The Awesomeness that is the Coral Fellowship

by Carey Morishige Martinez, Executive director, AIC Secretariat


As job postings for a new cohort of Coral Fellows are closing this Friday (7/31/15), I thought this would be a great “don’t you want to be part of all this awesomeness?” post/tickler.

While I was never a Coral Fellow myself, I’ve worked with fellows in the past, and have learned a lot over the past two years while helping the AIC highlight and push for the renewal of this very successful program.

Since its inception in 2003, the National Coral Reef Management Fellowship Program has been a long-standing fellowship program within NOAA. After a brief hiatus, the program is back and built on a partnership between NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs, the U.S. All Islands Coral Reef Committee, and the National Coral Reef Institute. Over the years, this program has provided opportunities for students and recent graduates to gain experience and knowledge in the field of coral reef management at the local level in the coral reef jurisdictions of the U.S. as well as with Federal government agencies like NOAA. A significant number of the previous fellows from this program have gone on to careers in the arena of coral reef and/or marine resources conservation and with the jurisdictional knowledge and understanding gained during the fellowship.

I have to admit that one of the most impressive things about this program is finding out what the fellows accomplished during their fellowship and where are they now. Here are a handful of VERY COOL highlights. 

  • Hawai’i – This fellow played a key role in supporting the work of Local Action Strategies in Hawai’i. Upon completion of her fellowship, she became a Planner for the Hawai’i Division of Aquatic Resources where she led the development of the Hawaii Coral Reef Strategy. She is currently the Reef Resilience Project Manager at The Nature Conservancy.
  • Puerto Rico – After finishing his fellowship he stayed with the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) for a while and has played a key role in the protection of coral reefs beyond his fellowship. He is now the representative of The Nature Conservancy in Puerto Rico and works hand on hand with the DNER Coral Reef Committee in strategies and activities to protect these ecosystems.
  • American Samoa – A former fellow coordinates the jurisdiction’s Coral Reef Advisory Group, which coordinates American Samoa’s coral reef management efforts and activities. Member agencies work together towards mutual consensus to manage coral reefs with the vision “to protect and conserve reefs for the benefit of the people of American Samoa, the United States, and the world.”
  • USVI – A USVI coral fellow stayed on with the St. Croix East End Marine Park (STXEEMP) after her fellowship through the one-year contract position. During that time she grew the Friends of STXEEMP group that she developed, supported implementation of park rules and regulations, and served as a liaison between the park and its users.
  • CNMI – It was with the help of a fellow that CNMI was awarded $2.9M (ARRA funding) for the improvement and management of Laolao Bay, a priority watershed. That fellow helped build and implement the Conservation Action Plan for that bay. Today, that fellow continues to work at the jurisdictional level as Lead Staff and Marine Resource Steward for Snohomish County, WA.
  • Guam – A former fellow remained on Guam and currently serves as a federal fisheries biologist and liaison as part of the Habitat Conservation Division of NOAA Fisheries’ Pacific Islands Regional Office.
  • Florida – Florida was able to keep their fellow on after the fellowship in her original position. She is responsible for coordinating the Maritime Industry and Coastal Construction Impacts focus area for Florida’s Local Action Strategy, the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative (SEFCRI).

Now, don’t you want to be a Coral Fellow?! :)

National Coral Reef Management Fellowship Program – JOB OPENINGS!

by Carey Morishige Martinez, Executive director, AIC Secretariat

Interested in learning more about coral reef ecosystem management in your own backyard? Looking for a job that will provide solid hands-on resource management experience? Working towards building your career in natural resource management related to coral reefs?  Want to be part of the next generation of coral reef conservation leaders?

If you answered YES to any of the above, READ ON…!

Anne Rosinski, previous Hawai'i Coral Reef Management Fellow.

Anne Rosinski, previous Hawai’i Coral Reef Management Fellow.

The renewed National Coral Reef Management Fellowship Program provides participants an opportunity to experience and learn about coral reef management within the seven U.S. coral reef jurisdictions that make up the AIC: American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Hawai’i, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

This Fellowship Program is a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs, the U.S. All Islands Coral Reef Committee, and the National Coral Reef Institute.

Positions are open right now and close July 31, 2015.

Coral Reef Management Fellows are placed in state and territorial natural resource management agencies (the host agencies) in each of these jurisdictions every other year where they work on specific projects related to coral reef conservation. Although fellows are employed through NSU, they are essentially working for the host agencies and should consider their on-site fellowship supervisors to be their direct managers.

For additional information or questions about the fellowship positions, please contact John Tomczuk at

Coral Reef Info-geekiness

by Carey Morishige Martinez, Executive director, AIC Secretariat

I’m dusting off the blog-webs with what I think is a pretty cool topic: Infographics. For all the geeks out there (like me!), this one’s for you!

I’ve been seeing a sprinkling of pretty awesome coral reef infographics recently and have posted a couple to our AIC Facebook page (like us here!). I decided that I’d do a quick Google image search for them and low and behold…the mother-load!

