A First Impression of Montserrat, From Below the Surface


Dispatch from the field, by Waitt Institute Science Manager Andy Estep:

If you’re a geology nerd like me, hearing of Montserrat makes you think “the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, precariously perched on the Lesser Antilles Volcanic Arc along the eastern subduction zone of the Caribbean plate.” The incredible volcanology that has been forming and shaping Montserrat since the Pleistocene is fascinating. But as a geologist who has become a marine biologist, I can tell you Montserrat is also very alive and fascinating underwater.

Soufriere Hills volcano viewed from the water. Photo: Courtesy Waitt Institute

As Science Manager of the Waitt Institute, I was in Montserrat recently working with the government and community on next steps for Blue Halo Montserrat. I also had a more specific mission for this trip: photographing large sections of the coral reef to be able to characterize their current state. This will give us a baseline for what the reefs look like now so we can understand why and how they change in the future.

MNI - Blenny in Sid
A secretary blenny (Acanthemblemaria maria) pokes its head out of a worm tube in a massive star coral (Siderastrea siderea). Photo: Dr. Phil Matich

Nathaniel Hanna-Holloway, a masters student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), led the research, and Chad Koll (another SIO masters student), Dr. Philip Matich of Florida International University, and Stephanie Roach (Waitt Institute’s Program Manager) and I assisted.

We went on 42 dives, took nearly 100,000 high-resolution photos of large sections the reefs, and had our eyes opened to the diverse and robust coral reef communities of Montserrat. These photos are being stitched together into large “photomosaics” of the reefs.

MNI - Diver with mosaic rig
Andy Estep, Waitt Institute Science —> Read More