Coral Reef Ecosystems

Coral Reef Ecosystems

Informing and Enhancing Coral Restoration




What We Do

Our research aims to identify corals that are more resilient in the presence of stressors like warming oceans, ocean acidification, and spread of novel diseases. Informing coral selection by managers and enhancing tools available to maximize coral resilience allows resource managers to be more effective with their restoration plans, especially when out-planting corals to the reef.

Who We Are

| Ian Enochs, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

| Nicole Besemer

Caribbean Climate Operations Coordinator

| Michael Studivan, Ph.D.

Assistant Scientist

| Ana Palacio, Ph.D.

Assistant Scientist

| Michael Jankulak

Data Manager

| Kayelyn Simmons, Ph.D.


| Alice Webb, Ph.D.

Post Doctoral Associate

| Heidi Hirsh, Ph.D.

Assistant Scientist

| John Morris, Ph.D. 

Postdoctoral Associate

| Albert Boyd

Coral Carbonate Chemist

| Nash Soderberg

Research Associate

| Anthony Burke

Research Associate

| Patrick Kiel

Doctoral Candidate

| Taylor Gill

Mission: Iconic Reefs Climate Monitoring Coordinator

| Allyson DeMerlis

Doctoral Candidate

| Bailey Ross, MPS

Research Support Technician

| Kenzie Cooke

Undergraduate Student

| Ben Chomitz

Digital Morphology Technician

Areas of Research

Research Capabilities

Top News

Investigating the impacts of climate change on reef-building corals using robotic arms 

Blue lights fill the room. The faint smell of salt emanates throughout the space as wires and tubes intricately suspended over robotic arms move along custom-built tracks over four rows of tanks filled with seawater – and fragments of critically-endangered corals. In the Experimental Reef Lab, scientists at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) and the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) are investigating how crucial reef-building coral species are affected by the impacts of climate change using a suite of open-source robotic arms designed and built at AOML.

Image of tanks in the experimental reef lab. Photo Credit: NOAA. Environmental Reef Lab Tanks. Photo Credit: NOAA. Two white robotic arms hang over a series of tanks under the blue light with a black circle at the end where the pipettes attach

Read More News

Aerial photo of coastline with trees, sandy beach, and ocean water
Ian Enochs floats above completely bleached Cheeca Rocks
A marine heatwave has spread across the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean with temperatures ranging between one and three degrees Celsius (~2-4.5˚F) above average. Ocean temperatures around south Florida are the warmest on record for the month of July (dating back to 1981). Marine heatwaves are not unprecedented, but their influence on tropical storm development and coral reef health, as well as the persistence of the current heatwave, are among the causes for concern. 
A colorful coral reef with black and yellow striped fish

Research Impacts & Key Findings

Understanding Coral Reef Ecosystems

The long-term and comprehensive study of coral reef ecosystems improves understanding of how coral reefs respond to changes in the environment over time and predict how they will fare when exposed to increasing sea surface temperatures, ocean acidification, fishing, disease and pollution from land. AOML’s Coral Program has collected years of data and leads the in-situ climate change and ocean acidification monitoring for the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico.

Creating Partnerships

AOML’s Coral Program is an integrated and focused monitoring effort developing and maintaining strong partnerships with federal, state/territory, academic and other partners across the U.S. The program collaborates with partners such as NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries, NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Coral Reef Watch, NOAA National Centers for Ocean and Coastal Science, the University of Virgin Islands, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Moorings International, and and the National Park Service.

Critical High Impact Data

AOML’s Coral Program provides consistent, sustained, and long‐term measurements of key indicators that gauge the status and trends of coral reef health providing a greater understanding of how a changing climate is impacting the nation’s coral reef ecosystems.

Featured Publication

Coral Reef Carbonate Chemistry Reveals Interannual, Seasonal, and Spatial Impacts on Ocean Acidification Off Florida

class=”has-small-font-size”>A. M. Palacio-Castro, I. C. Enochs, et al.

Ocean acidification (OA) threatens coral reef persistence by decreasing calcification and accelerating the dissolution of reef frameworks. The carbonate chemistry of coastal areas where many reefs exist is strongly influenced by the metabolic activity of the underlying benthic community, contributing to high spatiotemporal variability. While characterizing this variability is difficult, it has important implications for the progression of OA and the persistence of the ecosystems. Here, we characterized the carbonate chemistry at 38 permanent stations located along 10 inshore-offshore transects spanning 250 km of the Florida Coral Reef (FCR), which encompass four major biogeographic regions (Biscayne Bay, Upper Keys, Middle Keys, and Lower Keys) and four shelf zones (inshore, mid-channel, offshore, and oceanic). Data have been collected since 2010, with approximately bi-monthly periodicity starting in 2015. Increasing OA, driven by increasing DIC, was detected in the mid-channel, offshore, and oceanic zones in every biogeographic region. In the inshore zone, however, increasing TA counteracted any measurable OA trend. Strong seasonal variability occurred at inshore sites and included periods of both exacerbated and mitigated OA. Seasonality was region-dependent, with greater variability in the Lower and Middle Keys. Elevated pH and aragonite saturation states (ΩAr) were observed in the Upper and Middle Keys, which could favor reef habitat persistence in these regions. Offshore reefs in the FCR could be more susceptible to global OA by experiencing open-ocean-like water chemistry conditions. By contrast, higher seasonal variability at inshore reefs could offer a temporary OA refuge during periods of enhanced primary production.

Download the full paper

We see the front page of the publication of the Global Biogeocemical Cycle with the title and authors followed by the Abstract, etc.

Outreach Partnerships

Coral City Camera

In collaboration with Coral Morphologic, a coral-themed art studio based in Miami, we have assisted in the deployment of the Coral City Camera (CCC), an underwater camera streaming live from an urban coral reef in Miami, Florida. The CCC is a public art and scientific research project led primarily by Coral Morphologic, and produced with Bridge Initiative and Bas Fisher Invitational.

Funding Sources and Partners

CIMAS' logo A fish and wave in front of a cloud
University of Miami 's Rescue a Reef logo