Ambassadors of the
Environment
The Ritz-Carlton,
St.Thomas
St.Thomas in the U.S.Virgin Islands, with its coral reefs and mangroves, is
a perfect place to connect people to the wonde...
In the Ambassadors program,
we use the City Under The Sea
metaphor to understand the
ecological roles of reef
creatures. A...
Corals - Architects and construction crews
Coral
polyps
open
Coral
polyps
closed
As the construction crews and architects of the reef, coral provide homes
for many different creatures on the reef, like t...
Sponges help clean the reef, filtering water through their porous bodies
to extract a tasty meal of organic matter like pl...
There are also“farmers” on the reef. Some damselfish maintain patches
of algae to ensure a steady food supply,“weeding out...
Sea cucumbers are the“waste managers” of the coral reef.They roam the
seafloor, ingesting a mixture of sand and dead organ...
Cleaner gobies -
DOCTORS of the city under the sea
Cleaner shrimp - “say ahhhhhh”-
DOCTOR of the city under the sea
There are also“demolition crews” on the reef.When parrotfish and sea
urchins feed upon algae, they scrape away some of the...
Mangroves serve as babysitters for countless inhabitants of the coral reef.
Mangroves are salt tolerant trees that grow al...
Poster colored fish -
Advertisers
Fire Worms -
Advertisers
Corals -
Solar power plants
Corals, in addition to being architects and construction crews, are also one of the biggest
so...
Algae -
another solar
power plant
There are many types of algae
that grow on their own and
are readily visible on the cora...
We have now learned that coral reefs and cities have many similarities.
However, unlike in human cities, the inhabitants o...
By understanding how nature
works, we can imitate it and
make our own way of life more
sustainable on Earth. In the
Ambass...
The Four Principles
1. Everything Runs On Energy.
2.There Is No Waste In Nature.
3. Biodiversity Is Good.
4. Everything Is...
Just like our bodies, cars, light
bulbs, computers, televisions,
and kitchen appliances –every
organism in nature needs
en...
Corals are actually animals, not plants. Each little circle shown here is an
individual coral animal, or polyp.The entire ...
Coral polyps contain little brown or green plants called algae inside their
bodies.These algae give a portion of the sugar...
They have stinging
capsules called
nematocysts that catch
passing plankton.
Coral are truly
amazing- they lead the
life of...
This elk horn coral looks like it
is reaching upward to get
more sunlight.
And these pillar corals are
truly the skyscrapers of this
city under the sea.
Those elk horn and pillar corals
were reaching up toward the sun
because they wanted sunlight to
help their gardens grow. ...
When primary producers like plants or coral are eaten, energy is
transferred up the food chain. Energy flows from primary ...
Sea grass beds are an important part of the reef’s solar power system.
The solar energy they convert into food or chemical...
You guessed it!
This is a queen conch that feeds on turtle grass and manatee grass.
Notice its two eyes peeping out at the...
How do humans presently get most of their power? From oil and coal-
power plants. In these power plants, oil or coal is bu...
The second Principle says there is no waste in
nature. For example, on coral reefs, creatures
such as sea cucumbers and lo...
Hermit crabs ensure that vacated snail shells are not wasted.
They turn them into their mobile homes!
This christmas tree worm bores a hole into the coral below it to create a safe
place to live. Given that there’s no waste ...
It will become a home for another animal, like this blenny!
There are a variety of worms on the reef. Feather duster worms, on the left, and
Christmas tree worms, on the right, use t...
Today, humans tend to waste a lot of resources. One thing we can do to
change this situation is compost. Composting is whe...
3. Biodiversity Is Good
Biodiversity refers to the number
of different species that live in a
certain ecosystem. It is kin...
Here is a taste of the amazing biodiversity that can be found on the coral
reefs in St.Thomas!
Just look at the
diversity among corals
alone. How many
different types of coral
can you count here?
High biodiversity
means that there is a
great variety of form
and function in the
coral reef. For example,
these porous sp...
