Coral Reef Project: Puerto Rico

Science Center Objects

To better understand how waves move across coral reefs and cause flooding on tropical shorelines, USGS scientists have installed video cameras and oceanographic instruments off San Juan and Rincón, Puerto Rico. Their work is part of a study funded by USGS after Hurricanes Irma and María. The offshore instruments measure wave heights and speeds; the onshore video cameras show where waves break on the reef and how high they run up on the shore. USGS is collaborating with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, and Arrecifes Pro Ciudad to support reef-restoration efforts in the Isla Verde Coral Reef Marine Reserve and reduce flooding hazards to San Juan and its international airport.

Underwater instrument package that collected unique, high-resolution underwater ocean observations during Hurricane María.

Underwater instrument package that collected a unique, high-resolution dataset of underwater ocean observations during Hurricane María. The instrument package was deployed on a carbonate spur at a depth of 54 meters on the insular slope ~12 kilometers offshore of La Parguera, Puerto Rico. Photo taken on 27 July 2017 looking south-southwest by Evan Tuohy from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez. The instrument package included an acoustic current profiler, an acoustic current velocimeter, and temperature, salinity, and turbidity sensors.

Learn more: “USGS Scientists Add Another Piece to Puzzle of How Hurricanes Can Gain Strength

(Credit: Evan Tuohy, University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez. Public domain.)

View looks to a beach from a grassy area with palm trees and a tall pole secured with guy wires, cameras are mounted at the top.

Four video cameras look westward over the coast and the coral reef at Tres Palmas in Rincón, on the west coast of Puerto Rico. Two cameras look out at the horizon and over the ocean for the mid-field view; one camera offers a zoomed-in, far-field view overlooking the reef and out to the island of Desecheo, a U.S. National Wildlife Refuge; and another camera focuses on the beach.

(Credit: Shawn Harrison. Public domain.)

Shallow, underwater photo of a reef with various species of corals growing on the rocky substrate.

A wave-tide gauge, pictured here on a coral reef amongst among sea rods, brain corals, and sea fans, is installed off Isla Verde in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

(Credit: Curt Storlazzi, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center. Public domain.)