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  • January 16, 2023 3:04 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Karen Fuentes is the founder and director of the Manta Caribbean Project (MCP), established as a non-profit in 2015 in Isla Mujeres, México. Our collaborative work focuses on studying the devil and manta rays in the Mexican Caribbean through research, conservation, and awareness we aim to contribute to the health of mobulid species in our region.

    The MCP work with local communities, and regional government on different projects related to management, fisheries, marine debris, and environmental education in the northern tip of the Yucatan peninsula.

    The MCP is an affiliate project for The Manta Trust, Karen is also a member of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative an initiative to address ghost fishing in the oceans furthermore MCP contributed to the microplastic research projects back in 2017 with the 5Gyres Trawl share program and other management projects.

    Active Projects:
    Monitoring mobulid rays
    Fisheries: Bycatch
    Tourism Management

    PROJECT OVERVIEW

    Located in the northern region of the Yucatan Peninsula, within the Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve, lies the transitional area between the Gulf of Mexico and the Mexican Caribbean where every year from May to September, upwellings of nutrient and plankton rich waters attract many hungry filter feeders, including manta rays, West Atlantic pygmy devil rays and one of the largest known aggregations of whale sharks in the world!

    Current legislation forbids the landing of manta and devil rays in this region, however there are not sufficient management measures in place to enforce this ban across such a large area. Unfortunately, this manta population is under threat from fisheries that are targeting them primarily to use as bait for shark fishing. Additionally, it is feared that many manta and devil rays are also caught and killed incidentally as bycatch by fisheries targeting other species in the region.

    The MCP is a Mexican-registered non-profit organization, based in Isla Mujeres. Founded in 2013 by Karen Fuentes, to conduct research on and describe the local manta ray species, promote awareness in the local communities through educational programs, and to attain knowledge and data that can be used to develop sustainable models for the conservation of this species.

    Why is this manta population so important?

    MCP believes the manta population seen in the Mexico Caribbean to be a third, putative (yet undescribed) species of manta ray that is sympatric to the oceanic manta ray in this region. This ‘Caribbean’ manta ray appears to occupy a similar niche to the reef manta ray and is similar in size, but its dorsal colouration is a cross between oceanic and reef manta rays.







  • December 20, 2022 11:58 AM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    January's speaker is Shelby Thomas. Shelby is the Founder and CEO of the Ocean Rescue Alliance, a marine conservation and restoration nonprofit organization, that implements innovative techniques to restore marine environments. She is an expert in marine restoration and conservation, receiving her master’s in Marine Ecology and currently completing her PhD in Marine Biology with the University of Florida. She is an environmentalist and marine conservation advocate who hopes to inspire others to protect our environments. She has worked with various restoration projects including coral, seagrass, oyster, sea-urchin, and scallop restoration.

    Shelby is passionate about preserving our natural ecosystems and creating a foundation for their appreciation. Her nonprofit combines art to aid in communicating science to the public in impactful ways. The Ocean Rescue Alliance artificial reefs create complex habitat space, enable species specific restoration and serve as ecotourism destinations that combines art and culture to connect the communities they serve. She now has worked with over 25 different restoration projects and continues to conduct research in this field. Through her research and outreach, she plans to assist in conserving, restoring, and better managing our ecosystems. She would like to make a lasting impact, conserving our environments while also improving peoples lives around the world.

  • October 17, 2022 7:50 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Stephanie Schopmeyer has a Bachelors and Master’s degree in Biology from Georgia Southern University where her interest in studying the ocean and coral reefs began and she’s been a diver since 1998. Currently, she is an Associate Research Scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Research Institute’s (FWRI) Coral Program in St Petersburg, FL. Her main roles at FWC are monitoring coral reef resources and coral health in the state of Florida, impact assessment, disease, and disturbance response monitoring, and coordinating genetic banking of Florida coral species in response to stony coral tissue loss disease. Previously, Stephanie has managed and conducted coral propagation and restoration activities at the University of Miami, assessed coral reef health in Hawaii and US Pacific territories with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and investigated the impacts of environmental stressors on seagrass species in Florida Bay while working at Florida Atlantic University.

