Ph.D. Candidate, CCNY
Ph: (212) 650-8218
The City College of New York
Marshak Science Building, Rm. 923
160 Convent Avenue
New York, NY 10031
Theme 1: Coastal Resilience
Project 2: Theoretical modeling; biological analysis, remote sensing data and assessment
Task: Development of in-situ and satellite-based environmental datasets for assessing resilience to disturbance in tropical coral reefs
Advisor: Kyle McDonald
NOAA Mentors: James Hendee (OAR), Karsin Shein (NESDIS), & Mark Eakin (NESDIS)
Expected Graduation: May 2019
Degree: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Research Title: Evaluating Coral Bleaching In Southern Florida and Puerto Rico By Comparing In Situ and Satellite Based Sea Water Temperatures and Light Levels
One major environmental stressor, which began in mid-2014 and has been causing significant documented damage to coral reefs in all tropical ocean basins, is the third global coral bleaching event. It is now the longest and largest bleaching event on record. From this bleaching event, it was observed that some coral colonies proved to be more resilient to increased ocean temperatures, while others bleached severely. This leads to the questions, why are some corals more tolerant of bleaching? Is it because different coral reef ecosystems experience varying temperatures and solar radiation due to different local environmental factors such as micro-currents, or diurnal heating? Or could it be due to coral adaptation and acclimation? To help further understand how temperatures and light play a part in coral bleaching, and why some coral colonies are more susceptible to bleaching, my PhD research will investigate the spatial and temporal variability of bleaching stress on coral reefs in southern Florida and La Parguera, Puerto Rico. I will be investigating the microclimate surrounding coral reefs by collecting and analyzing temperature and light data from in situ loggers that I will be deploying this summer/fall (2017). I will then compare the in situ measurements with NOAA Coral Reef Watch’s 5-km sea surface temperature data, as well as their Light Stress Damage Product. These observations will enhance our understanding of the relationship between light and temperature, and how they interact to cause bleaching. Research outcomes will include novel in situ SST and light measurements around southern Florida and La Parguera, Puerto Rico, and statistical analysis of the in situ measurements with satellite data. Additional understanding of the microclimate encompassing coral reefs, and improved satellite SST and light data, will ultimately help coral reef ecosystem managers and policy makers in prioritizing resources toward the monitoring, and protection of coral reef ecosystems, including stricter regulations on overfishing and limiting land-based pollution. In Florida I will be working with Dr. Jim Hendee’s team at NOAA’s AOML facility in Miami, and in Puerto Rico I will be collaborating with Dr. Roy Armstrong’s lab at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez.
My project’s overarching goal is to contribute new data for coral reef conservation and management, enabling better satellite monitoring of the reef environment and the stressors that impact coral health. This directly relates to NOAA’s mission to advance science, service, and stewardship. By advancing our current knowledge and understanding of coral reefs, especially leading up to, during, and after periods of stressful environmental conditions, the outcomes of this project will be of use to the private, public, and academic sectors. My PhD research is designed to advance marine science and technology, and foster innovation in monitoring the coral reef environment. This will contribute directly to the NOAA Next-Generation Strategic Plan objective, “A holistic understanding of the Earth system through research”. It also will enhance our understanding of the relationships between climate, oceans, and ecosystems, while improving our understanding of coastal ecosystems and the effects human activities and climate change have on coastal marine communities. Importantly, my PhD project will advance the understanding of these complex interactions, as they exist across Earth’s climate and oceans. The proposed project also will advance NOAA’s Next-Generation Strategic Plan objective to generate “accurate and reliable data from sustained and integrated earth observing systems,” by measuring and validating sea surface temperatures detected by satellites.