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National Coral Reef Management Fellowship Program

Mariana C. León-Pérez 

Mariana's Master's thesis focuses on estimating seagrass cover changes within Caja de Muertos Island Nature Reserve throughout the period of 1950 to 2014. She has a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Sciences from the Metropolitan University in San Juan, and a Master's degree in Biological Oceanography from the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez.

Mariana was immediately drawn to the NOAA Coral Reef Management Fellowship, as it would provide a great opportunity to implement what have been learned during her academic years in a professional setting and to further expand her learning experience in the management of Puerto Rico’s coastal and marine resources.  As Puerto Rico’s Coral Fellow, she is working under the Puerto Rico Coral Reef Conservation and Management Program at the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. Mariana is assessing their Coral Reef Monitoring Program to provide recommendations and determine if it meets the current and future needs of local coral reef conservation and management.  Additionally, she is developing a GIS database of Puerto Rico’s coral reef monitoring data.

Mariana’s projects include:

  • Assess the needs and future focus of the Puerto Rico Coral Reef Monitoring Program (PRCRMP) in order to strength it as a tool for coral reef management and research.  This process started with a review of the coral reef monitoring efforts in Puerto Rico and these programs from other U.S. jurisdictions. For the literature review, scientific publications and reports were examined. The review process also included one-on-one conversations in order to learn about other monitoring program's objectives, their findings, strengths, and weaknesses.  In order to sense the needs regarding the PRCRMP from a larger audience of local coral monitoring information users, a survey was developed using the background information previously gathered.  This survey was emailed to Natural Reserve managers, scientist, and state and federal agencies representatives.  The objective of this assessment is to collaboratively define the specific management questions that the PRCRMP should answer and, therefore, provide the information needed for the conservation of coral reefs in Puerto Rico.  
  • Facilitate the discussion with the management and scientific community about suitable methodologies to tackle the previously defined monitoring needs.
  • Prepare a report with the results of the PRCRMP assessment, including management recommendations for the Program.
  • Develop a one-page outreach material for the general public, about the PRCRMP findings and how to protect coral reefs.
  • Design a coral reef monitoring data sharing system for Puerto Rico.  During this process, potential users will be consulted to include their ideas and opinions on the database design.  The objective is to make the PRCRMP data and findings easily accessible to managers, scientist, and the general public. 

Database PortalMariana discussing with reserve managers about the development of a coral reef monitoring database portal.

Reunion TallerMariana presenting at the “Reunion-Taller sobre prioridades y recomendaciones de Estrategias de Acción Local del Programa de Conservación y Manejo de Arrecifes de Coral 2016-2020”, a workshop about priorities and recommendations of the Puerto Rico LAS and the Coral Reef Conservation and Management Program.

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