Going Back in Time to Study Cuba’s Coral Reefs


3am… Rise and shine! Time for a quick shower then down to the hotel lobby for our six-hour bus trip to Júcaro. Located in Cuba’s Ciégo de Avila province, Júcaro is a small fishing town on Cuba’s remote southern coast. From Júcaro it’s another five hours by boat to my ultimate destination: Jardines de la Reina National Park. Known in English as Gardens of the Queen, it is the largest marine protected area in the Caribbean. Jardines and the Gulf of Ana María, the large body of water to its north are the focus of a research effort between my project Cuba Marine Research and Conservation Program, Centro de Investigaciones Marinas (Center for Marine Research)[CIM] of the University of Havana and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI). CIM is one of the preeminent science institutions in Cuba as evidenced by the fact that every marine scientist in Cuba is trained and educated at CIM. Its director is a young coral scientist named Patricia Gonzalez whose passion for coral reefs is unrivaled.

Since 1998 I have worked alongside Cuban marine scientists to study marine resources shared by our countries. Through a new research effort called Proyecto Tres Golfos (P3G) we are trying to understand how marine organisms between Cuba’s three largest bodies of water, the gulfs of Batabanó, Ana María and Guanahacabibes, are related. We also hope to determine why coral is faring better in Cuban waters than the rest of the Caribbean. Data from our three research cruises is also helping us study the relationships between coral reefs in the U.S. and Florida, which share many of the same species as a result of the Gulf Stream, a powerful oceanic current that transports organisms between our countries.

We finally arrive in Júcaro and meet our —> Read More