Anonymous $500K gift for reef research in Little Cayman

Little Cayman’s marine research center has received a major boost in the form of an anonymous US$500,000 donation to support its research on coral reefs.

Unusually, the donor asked for no publicity of its large cash gift, requesting that the focus be placed on the work being done at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute.

Dr. Carrie Manfrino, president and director of research and conservation at CCMI, said large donations of that kind were the “life blood” of nonprofit organizations.

She said, “The donor has made it clear that our focus is to be on delivering quality research and hopes to encourage other donors to come forward to support the CCMI. We have been asked to provide an impact report and there will be clear project deliverables but this gift doesn’t require a sponsorship campaign.

“We will get on with the crux of the matter and that is getting our scientists out into the water, into the labs and finding out how we can better protect the ocean and maintain vibrant coral reefs.”

Researching reef resilience

The money, to be allocated over five years, will go toward extending the center’s core research on reef resilience.

Dr. Manfrino said, “We are working to find out which fish are making the biggest positive impact on the reefs, including the role of pelagic fish and their interactions with the reef ecosystem. This kind of work will provide crucial information and practical solutions to biodiversity management, so we can all start to make a difference in promoting ocean health.

“There are so many curious species, like Nassau grouper, the stoplight parrotfish and blue tangs, and we don’t 100 percent understand how they contribute to the overall reef ecosystem, what their function really is.”

She said research would also look at the colonies of tangs and surgeon fish that had adopted the research center’s coral nurseries as their home, in an effort to better understand what attracts fish to certain habitats.

It is hoped the research will contribute to management policies around the world that can help ensure the survival of coral reefs.

Dr. Manfrino added, “We will focus on understanding these functions and quantifying which species are key to maintaining this ecosystem for the future.”

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