Brian Lapointe, Ph.D. - Reefs, Wreckers, and Shipwreckers of the Florida Keys
About the Lecture
The Florida Keys are home to the third longest coral barrier reef in the world. Dr. Lapointe will describe the history of human activities on these reefs, including the wrecking era when Key West was one of the most prosperous cities in the United States. He will discuss the fight to save the reefs, which began in the 1960s with establishment of marine sanctuaries. Unfortunately, simply designating “sanctuaries” did not protect the reefs from land-based water quality degradation, which has led to extensive loss of coral reef habitat.
Dr. Lapointe will show how “shipwreckers” today are sinking ships as artificial reefs, most recently the USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, to enhance marine habitat and help sustain the SCUBA diving industry. He will close by describing his current NASA grant that is allowing his research team to study and protect South Florida’s coral reefs from space.
About the Speaker
Dr. Brian Lapointe has studied water quality and the health of South Florida’s coral reefs for the past 27 years. He has authored over 80 publications in the field of biogeochemistry and harmful algal blooms and has worked on coral reef conservation throughout the Caribbean and globally. He pioneered the concept of “tipping points” to explain how land-based nutrient pollution causes “phase-shifts” from coral- to algal-dominated reefs. His recent work involved the use of stable nitrogen isotopes to identify the source(s) of nitrogen supporting harmful algal blooms on South Florida’s reefs.
Dr. Lapointe is currently working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop numerical nutrient standards for protection of Florida’s waters from nutrient over-enrichment. He is a Fellow of the Explorers Club and considers himself fortunate to help solve practical environmental problems and protect coral reefs for generations to come.
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