Posted by: sarahegner | July 7, 2014

Gotta love the parrotfish!

Originally posted on MarineLab's Research Projects & Partnerships:

stoplight

On July 2, 2014, the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network released a report on “Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970-2012.”  The new report reveals a more than 50% decline in living corals throughout the Caribbean over the past half century!

The scientists involved in creating this report explain that the loss of herbivores, such as parrotfishes, has been the leading cause of Caribbean reef decline.  While climate change is indeed a risk for the future of our corals, they predict that a healthy reef will be resilient to the environmental alterations that climate change will cause.  Reefs protected from overfishing are better able to cope with other disturbances.

Reefs currently with active fishing management practices, including Flower Garden Banks, Bermuda and Bonaire, are currently healthy and are considered to be resilient reefs.  The silver lining in the report, therefore, is that if more islands in the Caribbean make…

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Posted by: sarahegner | July 7, 2014

Gotta love the parrotfish!

stoplight

On July 2, 2014, the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network released a report on “Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970-2012.”  The new report reveals a more than 50% decline in living corals throughout the Caribbean over the past half century!

The scientists involved in creating this report explain that the loss of herbivores, such as parrotfishes, has been the leading cause of Caribbean reef decline.  While climate change is indeed a risk for the future of our corals, they predict that a healthy reef will be resilient to the environmental alterations that climate change will cause.  Reefs protected from overfishing are better able to cope with other disturbances.

Reefs currently with active fishing management practices, including Flower Garden Banks, Bermuda and Bonaire, are currently healthy and are considered to be resilient reefs.  The silver lining in the report, therefore, is that if more islands in the Caribbean make an effort to manage fisheries, there is a much greater likelihood the reefs will become more resilient and will better withstand future disturbances.

Read more about the recently published report here: http://www.icriforum.org/caribbeanreport

At MarineLab, we are excited to once again, have our students participate in parrotfish feeding surveys for Dr Burkepile’s work studying the impact of parrotfish on coral restoration efforts. (http://marinelabresearch.wordpress.com/category/fiu-parrotfish/)

IMG_0769

Posted by: sarahegner | June 17, 2014

Ocean Sampling Day

MarineLab students will be participating in Ocean Sampling Day on June 21st.  OSD is a simultaneous sampling campaign of the world’s oceans and will take place on the summer solstice.  MarineLab is just one of hundreds of stations throughout the world that will be participating in this event.

OSD

 

We will be collecting water quality data such as water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and pH.  Read more about the project here: http://www.microb3.eu/osd

 

 

globe data

 

mrdf globe data

 

If you have collected water quality data during your stay at MarineLab since 2010, then your data is currently being utilized by students, teachers and scientists throughout the world via GLOBE.  You can access the data you collected, all MarineLab data collected, and data collected by GLOBE participants throughout the world via a new visualization tool on GLOBE’s website that allows anyone to map, graph, filter and export data that has been measured across GLOBE protocols since 1995:   http://vis.globe.gov/GLOBE/

 

Posted by: sarahegner | May 28, 2014

Katharine the Great

Image

 

Have you been following Katharine? She’s a 14ft, 2,300 lb great white shark and she’s recently been “pinging” around the Keys!  Katharine was tagged in 2013 off of Cape Cod so that researchers can gain more insight into the movement, biology and health of sharks.  Every time she surfaces, a signal is trasmitted to a satellite which gives an approximate geolocation.  This information is important in learning better how to protect these apex predators; the loss of an animal at the top of the food chain affects everything in our oceans. 

You can follow Katharine and other tagged sharks at   http://www.ocearch.org/#SharkTracker

Watch this video to see how Katharine was tagged!: http://bit.ly/gwkatharine

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Posted by: sarahegner | May 21, 2014

A live shark is worth 1000x more than a dead!

We are a much greater threat to sharks than they are to us. Not only are sharks not a threat to humans, they can be an important source of income (but they need to be alive!) If you have gotten to see a shark during your stay at MarineLab, consider yourself lucky!

http://msnvideo.msn.com/?channelindex=4&from=en-us_msnhp#/video/5add5c12-67f1-4956-bd6e-f30e1e0e7935

 

nurseshark

Posted by: sarahegner | May 7, 2014

Mangrove Restoration Service Project

Visiting students from Nazareth Academy not only participated in the MarineLab program but also volunteered to assist with our ongoing mangrove restoration project.  They provided us with valuable data, some of which can be seen here.

IMG_0069manny 1

man data

Posted by: sarahegner | April 30, 2014

Designer Reefs

 

IMG_1706

http://www.nature.com/polopoly_fs/1.15073!/menu/main/topColumns/topLeftColumn/pdf/508444a.pdf

A 2008 study found that 19% of worlds reefs have been lost since 1950 and 35% are threatened or in critical condition.  By the end of this century, researchers expect the average pH of our oceans to drop from 8.1 to 7.9 or lower and to warm by at least 2 degrees.  Corals are animals that are known to require specific stable abiotic conditions and it has been predicted that these environmental changes will have a drastic effect on our coral reefs.

