Following initial investigations into the cause of Diadema antillarum mass mortality, the team was engaged in field surveys to understand how potentially pathogenic microorganisms behave in environmental reservoirs where Diadema mass mortality had previously been observed. Ian and Chris traveled in early September 2022 to Saint Thomas (US Virgin Islands), which was one of the first places the condition had been observed in January 2022, and sampled surfaces of 125 animals, plants, and rocks at 10 sites across St John and Flat Key, St Thomas. This survey elucidated potential environmental reservoirs and secondary hosts for the condition.
Approximately 2 weeks later, Hurricane Fiona impacted the region which led to extensive rainfall and runoff on St Thomas. Ian and rotation student Brayan Vilanova-Cuevas traveled once again to St Thomas to work with collaborators at the University of Virgin Islands to again sample surfaces in the hurricane aftermath. In addition, Ian and Brayan performed demographic surveys designed by collaborators Don Behringer and Liz Duermit. The good news was that we observed many small, juvenile urchins that were not observed previously, which is good news!