Here are two different kinds of algae.The green algae is called a sailor’s
eyeball, and it is growing on top of pink coral...
A diverse family of butterflyfish lives on the coral reefs in St.Thomas.
These fish often have a spot called a false eye o...
The long, thin shape of these
trumpetfish help them blend in
with various gorgonians and
soft coral.They often wait here,
...
Parrotfish use their sharp beaks to scrape algae from rocks and coral
skeletons, keeping the growth of algae in check. As ...
So next time you walk down a tropical, sandy beach, remember where some
of that sand likely came from!
“Echinoderm” means
spiny skin, an
appropriate name
since you can see many
projections of its
skeleton on the surface
of th...
Diversity is good even within
a single species. French
angelfish change their
coloration as the grow. Look at
the differen...
Mangroves are another example of the biodiversity found on St.
Thomas. As one of the few salt-tolerant plants, they live o...
Sea grasses are also very important to St Thomas.They are a habitat for
many fish, like these surgeonfish.They are also an...
The fourth Ambassadors of the Environment principle is that EVERYTHING
IS CONNECTED–person to person, creature to creature...
There are connections between various fish that live on the reef.This jack is
using a queen triggerfish as a moving shield...
Here is an example of a negative connection between reef creatures.
This isopod has attached itself to the head of a soldi...
This juvenile Spanish hogfish, top, hangs around on one place of the reef
called a cleaning station. Larger fish, like thi...
There are often connections between organisms that we do not notice
at first glance! This orange blob is a sponge but ther...
In the sponge is a crab. In fact, this crab has specially adapted hind legs
that hold the sponge in place.Why do you think...
By carrying around the sponge, the crab is not only hidden but it is also
protected by the distasteful chemicals in the sp...
Frigate birds bridge the gap between land and sea.They spend much of
their lives out to sea, in the open ocean or pelagic ...
Humans enter the
underwater world as
guests.We respect the life
around us by not
touching the reef and
keeping an appropri...
Humans are very closely connected to the ocean.When we pollute our
oceans, it contributes to coral bleaching, one of the s...
Notice the color of this healthy coral head compared to that of the
bleached coral.This is a very conspicuous example of h...
Human pollution can also upset the balance between reef creatures. Coral
and algae usually compete for space on the reef a...
Here is another obvious example of how humans are connected to the
natural world.What do you think this litter could do to...
With understanding of how connected we are to reefs we can
keep our reefs healthy and full of fascinating residents for us...
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St. Thomas Slideshow

  1. 1. Ambassadors of the Environment The Ritz-Carlton, St.Thomas
  2. 2. St.Thomas in the U.S.Virgin Islands, with its coral reefs and mangroves, is a perfect place to connect people to the wonders of nature. Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassador’s of the Environment Program is dedicated to immersing people in these tropical ecosystems and helping them appreciate the value of nature.
  3. 3. In the Ambassadors program, we use the City Under The Sea metaphor to understand the ecological roles of reef creatures. As in human cities, everyone has a job and together all of the work done by residents keeps the community healthy and running smoothly. Coral reefs have power plants, farmers, recycling and waste management, and even public health.
  4. 4. Corals - Architects and construction crews
  5. 5. Coral polyps open Coral polyps closed
  6. 6. As the construction crews and architects of the reef, coral provide homes for many different creatures on the reef, like this Christmas tree worm and this blenny.
