Calling all VI Reef Responders!
we need you to Join the hunt for coral disease
August 24 – September 7 2019
Early this year, a new coral disease emerged on the reefs of St. Thomas. The characteristics of this disease closely match that of one called Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) which has been ravaging coral reefs in the Florida Keys for the last four years. We are unsure yet how it got to St. Thomas, but it is clear it is having devastating effects on the reefs.
The disease first emerged near Flat Cay, on the south west side of the island and has spread west as far as Savana Island with alarming speed. It has also started spreading east along the north side of St. Thomas and has recently been spotted off of Santa Maria Bay. There have been mixed reports of the disease near Hull Bay.
What you should know
This disease has no known cure.
It kills stony corals (brain coral and pillar coral) very quickly.
It is harmless to humans!
Researchers need your help mapping the spread of the disease around St. Thomas, VI.
we need your help! Join the hunt for this coral disease
We need your help hunting for coral disease. Coral disease researchers are working hard to find a way to slow the spread of this disease and potentially stop it altogether. It is critical they identify exactly how far the disease has spread around St. Thomas. At this time, Hull Bay is suspected to be the frontline to the north and Buck Island is the suspected frontline at the south. Because the disease spreads so very quickly, verification must be done within a short space of time.
You can help refine the frontline of the disease by visiting your favorite coral reef and report back what you find. Reports of healthy corals and healthy reefs are just as important as reports of diseased corals.
To join the hunt, or for more information,
fill out the inquiry form below.
how it works
We are asking experienced divers and snorkelers to go out to their favorite reefs between August 24th – September 7th and hunt for signs of coral disease in general, but Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in particular, and report their finding back to us. We are asking volunteers to:
Review the disease identification guides (available below). You can also pick up a copy of a waterproof identification guide at our Coral Disease Training Event at Hull Bay Hideaway on August 23rd.
Bring an underwater camera and take photos of anything suspicious on the corals. Pay particular attention to brain corals and pillar corals.
Record suspected disease locations with GPS coordinates.
If you don’t have an underwater camera, don’t worry, you can still send us GPS coordinates and we will send a team to investigate.
If you don’t see anything unusual it still helps if you send a photo of healthy corals (this helps us establish a baseline should disease appear at that location in the future.)
Submit your photos, survey results, and location using the link below. Feel free to also email the report to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 340-774-3320. After you submit your report you will receive feedback from our scientists about what you found. We will also post your report on our google map.
It is not necessary for you to be an expert to make a report. Identifying coral disease is very difficult. Many diseases look alike and are difficult to distinguish from predation or other afflictions. We only ask for your best description or photos. Your eyes on the reef are critical to this mission. We will follow up with you for more details if necessary.
Things to keep in mind
Personal safety: You are responsible for your personal safety. Engaging in snorkelling and SCUBA diving activities is inherently risky. Only experienced snorkelers and SCUBA divers should consider surveying coral reefs for coral disease. Do not go out in dangerous weather. Also, while coral diseases are not a danger to humans, do not come in contact with corals or other marine life. Many marine animals and plants have stinging cells, sharp edges, or other characteristics that can be harmful to humans.