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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)

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.

Review: EcoTech RMS (Radion Mounting System)

Having already taken a look at EcoTechs gorgeous Radion XR15w Pro LED light in our recent unboxing review, we now turn our attention to their much-anticipated RMS (Radion Mounting System) which ties-in beautifully with the Radion Pro range and allows these lights to be elegantly suspended above even the most tricky of systems. As ever, the kit (XR15 version in our case) comes effectively packaged and all the parts are present and correct on initial inspection. After a quick skim of the simple instructions it obvious that we aren’t going to need a degree in rocket science to assemble this piece of kit, which is great. We are immediately and pleasantly surprised that some of the components here are metal, indeed the whole thing feels reassuringly heavy-duty compared to other brackets we’ve handled in the past. Somehow, the RMS still manages to look sleek and minimal though and it’s also nice to have thoughtful design features like integral cord management included. Overall the bracket also allows for a good deal of flexibility with the light able to slide back and to, or to be rotated on the X bracket (although this is primarily of use with the XR30)

Coral Therapy @ Design Miami 2014

Jared McKay (left) and Colin Foord of Coral Morphologic in the ‘Coral Therapy’ Design Curio at Design Miami/ 2014. All photos by Flying Pyramids. For Design Miami/ 2014, we were honored to be asked to create a conceptual room in which we debuted ‘Coral Therapy’, a 360-degree virtual reality film experienced via the Oculus Rift. When viewing ‘Coral Therapy’, the viewer is enveloped by fluorescent corals and sea anemones; much like being inside a virtual planetarium theater. ‘Coral Therapy’ is designed to convey a virtual out-of-body experience in which the viewer is transported to a tranquil tropical reef in outer-space. An original ambient score enhances the cosmic coral perspective while accentuating the peaceful and relaxing experience. ‘Coral Therapy’ in action via Oculus Rift VR The Oculus Rift is not yet commercially available to consumers, so for Design Miami/ we utilized a developer’s kit prototype. When the commercial version is released in 2015, ‘Coral Therapy’ will be available to be purchased and experienced in high-definition resolution. A side view of the Curio Our Curio was developed in collaboration with Flying Pyramids, a Miami-based photographer and graphic designer. The walls featured innovative magnetic wallpaper installed by Visual Magnetics. The back wallpaper displayed a single macro photograph of the tentacles of a man-o-war, while the side wallpaper was of a brain coral fossil found in Miami Beach’s South Pointe Park. Magnetically overlaid on each of the sidewalls were six different color morphs of a new species of zoanthid soft coral that we discovered here in Miami. A looping film of flower anemones was displayed on the ceiling of the booth from a projector hidden within a mirrored dome that sat upon a hexagonal plinth crafted by Miami Industrial Arts, such that it reflected a full 360 image of the room. ‘Coral Therapy’ in effect via Oculus Rift VR We would like to thank Design Miami/ for inviting us to participate in the tenth edition of their prestigious show, along with the Knight Foundation for supporting our vision of elevating corals into the popular iconography of 21st century Miami as part of our ‘Coral City/Aquacultural Transformation’ project. Coral Morphologic Mission Statement: Coral Morphologic is a Miami-based art-science endeavor founded by Colin Foord and Jared McKay in 2007. Together we present coral reef organisms as archetypal life-forms via film, photography, site-specific installations, and multimedia artworks. Technological advances in the new millennium have enabled Coral Morphologic to explore a new frontier in the aesthetic interpretation of nature. In doing so, we have discovered corals to be the living embodiment of science and art converged. The combination of vibrant colors, fluid movement, geometric tessellation, and limestone architecture establish corals as the irrefutable icons of 21st century Miami. It is the remarkable ability of corals to adapt and evolve that inspires Coral Morphologic to establish them as the paradigm-shifting organisms of the global future. By elevating corals into the iconography of modern design and popular culture, Coral Morphologic entreats mankind to better understand and preserve Earth’s imperiled reef ecosystems through works that convey color and depth to the human experience. Jared McKay (left) and Colin Foord of Coral Morphologic in the ‘Coral Therapy’ Design Curio at Design Miami/ 2014. Tags: Art Basel, Borscht Corp., Coral Morphologic, Design Curio, Design Miami, Flying Pyramids, Miami, Miami Industrial Arts, Visual Magnetics This entry was posted on Monday, December 8th, 2014 at 7:37 pm and is filed under Installation. 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.

