The NOAA Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary team entered its 20th month of working from home in December 2021. The time spent out of the office provided the sanctuary staff with the opportunity to develop virtual student internships and a new digital guide to best fishing practices at Gray’s Reef.
Gray’s Reef has incorporated two virtual internship programs in support of different elements in the sanctuary’s management plan. First, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities research internship supports a student for a 15-week internship to develop two research plans — one studying invasive lionfish in the sanctuary and the other, a sea turtle tagging program.
The second fall-winter interns come from the Virtual Student Federal Service program and focus on two projects. One will work on curating the photo archive of the sanctuary, while the other will develop a virtual, best diving practices guide. The combination of these paid and unpaid opportunities is helping staff build capacity to meet the various needs of the sanctuary.
For decades, Gray’s Reef has been an ideal spot for fishermen of all experience levels. In October 2021, the sanctuary staff produced a best fishing practices guide to help fishermen conserve the sanctuary for generations to come. The virtual guide, found here, compiles regulations, best practices and citizen-science opportunities that can be used to make the most of a fishing trip to Gray’s Reef. The guide also combines maps of the sanctuary, 360-degree videos, walkthroughs and other multimedia into a comprehensive fishing guide. The project gathered support from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Angler Action Foundation.