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.