Junior SeaKeepers Webinar 7: Dr. Valeria Pizzaro - SCTLD in Caribbean Corals

March 13, 2024


On Wednesday, March 13th, 2024, The International SeaKeepers Society hosted the seventh Junior SeaKeepers Program webinar for 2023-24 cohort students. For this virtual talk, we were thrilled to have Dr. Valeria Pizzaro, Senior Research Scientist for the Perry Institute for Marine Science (PIMS), a non-profit research institute that operates out of The Bahamas.

Valeria started studying coral reefs and brain coral population dynamics as part of her masters in 1999 in the Southwestern Caribbean (Colombia where she is from). She kept studying coral reefs while designing and implementing the Seaflower Marine Protected Area System until she began my doctorate studies at Newcastle University (United Kingdom) on Caribbean coral connectivity. After finishing her Ph.D., Valeria became a lecturer and later a professor at the Jorge Tadeo University (Colombia) in Marine Biology, where she worked for eight years teaching undergraduates and graduate students, as well as conducting research projects in different coral reef fields. Coral restoration became part of Valeria's research field in 2007, and since then she has had projects in different coral reef areas within the Caribbean and in the Colombian Pacific. In 2020 she started working for the Perry Institute for Marine Science (PIMS) in The Bahamas as the manager of their coral program. Valeria is involved as much as possible in all projects related to corals, but most of her time currently is focused on a coral disease that is devastating corals in the Caribbean, including The Bahamas, called Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD). At PIMS, they are trying to tackle the spread and save as many corals as possible. Within this project the partnership with SeaKeepers has been key in allowing researchers to travel to different family islands, especially to some areas that can be difficult to reach because they are isolated and finding boats and diving tanks can be challenging. Last year, SeaKeepers provided the opportunity to assess how spread the disease was in North Andros reefs and a week of treatments (applying antibiotics to infected corals) in Abaco. This collaboration is invaluable and gives PIMS an opportunity to keep the coral response project going.

Outing Goal

By attending webinars led by research scientists, our Junior SeaKeepers have the opportunity to learn first-hand about the diversity of work that exists in the marine conservation realm. Additionally, students get direct access to accomplished professionals and are able to see the advancements in the field that are the result of research happening every day all over the world. Through speaking with Valeria about her research and personal history, we hope that our JSKs were able to collect some inspiration for both their research projects and their professional futures moving forward.

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