Public Release: 

Sea Grant & ASLO bring helping hands to Puerto Rico

Annual scientific meeting features community service projects

University of Minnesota

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Scientists from 52 countries will be providing hands-on help in Puerto Rico to restore marine and coastal resources damaged during hurricane Maria in 2017 in connection with the annual meeting of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography February 23 to March 2, 2019.

"The Puerto Rico and Minnesota Sea Grant programs are working together with Puerto Rico-based members of the ASLO meeting committee to offer educational activities and volunteer opportunities that focus on environmental and ecosystem restoration," said Puerto Rico Sea Grant Director and ASLO committee member Ruperto Chaparro Serrano. "Our intention is to use ASLO's annual scientific meeting as a means to give strong material and intellectual assistance in coastal recovery to Puerto Rico."

Scientists and meeting participants will help local organizations in their post-hurricane efforts by recovering coral reef fragments and reattaching them, collecting water samples and aquatic insects to assess water quality, cleaning up coral reefs and mangrove keys, painting houses and planting bananas, beans and cassava at a local farm.

"I live in Puerto Rico and had the opportunity to work in the initial response after hurricane María and witnessed the devastation and needs that our people have," said Áurea E. Rodríguez-Santiago, a member of the ASLO planning committee. "I am very proud of the set of community outreach activities and deeply appreciate the response that these activities have had from ASLO members to help our communities and our students."

ASLO's Puerto Rico outreach activities are listed below.

The meeting will address areas of key importance to Puerto Rico including societal and environmental recovery and development, renewable energy, environmental sustainability, clean water, and rebuilding and maintaining coastal and reef ecosystems.

"The 33 nationwide Sea Grant programs bring reliable science to stakeholders whether they are businesses, industries, policymakers, nongovernmental organizations, communities, governments, students, educators, or individuals," said Minnesota Sea Grant Director and ASLO meeting co-chair John A. Downing. "If the science needed does not exist yet, our granting programs seek scientists who can do the research and our extension educators bring that science back to stakeholders."

The public is encouraged to come to the "What can aquatic scientists do for you?" event Wednesday evening where they are invited to discuss how to close the communication gap between scientists and nonscientists. Translators will be available to help facilitate discussion among the audience and the panelists.

"We hope that the scientists at the meeting will build research collaborations among scientists in Puerto Rico, the mainland United States and globally," said Chaparro. "While the meeting in San Juan will benefit Puerto Rico in the short term, organizers hope conference outcomes will positively impact the island in the long term."

Puerto Rico Sea Grant is hosting an informational booth (#E-31) in Hall B of the Puerto Rico Convention Center from February 26 to 28.

An education fair on Wednesday will have booths of educational activities, demonstrations and resources for local middle and high students and teachers. These educators and students will work with scientists at the meeting to identify new ways of delivering science curricula. There will be a high-school student poster session on February 27. ASLO student members residing in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands can register for free.

"What we learn from the scientists presenting at ASLO 2019 and from the island communities will help us help Puerto Rico. The lessons we take home will also inform how we prepare, adapt and respond in our own freshwater or saltwater coastal communities that are in peril," said Downing.

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COMMUNITY OUTREACH ACTIVITIES:

  1. Volunteering with P.E.C.E.S. Participants will be painting houses and other tasks as a part of a recovery project organized by P.E.C.E.S. (El Programa de Educación Comunal de Entrega y Servicio), an NGO that fosters social, economic, and educational development of individuals and communities in social disadvantage.

  2. Monitoring Dive at a Coral Reef Ecosystem at Escambron Beach and Condado Lagoon. Monitoring Dive at a Coral Reef Ecosystem at Escambrón Beach and Condado Lagoon. One diver will work with Manuel Nieves, a graduate student at the Department of Marine Science (DMS) - University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez (UPRM).

  3. Coral Reef Fragments Recovery Dive and Restoration Project. Participants will take part in dives to recover coral reef fragments at the Escambron and Condado lagoon. This activity is part of an ongoing restoration project under the direction of Samuel Suleiman, president of Sociedad Ambiente Marino, Inc. (SAM)/Marine Environment Society.

  4. Water Quality Monitoring in Different Zones. Participants will be involved in water quality monitoring activities under the direction of Samuel Suleiman, Sociedad Ambiente Marino, Inc. (SAM)/Marine Environment Society. Monitoring sites include locations close to the Puerto Rico Convention Center.

  5. Coral Reefs and Mangrove Keys Cleanup at La Parguera. Organized by graduate students from the Department of Marine Science (DMS) - University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez (UPRM). The purpose of this activity is to acquire data for a long-term Marine Debris project at various sites within the La Parguera mangrove ecosystem. La Parguera is a village in the municipality of Lajas.

  6. Guakia Colectivo Agroecológico. Participants will be involved in planting and farming vegetables and fruits seedlings in an eco-agricultural farm in the municipality of Dorado. Their mission is to produce food, technology and learning experiences accessible to the Puerto Rican community throughout collective work and agroecological farming. https://www.facebook.com/guakiapr/

  7. Educational Workshop About the Role and Importance of Aquatic Macroinvertebrates in Freshwater Quality (Quebrada Sonadora River at El Yunque National Forest) Participants will hear a presentation about macroinvertebrates and why they are good bioindicators of water quality. Following the discussion, they will get into the water to collect macroinvertebrates with nets and will identify the microhabitats that they inhabit.

  8. Educational Workshop About the Role and Importance of Aquatic Macroinvertebrates in Freshwater Quality (Quebrada Sonadora River at El Yunque National Forest). Participants will hear a presentation about macroinvertebrates and why they are good bioindicators of water quality. Following the discussion, they will get into the water to collect macroinvertebrates with nets and will identify the microhabitats that they inhabit. The previous and this activity are Sponsored by Luquillo Long-Term Ecological Research, University of Puerto Rico, Natural Science Faculty, Department of Environmental Science (LTER - UPR). http://luq.lter.network/

  9. Restoration, Management and Conservation Project of the Las Cucharillas Marsh. The activity will consist of an environmental and social justice talk, an interpretative tour of the Las Cucharillas reserve and a mangrove transplant activity. This activity is hosted by El Corredor del Yaguazo, Inc. with the support of http://www.caraspr.org/en/education/.

CONTACT:

Ruperto Chaparro Serrano, MS, Director Puerto Rico Sea Grant. 787-832-3585, 787-832-4040 x5260, ruperto.chaparro@upr.edu.

John A. Downing, PhD, Director Minnesota Sea Grant, downing@d.umn.edu

Áurea E. Rodríguez-Santiago, PhD, Founder and Director, Taller Ecológico de Puerto Rico, 787-637-5952, auryo@gmail.com

Cynthia Maldonado Arroyo, Communications Coordinator, Puerto Rico Sea Grant. 787-834-4726, comunicacionespsg@uprm.edu.

Marie Thoms, Communications and Public Relations, Minnesota Sea Grant. 218-726-8710, m: 907-460-1841, methoms@d.umn.edu.

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