CCMI president in Sri Lanka to study sea levels

Carrie Manfrino

After nearly two decades of studying the Cayman Islands, Central Caribbean Marine Institute President Carrie Manfrino has traveled halfway around the world for her latest scientific study, focusing on rising sea levels in the Indian Ocean.

Ms. Manfrino was awarded a Fulbright grant to conduct her research study, titled “Rising Sea Levels in the Indian Ocean: Evaluating Nature-based Solutions for Reducing Vulnerabilities of Sri Lanka’s Coastal Villages.”

Despite the distance between the two island states, Ms. Manfrino was able to immediately draw comparisons between her findings in Sri Lanka and what she has seen in the Cayman Islands, according to a press release from the marine institute.

“Coastal communities, including those here in the Cayman Islands are increasingly threatened by rising sea levels,” Ms. Manfrino said in the release.

In Sri Lanka, Ms. Manfrino will survey a range of coastal and shallow marine habitats to develop an understanding of current and future risks of rising sea levels. Results from the study will inform efforts to improve protection of mangroves, reefs and other coastal habitats as natural defenses to climate change in Sri Lanka, and will have many applications to the Cayman Islands, according to CCMI.

“As the sea level rises, coral reefs, mangroves, and beaches can aggrade and either catch up or keep up with rising sea levels,” Ms. Manfrino said. “These natural ecosystems, therefore, offer a significant line of defense for coastal communities. Alternatively, the rates of sea level rise may outpace the relative capacity for coastal ecosystems to keep up to the rising sea level, making them especially vulnerable.

Ms. Manfrino has extensive experience as an oceanography professor and researcher. She has been working in the Cayman Islands since the mid-1990s. Following the massive 1998 El Nino event that killed corals globally, she established the Central Caribbean Marine Institute in 2004.

Ms. Manfrino also designed and developed the Little Cayman Research Centre and launched a campaign to ensure that every child in Cayman is “ocean literate” by age 12.

The oceanographer has received several awards, including a Sea Hero Award from SCUBA Diving magazine and a fellowship from the National Defense Science and Engineering program. She is a fellow of the Explorers Club and was recently recognized for her work in the Cayman Islands when she was awarded the title of the first SeaKeeper of the World by the International SeaKeepers Society.