Cayman a leader in ocean research

Scientists at Little Cayman’s Central Caribbean Marine Institute have been working with senior researchers to help collect and provide up-to-date information about Cayman’s waters. 

Dr. Jim Hendee of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is a partner of the institute’s Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) project, which uses a network of monitoring stations around the world to record trends in climate properties over time. 

The CREWS buoy on Little Cayman is one of seven similar continuous climate and oceanic monitoring NOAA sites across the Caribbean. 

By monitoring the buoys, the CCMI and NOAA hope to identify ocean patterns as they change, and gain an understanding of how climate change and ocean acidification will alter both the physical and ecological environment of coral reefs in the future. 

Dr. Hendee, who was visiting from Florida’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, said data obtained from the CREWS buoy contributed to the large-scale modeling and management of Caribbean coastal zones. 

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“With rising sea surface and temperatures as one of the leading threats to coral reefs, having an early warning system provides managers and scientists an opportunity to understand thresholds of threats,” Dr. Hendee said. 

“The CREWS buoy is the front line of monitoring, and when one of these rising temperature events occurs, a modeling alert is received in the Cayman Islands at the Institute.”  

“Information from Cayman’s waters will soon become available on a brand new NOAA website as well as on the CCMI website,” Dr. Hendee said.  

The CREWS station was built in 2009 when a monitoring pylon was installed at the Little Cayman Research Center. It collected data for three years until it was blown over in Hurricane Sandy. A more robust buoy was installed last year.  

The buoy uses underwater sensors to record sea temperature, salinity and light penetration, while above-water sensors collect air temperature, barometric pressure, precipitation, wind speed and direction, and UV radiation. 

Data gathered is broadcast via satellite to the NOAA lab in Miami. CCMI president Dr. Carrie Manfrino said the ability to collect real-time data from the ocean as it continuously changes is key to disentangling longer-term trends in the ocean. 

“Our capability to measure real time changes in the ocean and linking these to ecological stress places in the Cayman Islands is at the forefront of ocean research.”  


Dr. Jim Hendee and Jonathan Clamp collect data at the Little Cayman CREWS buoy.
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