  7. 7. Sponges help clean the reef, filtering water through their porous bodies to extract a tasty meal of organic matter like plankton and bacteria.This makes the water clean, clear, and healthy for the other reef inhabitants. Sponges - The air/water conditioners of the coral reef
  8. 8. There are also“farmers” on the reef. Some damselfish maintain patches of algae to ensure a steady food supply,“weeding out” unwanted organisms and defending their gardens from intruders.This feisty damselfish is facing off with his own reflection! Damselfish - the farmers
  9. 9. Sea cucumbers are the“waste managers” of the coral reef.They roam the seafloor, ingesting a mixture of sand and dead organic matter (detritus) and excreting clean sand.This keeps the reef clean and healthy and ensures that not even the“trash” of the reef is wasted. Sea cucumbers - the waste managers
  10. 10. Cleaner gobies - DOCTORS of the city under the sea
  11. 11. Cleaner shrimp - “say ahhhhhh”- DOCTOR of the city under the sea
  12. 12. There are also“demolition crews” on the reef.When parrotfish and sea urchins feed upon algae, they scrape away some of the dead coral skeleton underneath with their rasping teeth and parrot-like beaks.This action erodes the reef and turns old coral skeletons into sand! Sea urchins and parrotfish - Weed removal on the coral city
  13. 13. Mangroves serve as babysitters for countless inhabitants of the coral reef. Mangroves are salt tolerant trees that grow along the shoreline and have special roots that stick up out of the soil, creating a labyrinth of little spaces where only young, small fish can fit, protected from predators. Mangroves - Nurseries of the coral city
  14. 14. Poster colored fish - Advertisers
  15. 15. Fire Worms - Advertisers
  16. 16. Corals - Solar power plants Corals, in addition to being architects and construction crews, are also one of the biggest solar power plants in the coral city. Not only are they an animal that catches plankton (usually by night), but they also harbor algae inside their body tissues so they can make food from sunlight during the day.
  17. 17. Algae - another solar power plant There are many types of algae that grow on their own and are readily visible on the coral reef.They make their own food from sunlight and then become food for many reef creatures, such as parrotfish and some butterflyfish. Therefore, like our electric power plants, algae provide energy for the entire coral city.
  18. 18. We have now learned that coral reefs and cities have many similarities. However, unlike in human cities, the inhabitants of coral reefs and rainforests do not pollute, deplete their natural resources, or destroy other ecosystems.Therefore, coral reefs offer lessons that can help us make our own communities more sustainable. What Can We Learn From Coral Cities?
  19. 19. By understanding how nature works, we can imitate it and make our own way of life more sustainable on Earth. In the Ambassadors of the Environment program, we learned four simple lessons about how nature works and used them to brainstorm ways to live sustainably.We call them the Four Principals. The Four Principles
  20. 20. The Four Principles 1. Everything Runs On Energy. 2.There Is No Waste In Nature. 3. Biodiversity Is Good. 4. Everything Is Connected.
  21. 21. Just like our bodies, cars, light bulbs, computers, televisions, and kitchen appliances –every organism in nature needs energy. Some creatures, like most corals (with their algae partners) and plants, get their energy from the sun in a process called photosynthesis, and therefore we call them “primary producers.” 1. Everything Runs On Energy
  22. 22. Corals are actually animals, not plants. Each little circle shown here is an individual coral animal, or polyp.The entire colony of polyps are clones of a single original individual, and together they are called a coral head. However, we know that plants perform photosynthesis, not animals. So how do corals manage to do photosynthesis?
  23. 23. Coral polyps contain little brown or green plants called algae inside their bodies.These algae give a portion of the sugars they create through photosynthesis to their coral host in exchange for their safe home inside the coral’s body.The coral then gives the digested remains of the sugar back to the algae, which the algae then use to manufacture more sugar! This tight, efficient partnership is how corals get much of their energy and enables them to survive in the relatively nutrient-poor waters of the tropics.
  24. 24. They have stinging capsules called nematocysts that catch passing plankton. Coral are truly amazing- they lead the life of a plant by day, and an animal by night! But what happens when the sun goes down and the algae inside the coral can no longer photosynthesize? The coral polyps, having been folded safely away during the day, emerge to catch prey like little upside-down jelly fish. (Indeed, coral is very closely related to jelly fish!)
  25. 25. This elk horn coral looks like it is reaching upward to get more sunlight.
  26. 26. And these pillar corals are truly the skyscrapers of this city under the sea.
  27. 27. Those elk horn and pillar corals were reaching up toward the sun because they wanted sunlight to help their gardens grow. And this brain coral uses high surface area to allow more algae to make more food for the coral. Notice these corals are colored green and brown because they have algae living inside them.This adaptive partnership enables corals to get food from their plant partners during the day.
