Past Projects

Reef Lectures

CCMI is pleased to offer a variety of Reef Lecture events, where our scientists and collaborators share the ongoing research done at our research station or in partnership with CCMI. Click on the title to view one of our past Reef Lectures.

Impacts of isolation and protection: exploring long-term trends in coral community structure on Little Cayman Island; Dr. Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley, CCMI

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.

Presented at Ambassadors of the Environment, 5 June 2023

Using temperature tolerance & disease resilience data to improve coral restoration; Dr. Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley, CCMI

Coral reefs are increasingly threatened by natural and anthropogenic stressors, such as global climate change, and have undergone unprecedented losses over the last several decades. To mitigate continued declines, 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.

Presented at Ambassadors of the Environment, 3 May 2023

Restoring Healthy Reefs for the Future; Matt Doherty, CCMI

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.

Presented at Little Cayman Beach Resort 9 June 2022

Climate change and the decline of the world’s coral reefs; Dr. John Bruno, UNC at Chapel Hill

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 about why changing climate and warming oceans matters and help us understand what we can do about it.

Presented at The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands 21 April 2022

Is global warming or localized pollution causing worldwide coral decline?; Dr. John Bruno, UNC at Chapel Hill

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.

Presented at Southern Cross Club 14 April 2022

Insights on the impacts of coral restoration: How planting corals affects the entire ecosystem; Dr Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley

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. 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.

Presented at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands 24 February 2022

World Ocean Day: CCMI Research Update; Dr Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley

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.

Presented at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands 8 June 2021

Quiet Oceans: Assessing the Impacts of COVID-19 on Local Fish Populations; Dr Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley

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.

Presented at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands 30 March 2021

Protecting the Future of Cayman’s Coral Reefs; Dr Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley

While there are numerous local causes of coral loss (e.g., pollution, destructive fishing practices, etc.), the two most detrimental stressors currently impacting the survival of corals are 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. Initiating a science-based restoration program in the Cayman Islands in 2011, CCMI has been and will continue to be a pioneer in the coral reef restoration arena. Current restoration empirical investigations coupled with available long-term ecosystem data at CCMI provides the basis for furthering knowledge of reef resilience. 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.

Presented at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands 10 November 2020.

Cuba’s Hidden Treasures: An Underwater Adventure to Gardens of the Queen Coral Reefs; Dr Amy Apprill, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

This talk 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.

Dr. Amy Apprill leads the Microbial Ecology for Ocean Conservation research laboratory at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Her research examines the contribution of microorganisms to the health and ecology of sensitive animals and ecosystems of the ocean. Presented 30 September 2020

Two Decades of Resilience on the Reefs of Little Cayman; Dr Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley

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. She also discusses Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, which has recently been discovered on Grand Cayman. Presented 22 July 2020

Stop Whining! Life as an ocean ambassador; Ellen Cuylaerts

Ellen Cuylaerts shares her insights on how to act, practice what you preach and use your voice to contribute to constructive change. Ellen is a wildlife and underwater photographer and chooses to take images of subjects that are hard to encounter like harp seal pups, polar bears, orcas, beluga whales and sharks, to name a few. By telling the stories about their environment and the challenges they face, she raises awareness about the effect of climate change on arctic species, the cruel act of shark finning and keeping marine mammals in captivity.

During this seminar, Ellen will take you on a virtual trip and show you 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!

Ellen Cuylaerts is an ocean advocate, underwater & wildlife photographer, explorer, and public speaker.  Presented 11 June 2020

Coral Health: from microbes to branches; Dr. Anya Brown

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 collaborative scientist Dr. Anya Brown, 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.

Dr. Anya Brown is currently in the Ewel Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in Ecology and Environmental Science at the University of Florida. Presented 21 January 2020

Coral Reef Resillience and Refugia; Dr Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley

This presentation focused 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 Goodbody-Gringley presented her current work on the deep reefs of Bermuda and attendees will see a part of the ecosystem that is unreachable using recreational diving.

Dr. Goodbody-Gringley is a Research Scientist at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science. Presented 25 April 2019

20 Year Surveys of Cayman Reefs; Dr Claire Dell

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. Presented 28 February 2019