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Coral Letters

coral lettersTwo years ago, Barry and Aimee Brown began photographing “hidden” letters in the brain coral colonies around Curacao, the Caribbean island where they live. Their hunt, which sometimes took them as deep as 100 feet, gave them an even better understanding of the devastation shallow-growing brain coral have experienced from bleaching and recent strong storms. You can download the full set of letters for free here as a zip file. The photographers only ask that you give them credit and that you don’t use the work commercially.… More:

Mapping the Intrinsic Risk of Marine Species

The Journal of Science recently published a paper from the University of California at Berkeley where fossils were studied to help predict which marine species were now at the greatest risk for extinction.”Marine species are under threat from human impacts, but knowledge of their vulnerabilities is limited,” says study co-author, Professor John Pandolfi from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at the University of Queensland. Using fossils to better understand the inherent risk some species have to coastal threats such as human presence, the team was able to map the extinction patterns of marine species. 150430144955_1_540x360“We used these estimates to map natural extinction risk in modern oceans, and compare it with recent human pressures on the ocean such as fishing, and climate change to identify the areas most at risk,” says Professor Pandolfi. Protecting modern species from extinction is the number one goal yet some species have an intrinsic risk of extinction so the teams goal “was to diagnose which species are vulnerable in the modern world, using the past as a guide” says study lead author, Assistant Professor Seth Finnegan from the University of California Berkeley. “We believe the past can inform the way we plan our conservation efforts. However there is a lot more work that needs to be done to understand the causes underlying these patterns and their policy implications,” says Asst. Professor, Seth Finnegan Read more here!… More:

Making Your Own Ice Packs is Cool and Easy

Summer is here and if you ship out a bunch of corals every week like I do, you’re going to need to keep them cool. Ice packs from most shipping supply companies cost anywhere from $1.00 – .50 cents each, that means I used to spend a few hundred dollars per year just on ice packs and you generally only have two size options. I have made ice packs out of gelatin in the past, but I find it to be messy, time consuming, and not vegan friendly. It had been in the back of my mind for awhile to try using water polymer crystals to make ice packs after seeing them used in floral arrangements, so I recently started doing it. 


Water Polymer Crystals after absorbing water

 Water polymer crystals… More:

Bringing the Lab to the Reef

Technology is ever-present in the lab as well as the hobby of reef keeping but scientists from Europe are now going to be taking their instruments directly into the field, or reef I should say. To better understand coral metabolism and respiration researchers from Denmark will be deploying remote operated vehicles (ROV) and high-resolution cameras to help them deploy lab equipment and take measurements. “Traditionally the metabolism of cold-water reefs are typically investigated by collecting animals and analyzing them in a laboratory. Preferably, however, researchers would like to do the opposite, and bring the laboratory to the seabed, where the reef can be studied in its own environment. Since cold water reefs grow incredibly slowly — about 5 mm per year — and are fragile habitats, we were looking at novel techniques that could be used on a reef to asses metabolism with little impact on the reef structures,” says Dr. Lorenzo Rovelli, Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), visiting researcher at the Nordic Center for Earth Evolution (NordCEE), Department of Biology, University of Southern Denmark.150506111513_1_900x600 Employing a method termed ‘Aquatic Eddy Covariance’ the team will be able to simultaneously measure oxygen content and flow. “We are particularly interested in finding out how much carbon is being turned over by a reef — and by that I mean the whole reef community. The community consists of the corals, which are the engineers behind the reef structure, as well as all the other organisms that inhabit the reef: from large crabs to microscopic organisms. Currently, we still do not know if and to what extent such reefs are contributing to the global carbon budget.” Read more here!… More:

Aging Bony Fish

Pair of otoliths.

Pair of otoliths.

When conducting studies, many ecologists are posed with the question: How old is this fish? Because size is rarely a fair indication of age, the use of a more precise method is often required. The most prevalent method of aging bony fish is known as Otolith Analysis. This procedure entails the extraction and microscope analysis of the fish’s otoliths – small calcium carbonate structures that are located slightly posterior to the fish’s eyes. 
An otolith with visible annuli.

