Tracking Coral in Belize

Latest update February 21, 2019 Started on December 19, 2018

We will be heading to the MesoAmerican Barrier Reef of Belize to document the identity, abundance and health of corals. Declining coral health is a global concern and our students will assess corals across multiple sites.

December 19, 2018
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Two weeks later and a world away - our tans have faded but the memories most certainly have not. After a week in the sunshine together aboard the Aggressor III monitoring coral, measuring colorful creatures, and honing our plankton identification skills, we all grew closer than ever before. These students displayed a tremendous amount of ambition and grit and inspired us every day with their energy. This is ocean optimism at its finest, and we are so humbled to witness it up close and personal. From driving the Trident ROV around Caribbean reefs to identifying different animals in the field, it's empowering to know these are the ocean advocates of our future.


In collaboration with the TIDES program we were able to monitor the health of coral during our expedition to Belize. We had ten students that dove alongside the OpenRov to verify coral types, and to evaluate coral health by color indicators. Watch our video of a student collecting reef data during our trip. We are so excited that we were able to add lasers to our Trident and we learned so much during the expedition. We know that we will learn so much more and have many new tools to add on the next trip. We are analyzing our footage and the data now. More so share soon!


Through our partnership with the TIDES program we were able to do 24 dives in Belize last week and our students deployed baited cameras, measured sharks and rays underwater with lasers, evaluated coral health, and looked at plankton and microplastics in samples. It was a truly incredible trip and these young ocean lovers are now advanced open water divers! More videos and photos to come- stay tuned.

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During our trip last week we had the chance to mentor an adventurous group of students from Kent Denver School through a technologically savvy series of coral monitoring, fauna measuring, and remotely operated scanning - thanks to Open Explorer!


We're back, and you better Belize we've got lots to share!
Stay tuned to hear our diving stories, student experiences, and more about the data we all collected soon.


We are one day away! We leave in the morning. We have been packing and packing and packing! So much research equipment to take with us. Today we did a last test dive with the Open ROV Trident to check out the modifications we made. We added to lasers to the ROV to help us measure coral and other animals we may encounter during our explorations on the reefs. The lasers worked well and we are excited to test them out in the field. We could not be more excited. Make sure to follow along as we will be diving starting Sunday. We may not have good internet so be patient with us!


Good luck! Can't wait to see the results!

Hi! Congrats for your project! I study corals too (cold-water corals in the Mediterranean Sea), I'm supported by the SEE Initiative and it is nice to see other researchers doing the same! Actually I mounted the same lasers to my Trident to measure corals... with black corals it is working very good! So, good luck!

Thank you so much S.E.E. initiative! Today we had an epic unboxing of the OpenROV Trident and we could not have been more excited! We got to play with it in the pool and start to see all it can do. It is truly amazing! We will be working on adding some fun accessories to help our students learn more about the coral reefs in Belize. We are just a week away from our trip!

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Our expedition is only ten days away and we're more excited than ever! Thanks to the S.E.E Initiative and a very supportive community (that would be you), we will be able to use our new Trident ROV as part of our research and we could not be more thrilled about that! We have so much to do to prepare for the trip but cannot wait to get started. While we're in Belize we will be measuring marine life using a variety of underwater tools like the Phaser used in this video which accurately measures sharks using laser photogrammetry!

From building ROVs to designing Phasers, our innovative students are gearing up for their expedition south and we're inspired by their motivation and determination to uncover the mysteries of our ocean! The future is bright with kids like these!

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Connecting students to the sea through hands-on experiences like those found on expeditions is our passion and calling. Such adventures can be trajectory-changers in young peoples lives, and Ocean First is thrilled to be taking 10 students on a trip to Belize on the Aggressor liveaboard vessel. Our research goals include monitoring coral, measuring sharks with lasers, deploying underwater baited cameras, and looking for microplastic trash. We leave February 2nd and are counting down the hours!

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Expedition Background

Coral health is a global concern. Corals are the building blocks of the sea and home to vital marine life. Our student expedition goal is to assess the identity, abundance and health of coral reefs off the coast of Belize. We will use a Trident ROV to run a designated transect of coral while filming. The ROV will be outfitted with parallel twin lasers whose purpose is to allow for calculating accurate coral measurements from the video. Additionally, the ROV will be outfitted with a night light so that we can also attempt to document coral fluorescence at night. All transect footage will be analyzed and coral will be identified, abundance will be calculated, and a color scale will be used to score coral health. This expedition is run by Ocean First and the TIDES program.

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