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Fisher Island Corals & The Saga of The Deep Dredge (Part 1 of 3)

Aerial view of Biscayne Bay, Government Cut, and Fisher Island encircled in deep dredge silt Over the past eighteen months, the Army Corps of Engineers’ Deep Dredge of PortMiami has continuously released dirty water throughout Biscayne Bay and onto our surrounding reefs. The dredging will continue until at least August 2015. Over the course of the Dredge we have observed levels of suspended silt far beyond what is environmentally acceptable or healthy in a coral reef environment, and in areas well outside the area where the Army Corps predicted. One of Coral Morphologic’s biggest concerns during the Deep Dredge has been the well-being of the hybrid fused-staghorn coral (Acropora prolifera) colonizing the Fisher Island side of Government Cut. This coral is what kickstarted our interest in documenting the extent of coral colonization within Miami’s coastal waterways, and was the subject of Colin’s 2011 TEDxMIA talk. The concerns we expressed to the State of Florida about this coral is ultimately what led them to provide us with permits to rescue corals from the dredging far offshore… but not for the hybrid itself (or any other corals on Fisher Island). [embedded content] Colin’s 2011 TEDxMIA talk on Hybrid Acropora living within Miami city limits In addition to this highly unusual hybrid Acropora coral living within the shipping channel, we have found a variety of other Acroporid corals living on the seawalls of Fisher Island. There are at least three colonies of federally-protected Elkhorn corals (Acropora palmata) and 2 different morphotypes of hybrid Acropora prolifera. As far as we know, Coral Morphologic are the only researchers documenting these critically important corals growing along man-made shorelines in Florida. Typically, elkhorn corals are found miles offshore on the outer reef crest where they receive clean water and strong water movement. Elkhorn corals were once the most important reef-building corals in the Caribbean, and the most effective coral species at dissipating hurricane storm surges for coastal communities. But since the early 1980’s more than 95% of the populations across the region have succumbed to highly infectious diseases. One such disease, white pox, has even been proven to be a human gut pathogen transmitted to the elkhorn coral via human waste from leaky septic tanks and offshore piping of sewage. In fact, white pox is the first known pathogen to be transmitted from a human to a marine invertebrate species. Over the past 5 years we have watched as these colonies of elkhorn coral wax and wane. Some years they will show remarkable growth, while another year they lose multiple sub-colony branches to white pox. However, over the past year (during the Deep Dredge), we have observed a precipitously steep decline in their health. We now feel that their survival is endangered enough by the continuing dredge silt that their plight needs to made public, and that their long-term well-being is ensured. [embedded content] Fisher Island Elkhorn Coral pre-dredge/ mid-dredge health survey It should be noted that the Virginia Key Wastewater Treatment Plant sits just ½ mile (760 m) away across Norris Cut… putting these corals within potential reach of air or waterborne contamination. Furthermore, these elkhorn corals are living on the outside of the Fisher Island marina which houses a multitude of luxury yachts, along with the occasional sewage, petroleum, or chemical spill. Despite it being less than a square kilometer in size, luxurious Fisher Island features a 9-hole golf course and lush landscaping indicative of frequent fertilizer use and runoff. The likelihood of the Federally-protected elkhorn coral self-recruiting and growing to adult size in such a manmade environment defies conventional logic when taking all these factors into consideration. Therefore, these particular elkhorn corals on Fisher Island could be invaluable to the scientific understanding of the adaptability, resilience, and restoration potential of such a keystone coral species. Furthermore, the elkhorn corals of Fisher Island are surviving in an extremely shallow sub-tidal zone where they are subject to direct sunlight and intense UV radiation. At one point in time these colonies were up to 1.5 meters in diameter. What appears now to be multiple independent branches of living elkhorn coral are all that remain of a previously contiguous mother colony. Partial die-off of coral colonies presents a dilemma for coral researchers, as it can create the illusion of multiple smaller colonies, when actually they are all clones of each other. One upside to having discontiguous colony for research is that a single branch can be removed for transplantation without risking the rest of the colony to a subsequent infection. In the past year, both of the elkhorn colonies living on the Norris Cut side of Fisher Island have demonstrated significant mortality, and evidence of white pox. Both colonies have undergone approximately 60-70% mortality since the dredging began, but appear to have stabilized during the previous cooler months. Without direct intervention we are concerned that these elkhorn colonies may not survive through summer 2015. More distressing is the clear evidence of dredge silt that has lethally smothered neighboring brain and star corals that were simply rested horizontally onto boulders when transplanted there by Army Corps subcontractors. Upon trying to fan off the silt that was choking these corals, we noticed that many were not even cemented in place as required. Rather, they were simply placed on the flat upper surfaces of the seawall boulders and left to their own devices. Even a small storm (let along a hurricane) can easily flip these unattached corals off their perches and upside down in the sediment. Whoever was paid to transplant these corals did a completely negligent job, and without any regard for the future success and settlement of the corals. An unacceptable number of these corals have already died from dredge sediment stress or simply from being dislodged from their perches. Some accountability is required for the deaths of these corals. [embedded content] Fisher Island silt-smothered coral survey Read more about our proposed solution to ensure the future survival of Fisher Island’s unique Acropora corals in Part 2. Tags: Coral Morphologic, Fisher Island, Miami This entry was posted on Thursday, May 21st, 2015 at 4:55 pm and is filed under Research. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. 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Marine Aquarium Photography: Post Processing of Coral Images

