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Ocean Health

Rescuing Coral Reefs in the Cayman Islands

What makes a coral reef resilient? On this beautiful island, find how we can help reefs survive climate change.


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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

Some researchers predict that reefs won’t survive beyond the middle of this century because of rising ocean temperatures and overuse by humans.

The reef around Little Cayman Island tells a story of resilience.

Corals get their vibrant colors from tiny algae that live within them. Through photosynthesis, the algae provide the food that keeps corals growing. But in water that’s too warm, the corals eject the algae, robbing themselves of nutrition and turning white—hence the term “coral bleaching.” Without algae, the coral dies.

coral-reefs

Coral off the Cayman Islands.

The history of coral bleaching off Little Cayman may contain lessons that could help protect reefs everywhere. In 1998, the world experienced an El Nino year, which meant that parts of the ocean around the world became warmer than usual. One result: a massive bleaching event that wiped out reefs around the world.

Little Cayman’s reefs did not fare well—40% of the coral died. But then something unusual happened: the reefs recovered. By 2012, researchers had recorded an increase in coral coverage, nearly back to its former state.

But why? And how? You can help researchers understand what makes some reefs more resilient than others. You’ll also help them find ways to protect rare and endangered species of coral, with the goal of preserving the rich diversity of life in the world’s reefs.

About the research area

Little Cayman, Cayman Islands, Central America & The Caribbean

Daily life in the field

Itinerary

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The Scientists

MEET THE LEAD SCIENTIST

Carrie
Manfrino
President and Director of Research, Central Caribbean Marine Institute

ABOUT Carrie Manfrino

As a geologist, Dr. Manfrino takes a long-term perspective—millions of years long—on the past and future of coral reefs. She started working on Little Cayman Island two decades ago, and established the Central Caribbean Marine Institute in 1998.

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Accommodations and Food

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