Ph.D. University of Alaska at Fairbanks, 1981
- Research Professor of Natural Resources
Ecology of Seagrass Ecosystems
My primary research activities have focused around establishment of a global seagrass monitoring program called SeagrassNet, described below and publication of Global Seagrass Research Methods, which came out in October 2002. SeagrassNet: Assessing a Critical Coastal Resource World Wide.
SeagrassNet is a global monitoring program to investigate and document both the status of seagrass resources world wide and the threats to this important and imperilled marine ecosystem. The program started with an ongoing pilot study in seven countries of the Western Pacific and is now expanding to other countries; a globally applicable monitoring protocol and web-based data reporting have been established. The goal is continued expansion of SeagrassNet to other areas of the globe and establishment of a network of monitoring sites linked via the World Wide Web by an interactive database. The ultimate aim is to preserve the seagrass ecosystem by increasing scientific knowledge and public awareness of this threatened coastal resource. Seagrasses are underwater flowering plants that form an important coastal habitat world wide, often occurring in vast meadows which provide nurseries, shelter, and food for a variety of commercially, recreationally, and ecologically important species (e.g., fish, sea turtle, dugong, manatee, seahorse, crustaceans). Additionally, seagrasses filter estuarine and coastal waters of nutrients, contaminants, and sediments and are closely linked to other community types: in the tropics to coral reef systems and mangrove communities and in temperate waters to algal beds, kelp forests, and oyster reefs. Existing at the interface of the land margin and the world's oceans, seagrasses are threatened by numerous anthropogenic impacts. A lack of information exists on the status and health of seagrasses world wide, particularly in the less economically developed regions. SeagrassNet's efforts to monitor known seagrass areas and to reconnoitre uncharted seagrasses are important first steps in understanding and sustaining the seagrass resource. Synchronous and repeated global sampling of selected plant and environmental parameters is critical to comprehending seagrass status and trends; monitoring these ecosystems will reveal both human impacts and natural fluctuations in coastal environments throughout the world. SeagrassNet was initiated with monitoring in the Western Pacific during the summer of 2001, based on research techniques described in Global Seagrass Research Methods, edited by F.T. Short and R.G. Coles, 2001, Elsevier. The Western Pacific pilot program, funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, identified seven sites in Western Pacific countries, recruited local scientists and coastal managers to form monitoring teams, and trained these people in identification of seagrass species and the SeagrassNet monitoring protocol. The seven teams, from Fiji to the Philippines, have now successfully completed several rounds of quarterly monitoring and submitted their seagrass and environmental data to the database via the Internet. The four principal investigators of the pilot study, Drs. Fred Short (USA), Rob Coles (Australia), Miguel Fortes (Philippines), and Evamaria Koch (USA), conducted a workshop in January 2002 bringing together the seven monitoring teams and scientists from two additional sites in Indonesia and Malaysia to review and update the protocol, receive training in the monitoring methods, and to learn the techniques of electronic downloading and web-based data submission. Additionally, the team leaders were trained in Seagrass Watch, a volunteer-based community monitoring program for seagrasses, which was originated in Australia by Dr. Rob Coles. Other scientists and coastal resource managers in Africa, South America, Asia, India, Europe, Australia, and North America are now interested in joining SeagrassNet and monitoring seagrasses in their regions. The goal is to establish sites around the world over the next decade to gain a scientific understanding of the global status and trends of seagrasses. Funding is now sought to move SeagrassNet beyond its pilot phase in the Western Pacific into other regions of the world.