Posted by: sarahegner | December 8, 2014

LakeWatch

 

MarineLab staff and students have been collecting data monthly for University of Florida’s LakeWatch program since October.  Yesterday, students from Steinert collected water samples and Secchi depth during their mangrove trips to Tarpon Basin.  sites

Today the water samples were filtered and preserved for collection by UF personnel.  UF’s program is focused primarily on chlorophyll, phosphorous and nitrogen analysis.LW samples

LAKEWATCH data can be used to establish a baseline — a long-term record — that provides a basis for comparison with future data.  In nature, change is the rule. Water chemistry will change naturally, possibly changing with  the seasons or in response to natural environmental conditions.  Only by knowing what changes have been normal in the past, can you determine those that are abnormal and possible cause for concern.

Florida lakes and coastal systems have different phosphorus and nitrogen concentrations from one region to another because of natural factors such as geology, soils, and hydrology.  The water systems have been grouped into 6 zones based on their total phosphorus concentrations and 5 similar zones based on their total nitrogen concentrations. Zones range from those with very little to very high P or N concentrations. On the maps, the average and range of concentrations is given for each zone. (Units are in micrograms/liter.) Lakewatch data from 1387 lakes were used to formulate the zones.

Bachmann R. W., Bigham D. L., Hoyer M. V., Canfield .D. E. Jr. 2012. Factors determining the distributions of total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and chlorophyll a in Florida lakes. Lake and Reservoir Management. 28:10–26.

Bachmann R. W., Bigham D. L., Hoyer M. V., Canfield .D. E. Jr. 2012. Factors determining the distributions of total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and chlorophyll a in Florida lakes. Lake and Reservoir Management. 28:10–26.

 

 

Bachmann R. W., Bigham D. L., Hoyer M. V., Canfield .D. E. Jr. 2012. Factors determining the distributions of total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and chlorophyll a in Florida lakes. Lake and Reservoir Management. 28:10–26.

Bachmann R. W., Bigham D. L., Hoyer M. V., Canfield .D. E. Jr. 2012. Factors determining the distributions of total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and chlorophyll a in Florida lakes. Lake and Reservoir Management. 28:10–26.

Posted by: sarahegner | December 1, 2014

Phytoplankton Monitoring Outreach Program

Our first public phytoplankton monitoring event was on November 20th and was a complete success.  Though conditions were rough with over 20 knot winds, 10 different samples from the Upper Keys were collected and analyzed.  All data was sent to NOAA.  Read more about the project here.

Instructors busy analyzing all of the samples that were collected for us. If specific target species are found, samples are preserved and mailed to NOAA for further anaylsis.

Instructors busy analyzing all of the samples that were collected for us. If specific target species are found, samples are preserved and mailed to NOAA for further anaylsis.

Map of all of the sites that we are sampling at through this program

Map of all of the sites that are being sampled through this program

A few shots of some of the plankton our volunteers “caught”:

PICT0032

snail veliger

PICT0002

pleurosigma

PICT0004

Protoperidineum

PICT0022

Posted by: sarahegner | November 19, 2014

Mangrove Restoration

Mangroves are a nursery habitat, filter nutrients, stabilize sediment, prevent erosion, protect islands from storms, sequester carbon, amongst many other ecological benefits.  They also supply coastal communities with important natural resources like firewood, medicine, timber, honey, and fodder for livestock.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), mangroves are estimated to provide $1.6 billion per year in ecosystem services (IUCN, 2010).  Additionally, it has been argued that mangroves are more valuable economically per unit area than any other land use, including tourism, aquaculture, and agriculture (Spalding et al. 2010).

Unfortunately, the world’s mangroves are under threat. Mangrove ecosystems are rapidly degrading due to factors such as population pressures, rapid coastal development, destruction for shrimp aquaculture, rising sea levels caused by climate change and deforestation for economic purposes (Ronnback et al., 2007, D’Agnes et al., 2010, Spalding et al., 2010, IUCN, 2010).  IUCN claims that more than one in six species of mangrove worldwide is in danger of extinction (2010).

 

We have our own restoration project going on here at MarineLab with ~80 mangroves currently planted.  While we are continuing to learn the best methodology for our difficult site, some of these mangroves have definitely taken hold.  Watch our little #21 grow up in the following photos.  #21 was originally planted by MarineLab staff in November of 2012 and has done us proud.

 

#21 Jan 2013

#21 Jan 2013

#21 April 2013

#21 April 2013

#21 July 2013

#21 July 2013

#21 Dec 2013

#21 Dec 2013

#21 March 2014

#21 March 2014

#21 July 2014

#21 July 2014

#21 October 2014

#21 October 2014

D’Agnes, L., D’Agnes, H., Schwartz, J. B., Amarillo, M. L., & Castro, J. (2010). Integrated management of coastal resources and human health yields added value: A comparative study in Palawan (Philippines). Environmental Conservation, 37(4), 398-409.

