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Shannon Gore – Marine Biologist for the BVI

The BVI Conservation & Fisheries Department (CFD) has
hired a most interesting and well-informed Marine Biologist – Shannon
Gore. Born in Los Angeles, Shannon graduated
from high school in Dallas.
Moving to Chicago, she earned a BS at
Northwestern and then a MS from the University
of Ulster, N.
Ireland. She is now working on a PhD from
Ulster in Beach
dynamics & Management with a dissertation focusing on the impacts of
climatic change and development on the coastline. Her experiences come from her
adventures living and working in Australia,
Florida, Puerto Rico,
the Turks and Caicos and now the BVI.

Shannon has been at CFD since November of 2002 where her
work focuses on Environmental Monitoring. She demonstrates
her love for the sea explaining to me her duties. “We monitor coral reefs
by video taping permanent transects set out at specific sites. Images are then
analyzed by identifying live coral coverage, mortality, disease, and the
general overall health of the reef.

“This year, we saw the worst coral bleaching event ever recorded.
The Caribbean Sea reached unprecedented warm
temperatures that caused the bleaching but luckily as the temperatures began to
drop in late October, a lot of the coral was spared. This event was a good wake
up call of how fragile our reefs are. 

“I
also monitor sea grass meadows throughout the BVI. I visit seven permanent
sites twice a year, identifying distribution and abundance
of grasses and how they are changing temporally and spatially. Unfortunately,
some areas are being smothered by sedimentation, run-off and sewage but the
installation of moorings has alleviated some of the anchor damage in a number
of areas. Another positive accomplishment in this area was the renourishment of Brandywine
Beach. Instead of
dredging the dense seagrass bed in the bay and
bringing in sand via a barge, CFD insisted on transporting the sand over land
with commercial trucks.

“I
am also active in maintaining marine mammal sighting reports. I have been
grateful that residents, tourists and dive operators have called CFD to report
sightings. Mr. Paul Knapp has also provided his audio data. This information
helps us understand their populations and migration patterns. Unfortunately, we’ve
noticed a decline in populations, possibly because of the increase in yachting
tourism.

“We’ve also implemented two specific sea turtle monitoring programmes – turtle nestings
and in-water tagging for foraging turtles. We sit on Lambert and Josiah’s
Bay beaches every night between March and July waiting for the Leatherbacks to
arrive to lay their eggs. For Hawksbill and Green Turtles we monitor their
nesting by carrying out aerial surveys throughout the Territory.

“Our in-water tagging programme involves
us being towed behind the back of the boat with our snorkeling gear on. If we
see a turtle, we free dive for it and bring it back to the boat. For all
turtles, we attach tags on front flippers, inject a PIT tag (an ID chip), and
take measurements. A DNA sample is also taken and helps in identifying its
point of origin. We have tagged over 500 turtles in the BVI thus far.

“A
joint project that includes turtle tagging specifically in Anegada is the
Darwin Initiative that will end in April 2006. This project is also studying
the birds and plants of Anegada and has a number of local as well as
international partners. We now have a better understanding of the biodiversity
found on this unique island.”

I enjoyed
my conversation with this bright and enthusiastic young woman. The BVI is most
fortunate to have a Marine Biologist of this caliber working for the betterment
of our environment.

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