The regional workshop for the formation of the GCRMN node for the Eastern Tropical Pacific was held between the 25th and the 28th of February 2019 in Puerto Ayora, Galápagos Islands. The workshop included representatives from four of the main coral reef countries in the region, with data contributors and absentee representation from the remaining five countries (including Clipperton Atoll and Rapa Nui), and participation of management and technical staff from the Galápagos National Park Directorate.
Presentations and sessions led by David Obura (CORDIO, Kenya) provided an overview of the GCRMN governance and implementation plan, key ecological variables, and road map for the GCRMN global report for 2020. The workshop also received a video message from Peter Glynn (University of Miami, USA), one of the pioneers in coral reef research of the ETP. Presentations from experts from the region included an overview of historic and biogeographic influences (Jorge Cortés, University of Costa Rica), patterns of diversity and response to protection of reef fishes (Héctor Reyes-Bonilla, UABCS, México), ecosystem responses to El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events (Fernando Rivera, NAZCA Institute, Ecuador), and processes of perturbation and recovery of shallow water corals (Fernando Zapata, Univ. de Valle, Colombia). To provide broader context for applications of the regional data, there were presentations on causal modelling and inference (Franz Smith, New Zealand), analyses of functional groups (Damien Olivier, UABSC, México) and conservation and management (Juan José Alvarado, Univ. of Costa Rica).
The combined data from the region on percent cover of coral and macroalgae and reef fish abundance, diversity and functional groups were presented (Franz Smith, Juan Pablo Quimbayo) and validated during the workshop. From this, a number of additional data sets for time series data and information gaps (e.g. Nicaragua) were identified and are currently being compiled in to the regional data set. Based on the preliminary results, an outline of the regional report, analyses, and key contributors to country chapters were identified for the production of the regional report for the end of April 2019.
The workshop also developed a draft proposal for the establishment of the GCRMN regional node for the ETP. This included an overview of previous and ongoing initiatives in the region, IRCI representatives and governing bodies, key institutions conducting monitoring, strategy for further engagement in the region, and an interim coordination structure. These elements are currently being compiled to present at the next ICRI meeting for endorsement.
Another aim of the data integration and formation of the GCRMN ETP project was to build capacity for early career researchers (ECRs) from the region. For this, an intensive two-week course was held prior to the workshop to train ECRs in techniques for data integration and version control using R and Git. The course also included sessions on knowledge management, collaboration and project management using Github, structured reporting and presentations using rmarkdown, and data visualisation. During the course, ECRs had the opportunity to apply learned concepts and techniques to their individual projects and gave short 3 min presentations (i.e. “speed talks”) during the workshop with regional experts. The course also included training in field methods for coral reef monitoring, including the use of broad-scale photomosaic techniques and sampling optimisation using different quadrate techniques. The workshop also dedicated a session to allow the ECRs to present an overview of the data integration for the project, lessons learned, and ideas for continued capacity building for the regional network.