Coral Reefs in the South Pacific: A Webinar with SPREP

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The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation recently hosted a webinar with our partners at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP). SPREP is an organization established by the governments of Pacific Island nations to protect and manage the environment and natural resources of the Pacific. Their 21 member states (including many we studied on the Global Reef Expedition) work together to achieve healthy and resilient ecosystems and support sustainable development for Pacific communities. Our webinar with SPREP allowed us to share our research findings from the South Pacific directly with people who are actively working to conserve coral reefs and coastal marine ecosystems in the region. This is one of the many ways we are sharing our knowledge and findings from the Global Reef Expedition with the countries and communities in which we worked.

During the webinar, we were able to share information about the work the Foundation completed on the Expedition, including our extensive outreach and education initatives, as well as our scientific findings. We highlighted the programs our education team developed over the course of the Expedition, the many outreach events we held, and provided a comprehensive discussion of the results of our research in the South Pacific as well as our work in the Indian Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

At the end of the presentation, we were able to share our ongoing partnerships and upcoming projects, including our ongoing partnership with the University of Miami to develop a reef resilience model, our partnership with NASA to map the world’s reefs, as well as our numerous education programs such as the Mangrove Education & Restoration Program, Coral Reef Ecology Curriculum, and Science Without Borders® Challenge. Lastly, we shared information about our endorsed UN Ocean Decade Project, Science Without Borders®: Conserving the Tropics, which will use science, outreach, and education to engage local communities to protect their coral reefs, mangrove forests, and seagrass meadows. This project will allow us to build off of our work on the Global Reef Expedition using a co-designed approach to further conservation of tropical coastal marine ecosystems, such as those in the South Pacific.

The webinar was attended by numerous government officials, marine managers, and stakeholders from throughout the South Pacific. Some of the attendees were people we had worked with on the Global Reef Expedition, but many were new and this webinar was a great introduction to the Foundation and our work. There was a great Q&A session at the end where we were able to discuss the findings and share more information about future partnerships.

As we take the work from the Global Reef Expedition to the next level, we are always looking to develop new partnerships to help bring the UN endorsed Science Without Borders® project to communities worldwide. Webinars like this, and partnering with SPREP, are important first steps in the implementation of the Science Without Borders® project and connect us with a network of people who are also working to protect, conserve, and restore ocean health.

The Bouknadel Statement

The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation is a proud member of the Foundation’s Dialogue, and signed on to the Bouknadel Statement to encourage a greater investment in marine science from the philanthropic community.  The Foundations Dialogue of the UN …

The Bouknadel Statement

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The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation was one of 17 philanthropic foundations that have signed on to The Bouknadel Statement. This joint statement was launched on the occasion of the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, to raise awareness for the need to increase investment in ocean science to support sustainable development.

The Foundations Dialogue of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development — an informal, global network of community, corporate, and private foundations that have chosen to work together to support the vision of the Ocean Decade — today launched The Bouknadel Statement affirming their commitment to investing in transformative ocean science. The Statement was launched during an event celebrating the Ocean Decade during the 2022 UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon.

Ocean Decade unveils new set of endorsed Actions on all continents

By IOC-UNESCO World Oceans Day: June 8, 2022 UNESCO has announced the endorsement of 63 new endorsed Actions in the context of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 (the ‘Ocean Decade’). The announcement adds to …

Riyadh Blue Talk: Tune-in Tomorrow @ 7am ET

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The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation is delighted to be participating in the Riyadh Blue Talk tomorrow morning, May 24, 2022.

The “Riyadh Blue Talk” is organized by the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator, the Embassy of Portugal, and the Embassy of Kenya in Riyadh. The event begins at 7am ET and will be live-streamed to allow for virtual participation.

The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation has been invited to share our knowledge of marine science and conservation, and to present our work to provide science-based solutions to protect and restore ocean health.

Our Chief Scientist, Sam Purkis, will be discussing what measures can be implemented so we can have accessible, affordable, shared data to better support the decision-making process towards ocean sustainability. He will also be participating in a panel discussion on increasing scientific knowledge and developing research capacity to advance ocean conservation initiatives.

Tune in to watch his presentation LIVE @ 8:20 am ET!

StoryMaps: A New Way to Explore our Findings from the Global Reef Expedition

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My name is Joana, and I am an IMBRSea student. This spring, I have had the incredible opportunity to intern at the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation. During this time, I helped the Foundation create StoryMaps to tell key conservation stories about the Global Reef Expedition. I produced three StoryMaps showcasing the findings and data collected during the Expedition.