International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). (2010). In Mangrove Forests in Worldwide Decline. Retrieved June 18, 2011, from http://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/species/red_list/?5025/

Ronnback, P., Crona, B., & Ingwall, L. (2007). The return of ecosystem goods and services in replanted mangrove forests: Perspectives from local communities in Kenya. Environmental Conservation, 34(4), 313-324.

Spalding, M., Kainuma, M., & Collins, L. (2010). World Atlas of Mangroves. Washington DC: Earthscan

 

Posted by: sarahegner | November 11, 2014

Phytoplankton Monitoring Outreach Program

Recently, MRDF’s Research Department received funding from Ocean Reef’s Conservation Association to expand our current phytoplankton monitoring program in order to gain more data points throughout the Upper Florida Keys.  For the past few years, in collaboration with NOAA’s Phytoplankton Monitoring Network,  MarineLab staff and students have been towing in Largo Sound and analyzing these water sample for specific “target” species of phytoplankton.  The NOAA plankton specialists requested more data from the Florida Keys.  The ORCA grant funded the purchase of more microscopes for plankton analysis as well as staff time to recruit and train members of the Upper Keys community to participate in the project.  Additionally, NOAA is donating the necessary gear- nets, thermometers and refractometers.  In this way, more waters off of the Upper Keys are being sampled and members of the community have the opportunity to participate in this study.  In the photos below, members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary are being trained in phytoplankton sampling protocols.

yjudytuegtrgregtr

Posted by: sarahegner | October 27, 2014

New seagrass survey sites are up and running

Last week, staff braved the weather to set up our new permanent seagrass survey sites in Largo Sound.  It was a cold, rainy week but we have two new sites set up and all three sites have been surveyed.  All sites will be monitored quarterly.

Monitoring seagrass is not only important to determine changes in grass and algal health, but also for all of the organisms dependent on seagrass as a habitat.  Without a healthy seagrass bed, we wouldn’t have gotten to see this guy:

We lucked out and spotted this cutie at our final survey site.

We lucked out and spotted this cutie at our final survey site.

 

The ecological value of seagrasses have made the habitat a useful monitoring target for assessing environmental health and impacts on coastal systems.  Seagrass habitats provide sessile plants- individuals, populations and communities- which can all be easily measured.  Seagrasses also generally remain in place so that prevailing man made impacts can be monitored.  We are excited to increase our data set to have a better understanding on the overall health of Largo Sound

 

It's cold but someone's gotta do it.  Why not Sarah gal, your science pal?

It’s cold but someone’s gotta do it. Why not Sarah gal, your science pal?

Only PVC is left permanently (Research Permit #02171425)

Only PVC is left permanently (Research Permit #02171425)

Using the compass to accurately create our 50x100m survey site

Using the compass to accurately create our 50x100m survey site

SCIENCE!

SCIENCE!

 

IMG_1467

Jess manning our new vessel, the”Lewi”

Posted by: sarahegner | October 23, 2014

New Water Quality Program

Recently, MarineLab staff were trained on LakeWatch water quality monitoring protocols.  We will be collecting samples at three different sites in Tarpon Basin once a month.  Scientists at University of Florida will be analyzing these samples to look for nutrient and chlorophyll levels.  As we frequently snorkel Tarpon with our students, your school might be lucky enough to assist us with this citizen science project.  Read more about Lakewatch here: http://lakewatch.ifas.ufl.edu/

Captain Tommy driving the "Lewi" to our sample sites in Tarpon Basin

Captain Tommy driving the “Lewi” to our sample sites in Tarpon Basin

Sarah getting the Secchi depth

Sarah getting the Secchi depth

Chloe grabbing a water sample for nutrient analysis at University of Florida

Chloe grabbing a water sample for nutrient analysis at University of Florida

Breege is getting water that we will bring back to the lab to filter for chlorophyll analysis

Breege is getting water that we will bring back to the lab to filter for chlorophyll analysis

the gang having the best time ever while filtering

the gang having the best time ever while filtering

Jessica and Driver delicately handling the filter

Jessica and Driver delicately handling the filter

Tommy pumping away to create a vaccum.  Breege and Driver are admiring his handiwork.

Tommy pumping away to create a vaccum. Breege and Driver are admiring his handiwork.

Shaun loving the dessicant that is used to preserve the samples until they are picked up by UF biologists

Shaun loving the dessicant that is used to preserve the samples until they are picked up by UF biologists

 

 

Posted by: sarahegner | October 13, 2014

Seagrass monitoring program expands, thanks to Mickey

We recently received funding from Disney’s Worldwide Conservation Fund to expand our seagrass monitoring program.  In addition to the seagrass survey site we set up in 2012, we will be adding two additional permanent sites in Largo Sound.  One of the sites is meant to serve as a replicate of our initial site while the other, being next to a man made trench, we expect to show us the effects of human disturbance.  The grant will fund needed equipment- GPS, cameras, transects, etc. to allow the sites to be established correctly and the surveys to be conducted efficiently.