Gorgonians Keep Growing In Acid Oceans

A new study, undertaken by an international team of scientists, suggests that Caribbean gorgonians may be more resilient to the ocean acidification levels forecast by the end of the 21st century than previously thought. The team, which includes experts from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, tested the effects of elevated CO2 concentrations on the growth and calcification rates of Eunicea fusca which is found throughout the Bahamas, Bermuda, South Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico. Although the species did show a negative response to calcification under elevated CO2 concentrations, growth and calcification did not actually completely stop under any of the CO2 levels used in the study. Specifically, the results also showed that although calcification dramatically declined at extremely high levels of CO2, this did not occur at moderately elevated levels.”Our results suggest that gorgonian corals may be more resilient than other reef-dwelling species to the ocean acidification changes that are expected to occur in the oceans as a result of climate change,” said Chris Langdon, UM Rosenstiel Professor and Director of the Coral Reefs and Climate Change Laboratory. “These findings will allow us to better predict the future composition of coral reef communities under the current “business-as-usual scenario.”

Visit at the Bellevue H.S. Marine Science Lab

David Bowers, science teacher at Bellevue High SchoolWhen I think back to my high school days, I remember a 29-gallon freshwater aquarium in science class. Coincidentally, I donated most of the specimens in that tank to my teacher from my home aquariums. It served as more of a stereotypical science classroom fixture than a teaching tool. So I guess you could say the hands-on aquatic learning experience was rather limited. The same certainly can’t be said of the Marine Science Lab at Bellevue High School in landlocked Ohio, USA. David Bowers’ classroom lab is an oceanic oasis amongst the fields of the Midwest (see the video below). Every time I visit Dave and his classroom, I’m struck by what a surprise it is to have thousands of gallons of salty learning opportunities at this small, rural school