There is no such thing as an unprocessed “image,” but the degree of said processing can vary greatlyOften the subject of heated online debate is the post processing of coral photos—the manipulation of the coral image by software to tweak color and exposure levels. Post processing of coral images is a particularly hot-button issue because it is possible to abuse it. Hobbyists unfamiliar with the practice may decide to purchase a coral online based on a stunning photo and be disappointed once they receive it because the photo was the result of heavy post processing. Half the equationSome in the reefkeeping hobby associate post processing with deceptive trade practices, which is unfortunate because post processing is merely a tool. That may be an understatement because post processing is half of digital photography. Let me repeat that: Post processing is half of photography. Let’s say, for example, that you are hiring a wedding photographer and the first candidate proclaims he doesn’t do any post processing and whatever comes straight out of the camera is what makes it to print.

Diving Through Swaying Gorgonians in Curacao

ABOUT Avid outdoorsman and underwater photographer, Barry Brown has spent the last ten years documenting life above and below water in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. He is currently working with the Smithsonian Institution documenting new Caribbean deep-water species and building a one of a kind database. His underwater images can regularly be seen in Sport Diver, Scuba Diver and on the Ikelite website. His image of a "Collage of Corals" seen under blue-light at night recently placed in the TOP 10 images for the 2014 NANPA (North American Nature Photographers Association) photo contest. Pages

Update: The Vote is in and Japanese Zoos Will Not Use Taiji Dolphins

tajiLast week I wrote about the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) voting on whether to keep buying dolphins from the notorious town of Taiji (made famous by the movie ‘the cove).  The latest update to the article is that the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) issued a letter to Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA).  The letter essentially informed Jaza that they would need to stop using dolphins caught in the Taiji hunt or WAZA would suspend the Japanese organization’s membership. In response JAZA stated it would suspend use of the Taiji Dolphins. This move has been applauded by conservation groups . MOREMore:

The Pros and Cons of Using a Marine Aquarium Cover Glass

To put a lid on it or not to put a lid on it, that is the question!Okay, with profuse apologies to the Melancholy Dane, the point I’d like to mull over in today’s post is whether it’s a good idea to use cover glasses on marine aquariums—you know, those oft-hinged glass or acrylic lids that are available in various dimensions to fit tightly atop aquariums of different sizes. As with so many aspects of the marine aquarium hobby, there’s no all-encompassing right or wrong answer to this question. Suffice it to say that cover glasses may be appropriate in some circumstances but totally inappropriate in others. To determine what’s best for your system, consider these cover glass pros and cons: Pros: Having a cover glass in place reduces evaporation, which in turn can reduce the size and frequency of freshwater top-offs and helps lower the humidity in the room housing the aquarium. Fish prone to jumping or slithering out of a tank are kept in the aquarium where they belong. Some fish, such as eels, and even certain invertebrates, such as octopuses, are such good escape artists that a tight-fitting lid is a must when keeping them. However, for many fish species, there are alternatives to glass/acrylic lids that may do the same job, e.g., covers made of some type of mesh or screening material or plastic egg crate. The light fixture is better protected from splashes and corrosive salt spray.