But there are some areas of the world where the corals are surviving in unexpected conditions where the temperature is “too high” or pH is “too low.”  There is a lagoon in the American Samoa filled with healthy branching corals even thought the temperatures are reaching 35°C daily, a temperature that would kill off most corals.  Though acidic waters are expected to dissolve coral skeletons, there are corals in Palau in the Western Pacific ocean living in reduced pH waters that are healthier than other reefs throughout the Pacific.  Some scientists believe that genetic fitness and acclimatization both play roles in boosting the tolerance of these corals.  They believe corals can “toughen up” in response to environmental conditions and want to use this idea to breed “resistant” corals in nurseries.  They plan to launch a human assisted evolution project by planting resistant corals in controlled nurseries in areas with changing abiotic conditions.  These researchers believe that using the “resistant” corals, they can assist corals in evolving into becoming more resistant to changing conditions overall.

This project does have controversy.  Some scientist believe that evolution should not be “human assisted.”  In doing so, we could be changing natural systems too much and inadvertently causing more problems for coral reefs in the future.  Selecting for traits such as resistance to heat or acidification might lead to a genetic bottleneck, in that the corals in the future may not be able to deal with future changing environmental conditions.

Is the situation urgent enough that it is worth it to take the chance?  Many people are thinking YES

Posted by: sarahegner | April 25, 2014

Student Research

goatfishcowwreck We are excited for Georgia Military College to be here and for the GMC students to begin working on their projects.  Students have researched various fish behaviors and will be conducting the field work portion of their project while here at MarineLab.

Study topics include:

Does the time spent in different behaviors such as feeding, resting, and travelling vary between stoplight parrotfish and blue tang?

Does the average shoal size differ between french grunts and bluestriped grunts?

Does the shoal size of french grunts affect the time spent travelling, feeding, resting, and courting?

Does the shoal size of bluestriped grunts affect the time spent travelling, feeding, resting, and courting?

Does the shoal size of stoplight parrotfish affect their feeding frequency and feeding choice (algal turf, live coral, macroalgae, or seagrass).

Do the feeding habits of 2 parrotfish species differ from one another within a single coral reef?

 

Let’s hope this amazing weather continues so these students can collect their data!

Posted by: sarahegner | April 17, 2014

FWC approves sea cucumber management changes!

A few weeks ago I posted on the huge increase of sea cucumbers being harvested in the Florida Keys: http://marinelabresearch.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/anyone-up-for-a-sea-cucumber-sandwich/

While sea cucumbers have been harvested in Florida for the aquarium trade for many years, only recently has the commercial industry begun to fish for sea cucumbers to export to Asia where they are eaten as a delicacy.  In 2012, 14,000 sea cucumbers were harvested in the Florida Keys; in 2013, the number jumped to 54,000.

These numbers  immediately set off red flags because sea cucumbers are especially susceptible to overfishing.  They are sedentary invertebrates that live in shallow water habitats, such as seagrass beds and nearshore reefs, which makes them easy to locate and collect.   Sea cucumbers do not mature until they are at least 2 years old and they are broadcast spawners, meaning they release their sperm and eggs into the water column.  This spawning behavior requires dense population in order to be successful.

As sea cucumbers have been depleted in other areas of the world, it was important for Florida managers to act quickly.  And they did!  At FWC’s April meeting in Tallahassee, a commercial daily trip and vessel limit of 200 sea cucumbers was approved.  This proactive change to the commercial fishing regulations will ensure Florida’s populations of these ecologically important species and the fisheries they support remain sustainable.

Why do we care about sea cucumbers???

Money talks!  Florida’s commercial sea cucumber fishery has historically been a low-value fishery, averaging $14,000 per year for marine life endorsement holders prior to 2012. However, the value of landings during 2013 exceeded $43,000, more than three times the previous average.

  • Nutritional studies have reported high levels of vitamins A, B1, B2 and B3 as well as minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc
  • Sea cucumbers contain essential amino acids that help regulate immune function
  • Sea cucumbers have omega-3 and other essential fatty acids, which are thought to reduce heart disease, certain cancers, asthma, depression, ADHD and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Several studies have also isolated compounds from sea cucumbers that may be useful for drug development – many of these compounds have been found to potentially slow the progression of or treat cancer, reduce blood clotting, treat osteoarthritis, reduce fatigue and speed wound healing

In addition to their economic value, sea cucumbers play an important role in marine ecosystems:

  • Nutrient cycling in otherwise nutrient poor tropical reefs
  • Recycle nutrients from sediment to seagrass
  • Oxygenate sediments for other bottom-dwelling organisms by burying themselves

The new limit will begin June of 2014.  The hope is that the sea cucumbers will be able to be fished sustainably so that we continue to receive both the economic and ecological benefits.

sea cucu

The donkey dung sea cucumber (Holothuria mexicana) is the primary target in Florida's sea cucumber fisheries

The donkey dung sea cucumber (Holothuria mexicana) is the primary target in Florida’s sea cucumber fisheries

 

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