AlgaGen’s Live Feeds Program – An In Depth Look

Written by Erik Stenn AlgaGen’s Life Feeds Program (LFP): The use of live feeds in reef keeping is not a new concept. Aquarists have been collecting, culturing live feed organisms for years as a means to keep their reef happy and healthy. The issue is that live feeds are NOT readily accessible to all. Live feeds take some level of work and space to culture or collect which can discourage many from using them. In an attempt to make live cultures readily available AlgaGen has developed a Live Feeds Program (LFP). The concept is to provide participating stores with clean, hi-quality cultures each week. This way the store does not have to spend its time culturing but maintaining and selling the cultures. The aquarist community on the other hand now has wide access to fresh, quality cultures to experiment with in their feeding and breeding efforts. This can be a game changer for the way things are done. Having access to fresh cultures can provide the hobby with the tools to move feeding and breeding into new territory.What do you mean by Live Feeds? What are Plankton? What are they important?There are many types of Live Feeds; worms, shrimp, barnacle nauplii (babies), crab zoea, mysids, larval fish, amphipods, plankton, to name a few. In aquaculture Live Feeds tend to refer to planktonic organisms such as phytoplankton, rotifers, copepods, brine; items that can be mass cultured to feed production organisms. These planktonic, production organisms are what we referring to as Live Feeds.By definition plankton are aquatic organisms that wander “aimlessly” in the waters. They do not have the mechanisms to fight currents and so drift with them. Plankton include both plants and animals, and are an essential part of the marine ecosystem. Planktonic organisms are involved with the cycling of nutrients and are a cornerstone of the aquatic food chain. In the oceans the phytoplankton (single celled plants) are responsible for the uptake of nitrates, phosphates, iron, trace elements (heavy metals), carbon dioxide and together with sunlight create essential fatty acids (EFAs), which are very important for the aquatic food chain. The zooplankton (animals) that inhabit the planktos are either there for a finite period of time such as a phase of larval development (e.g. crab larvae) or as a full-fledged member, such as copepods.  As mentioned previously phytoplankton utilize nitrates and phosphates, heavy metals, carbon dioxide and form essential fatty acids, again, critical to the marine food chain. Without these fatty acids numerous marine organisms would not survive. A number of organisms eat phytoplankton, copepods specifically, consume phytoplankton, store and convert the EFAs to other important fatty acids. The copepods in turn are consumed by everything from corals to amphipods to fish and then some. This is roughly how the EFAs produced by algae get into the food chain. Then of course it is a free-for-all of one thing eating or being eaten by another. Getting the proper nutrition to our animals is important. It has been proven that when these essential fatty acids (EFAs) are presented in specific ratios, larval development and animal health are substantially increased. In nature there is a diversity of prey and many of the prey items have these EFA ratios occurring naturally. In captive environments we try to mimic the nutrition found in nature. Aquaculture operations raise their own live feeds They have rooms for microalgae production, rooms for rotifer production, rooms for brine production and in some cases rooms for copepod production. In aquaculture however, the most common live feed is the rotifer. In the past copepod starter cultures were not readily available and had been considered difficult to work with, so an “easier-to-culture” replacement organism was identified/utilized called a rotifer. A rotifer is a convenient way to deliver nutrition to small organisms such as fish larvae and corals; larval and young animals with small mouths. This organism swims through the water eating virtually anything that is in its path as long as it is the correct particle size. It can also be raised in substantial numbers (up to 3000/mL). Typically rotifers are fed an enrichment diet, harvested and fed directly to the target larvae. This is standard aquaculture procedure. It also holds great promise as a planktonic feed for the captive reef. People talk about collecting wild plankton in years past, which led to having successes in maintaining captive reefs. Since then the science of feed development has advanced substantially and over the years has provided many quality dry, frozen, and shelf stable feeds for reef organisms. If our goal as aquarists is to mimic the natural reef ecosystem then the presence, or lack of plankton, needs to be addressed. If we use artificial seawater, where is our plankton coming from? By introducing properly produced and assembled plankton, we create the basis for the natural ecosystem and inoculate our system with a sort of probiotic that can hopefully displace “bad” plankton. The use of plankton in maintaining a reef tank is a relatively new area that needs to be pioneered further. Daily feedings of live, fresh phytoplankton have created positive changes in reef tank health and appearance. For many aquarists, fresh phytoplankton has been attributed to the reduction of persistent nitrate and phosphate levels even with macroalgae stocked refugiums. So, phytoplankton uptake nitrates, phosphates, heavy metals, CO2, in order to grow. They get eaten by rotifers, copepods, and other filterfeeders. The rotifers and copepods will then get eaten by fish and corals, which take the problem of hi-nutrients and transfers that into positive tissue growth of corals and fish. Rotifers are a great daily or weekly feed to the reef. If used in conjunction with fresh phytoplankton, they will grow and be enriched as a food source, perfect for corals and smaller mouthed organisms. The availability of healthy rotifer cultures are also an asset to breeders whose rotifer cultures tend to crash the night before they are needed. Copepods are one of the natural foods for a reef. Copepods exist in nature as benthic dwellers where they eat detritus, phytoplankton, left over fish food, etc. They also exist as free-swimming organisms, feeding primarily on phytoplankton. There are other families that have combined lifestyles and some other families of copepods that can be parasitic to fish. The parasitic copepods are NOT sold in our hobby. The AlgaGen LFP provides a mixed culture of copepods, benthic as well as pelagic, that serve a critical eco-function in a reef tank as well as a broad source of food for numerous reef inhabitants. The copepods should be used in conjunction with the phytoplankton because this serves as a food source. How do we use Live Feeds?The use of Live Feeds as with anything can be equated to exercising; “do not try running a marathon on day one, but build up to it.” In this case start off slowly adding small quantities of live feeds so that the tank can adjust to this new input. If using the live feeds consistently one should be able to add larger volumes on a daily or every-other day basis. Of course the amount recommended depends on the size of the tank and how heavily it is stocked. The real advantage to using live feeds is that they are used shortly after purchase, hyper-fresh. The real advantage of using Live Feeds is the freshness, it was not designed to be a “stored-in-the-refrigerator” product. To get the full benefit it should be consumed as soon after harvest as possible. The use of Live Feeds is not THE way to maintain a captive reef, there are many ways. It is another tool, another approach that can lead to great successes. When asked how much to use, we recommend starting off slowly. Honestly, plankton quantity varies in the natural environment from sparse to abundant. So it is up to the aquarist to experiment and determine what works best for the ecosystem they are creating.www.algagen.com/ Thomas Brown and AlgaGen President Erik Stenn at the AlgaGen Orlando Campus/Facility Check out the TVR Road Trip where I visit several locations including the AlgaGen facility. SUBSCRIBE TO OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

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