Bermuda’s coral reefs are the northernmost coral reefs of the Atlantic and some of the healthiest reefs in the world. Not surprisingly, coral reefs have long been a research topic of interest for scientists at BIOS.
Active areas of research are aimed at assessing the composition of coral reefs locally and throughout the globe, and understanding how coral reef ecosystems function and respond to natural and man-made stresses:
- The Coral Reef Ecology and Optics Laboratory (CREOL) studies coral reef ecosystems in Bermuda and abroad, using both field surveys and remote sensing techniques. The health of Bermuda’s corals are evaluated as part of the Marine Environmental Program (MEP); and the status of corals worldwide are being assessed through a large multi-institutional effort led by BIOS called the Coral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL).
- The Reef Ecology and Evolution Laboratory investigates the genetic diversity of coral reef ecosystems on local and regional scales and the associated implications for ecosystem structure, function, and resiliency.
- The Coral Ecophysiology Laboratory analyzes the reproductive cycles of coral under various conditions and studies the factors that enable or prevent successful colonization.
- The effects of ocean acidification on corals – a global problem resulting from increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the ocean – is the focus of the Bermuda Ocean Acidification and Coral Reef Investigation (BEACON), part of a global network of carbon dioxide measurements in the ocean. Investigations into the potential link between ocean acidification and coral gene expression are also being conducted.
- The Marine Benthic Ecology and Ecophysiology Laboratory focuses on shallow water coral reefs and temperate and tropical seagrass meadows, integrating aspects of physiology, ecology, and oceanography.
BIOS scientists are also engaged in research to understand more about Bermuda's fish populations, from distribution and abundance of native fishes to addressing issues of invasive species management.
- One significant focus of active research is the invasive lionfish, which was first recorded in Bermuda in 2001. Scientists are involved with research designed to identify effective methods of removal and management, as well as population and genetics studies to learn more about the lionfish's reproductive capacity, habitat usage, and diet.
- Work is currently underway to develop a more comprehensive DNA library for Bermuda's fish. Beginning with the extensive specimen collection in the Natural History Museum at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum, and Zoo, scientists are now using environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis to capture genetic material from Bermuda's most abudant fish species in the wild.