Teacher Under the Sea 2015

Coral Reef Ecosystems

In most marine systems, including coral reef, sharks are the top predator. On-pristine coral reefs, sharks and other apex-predators may be as much as 85 percent of the biomass fish, but now - thanks to overfishing - are virtually absent. In the last few decades, populations of large shark species have declined by 70-90 percent.

The loss of these predators threatens the survival of one of the world's oldest lineages of fish and has left scientists scrambling to understand the role of sharks. There are no quantifiable studies of the impact of herbivore in the presence of sharks.

The Problem

Coral reefs face potential collapse in the coming century. Many reefs around the world are transitioning into vibrant coral communities to seaweed-covered rocks. Large predators may help prevent this decline. Fear of predation may change the behavior of coral reef herbivores, preventing fishes from wandering in their favorite seaweeds and causing them to feed in safer areas provided by coral.

The Mission

Aquarius to quantify how sharks affect the behavior of coral reef fishes. Using low frequency to get sharks, a combination of HD and remote sensing.

The Project

Part of the Global FinPrint Project, this study will provide accurate, quantifiable data on the presence of fish in the presence and absence of sharks. It will provide a proof of concept of the utility of imaging in a predator-prey study and a large gap in our understanding of the role of sharks play in preserving coral reefs.

Funding for this research is provided by the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation. We sincerely appreciate the Foundation's generous support.