Thanks to the generous support of OpenROV and National Geographic, REEF received two Trident remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) to advance our research on endangered Nassau Grouper and invasive lionfish.

OpenROV started in 2012 as a software forum for people to trade information about building low-cost underwater robot systems. Since then, OpenROV has grown into a company and community of people who are working together to create powerful new tools for underwater exploration. In 2018, OpenROV partnered with National Geographic to create the Science Exploration Education (SEE) Initiative to support others on their quest to explore the ocean by means of ROVs. Numerous individuals, scientists, and organizations submitted funding proposals for marine conservation projects to engage community members and benefit the ocean. More than 500 SEE Initiative projects were selected to receive new Trident ROVs donated by National Geographic and OpenROV, including REEF’s Grouper Moon Project and Invasive Lionfish Program.

During the first of two 2019 excursions to Little Cayman in the Cayman Islands, the Grouper Moon team was able to practice operating the Trident ROV; first in a swimming pool, and then directly off the dock in shallow water. This allowed Dr. Alli Candelmo, our Invasive Species Program Manager, and Grouper Moon Lead Scientist Dr. Brice Semmens, time to become skilled at maneuvering the machine before taking it to open water. Once getting out to the reef, the team was able to comfortably guide the ROV down the reef wall in Little Cayman, and even managed to find some Tiger Grouper in spawning colors on a new site!

The Grouper Moon team is excited to continue using the Trident ROV during the full moon in Feburary in Little Cayman. Using the ROV, we will be able to explore deeper than recreational dive limits would normally allow. We will also be able to increase survey potential, including searching historic Nassau Grouper aggregation sites on Little Cayman and Cayman Brac for reestablishment and evidence of additional Tiger Grouper spawning sites around the island. We will also be using a Trident in the Florida Keys to survey deep water populations of invasive Indo-Pacific Red Lionfish, both spatially and at different times of day, to gain a better understanding of the densities and movements of this invasive species on deeper reefs. For both projects, the Trident will enhance our survey and search capabilities in these deep and high current areas.

To stay up to date with the projects, follow the program’s blogs on the Open Explorer page:
Grouper Moon Project Blog
Invasive Lionfish Program Blog

Click here to read more about the OpenExplorer program.