    Coral diseases are poorly understood on coral reefs as they often include multiple pathogens and vectors. In addition, the prevalence and severity of coral diseases interact with other stressors on reefs such as climate change, water quality and biological interactions. The Caribbean is a hot spot for coral diseases and in 2014 an unprecedented disease called stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) was identified near Government Cut in Miami.

    SCTLD has spread through the entire Florida Reef Tract, affects over 20 species of Caribbean coral and has species specific rates of progression and mortality. Efforts to slow the progression of the of SCTLD include extensive research, communication and education, forms of antibiotic and probiotic treatments, and genetic rescue. Coral rescue has removed over 2500 colonies of susceptible corals and placed them under expert care in zoos, aquariums, and research facilities around the country where they will be bred to increase genetic diversity and offspring will be used for future restoration of the Florida Reef Tract.

  • September 16, 2022 3:46 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Shark Behavior and Identification

    Sharks have survived on Planet Earth for 400 million years. What makes them such successful survivors? Dr. Gary Rose will discuss the basic facts about sharks in our waters. He will teach you a simple technique to easily distinguish the different species of sharks from each other – in clear or murky water. As a shark diver and photographer, he will also give you an entertaining overview, with plenty of personal anecdotes, about what makes sharks such great survivors and how their multiple senses are so different than our own.

    Bio

    Gary Rose MD has been a certified diver for over 45 years and is a PADI Open Water Instructor. As a Plastic Surgeon and former Associate Professor of Microbiology and Surgery at the College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University, he has fulfilled his life passion as a marine biologist with his research on marine microorganisms, as well as large ocean apex predators. Dr. Rose lectures all over the world on “Shark Identification and Behavior” and gives seminars on “Updates On Diving Medicine”. An avid underwater photographer, his articles appear in Alert Diver and X-RAY magazine. Dr. Rose is a member of the Divers Alert Network and The Undersea And Hyperbaric Medical Society. You can find him on weekends diving our local waters and photographing our plentiful and diverse sharks. You can reach him at garyrosephotos@gmail.com

  • July 22, 2022 10:13 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Since 1999, Duane Silverstein has been the executive director of Seacology, an international non-governmental organization with the sole focus of preserving islands—their fragile habitats, vanishing species and historic cultures—throughout the globe

    Before heading Seacology, he was the executive director of the Goldman Fund, one of California’s largest philanthropic foundations, for 18 years. Duane was instrumental in creating and heading the Goldman Environmental Prize, which has been dubbed the “Nobel Prize of the Environment” by National Geographic and news media around the globe. Over his career he has visited more than 200 islands in 86 nations.

    Widely considered one of the world’s foremost experts on islands, he is a National Fellow of The Explorers Club and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. In 2018, he accepted the United Nations Momentum for Change climate action award on behalf of Seacology. In 2019, Duane was named a Go Blue Award Lifetime Achievement Honoree. Under his leadership, Seacology was nominated for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2021, he was named an Ocean Hero by The Salty Hands, a Canadian marine conservation organization.

    About Seacology

    While islands take up only five percent of Earth’s land, they are home to an estimated 20 percent of the world’s bird, reptile, and plant species—and almost 40 percent of critically endangered animals around the globe. Many of the world’s most vulnerable islands are small, remote, and often overlooked. All Seacology projects help protect island species, which include some of the world’s rarest plants and animals.

    Seacology’s mission is to protect threatened island ecosystems all over the world by working directly with communities, helping them to preserve their culture and improve their lives while saving precious island habitats. Island communities are under constant pressure to boost economic development, even at the cost of environmental damage. Seacology’s win-win approach recognizes the efforts of indigenous communities and gives them an economic incentive to preserve their natural resources. It also recognizes that local communities—who are often ignored by decisionmakers—can be the best stewards of the environment.

