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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 rick 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. 

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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:

Toledo Zoo Aquarium Renovation – Update 15: Grand Opening Today!

Mosaic walkway in the renovated Aquarium (Credit: Toledo Zoo/Andi Norman)Virtually since we launched Saltwater Smarts back in April of 2013, we’ve been bringing you regular updates on the progress of the $25.5 million renovation of the Toledo Zoo Aquarium. Today, we’re thrilled to announce that this ambitious project has finally come to fruition with the grand opening of the new Aquarium taking place. Congratulations to all who were involved in this ponderous undertaking—and special salty kudos to our friend and regular contributor Jay Hemdal, Curator of Fishes and Invertebrates for the Toledo Zoo and author of The Salt Smart Guide to Preventing, Diagnosing, and Treating Diseases of Marine Fishes.I’ve always had a special affinity for the Toledo Zoo. Not only was my first home as a child situated literally a stone’s throw from the Zoo (escaped peacocks, a common occurrence back in those days, would often land atop neighborhood houses, ours included), but I’m also proud to say that from May of 2002 to December of 2005, I had the privilege of working in the Zoo’s marketing department as Writer/Publication’s Coordinator. Panoramic shot of the new entrance (Credit: Toledo Zoo/Bruce Burkhart) The Toledo Zoo boasts many world-class exhibits, but, perhaps not surprisingly, the Aquarium has always been my favorite. If ever my workload got the better of me, I could step away from my computer, walk the short distance from my office in the Museum of Science to the Aquarium, immerse myself (figuratively) in the captivating exhibits, and let the stress just drain away. I’ll take a moon jelly tank over meditation any day

The Pioneering Reefs of Abu Dhabi

[embedded content] Last month, our film Natural History Redux screened at the Imagine Science Film Festival held at New York University’s campus in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is located along the Arabian/ Persian Gulf as one of the coastal Emirates in the United Arab Emirates. Colin was asked to speak on a panel regarding the future of global water resources and the importance that art/ science has to play in bringing these issues into public awareness. However, he also had the opportunity to explore the unique marine habitat in the area. NYU Abu Dhabi is home base to coral biologist Dr. John Burt, who is studying the remarkable corals that live offshore. He, along with other researchers, have discovered a heat-tolerant strain of zooxanthellae algae that lives symbiotically within the stony corals of Abu Dhabi’s shallow reefs. This algae resists being expelled by the coral (aka bleaching) despite summer water temperatures reaching 36C degrees (97F)! Colin had the privilege to see these extreme corals firsthand while diving with Dr. Burt’s team on Saadiyat Reef, just a few kilometers from the sands of Saadiyat Island where the NYU campus sits. With the intense summer heat, it is easy to overlook that Abu Dhabi sits on the same sub-tropical latitude as the Florida Keys.During the winter, these reefs can be quite cool, sometimes reaching as low as 20C (68F). Urban coral habitat: Diadema urchins grazing algae on jetty rocks near Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi, UAE Much like Miami, Abu Dhabi is a cosmopolitan coral city. With more than 60km of breakwaters along the city’s waterline, the city is another crucial crucible in which to study urban coral ecology. Abu Dhabi lacks a natural rocky coastline, and thus these boulder breakwaters end up acting as artificial reefs. Large aggregations of long-spined Diadema urchins (seen above) were observed cleaning the breakwater along the massive Marina Mall. Colin also had a chance to snorkel along a recently built breakwater on Saadiyat Island where he found an abundance of Porites, Leptoria, and Cyphastrea corals encrusted onto the granite boulders. Just like in Miami, these man-made coastal barriers are ideal experimental habitats to study the resilient corals that naturally colonize them. Further offshore, the natural Saadiyat Reef was dominated by a handful of stony coral species, while lacking soft corals, gorgonians, anemones, or large sponges. Algal overgrowth appeared minimal, but there was some evidence of coral disease and recent die-off. Due to frequent wind and dust storms, the water is never particularly clear, averaging about 7m horizontal visibility. The reef also appeared quite young in its development, rising just a meter or so off the sandy seafloor at 7-8m depth. This development coincides with the relatively young age of the Arabian Gulf itself; filling with seawater during the past 8,000 years since the end of the last ice age. The high wind, and lack of freshwater input results in highly saline water that exceeds that of even the Red Sea. The tenaciousness of the corals in the Arabian Gulf, particularly with their unique heat-tolerant symbionts, suggests that corals worldwide may be more adaptable to climate change than currently predicted, and warrant close study by the coral research community. Tags: Abu Dhabi, Coral Morphologic, Imagine Science Film Festival, Saadiyat Reef This entry was posted on Sunday, March 8th, 2015 at 2:48 pm and is filed under Research. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Red Seadragon Is Spectacular New Species

A paper in the Royal Society Open Science has announced the discovery of a new species of seadragon. The Ruby Seadragon (Phyllopteryx dewysea) is named for its incredible bright-red coloring and was first noticed after a male was caught during a biodiversity trawling survey in 2007. At first, scientists thought it was a weedy seadragon, but DNA analysis revealed it to be a completely new species. In addition to DNA research, the team also took a CT scan of one of the specimens. “[The] scan gave us 5,000 X-ray slices that we were able to assemble into a rotating 3-D model of the new seadragon,” said lead author Josefin Stiller. “We could then see several features of the skeleton that were distinct from the other two species, corroborating the genetic evidence.” The scientists believe the new seadragon has gone un-noticed for so long because it is found in deeper waters off the coast. The deeper water habitat may also explain its darker, red color

Bellevue H.S. Marine Science Lab Expands

The first (of three) coral study and propagation systems before it was filled with saltwater during setup.Last year I introduced you to David Bowers and the incredible marine science classroom laboratory he runs at Bellevue High School in Ohio, USA. Over the last 20 years, David and his students have transformed the humble classroom from a single modest aquarium to one of the best self-funded high school marine biology programs in the country. The classroom laboratory at this rural northern Ohio school features a 412-gallon mixed reef, 420-gallon bamboo shark research study tank, 250-gallon seahorse breeding study tank, several smaller student research project systems, and three new (not so small) additions. The new system(s) The three aforementioned additions are 8’ x 2’ custom-built (by Pentair Aquatic Eco-Systems) tanks that will be used for coral growth studies and propagation. These tanks (and tons of support equipment: sump, skimmer, heater, T-5 lights, return pump, circulation pumps, frag plugs, super glue, shipping bags/cups, and more) were generously donated by Rob McCoy of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Rob had been following the marine science club on Facebook and reached out with the thought that David and his students might be able to make use of this equipment. Currently, one of the systems is up and running with a few corals calling it home. David is now searching for branching Acropora or related SPS coral colonies, encrusting and plating corals, and LPS corals (particularly Fungia, Trachyphyllia, and Favidae)

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