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Coral reef health monitoring

Raised of $4,740 Goal
Funded on 5/24/23
Successfully Funded
  • $4,740
  • 100%
  • Funded
    on 5/24/23

About This Project

Corals reefs are a major cornerstone of marine life and the economy. They are declining rapidly and scientists are scrambling to keep up with solutions. Our team seeks funding to continue monitoring coral density, biodiversity, and structure in the Bay of Banderas, Mexico four times a year. We follow the protocol used by the University of Guadalajara, but receive no financial support. More locals could be involved if we could help pay for boat rentals and equipment.

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What is the context of this research?

Coral reefs are critical to ocean health and the economy. The research question is "How does climate change and human pressure impact Eastern Pacific corals?" The team aims to answer this by documenting coral health, species diversity surveys, and assessing reef structure over time following an established protocol. This research project informs management practices by providing data to Mexican government agencies. Due to government funding cuts, many of the sites are being left out of the census and significant data gaps result. Therefore, the Marine Ecology lab at the University of Guadalajara has asked skilled volunteer divers to do the same surveys and commit to monitoring at their own cost.

What is the significance of this project?

Eastern Pacific corals are in decline and are critically important to study because they are hardy species that evolved to withstand unstable habitat regimes such as fluctuating temperatures from El Nino/La Nina Oscillations (ENSO), violent storms, and low light levels and salinity. Through targeted research on these corals, we can provide data-driven recommendations to managers locally and globally on best practices for corals in the face of climate change and other anthropogenic threats. In addition, protecting and restoring corals will boost the economy - fishing and tourism are the main occupations in this region. We aim to invite more local people to the team to diversify expertise and create longevity in the project.

What are the goals of the project?

We want to start again in April 2023. At all 40 monitoring sites, the teams use the same field methods during the daytime (0900 to 1300 or 1500 to 1700). The fish diver swims the 25 m-long transect recording fish size, species, and life stage. The video diver follows with a GoPro camera 40 cm above the substrate. The echinoderm diver records species and counts of urchins, sea stars, and cucumbers. The rugosity diver places a 10 m chain along the transect and notes the beginning and end points. The Lab determines coral density, species, and health. They determine if the reef is healthy based on the diversity and assemblage of fish and echinoderms, and a high rugosity.


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This project is ongoing and asks citizen scientists to participate. We want to provide the opportunity to qualified locals in the study area who may not be about to afford the costs of diving on a regular basis. We need quarterly data and there are four divers to a team.

Endorsed by

I believe that Katherine and her team are qualified to study the Eastern Pacific Corals. Her background is extensive, researching marine life (sea turtles, corals) while preparing internships for students has given her colossal amounts of experience in many different roles. I know she has strong working relationships with Mexico's marine conservationists from my time working alongside these parties. I have no doubt that Katherine can provide the corals the help they need with a little help from donators!
Marine conservation is something I care a lot about. This project is run by a local team in Mexico who have all the skills and knowledge and supervision they need to be successful. I live in Hawaii and we also need citizen science coral monitors such as these volunteers. But diving is not cheap. Please support them financially if you can. The ocean needs you!

Project Timeline

We aim to do four transects a year at our site covering the dry season, transition to wet season, wet season, and transition to dry season.

Apr 01, 2023

Purchase of equipment

Apr 17, 2023

Project Launched

Apr 22, 2023

dry season monitoring

Jul 22, 2023

transition season monitoring

Sep 02, 2023

wet season monitoring

Meet the Team

Katherine Comer Santos
Katherine Comer Santos
Director of the Science Exchange.

Team Bio

Our team consists of Science Exchange Director Katherine Comer Santos, and Dive Instructors Karla De La Pena and Yadira Navarro. We have gone through the Marine Ecology lab at the University of Guadalajara Coastal Campus training course and field practice. The project is supervised by Dr. Paola Rodríguez-Troncoso and Dr. Amílcar Cupul-Magaña.

Katherine Comer Santos

With a masters degree in Geography, Katherine is an Adjunct Research Associate at San Diego State University Biology Department. She lives in Jalisco, Mexico working as The Science Exchange Sea Turtle Internships Program Director. She, her interns, and many collaborators study beach pollution, water contamination, climate change impacts on sea turtle nesting beaches, corals, fish assemblages, and other marine biology topics.

Additional Information

Project Backers

  • 5Backers
  • 100%Funded
  • $4,740Total Donations
  • $948.00Average Donation
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