Coral Reef Monitoring in St. Thomas and St. John
A spotted moray (Gymnothorax moringa) takes a peek at a diver during a National Coral Reef Monitoring Program survey in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.
From July 24 to August 4, NOAA and reciprocity divers continued work in the U.S. Virgin Islands to monitor coral reefs as part of the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program (NCRMP). This two-week mission focused on surveys of fish and benthic communities in coral reef habitats around the islands of St. Thomas and St. John.
Over 35 scientists and students from partner agencies participated in this mission, including the National Park Service, Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, University of the Virgin Islands, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This is the third season that scientists visited St. Thomas and St. John to sample coral reef habitats, and they targeted a list of 250 diving sites. Divers successfully completed combined fish and benthic surveys in 224 of those sites, with 12 additional sites surveyed for fish only and 5 additional sites for benthic communities only, for a total of 241 sites surveyed. NOAA Reciprocity Diver Cheryl Hankins, from the EPA, was also able to collect additional samples during the mission to support a study on microplastics near urbanized versus non-urbanized areas of St. John.
In June, divers collected data around St. Croix as part of the NCRMP. NCRMP is designed to collect biological, physical, and socioeconomic monitoring data throughout all U.S. coral reef jurisdictions. The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and the National Marine Fisheries Service co-lead the biological monitoring component within the Atlantic basin. NCRMP is a core component of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program. The monitoring data will provide local managers and researchers information on the status and trends of environmental conditions, living reef resources, and the people and processes that interact with coral reefs.