the resilience of the reef to changing conditions over time and also give a better understanding of the true impact of global climate change. Following the standardized protocol of the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA), these surveys document patterns of local change over the last two decades and enable regional comparisons through the Healthy Reef Framework developed for evaluating the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.

CCMI’s Director of Research, Dr Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley, shared findings about the change over time for coral cover, coral composition, algae, and fish density and biomass from CCMI’s 20 year data set of annual reef monitoring activity. This includes talking through the findings contained in the recently released technical report, discussing the results and what they tell us about the stability of the coral and fish populations on Little Cayman. At the end of the lecture, Dr Goodbody-Gringley discusses Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, which has recently been discovered on Grand Cayman.

Stop Whining! Life as an ocean ambassador

Ellen Cuylaerts shares her insights on how to act, practice what you preach and use your voice to contribute to constructive change. She discusses how her photography tells the stories about threatened and endangered marine animals, their environment and the challenges they face, all in an effort to raises awareness about some of the most critical environmental issues of our time.

This seminar, presented in an online Zoom session by underwater photographer Ellen Cuylaerts on Thursday, 11 June 2020, took participants on a virtual trip to the stories behind the shots: how to get there, how to prepare, how to create the most chances to come home with a shot, and how to never give up!

Coral Health: From microbes to branches

Healthy corals are critical for sustaining reefs. Corals are in a tightly coupled relationship between bacteria (like in your gut!), microscopic algae, and the coral animal itself. This seminar, presented by visiting scientist Dr. Anya Brown on Tuesday, 21 January 2020 at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands Dart Auditorium, focused on trade-offs between types of coral growth, a coral disease outbreak, and what clues the microbes on corals tell us about their health.

20 Year Surveys of Cayman Reefs

Dr Claire Dell presents on the Cayman Islands Reef Survey Report from 1999 – 2018. In July 2018, a team of six science divers and one boat captain from the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) concluded surveys of 25 reefs across the three Cayman Islands (eight reefs in each of the Sister Islands and nine on Grand Cayman), the same reefs which CCMI had originally surveyed in 1999. The scientists used the same Atlantic & Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) protocol as was used in the original 1999 survey, in order to have an accurate assessment of the change in reef health during this time. What did the scientists find in the most recent survey? How does that compare with what they found 20 years ago? Learn about the results of the survey – and what this means for the future of our coral reefs.

Coral Reef Resilience and Refugia

This presentation focuses on current threats to coral reef systems and mechanisms to overcome them through changes to reproductive patterns, epigenetics, dispersal, morphology, and physiology, with specific attention to the potential for mesophotic reefs (deep below SCUBA depth limits) to serve as a refuge for future coral survival. Dr Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley presents her current work on the deep reefs of Bermuda. She also briefly discusses her ongoing research on the invasive lionfish.

Many thanks to our Healthy Reefs sponsors for supporting this event: