Artificial reefs are man-made structures that directly or indirectly provide habitat for marine life. In Spring 2017, we are proudly leading the science program surrounding the sinking of a decorated 158 ft World War II warship – one of 5 boats that survived the attack on Pearl Harbor – that will be converted into an artificial reef in the British Virgin Islands.
The reef will be used as a platform for launching numerous behavioral and physiological projects surrounding the potential rehabilitation of native fish populations, with a keen focus on sharks and groupers.
The sinking of a ship of this size provides us an unprecedented opportunity to monitor the potential restoration and subsequent occurrence and survival of marine species. The first project we will initiate in 2017 uses environmental DNA (eDNA) as a means for detecting these changes before and after the ship is sunk. eDNA samples are obtained directly from the seawater, without any obvious signs of the biological source material, and is efficient, non-invasive, and standardized. Samples will later be analyzed via DNA sequencing in order to detect the presence, absence, and relative abundance of sharks and groupers in the given area over time. eDNA has been touted as a means for revolutionizing the field of conservation biology, specifically for threatened species where their monitoring is challenging and expensive, and we hope to add to the handful of studies which have successfully applied it on sharks and their relatives. A variety of unique art installations are also planned for the ship in hopes of creating a visually stunning and sustainable dive site for future generations that reinforces the concept of hope.
Visit the project website for more information on this exciting endeavor!
Project partners and contributors include: Unite BVI, Maverick 1000 Impact Fund, Secret Samurai Productions, Dr. Shannon Gore (Association of the Reef Keepers), and Dr. Stefano Mariani and Judith Bakker of the University of Salford’s Mariani Lab.