ARMS: Autonomous Reef Monitoring Systems
The Department of Environment (DoE) was fortunate to be able to have several members of staff attend the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium in Ft. Lauderdale in 2008. While there one of our staff attended a presentation on putting out small habitats for reef invertebrates, then collecting the habitats after 2-3 years and identifying the accumulated organisms through molecular typing. The research is being done by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and they had not yet expanded their programme to the Caribbean, for completeness. The DoE suggested that the Cayman Islands might be able to provide a research site, logistically, if they were interested. The offer was taken up and in November 2010 we emplaced nine of the habitats, Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS), at three sites on Grand Cayman. The sites are currently part of the DoE’s reef monitoring programme where we record coral cover, fish biomass and the presence of large invertebrates such as certain shrimps, crabs, lobsters, etc. The data collected from the ARMS will allow us to better understand the full gamut of species living on our reefs, including those that we cannot easily observe.
On a Friday two NOAA researchers, Ms Kerry Grimshaw and Mr. Max Sudnovsky arrived in Cayman. On Saturday DoE staff assisted them in putting the nine ARMS together and preparing for the deployment. On Monday (a public holiday), Tuesday and Wednesday the team from the DoE and NOAA were on the water carefully putting the ARMS in place where they will stay for the next several years, until ready for collection. One of the challenging aspects of this type of work is finding areas of healthy reef that have enough open bottom that the ARMS can be placed without damage to the living reef from either the ARMS themselves or the divers putting them in place. Fortunately both the DoE and the NOAA dive staff have experience in this sort of work. The calm current conditions in Cayman also greatly aided by allowing placement of the ARMS without the need for staff to anchor themselves to the reefs.
We were fortunate that this project caught the interest of local media and several informative news reports were generated.
- Cayman Compass
- Cayman News Service
- Environment Break
- For background on the ARMS see the NOAA project website: http://www.pifsc.noaa.gov/cred/arms.php
- See also http://www.creefs.org/research.html for video and slideshow backgrounds on the ARMS.