Coral restoration expert joins CCMI

CCMI's new senior research scientist Steve Whalen at work.

A coral restoration expert has joined the Central Caribbean Marine Institute in Little Cayman to help the research organization as it works to protect coral reefs and discover ways to help restore those ecosystems.

Steve Whalen, an expert in coral reef ecology, joined CCMI in March as a senior research scientist.

Prior to joining CCMI, Mr. Whalen was a researcher at Southern Cross University in Australia, and he has conducted research throughout Australia, the Philippines and Norway.

The scientist’s research has “unraveled some of the mysteries” of reproduction, larval ecology and population genetics of coral reef sponges, according to a CCMI press release. Mr. Whalen has also researched deep sea biodiversity, environmental impacts on coral reef invertebrates, and bath sponge aquaculture.

Recently, he has been investigating the use of new artificial surfaces to optimize coral larval recruitment as a means to aid coral reef restoration.

At CCMI, Mr. Whalen will oversee projects in the institute’s coral nursery and oceanographic data collection station.

Mr. Whalen said it has been a “pleasure” to work with the “exceptional” scientists at CCMI.

“They are making phenomenal inroads to our understanding of coral reef resilience, and methods that aid coral reef restoration, both of which are pivotal for marine conservation in the Cayman Islands, and the wider Caribbean,” Mr. Whalen said.

In addition to his work at the institute, Mr. Whalen said he has been enjoying living in Little Cayman.

“You’ve got an amazing seascape here and what I really like about Little Cayman is it’s a small community and it’s just a gorgeous place to live,” Mr. Whalen said. “The climate’s pretty great, too.”

CCMI was established by Carrie Manfrino to conduct research focusing on reef resilience. Ms. Manfrino picked Little Cayman because the reefs around the island are among the most biologically diverse reef systems in the Caribbean – and one of the very few locations in the world showing positive coral reef regeneration.

Ms. Manfrino said Mr. Whalen will provide “additional strength” to the CCMI team as it continues to work towards developing an understanding of processes that contribute to reef resilience.

“We are inspired to push forward with our work because of the serious environmental issues we are increasingly facing globally: climate change; ocean acidification; threats to endangered species; as well as the issues of reef restoration faced locally in the Cayman Islands.”