With great weather and a hardworking team, this summer was an incredibly productive field season for the Childress Lab. I took several new lab members to the Florida Keys to continue our research on parrotfish grazing behavior and their impacts on coral reef health. This summer, we continued surveying our reef sites to monitor the substrate composition and parrotfish community structure across the middle Florida Keys. We were fortunate enough to have five lab members travel to the Keys to learn how to identify parrotfish and the substrate organisms that make up their diets. For three of our team members, this trip included their first scuba dive in the ocean! With visits from turtles, sharks, dolphins and manatees, this trip was an exciting one with many memories.
We also spent our time in the field monitoring the condition of the 84 corals we transplanted last June. I am happy to report that the majority of these corals are looking healthy. Due to the rough winter, the cages from last summer had to be pulled and replaced. After they were replaced, we attached a Go Pro camera to each cage to film fish activity in the cages in the absence of divers. The ACCIAC Fellowship recipient in our lab will be using this footage to assess the difference in grazing rates and patterns of the different species of parrotfish over this next year.
This summer, we also surveyed 18 new reef locations to help us better understand how coral cover and parrotfish abundance changes across the middle Florida Keys. This brings our reef locations to a total of 32! This summer, we conducted a total of 960 focal observations on parrotfish! Thank you team for all the hard work! I am excited to look at the data over the next semester and see what new information we have gained that may help us understand how parrotfish impact coral reef ecosystems.