This meeting was held in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, organized by the Punta Cana Foundation; during the days of May 20 to 24, 2019. In the five days that the conference lasts, the day starts with a plenary session (where the presenter is given more time) and then continues with oral presentations in 15-minute format , where questions are answer from those present. The lectures began with the theme of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD), which is affecting, in most cases, corals in Florida. Oral presentations were offered on their origin and different treatments to which corals could be exposed to treat this condition.
Another issue widely discussed, and observed in the meeting area, was the sargassum that is affecting the rest of the Caribbean. In addition to an ugly sight of the beach for the tourist and leaving a strong smell, the sargassum can de-stabilize the seagrass beds, which in turn de-stabilize the sea floor causing the sand to rise and erotion in heavy waves event. The Westin Hotel, the conference venue, has a project in which they put some barriers a few meters from the beach to pick up the sargassum and reuse it before it reaches the beach. At first glance it could be confused with a border reef.
Among other interesting topics discussed in the different oral presentations was the use of 3D programs and drones to analyze and manage the different areas of study. On the topic of zoology there was a presentation about PaVI, which is a virus that infects lobsters. Fortunately it does not affect humans or other species that cohabit on the reef with them. On the other hand it affects small lobsters, which could disrupt population growth and the economy in some areas.
Within the plenaries, in the one offered by Charles Sheppard, we were reminded of the importance of bringing the acquired knowledge to the non-scientific population. Communicating effectively with the news / social media and how these media report the information is important. We are the source of information. This in turn helps us to change the response of our leaders regarding environmental issues.
On this occasion, # 39AMLC was attended by representatives of different public and private institutions from 19 countries, including students representing Venezuela in a great effort to attend the conference and present their work. Puerto Rico was represented by SAM with 3 oral presentations and 4 posters. In addition, there were presentations by graduate students of the Department of Marine Sciences of the UPR in Mayaguez.
As part of the tradition of this conference, the organizers give us a day off for cultural, ecotourism or educational activities. One of them was a workshop on microfragmentation in the facilities of the Punta Cana Foundation, offered by Dave Vaughan and the visit to the outreach exhibition at the Iberostar Hotel. There they have a newly opened area where they show hotel guests about corals and the different educational and restoration efforts on coral reefs. This was something very interesting that we saw, the interaction between the hotels and the environment. The owners of all these lands and hotels are understanding the relationship between how caring for the environment helps conserve the resources that attract guests to their hotels. This is something we can definitely do to help our tourism industry. These are the earnings of each conference we go to. We show our projects and learn from others and vice versa. As the saying goes “you learn every day”. Among those achievements, we want to announce that SAM is the most recent institutional member in the AMLC. Congratulations!
Samuel Suleiman with a Judy Lang.
Aerial view of sargassum in the Caribbean Sea.
Dr. Edwin Hernandez in his oral presentation.
Presentation of the poster of Yanina Rodríguez in collaboration with Dr. Edwin Hernández.
Presentation of the poster of Jaime Fonseca, in collaboration with Dr. Alex Mercado.
Presentation of the poster of Frances Candelas.