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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)

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.

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