From NOAA to Pinterest, bleaching to coastal protection, infographics help deliver useful information in an easy-to-digest and visually-appealing way. Here are a few of my favorites! (Click on them to view larger) the National Aquarium NOAA The Nature Conservancy Pew Charitable Trust one from NOAA Conservation International

On Next Steps for the 20 ESA-listed Corals

by Carey Morishige Martinez, Executive director, AIC Secretariat

Coral reef use and conservation balanceToday, the U.S. All Islands Coral Reef Committee (AIC) submitted information and comments in response to NOAA Fisheries’ request for information (NOAA-NMFS-2014-0158) regarding rule-making for the 20 newly listed coral species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

This issue has and continues to be an important topic for the AIC for several years now. The AIC’s coral reef jurisdictions depend upon coral reef ecosystems for their economic, ecological, and social value. Coral reefs provide key ecological services valued in the billions of dollars that help define jurisdictional economies. Coral reefs are also an integral part of everyday life in these places.

Shoreline fishing in Hawaii. Credit: NOAA

Shore-based fishing in Hawaii is a common local past time. Credit: NOAA

The AIC recognizes that there must be a balance between resource protection and use. We understand that there are mandates and legal aspects behind resource protection, just as we know there are economic costs and traditional/cultural values behind use. This is what makes achieving balance between the two so difficult and yet so very important.

Towards that end, the AIC provided the following recommendations  (exceptions to 4(d) rule) to NOAA as we believe they are not necessary and advisable for the conservation of the 20 listed corals:

  • Accidental take associated with common, non-commercial fishing practices, specifically hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling, and trapping.
  • Accidental take associated with minor accidental impacts (i.e., we don’t want to make innocent people guilty). Thresholds should be defined for what constitutes the maximum allowable impact under this exemption.
  • The collection, maintenance, and use of listed species for research and educational purposes approved and permitted under the authority of the appropriate State/Territorial/Commonwealth resource agency.
  • The collection, maintenance, and use of listed species for cultivation projects and programs (including restoration, the aquarium trade, and transplantation) approved and permitted under the authority of the appropriate State/Territorial/Commonwealth resource agency.
  • Minor routine maintenance of commercial ports and harbors, as allowed under the authority of the appropriate State/Territorial/Commonwealth resource agency.
Acropora globiceps. Credit: NOAA

Threatened Acropora globiceps. Credit: NOAA

Additionally, NOAA should highly consider the operational efficiency of any ruling (4(d) or critical habitat) as a critical component to the implementation and administration of that ruling and ultimately conservation of the 20 listed corals.

Understandably, a prudent approach must be taken when determining critical habitat. The AIC recommends that NOAA conduct assessment surveys, prior to any critical habitat ruling, in areas such as ports, harbors, and marinas to determine presence or absence of listed corals as those locations in particular are economically critical to the states, territories, and commonwealths where these corals are found.

We know a lot of hard work and manpower has gone into this effort already, with likely much more to come. The AIC greatly appreciates NOAA and their staffs’ efforts on this issue. We look forward to continued communication and collaboration!

DC, here we come!

Heading to DCby Carey Morishige Martinez, Executive director, AIC Secretariat

We’re heading off again to Washington DC for the 33rd US Coral Reef Task Force Meeting, which will be held February 17-19. Taking full advantage of our time together, the AIC will begin our meetings on February 13, working straight through the weekend and President’s Day. What can I say, we’re committed!

We’ll be having a one and a half day AIC Meeting where we’ll discuss the AIC Strategic and Action Plans and focus on fleshing out and moving forward in our AIC priority issue areas. As typical whenever we’re in DC, our members will be meeting with their Congressional representatives to update them on AIC endeavors and priorities. We’re also we’re hoping to fit in a couple of partner meetings as well.

Phew! The new year is always a busy time! For updates and more info, follow us on Facebook or visit our website.

Strategically Planned Corals?

Strategically planned coralsby Carey Morishige Martinez, Executive director, AIC Secretariat

You’re probably scratching your head at the title right now, but at least it got your attention (posts with “strategic planning” in the title probably don’t get a ton of reads).

The AIC is once again heading off to cold (for most of us) Washington DC next month for the 33rd US Coral Reef Task Force meeting, and of course, some meetings of our own. A common theme this time around–strategic planning.

Admittedly, the thought of strategic planning probably makes you groan a little on the inside. For as much work as is involved and for as many ways you can go about strategic planning, it is absolutely worth it–if done well!

The AIC has been working on its strategic plan (a journey that we began in Summer 2013). With committee members in the US Virgin Islands all the way across the Date Line to Saipan, we’ve had to master the art of virtual communications, effective emails and calls, and making the most efficient use of any and all face-to-face time. We’re certainly not perfect, but practice makes perfect, right?

The neat thing about our process so far: Our committee members really want a plan that will get us to actual outcomes in the next five years and take us closer to our vision of thriving coral reef ecosystems, effectively managed to protect their ecological, social, and economic value for future generations. And even better we have partners, like the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, Dept. of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs, and many others, that want the same thing.

In fact, the US Coral Reef Task Force is embarking on its own strategic planning journey and the AIC is already on board! (see the USCRTF’s previous strategy in Resolution 25.1 – click on ’25th Meeting’)

So, strategically planned corals?

I say, YES! :)