College of Sciences Newsletter   Edition 23                  December 24, 2004

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Biological Sciences Professor Participates in $22 Million Coral Reef Investigation

Mark Butler, professor and assistant chair of biological sciences at Old Dominion University, is one of the principal investigators on a coral reef research team that was recently awarded $22 million for the Global Environment Fund (GEF)-World Bank coral reef project.

Mark Butler, Professor and assistant chair of biological Sciences

Butler will be working on the Connectivity of Coral Reefs research team, which is one of seven working on the project. GEF has devoted $11 million to the entire project with another $11 million from matching funds. World Bank will implement the grant.

The project represents "the first phase of a 15-year targeted research program to bring the best science to bear from around the world on issues related to coral reef vulnerability and resilience," according to the World Bank.

Two main goals of the project are improving the quality of life and protecting global commons. "Our connectivity group will be working with corals, fish and lobster to investigate how interconnected the populations of these organisms may be on coral reefs, both at ecological and evolutionary time scales," said Butler.

Butler will join scientists from Canada, Ireland, France, Hong Kong, Australia, the United States and other countries on this project. He developed a scope of work with Robert Crown from the University of Miami on the 15-year project, titled "Connectivity of Spiny Lobster Populations in the Western Central Atlantic." The goal of this part of the project will be to use high-resolution oceanographic computer simulation models of the Caribbean and Western Atlantic Ocean to determine lobsters' patterns of movement from larvae to adult stages.

The Caribbean spiny lobster's larval period exceeds six months. Most scientists and fishery managers believe that all of the lobsters in the Caribbean are one, large population linked by an unpredictable supply of intermixing, ocean-dwelling larvae. Each country manages its lobster fishery as if the adults in their area produce the larvae that will eventually arrive back to their shores many months later. This study will help determine whether that is in fact the case and if successful will be expanded to include a Pacific ocean site.

Butler joined the Department of Biological Sciences in 1988. He has participated in numerous research projects and has written several publications including his most recent, "Incorporating Ecological Process and Environmental Change into Spiny Lobster Population Models Using a Spatially Explicit, Individual-based Approach for Fisheries Research," currently in press. A graduate of Wittenberg University, Butler received his master's degree in zoology from Ohio State University and his doctorate in biological science from Florida State University.

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Phyllis Brown, Editor
College of Sciences Newsletter
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