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Nova Southeastern University Researchers Part of Team Exploring Seas in Fiji

Team Helping Gather Data to Better Understand Health of Fiji’s Deep & Shallow Reefs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

FORT LAUDERDALE/DAVIE, Fla. – Fiji.

When you say that word, many people immediately think of a vacation of a lifetime. Well, when you say that word to marine research scientists, their eyes light up, but for very different reasons. And that’s exactly what happened to two research scientists at Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography.

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NSU’s Dr. Brian Walker and Dr. Charles Messing have been invited by Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) to help with a conservation initiative, called Project Baseline, to document coral reef ecosystems in Fiji in order to better understand the health of Fiji’s deep and shallow reefs and how they may be changing due to climate change and population pressures.

“It came about pretty quickly, but that’s okay,” said Messing, a professor and research scientist at NSU. “It’s a long trip, but we’ll get to explore some of the world’s most beautiful underwater habitats and help document the health of their marine ecosystem. And, many of the deep habitats around Fiji have never been explored.”

Messing and Walker will be joining a team of GUE technical divers from the United States and New Zealand as well as marine biologists from the University of the South Pacific (USP.) Part of their work will include the use of a Triton 1,000-meter submersible. The team will be working from the motor yacht Ad-Vantage and will be supported by her crew along with submersible pilots and engineers.

“The data collected on this mission will be valuable in documenting a reference condition of the unexplored habitats to understand the future impacts of changes to Fijian coral reefs as the climate continues to warm,” said Walker, an NSU professor and research scientist.

The primary objectives will be to collect photographic and video surveys of coral reef and deeper ecosystems in water depths between 5 and 1,000 meters at several sites near the islands of Kandavu, Beqa, and Viti Levu. The surveys will be used by scientists to establish coral and fish species distributions and densities. The project starts May 13 and is scheduled to run through May 27.

“The submersibles will be focusing on mesophotic corals that live below 90 meters and other lifeforms living as deep as 500 meters while the divers will document shallower corals living between 40 meters and the shoreline,” said Dr. Todd Kincaid, Director of GUE’s Project Baseline initiative. “We believe this effort will result in future mission opportunities on a yearly basis enabling sustained collaborations between Project Baseline and the Fijian people.”

In addition to supporting USP’s efforts to monitor and document the health of Fiji’s coral reefs, the data collected will be added to GUE’s growing Project Baseline database, aimed at establishing baselines for underwater ecosystems worldwide. The data will also be added to an evolving Index for Ocean Health being developed by a UK-based organization called Nekton. All of the imagery and data collected will be accessible to the public on Project Baseline’s online database.

The opportunity to conduct Project Baseline’s expedition to Fiji has been made possible through a donation of resources to GUE, including time aboard the motor yacht Ad-Vantage and the use of its unique and valuable resources.

 

About Charles Messing, Ph.D.: His research centers on the evolution and ecology of living crinoids (sea lilies and featherstars) and on the ecology of deep-sea coral communities and rocky-substrate habitats. Charles has led 14 deep-sea submersible expeditions funded by NSF and NOAA, and led or participated in over 30 other research and educational expeditions as far afield as Papua New Guinea and the Bahamas. He has written or co-authored 61 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles and is currently also a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institution and at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. He has also written or hosted several science educational television programs.

About Brian Walker, Ph.D.: His specialty is in the area of studying the ocean floor, specifically spatial ecology, which is seascape/landscape ecology, spatial dynamics of coral reef communities, latitudinal coral reef biogeography and marine faunal relationships to topography. Coral reef habitat mapping is essential for all successful marine management plans and is used as the basis for many management decisions. Information gained from coral reef mapping includes identifying essential fish habitat and other ecologically sensitive areas for protection, calculating volumetric or area measurements of anthropogenic impacts, identifying reef gaps for submarine cable placement, and locating areas for artificial reef enhancement.

 

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About Nova Southeastern University (NSU): Located in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) is a dynamic research institution dedicated to providing high-quality educational programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and first-professional degree levels. A private, not-for-profit institution, NSU has campuses in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Miramar, Orlando, Palm Beach, and Tampa, Florida, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico, while maintaining a presence online globally. For more than 50 years, NSU has been awarding degrees in a wide range of fields, while fostering groundbreaking research and an impactful commitment to community. Classified as a research university with “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, NSU is 1 of only 50 universities nationwide to also be awarded Carnegie’s Community Engagement Classification, and is also the largest private, not-for-profit institution in the United States that meets the U.S. Department of Education’s criteria as a Hispanic-serving Institution. Please visit www.nova.edu for more information about NSU and realizingpotential.nova.edu for more information on the largest fundraising campaign in NSU history.

About NSU’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography: The college provides high-quality undergraduate (bachelor’s degree) and graduate (master’s and doctoral degrees and certificates) education programs in a broad range of disciplines, including marine sciences, mathematics, biophysics, and chemistry. Researchers carry out innovative basic and applied research programs in coral reef biology, ecology, and geology; fish biology, ecology, and conservation; shark and billfish ecology; fisheries science; deep-sea organismal biology and ecology; invertebrate and vertebrate genomics, genetics, molecular ecology, and evolution; microbiology; biodiversity; observation and modeling of large-scale ocean circulation, coastal dynamics, and ocean atmosphere coupling; benthic habitat mapping; biodiversity; histology; and calcification. The college’s newest building is the state-of-the-art Guy Harvey Oceanographic Center, an 86,000-square-foot structure filled with laboratories, offices, seminar rooms, an auditorium and indoor and outdoor running sea water facilities. Please visit cnso.nova.edu for more information.

About Project Baseline: This is a global grassroots conservation effort started by the U.S. based non-profit organization Global Underwater Explorers to aid in the conservation of the world’s aquatic environments. It encourages divers around the world to systematically and continually document underwater conditions at their local dive sites in a reproducible manner, share their observations via the Project Baseline online database, and cultivate collaborations in which their work will benefit ongoing scientific and conservation efforts. Project Baseline expeditions, such as this one in Fiji, foster collaborations between scientific, government, and private entities aimed at understanding and protecting the world’s most special marine environments and endeavor to leave behind ongoing locally run teams who will carry on the Project Baseline mission. For more information, please visit www.projectbaseline.org

 

May 12, 2017

 

MEDIA CONTACTS

Joe Donzelli | NSU Office of Public Relations
954-262-2159 (office) | 954-661-4571 (cell)
jdonzelli@nova.edu | www.nova.edu

 

Amanda White |Communications Director
Global Underwater Explorers | Project Baseline
amanda@gue.com |775-815-2525