  • May 06, 2022 11:28 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Will Schrier has been a recreational diver for about 14 years, approaching 500 dives.  Being a native of Pittsburgh, PA, his early dive experience was limited to a dive trip or two per year to various Caribbean locations (we won't really count the training/certification dives in a lake in West Virginia - and no, there really isn't any diving in the three rivers of Pittsburgh!).  Prior to the pandemic, Will took some time away from his career in the Information Technology sector to simply travel and spent extended stays in Madagascar and Timor Leste doing voluntourism expeditions with a conservation group called Blue Ventures, as well as a couple stints in Bali exploring the Amed and Tulumben dive areas.  When the pandemic squashed his plans to return to Bali for an another six months to work as a dive master, Will returned to his tech career but decided to become a digital nomad and continue exploring domestically while working.  Many of you may have met Will during his stay in Florida where he joined USA Dive Club and participated in a number of local dives as well as plenty of dives at the Blue Heron Bridge.

    Eventually, Will decided it was time to move on and circuitouslyy made his way up to Washington state to check cold water diving off his bucket list.  He had completed his drysuit certification in the summer of 2019 - though an ill-fitting rental drysuit for his course meant he did not stay dry for a single dive during the course.  The certification was intended to facilitate a couple dives with a friend in Plymouth in the United Kingdom, but after arriving there again found rental drysuits a complication and was eventually given a 7mm "semi-dry" wetsuit which he spent the weekend shivering in to explore the waters off Plymouth.

    One might question why a self-professed "easily chilled" diver would head to the waters of Puget Sound in the autumn of 2021, but after 60+ dives over the course of a few months, Will is convinced that the Pacific Northwest does indeed offer some  world class diving and he'll be sharing the experience of a warm water diver going through a conversion to cold water and an overview of the highlights of PNW diving... oh, and he'll explain why he headed there to dive through the coldest months of the year!

  • April 20, 2022 11:07 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Shelly Krueger is the Florida Sea Grant  agent for the University of Florida IFAS Extension,  Monroe County since 2013. Shelly is part of the UoF Extension faculty.   Florida Sea Grant is a UF-based program that supports research, education and extension to conserve coastal resources and enhance economic opportunities for the people of Florida.  In 2019, Shelly wrote the Sponge Restoration module for the new UF/IFAS Florida Master Naturalist Program Marine Habitat Restoration and she is the outreach and education lead for the Florida Keys Community Sponge Restoration program, a multi-agency collaboration led by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to restore sponge communities. 

    Sponges are essential for healthy ecosystems because they continuously filter large volumes of water while feeding on phytoplankton, viruses, and bacteria. Sponges also transform water chemistry by cycling nutrients and provide essential nursery habitat for important fisheries species such as spiny lobster, stone crab, and bonefish.  The loss of such an important component of nearshore habitats has prompted calls for sponge restoration.  By transplanting sponges onto experimental sites, researchers are evaluating how to ensure sponge transplants become self-sustaining and help restore the health of Florida Bay and Biscayne Bay.   With Florida Sea Grant and EPA-funding, researchers are now testing transplant techniques to see if they can accelerate the restoration process.

    Plan to attend and welcome back Shelly after she spoke to the club in March on Sargassum.
     

  • March 19, 2022 11:08 AM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Cora Berchem is Save the Manatee Club’s Director of Multimedia and  Manatee Research Associate. She has a bachelor degree in Communications and a Master’s in Film/Media, as well as a graduate certificate degree in Aquatic Animal Health and Conservation. Born and raised in Germany, Cora moved to the United States in 2002 and started out working in film and television in New York before moving to Florida in 2014 to join the Save the Manatee Club team. She oversees the club’s live webcams and social media and produces educational videos and public service announcements for the club in addition to assisting with outreach efforts. During the winter months, Cora assists Manatee Specialist Wayne Hartley with the photo-ID research at Blue Spring State Park. She also volunteers with FWC assisting with manatee rescues, releases and recoveries. In her free time Cora enjoys scuba diving, traveling and the outdoors.

    Save the Manatee Club was established in 1981 by singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett and governor Graham. Our mission is to protect manatees and their aquatic habitat for future generations.

