Rick joined Smithsonian RLS divers Ross Whippo, Scott Jones, Zach Foltz, and Janina Seemann as they undertook the annual surveys and ecological experiments, which form part of the expanding MarineGEO program. A key focus of the trip was to run through the RLS training process with Ross, Scott and Zach, who are now the first US-based RLS trainers, and will continue to expand the RLS network through training of Smithsonian divers, and eventually volunteer divers across the MarineGEO network. The surveys provided RLS data from the Belize reefs around Carrie Bow Cay for the second year in a row, and resulted in more species and images added to the Reef Species of the World database on this website (click here or on the “species” tab at the top of this page).
In addition to the RLS surveys and training of a new RLS diver (Mike Goodison), the team also undertook surveys of the mangrove, seagrass and sand habitats, and set up experiments designed to assess rates of predation and herbivory by fishes across these habitats. These experiments provide an interesting link to the RLS observations, and when undertaken across larger scales, will allow MarineGEO researchers to see how patterns in the fish communities recorded on RLS surveys relate to the ecological processes of predation and herbivory. Some of the Smithsonian staff will be visiting Tasmania early next year to run the same experiments in temperate ecosystems.