Women in Science: FWRI’s Stephanie Schopmeyer
Scientist Stephanie Schopmeyer has always loved nature and being outdoors. Her academic career focused on the complexity of corals, leading to a position with NOAA as a coral reef ecologist in Hawaii. With NOAA she monitored the coral reefs around Hawaii and other Pacific Islands for changes in their ecosystems and overall health. She loved working with some of the most pristine coral reefs in the world but missed performing hands-on research.
Her desire to return to research led to a position at the University of Miami managing coral nurseries and conducting restoration for staghorn coral. She also monitored coral reef health and assisted with experiments to design the best techniques for transplanting corals. Over her eight years in Miami, Stephanie helped plant 10,000 corals! She continues to support the restoration of Florida’s coral reef tract now at FWRI.
Stephanie shared that Florida’s Coral Reefs face many challenges. For instance, there is a strong need to preserve the genetic diversity of our corals. Stony coral tissue-loss disease (SCTLD) has decimated the coral genetic diversity faster than intervention can occur. As a result, she is involved in coral rescue that aims to collect and preserve their genetic diversity, hold the corals in zoos and aquariums across the US, and use them to create the next generation of corals for future restoration following the mortality caused by SCTLD. Additionally, coral reefs form very complex ecosystems that affect their restoration. For example, increasing long spine sea urchin populations could help reefs as the urchins remove algae from the reef, keeping them clean and healthy. While the degradation of Florida’s reefs is a very serious issue, Stephanie remains hopeful that there is a future for our reefs.
There is an incredible network of researchers that are working tirelessly to save Florida’s coral reef tract. To support their critical work, donate here.