the project

Originally from the Indo-Pacific, lionfish appeared in the Keys in 2009 and have since become a widespread problem throughout the Caribbean. They are prolific breeders, have no known predators in the Caribbean, and prey on a wide variety of indigenous reef fish. There have been efforts to check population growth by marine research and government organizations, but I am interested in the reactions from the Florida Keys locals.  Residents of the Keys are taking the problem of invasive lionfish into their own hands. Chefs are adding them to menus, dive masters are teaching their students to spearfish for them, and non-profit organizations are raising awareness about the problem. I want to collect, synthesize, and share the stories of these innovative individuals.  The objectives of this research are:

  1. To study the specific techniques utilized by Florida Keys locals to regulate lionfish populations.
  2. To develop a website that will appeal to a wide audience and increase awareness of the threat of invasive species and the power of human innovation.
  3. To improve my interview and media skills and expand my field research experience.

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I will spend one month in the Keys documenting the stories of these innovative individuals. While stationed research stations in the area, I will travel throughout the Keys interviewing a wide variety of residents. Focusing specifically on the restaurants, dive shops, fishing operations, and the scientific community, I plan tohighlight how each group has adapted to the spread of lionfish. Using information from the interviews and on-the-ground research, I will use this website to tell the stories of these Florida Keys locals and educate visitors about the devastating impacts of invasive lionfish.

The spread of lionfish has sparked a series of scientific research projects analyzing the negative ecological impacts of lionfish on the native coral reef ecosystem. Most research centers on the feeding and breeding habits of lionfish, in addition to training native predators, such as sharks and grouper, to consume the invasive species. But few projects have analyzed the social aspect of this problem, including how people adjust to the spread of lionfish. This research addresses a largely untapped social experiment exploring community innovation and adaptation. In an age of increasing global exchange, invasive species are a global problem, affecting millions of people culturally and economically. Although each invasion presents unique challenges, communities may adapt to invasive species in similar fashions. By exploring and sharing the responses of Keys residents to lionfish, my research could help communities more efficiently eradicate or adapt to these invaders and possibly prevent the establishment of other invasive species in the future.

If unregulated, invasive lionfish threaten to permanently alter the Florida Keys reef ecosystem.  The Keys locals have recognized the scope of the problem and have exhibited remarkable innovation. This project aims to highlight human creativity while emphasizing the importance of reef ecosystem conservation in an engaging way. The stories of Florida Keys locals have the potential to educate and inspire others impacted by invasive species around the world. Above all, this project shows that anyone can take conservation efforts into their own hands to protect the ecosystems they love.

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