My first StoryMap, Mapping Our Planet’s Coral Reefs, was the first of its kind published by the Living Oceans Foundation. This StoryMap guides user through the World Reef Map, showing people how to use it. A proper understanding of the detailed information available in the web-based map will help policymakers, local communities, and conservation organizations establish conservation plans to fight the unfolding coral reef crisis.

The second StoryMap takes users aboard the Global Reef Expedition, showing them what is happening to coral reefs around the globe. This StoryMap includes information on the scientific surveys carried out, the methodology used to map coral reefs, and the discoveries over a 10-year mission around the globe.

The last StoryMap, Lessons Learned from the Global Reef Expedition, highlights the five take-home messages of the Global Reef Expedition. The coral reef crisis was apparent in every location surveyed, and swift action is needed to conserve our planet’s coral reefs.

2021 Annual Report

Despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, 2021 was a truly remarkable year for the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation. After spending ten years in the field circumnavigating the globe in an effort to understand the coral reef crisis, …

Shark tagging with our partners, Black Girls Dive Foundation

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“There’s a shark on the line!” The young ladies from Black Girls Dive Foundation (BGDF) squirmed with anticipation and giggled with excitement. As their chaperone, I could feel my own adrenaline surging as we watched the University of Miami (UM) team scurrying around at the back of the boat. The chaperones fitted the first four students with gloves and life vests. Then the students lined up in single file to begin their assigned individual and group tasks. It was time to get to work.

In December, I had the honor of being asked to join our partners at Black Girls Dive Foundation on a shark tagging expedition with the UM Professor Neil Hammerschlag’s Shark Research and Conservation team at Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmosphere Science. The trip is part of BGDF’s Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics with SCUBA (STREAMS) program, which is designed to introduce black girls between the ages of 9 and 17 to a multitude of activities. The Shark Research and Conservation Capstone is a component of the STREAMS program that teaches about the behavioral ecology and conservation of sharks. After completing a series of lecture and lab activities, this part of the program culminates with a field-intensive research expedition: shark tagging.

Corals in the Anthropocene

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This guest blog comes from a former KSLOF fellow, Dr. Anderson Mayfield, who joined the foundation on many of our Global Reef Expedition research missions in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. A former student of the renowned coral biologist Dr. Ruth Gates, Dr. Mayfield studies coral health and physiology at NOAA’s AOML Coral Program and at the University of Miami’s Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies. He continues to publish scientific papers based on data collected on the Global Reef Expedition, including his latest paper, recently published in the journal Oceans.

As a naïve post-doctoral researcher back in 2012, I had an idea that was surely far from novel at the time: corals of far-flung, uninhabited atolls are in better shape than those closer to major human population centers. The logic was that these corals would be under global-scale stressors only (namely those associated with climate change), and not the threats that instead plague reefs close to cities (such as pollution and overfishing).

As a fellow with the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation during their Global Reef Expedition (GRE), I tested this hypothesis by sampling corals from among the most seemingly pristine islands and atolls in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Although we certainly observed beautiful reefs with high coral cover (see image above) and diversity as well as a plethora of fish —all the visible hallmarks marine biologists look for in ‘healthy’ reefs—the corals themselves told a different story (Mayfield et al., 2017); high cellular stress levels were documented in the vast majority of the many hundreds of corals sampled across the GRE.

Despite looking healthy, the corals were struggling to survive.

These high stress levels do not, in and of themselves, imply that all such sampled corals are not long for this Earth. They do signify, however, that we likely never visited ‘pristine’ reefs during the GRE, despite studying some of the most remote coral reefs on the planet. This is a testament to the wide reach of climate change. This statement may come as a surprise to some, who, like me, assumed that somewhere out there, one might find corals entirely untouched by humankind, but this unfortunately does not appear to be the case.

What We Learned: Collaboration with Local Communities has the Biggest Impact on Reef Conservation

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On the Global Reef Expedition, we prioritized using a collaborative approach to study and map coral reefs by partnering with scientific and local experts in each of the countries we visited. While the scientific team was conducting surveys underwater, we also implemented various outreach and education programs in parallel to improve ocean literacy and inspire the next generation of ocean advocates. The partnerships we formed allowed us to exchange knowledge and learn how local communities were using and managing their marine resources.

One of the biggest take-aways from the GRE was that nearly every community we worked with expressed, and continues to express, the want and need for conservation of their reef systems. Working directly with communities, sharing findings, using our education and outreach programs, and expanding on the current management efforts has proven to be the most successful in conserving the reefs visited on the GRE.