My name is Lauren Henly and I am a second year Marine Biology student at Plymouth University. I am raising money to aid my participation in some important research as part of my final year dissertation project about the lionfish invasion in the Caribbean, in particular, Honduras.
I have been fascinated by tropical marine biology since a young age and spending some time with the COREsea researchers in Thailand in Summer 2014 furthered my passion for the topic. I have therefore decided to do the research for my dissertation in Honduras with the company Operation Wallacea. All the money raised will go towards the costs of my project. I will be spending 6 weeks in Honduras studying the lionfish invasion which is posing a huge threat to the coral reef ecosystems of the area.
Lionfish are an invasive species in the Caribbean, and are having a devastating impact on the local fish communities throughout the region. It is believed they were introduced by accident in the 1990's. Ever since then they have spread extremely quickly and are expected to soon be found as far as New York and South America. Their success is down to a number of factors, including: their high reproductive rate, generalistic diet and habitat preference, and a lack of natural predators. Lionfish are now considered to be one of the greatest thrats to the future of Caribbean coral reefs and their fish communities.
There have been many attempts to manage the invasion, with one of the most common being direct removal via spear fishing. However, this relies on regular visitation to individual reef sites, as studies have shown full recovery of lionfish only five months after complete removal.
Aims of my research
For my dissertation I aim to assess the impacts of two different populations of invasive lionfish in Honduras; one in Utila where there is relatively high levels of lionfish culling and one in Tela where there are relatively low levels of culling. I am interested in the effects of the abundance of the invaders on the native coral reef fish assemblages. As well as this I will be looking for evidence as to whether or not the culling efforts are actually having a positive impact on the areas were it is being carried out or if it may be causing more potential problems. I will aslso be dissecting some lionfish to see if their gut contents relate to the fish assemblages found on the reefs and if they have any prefered source of food.
All of this knowledge will help to improve our knowledge about the biology and ecology of the invasive lionfish in Honduras, and may help to develop future management strategies.
Please support me and help to fund this important research into the devastating lionfish invasion in Honduras!