The college’s Clearwater Campus will be the site for the State of Our Reefs II, a symposium featuring the work of St. Peterburg College students and others monitoring the status of the area’s reefs.
The event, hosted by Reef Monitoring Inc., will be held on Thursday, April 4, at 7:30 p.m. in the campus’ Fine Arts Auditorium. It is free and open to the public.
At the symposium, students Charles Lutz, Jessica Small and Cory Trier will present their research on marine sediments adjacent to natural and artificial reefs and the biological life in them. These studies, conducted under the direction of SPC Natural Science instructor Dr. Monica Lara, have been presented at several college Honors Program presentations. Also at the symposium:
- Slide and video presentations from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Lab in St. Petersburg showing research on the Goliath Grouper population in the Tampa Bay area
- A slide presentation from the coordinator of the Pinellas County Artificial Reef Program about the award-winning county reef building program
- Participants will be able to see some of the equipment used in ongoing research projects
The first symposium, held last spring, drew a crowd of about 150 people including divers, fishermen and conservationists. Refreshments will be served at this year’s symposium.
The start of Reef Monitoring Inc.
Reef Monitoring Inc. is a non-profit corporation formed in 2010 by a group of marine science faculty on the Clearwater Campus. The group trains local sports divers, many who are SPC scuba students, to conduct underwater surveys of local and artificial reefs. Classes are offered free at a local dive shop pool. So far, 43 divers have been trained and more than 100 surveys completed.
Lessons learned following a red tide bloom in the Tampa Bay area water in 2005 prompted the group’s formation.
Red tide is the common name for a harmful form of microscopic algae that turns the ocean a rust color. The bloom in the area water killed a large number of fish. The decomposing fish depleted oxygen levels on the sea floor, killing more aquatic life on the reefs.
After the red tide bloom, SPC Natural Science instructor Dr. Heyward Mathews and one of his marine biology students began a small research project documenting the recovery process of an artificial and nearby natural reef. For the next few years, they made fish and invertebrate counts to determine how long before these reefs returned to their previous population levels.
During this study, the two found it difficult to determine when the recovery was complete because of the lack of data prior to the red tide bloom. This helped prompt the formation of Reef Monitoring Inc.
Surveys completed by divers trained by the group revealed a surprising number of old crab traps left on the reefs. Rope from traps on the sea floor poses a danger to wildlife and can ensnare birds, turtles and dolphins. This is what happened to the dolphin Winter, who lost her tail after she was caught in a crab trap line.
During the past three years, Reef Monitoring has sponsored four “Reef Clean-ups” and removed close to 3,000 pounds of old crab trap rope and fishing line that could endanger marine life in the Gulf. The last two clean-ups involved more than 100 local divers and more than 30 boats. Another reef clean-up is set for Saturday, May 18, and will operate out of the new Clearwater Marina downtown.
Visit Reef Monitoring’s website for more information about the organization or contact Dr. Mathews at 727-791-2679.
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