We will survey all three sites quarterly, following Seagrass Watch protocols.  With the additional sites, we will be providing Seagrass Watch with more information to aid in conservation of this habitat, monitoring changes over time and reporting them accordingly, and teaching our students appropriate research techniques for properly aiding in conservation.

Thanks Disney!

IMG_4552

transect plan

3 sites

T2 45 M IMG_3599 IMG_0659

 

Posted by: sarahegner | October 7, 2014

Coral Bleaching

Coral bleaching occurs when corals are stressed by changing environmental conditions, most often temperature.  The corals are considered bleached  when the mutualistic algae, zooxanthellae, living inside each coral polyp is expelled.  Zooxanthellae not only provides the coral with much needed energy, it is also the source of the coral’s color.  When the zooxanthellae is no longer present, the corals look white.

Here in the Keys, bleaching events are most common in the summer when the water temperatures often exceed the limits corals prefer.  Cold temperatures, such as the “Keys Freeze” we experienced in January of 2010, can also cause the corals to bleach.  Bleached corals are still living, but they can only survive for short periods of time without the algal symbiont.  When temperatures return to a normal range, if the corals are still alive, the zooxanthellae will return and the coral survive; these corals, however, are now weakened and become even more susceptible to becoming diseased.

This summer, our waters have been WARM!  And our BleachWatch reports have been off the charts (http://isurus.mote.org/Keys/bleachwatch.phtml).  We are hopeful that the cold front we are currently experiencing will bring color back to our reefs!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIMG_4700IMG_4757 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Posted by: sarahegner | October 1, 2014

MarineLab’s Staghorn Babies

Some MRDF staff recently revisited our most recent coral restoration site at Grecian Rocks.  With Coral Restoration Foundation’s assistance, we planted 300 staghorn coral fragments on South Grecian in August.  We headed out in late September to collect some data for CRF and to “check on our babies.”

As expected because of the extreme warm water temperatures this summer and because of our extremely shallow site, many of our fragments were bleached.

IMG_1386IMG_1390

Fortunately, we were relieved and hopeful to see that though the top of the majority of our planted fragments were bleached, most were looking healthy on the underside.

IMG_1408IMG_1401

Some sites did not survive.  This is expected.

IMG_1421

A few of the sites were healthy and experiencing no bleaching at all.

IMG_4676

IMG_4704

It’s not all work!  We obviously made sure to look around a little bit as well and enjoy our dive.IMG_4750

 

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IMG_4712 IMG_1384

 

Posted by: sarahegner | September 24, 2014

Marine Debris

Why does MarineLab and so many other organizations throughout the world participate in Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup?  This is why:

FWC

FWC

FWC

FWC

Ben Gutzler

Ben Gutzler

This turtle was most likely going for a free lobster snack but ended up getting it's head stuck in the trap.

This turtle was most likely going for a free snack but ended up getting it’s head stuck in the trap.

Ben Gutzler

Ben Gutzler

FWC

FWC

FWC

FWC

Marine debris—whether from fishermen, beachgoers or boaters- has become a huge problem in our oceans and most definitely within our subtropical ecosystem here in the Keys.  The plastics and lost fishing gear harm corals, sponges, lobsters, turtles, manatees, etc.  Seagrasses, hardbottom, patch reefs, bank reefs and mangrove habitats are all affected by marine debris.

According to a long term study by researchers from Nova Southeastern University, in 2012 debris recovered from nine acres of survey sites weighed 1000 lbs, and included 2027 feet of fishing line and 6561 feet of lobster and crab trap line (http://floridakeys.noaa.gov/scisummaries/marinedebris2013.pdf).  As was found in previous surveys, the Nova researchers  concluded that hook-and-line angling gear is the most frequent type of debris recorded, making up 45% of the total number of items.  Lost lobster and crab trap fishing gear was the second most abundant type of debris.  This included lines, wooden slats, plastic trap throats and cement weights.  Trap debris was more responsible than angling gear, however, for impacts on marine life.

There is plenty of “weird” trash found as well.  According to the Ocean Conservancy’s 2014 coastal cleanup report, debris removed on September 20 included toilets, a blond wig, guitars, a working Ipad, a letter in a bottle, a voodoo doll in a jar and most of the items necessary for a wedding (wedding gown, wedding ring, veil, top hat, bowties) (http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/marine-debris/icc-data-2014.pdf ).

 

Two sites to visit to learn more about the effects of marine debris and how you can help:

http://mrrp.myfwc.com/home.aspx

http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/international-coastal-cleanup/

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