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Kent Carpenter, an Old Dominion University marine biologist whose research in recent years has shed light on the remarkably high marine diversity of the Indo-Malay-Philippine Archipelago (IMPA), is the featured source for an article about Indo-Pacific Ocean conservation efforts in the Jan. 24 edition of The Christian Science Monitor.

The article is headlined, "Can the crown jewel of the world's coral reefs be saved? Scientists and politicians are moving to protect the enormous biodiversity in the Coral Triangle-a critical marine nursery for tuna and other species." Peter N. Spotts, a staff writer for the newspaper, dispatched his report from Nusa LembongAn in Indonesia.

Carpenter, who is quoted throughout the article, takes advantage of this opportunity to tell an international audience about work since the 1970s to document the rich marine diversity in the IMPA-also called the Coral Triangle-and to push for regulations and practices that will protect the region's marine life.

He is the principal investigator for a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to expand his work in the IMPA. The Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) award provides research support through 2012 for scientists from 15 universities, including Duke, Penn State and NYU in the United States, and others in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia. The Old Dominion University Research Foundation is administering the grant.

A main goal of the project is to determine why the IMPA has such rich diversity in fishes. New techniques in genetics and ocean current research will be put to use.

Carpenter also leads the Global Marine Species Assessments (GMSA) project, which is headquartered at ODU. It received a $1 million shot in the arm last year from one of its sponsoring organizations, the World Conservation Union. The GMSA also won worldwide media attention recently for a warning it issued about the damage done to Caribbean coral by climate change, warmer waters and toxic runoffs.

In the article in The Christian Science Monitor, Carpenter warns of similar damage to the massive coral network of the IMPA. "The Coral Triangle in particular has a fairly high percentage of reefs hat have been destroyed over the past 20 or so years," Carpenter is quoted as saying. He notes reef damage from pollution, from bleaching (which many researchers attribute at least in part to global warming), as well as from fishermen using dynamite to drive fish out of the reefs.

Carpenter's past work with the World Conservation Union and Conservation International has included a focus on waters near the Philippines, where he has documented the existence of a region that has the richest shorefish biodiversity in the world.

When President Gloria Arroyo of the Philippines signed an executive order Nov. 8, 2006, to strengthen environmental protections applying to waters of her archipelago nation, she was endorsing Carpenter's scientific research. His nearly 30 years of research in and around the Philippines resulted two years ago in a much-publicized finding-waters near the nation are the "center of the center" for world marine shorefish biodiversity.

The entire Coral Triangle has extreme marine biodiversity, but much more needs to be known about the reasons for this concentration. In fact, the origin of this biodiversity that Carpenter has helped to establish is "one of the greatest evolutionary and biogeographical mysteries," he told The Christian Science Monitor.

This article was posted on: January 24, 2008

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