Jenniffer Perez

Cohort Level: Cohort - IV

Career Goal: After graduating I would work on achieving my doctoral on Marine Science. Then work where my skills can be utilized by implementing NOAA's long term goals by helping marine ecosystems on creating a more resilient community to these Sargassum events. Creating a warning system for coastal communities and incorporating NOAA's social goals.

Expected Graduation Date: May 26, 2022

Degree: M.S Marine Science

Research Title: Impacts of floating Sargassum accumulation on marine ecosystem Rhizophora mangle in Southwestern Puerto Rico.

Research Synopsis: Satellite images have shown massive amounts of drifting pelagic Sargassum spp. affecting the Caribbean islands since 2011. High-resolution satellite images have been used from January 2015 to identify influxes and accumulation of Sargassum in Southwest Puerto Rico. The Floating Algae Index (FAI) was applied to Sentinel 2A multi-spectral instrument (MSI) imagery to identify drifting pelagic Sargassum in the La Parguera Natural Reserve. The purpose of this study is to assess the long-term (chronic) impacts of Sargassum accumulation on fringing red mangroves. Sampling trips have been conducted every 14 days since May 2019 to assess Rhizophora mangle (red mangroves) litterfall primary productivity at six sampling sites along the coast where satellite data shows Sargassum accumulations. Physical and biogeochemical parameters of the water column are being monitored before and after Sargassum arrivals for trends in light penetration, chlorophyll concentration, colored dissolved organic matter, salinity and temperature at these sites. The mangroves at Guayacán Island have the highest Sargassum accumulation with the lowest light intensity values in the water column and litterfall primary production of all sampling sites. Field observations and satellite data showed high mangrove mortality at this location. Satellite remote sensing and surface observations of Sargassum accumulation impacts on the coastal mangrove ecosystems will support knowledge-based, decision-making by resource managers. Remote-sensing observations by NOAA CESSRST have been recognized as an urgent priority to support the scientific understanding of present and future Sargassum events.