UWI Students undertake their MPhil Research projects in Tobago

Two post-graduate students from the University of the West Indies are undertaking their MPhil. research projects in Tobago with the assistance of the Buccoo Reef Trust.

Alesha Naranjit will be studying microscopic organisms called foraminifera, or forams. These animals are reported to respond to different nutrient levels on a reef and can therefore serve as bioindicators for pollution. Alesha will look for changes in the foram community both in terms of numbers of individuals and changes in species composition. She will correlate her results with the nutrient levels, that is nitrogen and phosphorous, in the water and the sediments. The question Alesha will be answering is whether or not forams can be used as a rapid and reliable way to assess reef health.

Naresh Nandram will be studying elkhorn corals, which not long ago formed a major part of Tobago’s reef systems. In the 1970s and 1980s an epidemic wiped out much of the elkhorn coral around Tobago but habitat degradation and other environmental impacts have also hastened its decline throughout the Caribbean. Although the species comprising this group of corals are relatively fast growing, elkhorns have been very slow to recover. There are patches of healthy elkhorn coral but much of the underwater landscape around Tobago is littered with skeletons of these once majestic coral stands. Fortunately these corals can grow from small fragments of the mature organism so that coral transplantation is one option for restoring the elkhorn reefs. Naresh will be studying the genetics of Tobago’s elkhorn corals to ensure that any transplantation work protects the genetic diversity of the entire population.