  28. 28. When primary producers like plants or coral are eaten, energy is transferred up the food chain. Energy flows from primary producers to herbivores, and then to predators.This means that all organisms in these ecosystems are powered by energy that originally came from the sun!
  29. 29. Sea grass beds are an important part of the reef’s solar power system. The solar energy they convert into food or chemical energy in their tissues becomes food for many reef herbivores. Does anyone know what this big herbivore is? Lets take a closer look.
  30. 30. You guessed it! This is a queen conch that feeds on turtle grass and manatee grass. Notice its two eyes peeping out at the lower left side of the shell.
  31. 31. How do humans presently get most of their power? From oil and coal- power plants. In these power plants, oil or coal is burned to heat water and create steam, which turns turbines that generate electricity. However, burning oil and coal releases harmful greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere, contributing to global climate change.This serious problem could be solved by switching to renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal energy.
  32. 32. The second Principle says there is no waste in nature. For example, on coral reefs, creatures such as sea cucumbers and lobsters specialize on eating detritus, the organic “leftovers” or“dead stuff” on the seafloor. Along with worms and microbes, sea cucumbers and lobsters ensure that virtually all useful material is used on the reef. 2.There Is No Waste In Nature
  33. 33. Hermit crabs ensure that vacated snail shells are not wasted. They turn them into their mobile homes!
  34. 34. This christmas tree worm bores a hole into the coral below it to create a safe place to live. Given that there’s no waste in nature, what do you think is going to happen to this hole when the worm dies?
  35. 35. It will become a home for another animal, like this blenny!
  36. 36. There are a variety of worms on the reef. Feather duster worms, on the left, and Christmas tree worms, on the right, use their delicate gills for both feeding and breathing. Because they eat drifting organic matter, in addition to plankton, they can also be considered as part of the reef’s clean up crew.
  37. 37. Today, humans tend to waste a lot of resources. One thing we can do to change this situation is compost. Composting is where worms, bugs and microbes convert organic waste into soil, just as we see in nature. By composting food leftovers, we prevent garbage from going to ever- growing landfills. Instead, waste is converted into useful, fertile soil that can be reused in a garden.
  38. 38. 3. Biodiversity Is Good Biodiversity refers to the number of different species that live in a certain ecosystem. It is kind of like nature’s insurance policy, because when there are a lot of different organisms in an ecosystem, all of the important work needed to keep the community healthy gets done. If one species ails or disappears, many others are around to replace it.Therefore, biodiversity is what keeps complex ecosystems like coral reefs running smoothly. Also, biodiversity is what makes our world interesting and beautiful!
  39. 39. Here is a taste of the amazing biodiversity that can be found on the coral reefs in St.Thomas!
  40. 40. Just look at the diversity among corals alone. How many different types of coral can you count here?
  41. 41. High biodiversity means that there is a great variety of form and function in the coral reef. For example, these porous sponges filter water through their bodies.Water comes in through small pores in their sides, is filtered for food, and leaves through the big holes.
  42. 42. Here are two different kinds of algae.The green algae is called a sailor’s eyeball, and it is growing on top of pink coralline algae, a type of red algae that covers most reef surfaces and acts like mortar, cementing pieces of the reef together and helping prevent erosion.
  43. 43. A diverse family of butterflyfish lives on the coral reefs in St.Thomas. These fish often have a spot called a false eye on their bodies, an adaptation that distracts predators from their real eyes. As you can see, some species also have a dark line over their real eyes to further confuse a predator.
  44. 44. The long, thin shape of these trumpetfish help them blend in with various gorgonians and soft coral.They often wait here, swaying in time with the gentle motion of their surroundings, ready to suddenly dart out and catch passing prey.
  45. 45. Parrotfish use their sharp beaks to scrape algae from rocks and coral skeletons, keeping the growth of algae in check. As they graze, they often gouge into dead coral and take in some of the calcium carbonate, later excreting this material as sand. One parrotfish can produce 300 lbs of sand in one year!