Write-Up Wednesday: Top-Down Viewers

I’ve got a strong hunch that you setup a saltwater tank to stock it with beautiful inhabitants for your viewing pleasure. I’m also got a strong hunch that 99% of the time, you view those inhabitants from the side -i.e. through your tank’s side panels. I’ll make one more hypothesis – as your corals start growing, you really, really would like to take some great photos of them.

Here’s some insider information for you – corals always look much better when viewed from the top down. Therefore, if you want some great photos of your corals, try taking them from above. But how do you do that without getting your camera wet?

The answer: the top-down viewer for cameras

Avast Marine Work’s Top-Down Porthole

Top-down viewers that are built for cameras give you an easy and safe way to keep your camera dry, while giving you access to stunning top-down shots. The way they work is simple. A water proof sleeve goes around your camera’s lens. The top-down viewer is secured to the camera’s lens through set screws and the viewer is rotated to zoom in or out to get closer to the subject matter. Note that the focus ring isn’t accessible when the viewer is attached to the camera so auto focus has to be enabled.

While most top-down viewers are meant for cameras with detachable lenses, there are versions available for smart phones like Avast Marine Work’s Smartphone Top-Down Porthole

If you’re using a DSLR/SLR camera or a smart phone, a top-down viewer gives you stunning photos of a completely new way to view your livestock. Corals display different colors and clams especially can look dramatically different when viewed from the top down.

Compare these photos of an acan colony.  The side photo shows mostly red and a hint of orange/yellow:

Here’s the same colony viewed from the top. Notice how the orange/yellow band jumps out in this photo. Plus the coral now looks more orange vs. deep red:

Checkout this photo of a clam taken from the side:

Here’s a top down photo of the same clam:

It looks like a completely different clam, yet it is the same specimen.

Top-down viewing of your tank opens up a whole new world that makes for some great eye candy. And for your FOWLR types, don’t worry, even your fish look different when viewed from the top-down.

(Special thanks to Josh at Murfreesboro Aquatics for the photos)

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Orange ghost shrimp-Corallianassa longiventris

Good morning friends, I had a few people asking about my pet Ghost Shrimp so just for you I went out and shot some new photos. This little thing is dripping with personality and expression, I really enjoy spending time with him on the sand. I always bring him a fresh handful of algae and dangle it over his little hole. Upon seeing the algae he will race to the surface and take them out of my hand, he is really not very shy! I will sometimes lay a pile of food next the hole and he will grab it and somehow drag it all down inside his home?? If you saw how much food he is taking down you would think he lives in a giant cave or something, I would love to see the burrow this guy has built!

The Rockmover Wrasse: What a Difference Adulthood Can Make!

Adult rockmover wrasse (Novaculichthys taeniourus)In a previous post titled “Marine Fish Bait and Switch—5 Adorable Juveniles that Blossom into Brutes,” I listed the rockmover wrasse (Novaculichthys taeniourus), aka the reindeer wrasse or the dragon wrasse, among four other species that are typically sold in the marine aquarium trade as cute little youngsters but mature into very different adults. However, despite its surprising (for those who didn’t do their advance research) transformation, I think N. taeniourus remains a worthy aquarium species provided certain accommodations are made. That notorious physical transformationDepending on where they’re collected, the juveniles (the stage at which they’re typically sold), are either green or burgundy with dark brown and white mottling. Their color and patterning allow them to camouflage among growths of algae. They also possess two greatly elongated dorsal spines that vaguely resemble a deer’s antlers, giving rise to the “reindeer wrasse” moniker. Perhaps not surprisingly, owing to their cuteness, juveniles often tempt unwary hobbyists into an ill-considered purchase. Juvenile N.

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