  • February 10, 2022 5:07 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Shelly Krueger is the Florida Sea Grant agent for the University of Florida IFAS Extension, Monroe County. Shelly has a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Tech and a master’s degree from Savannah State University in marine science. Shelly will talk about sargassum and a pilot sargassum composting experiment that Shelly has been working on with Michelle Leonard-Mularz at the Key West Botanical Garden.

    This summer, you may have noticed tons of brown organic material washed up on beaches and decaying all over beaches on the Atlantic Ocean. But what is it, really? And why is it appearing on our beaches? It’s called sargassum, and it is brown algae, or seaweed, that floats in massive mats out on the open ocean. The area sargassum comes from is called the Sargasso Sea, which is not a true sea at all, but an area far offshore in the Atlantic Ocean between the eastern coast of Florida and Bermuda.

    The Sargasso Sea and the mats of sargassum that float within it are defined by the dominant ocean currents – the Gulf Stream on the west, North Atlantic Current to the north, Canary Current on the east, and the North Atlantic Equatorial Current to the south, which creates a swirling gyre that contains the sargassum floating out at sea. Frequently, the sargassum gets caught up in one of the currents and escapes the Sargasso Sea.

    If you like to fish, you may have heard these floating algae mats called the “weed line,” and they are fantastic spots to sportfish. Sargassum is actually a very important habitat type out in the open ocean as it provides one of the only places for some species of fish, crabs, and juvenile loggerhead sea turtles to forage and hide from predators. A thick clump of sargassum provides a feast for many species, including birds, and also attracts the larger gamefish who prey upon these species, like mahi and tuna. NOAA Fisheries considers sargassum essential fish habitat for snapper, grouper, gray triggerfish and coastal pelagic migratory species like mackerel.

    In the Florida Keys, when we experience prevailing winds from the south and southeast, these massive floating mats of sargassum that have broken free from the circling gyre of the Sargasso Sea are washed onto shore with the wind and waves. Tons and tons! Unfortunately, the dead and decaying sargassum can remove oxygen from the water and lead to fish kills, smother seagrasses and turtle nests, and can become packed so thick inside the residential canals it can become difficult to get your boat out.

    Historically, washed-up sargassum is one of the ways beaches were created in the Florida Keys, as the accumulation of seaweed along the shoreline helps to keep the sand from eroding and provides nutrients to help enrich the soil. But when the sargassum encounters a seawall or a canal instead of the beach there is little benefit for it decays, sinks, and stinks! Unfortunately, this is a major cause for fish kills because the decomposition of organic matter literally removes the oxygen from the water column.

  • January 19, 2022 1:10 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Connie Sonnabend is the CEO/owner of Wetwear Inc. and the club's guest speaker for February.

    Wetwear has been manufacturing custom-made to measurement wetsuits for over 40 years and is located on the west side of I-95 just south of Hallandale Beach Boulevard. Connie has measured and made over 20,000 custom wetsuits since becoming the owner of Wetwear in 2001. Wetwear has created a very unique wetsuit called the Easy on Wetsuit. Long expansion zippers in the arms and legs  along with a slanted back entry zipper allows divers to don their wet suits in less than two minutes. Wetwear also offers an array of options you can add to your wetsuit such as seal sets at the wrist, ankle and neck to make your suit semi dry. Also, options such as hoods, spine pads, pockets, butt pads, elbow pads, relieve zipper and more.

    Connie will guide you to make the proper choices with wetsuit thickness needed to keep you warm and comfortable in various water temperatures. Wetwear also has a military contract for the air rescue swimmer suits and supply numerous police and fire departments with specialized wetsuits for search and recovery. Wetwear produces wetsuits for movies, plays, commercials such as River Wild, Cape Fear and Mamma Mia to mention a few. Wetwear has a neoprene proto-typing department helping inventors bring their product to market. 

    You can visit the Wetwear website www.wetwear.com or stop by Wetwear located at 2930 SW. 30th Ave., Suite A in Hallandale, FL.

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