Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New Marine Species Discovered off Little Cayman

Dr. Rick Hochberg and his team of biologists from the University of Massachusetts have recently discovered 15 new species of tiny gastrotrich worms in the well-oxygenated sands off the shores of Little Cayman. The scientists elected to complete a portion of their research at the Little Cayman Research Center (LCRC) because of its pristine environment, while utilizing the facilities at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI). Dr. Hochberg has found enough of these complex species to warrant further studies and will host a workshop at the LCRC, placing Little Cayman firmly on the map of serious scientific research.

Global warming threatens habitat degradation which may wipe out species before they are even discovered. The CCMI has said this type of research is vital for understanding the biodiversity of our earth. The methods Dr. Hochberg is using to determine which species are new and how they are related will assist in how speciation and evolution happens.

The Central Caribbean Marine Institute was incorporated in 1998 as a non-profit 501c3 organization.  CCMI was established as an international charitable organization. Since its first years, CCMI has proven a valuable asset to the effort of understanding changing coral reef and tropical marine environments. Its research and education programs have established a solid foundation for future reef education and awareness in the Caribbean and for students and researchers from around the world.

A key component of the organization's strategy was realized in May 2006 with the opening of the Little Cayman Research Center.  Equipped with wet and dry laboratories, a classroom, library, dormitory-style and private rooms and a sustainable off-the-grid bathhouse as well as easy access to the reefs, the Center is an important new research and education center for all of the Cayman Islands.

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