A state-of-the-art oceanographic buoy has been installed in Little Cayman, providing real-time data on marine and weather conditions through an interlinked cellphone app.

The buoy contains high-tech instruments that record everything from barometric pressure to ocean acidification.

Data from the buoy, installed by researchers from the Central Caribbean Marine Institute, can be used by weather forecasters, fishermen and sailors, as well as for scientific research and conservation projects.

The system, dubbed the Coral Reef Early Warning System, will give scientists at the research station more precise data on the conditions impacting reef health.

Data from the buoy will feed into a central system coordinated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which collects data from reefs on a global scale. The information will help inform research to further scientific understanding of ocean acidification, sea level rises and coral bleaching events.

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Carrie Manfrino, director of CCMI, said the buoy provides fundamental information that would help the institute achieve its aim of finding innovative ways to restore coral reefs.

“This is a huge investment in an incredibly sophisticated system for us and provides the most technologically advanced system for oceanographic and weather data from out on the water,” she said.

CCMI’s director of operations Jon Clamp and dive safety officer Joe Kuehl install the new buoy.

One current project that the data will enhance is CCMI’s work to understand how spawning corals in nurseries can assist in replenishing Cayman’s reefs. The buoy’s “acoustic doppler current profiler” measures the movement of water across a reef system – information that will assist scientists in formulating the best methodology for using nursery-reared corals to regenerate natural reefs.

Ms. Manfrino added: “Last August, when our researchers observed and filmed the spawning of staghorn coral in our nursery for the first time, we would have loved to know more about the water conditions and currents at the time. This year, we will have far more information to work with.” The buoy was purchased with support from the Dart Foundation and the Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball Foundation.

Dart Foundation board member Ariane Dart said: “This is an important step forward both for educators and for scientists who are tracking changes in the ocean and coral reef ecosystem. Scientists, educators, and the general public will all find value in the information provided by the CREWS buoy about sea state and weather conditions.”

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