An otolith with visible annuli.

 These structures, which are used as gravity, balance, and movement indicators, grow continuously throughout a fish’s life and exhibit a unique growth pattern. This growth pattern is thought to be a result of seasonal temperature changes – during the winter, the otoliths grow slowly, accreting lightly-colored calcium carbonate; during the summer, the otoliths grow quickly, accreting darker calcium carbonate. The contrast between lighter calcium carbonate and darker calcium carbonate forms rings known as annuli. Since each annuli represents one year, scientists may determine the age of the fish by counting them.… More:

AquaNerd’s Top 10 Stories from 2014

Phew…2014 is almost over. And while it has been a fun year, it has also been an exhausting one. But, we made it, and we can look forward to the brand new adventures that await for us in 2015. Before we can move on, however, we must pay our respects to the passing year with a robust recap of the top 10 stories that were featured on the AquaNerd Blog during that time. So, without further adieu, here is our list of posts we got the most mileage out of.

Endangered Bumphead Gets Much Needed Attention

Ever wonder where that vividly white sand on the beach comes from? Underwater giants produce the sand themselves through biological methods of metabolism. Yep thats right its technically fish poop. One of the largest producers of sand is the Parrotfish which ingests calcium carbonate skeletons of coral (sometimes with living polyps) and excretes them back out in the form of tiny sand grains that wash up onto beaches. These fish are the topic of a recent study highlighting how the both the positive and negative influences of such endangered species can be key factors in the success of an ecosystem. Bumphead_Stiefel

Douglas McCauly of the University at Santa Barbara explains his time in the field for this study: “We actually swam alongside Bumphead Parrotfish for close to six hours at a time, taking detailed data on what they ate and where they went. These large parrotfish crunch off entire pieces of reef and audibly grind them up into sand in their pharyngeal mill — specialized teeth in the back of their throat. You know Bumpheads are near when you begin noticing branches lopped off stony corals and golf-like divot scars marking the reef.

bite_ENH“Most species do things to ecosystems that we would construe as both positive and negative. This viewpoint is ecologically misleading,” he states. “Endangered species are no different from their more abundant counterparts.” This dichotomy of influence is why McCauly and his team are pushing for a higher level of protection for endangered and threatened species adding: “We can, in fact, strengthen the integrity of the field of conservation biology by being rigidly objective about the observations we make in nature — even if this means reporting occasionally that rare species can damage ecosystems,” he added. “If anything, better understanding the full complement of ways that at-risk species use and affect their environment empowers us to more effectively protect them.” Read more here.… More:

Survival of the Fattest and Most Flexible Corals Amidst Climate Change

O faveolata polyps.3624d4b5
Coral reefs are theorized to annual undergo a “bleaching” event in where corals die off as a result of ecological changes. As climate change rears its ugly head those impacts are slowly becoming a human issue. Researchers from Ohio State University have found that while some corals are whipped clean in a bleaching event others are adapting, along with their symbiotic partners, to the changes and becoming less susceptible to environmental extremes. “We found that some coral are able to acclimatize to annual bleaching, while others actually become more susceptible to it over time,” said 
Andréa Grottoli, professor in the School of Earth Sciences at Ohio State. She and her team found that by keeping a large fat/energy reserve in the cells of zooxanthellae, corals can acclimatize, and thus recover, from a bleaching even much more easily than those that do not.

Grottoli concludes stating: “We found that the research on single bleaching events is misleading. Species that we think are resilient to temperature stress are actually susceptible and vice versa when stressed annually. We’re actually a bit optimistic, because we showed that there’s acclimation in a one-year window, that it’s possible. In two of our three coral species, we have recovery in six weeks. The paths they took to recovery are different, but they both got there.” Read more here!… More: is the world's leading destination for sustainable coral reef farming and the aquarium hobby. We offer a free open forum and reef related news and data to better educate aquarists and further our goals of sustainable reef management.