  46. 46. So next time you walk down a tropical, sandy beach, remember where some of that sand likely came from!
  47. 47. “Echinoderm” means spiny skin, an appropriate name since you can see many projections of its skeleton on the surface of this sea star. On the underside of the sea star you can find tube feet, thousands of small suckers the sea star uses to stick to the ground or slowly move around. Sea stars are members of the echinoderm phylum, and they are related to sea urchins and sea cucumbers.
  48. 48. Diversity is good even within a single species. French angelfish change their coloration as the grow. Look at the differences between the juvenile (top left) intermediate stage (top right) and the adult (bottom).
  49. 49. Mangroves are another example of the biodiversity found on St. Thomas. As one of the few salt-tolerant plants, they live on margin between land and sea, bordering some of the island.They create essential habitat where many fish, birds, and other critters live.
  50. 50. Sea grasses are also very important to St Thomas.They are a habitat for many fish, like these surgeonfish.They are also an important source of food for some species of turtles and even bigger animals like manatees.
  51. 51. The fourth Ambassadors of the Environment principle is that EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED–person to person, creature to creature, land to sea, and present to future.We encountered many examples of connections between organisms both in the ocean and on land. For example, this tiny yellow and black goby has a partnership with reef fish in which it eats their dead scales and parasites: it gets a meal in exchange for a cleaning! 4. Everything Is Connected
  52. 52. There are connections between various fish that live on the reef.This jack is using a queen triggerfish as a moving shield to hide behind while it hunts. Notice the jack is on the side away from the reef so that it is concealed. Just after this picture was taken the jack darted to the reef and caught a small fish then returned to its position next to the triggerfish.
  53. 53. Here is an example of a negative connection between reef creatures. This isopod has attached itself to the head of a soldierfish and is leaching energy and nutrients from the fish’s blood.This is a parasitic relationship because the isopod benefits while the soldierfish is harmed.
  54. 54. This juvenile Spanish hogfish, top, hangs around on one place of the reef called a cleaning station. Larger fish, like this French grunt, come to these places to get their medical problems tended, like removing parasites.
  55. 55. There are often connections between organisms that we do not notice at first glance! This orange blob is a sponge but there is more to this story than what you see. What do you think we would find if we turned this sponge over?
  56. 56. In the sponge is a crab. In fact, this crab has specially adapted hind legs that hold the sponge in place.Why do you think the crab does this?
  57. 57. By carrying around the sponge, the crab is not only hidden but it is also protected by the distasteful chemicals in the sponge.
  58. 58. Frigate birds bridge the gap between land and sea.They spend much of their lives out to sea, in the open ocean or pelagic region, coming to shore to breed or rest.
  59. 59. Humans enter the underwater world as guests.We respect the life around us by not touching the reef and keeping an appropriate distance from its inhabitants. However, sometimes we have effects on these organisms that we are not aware of.
  60. 60. Humans are very closely connected to the ocean.When we pollute our oceans, it contributes to coral bleaching, one of the serious threats to coral reefs today.When corals become stressed due to something like pollution, they expel their symbiotic algae, becoming white and having no way to photosynthesize. Unless the coral can find new algal symbionts (which is not very likely), they end up starving to death.
  61. 61. Notice the color of this healthy coral head compared to that of the bleached coral.This is a very conspicuous example of how humans have a negative impact on the health of the reef!
  62. 62. Human pollution can also upset the balance between reef creatures. Coral and algae usually compete for space on the reef and are evenly matched, but when extra nutrients from human runoff or pollution are introduced to the system, the algae get an advantage.This is another example of the delicate connections between organisms on the reef and how human actions can directly affect the reef ecosystem.
  63. 63. Here is another obvious example of how humans are connected to the natural world.What do you think this litter could do to the mangrove and coral reef ecosystems?
  64. 64. With understanding of how connected we are to reefs we can keep our reefs healthy and full of fascinating residents for us to enjoy and learn from.

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