Posted by: sarahegner | April 16, 2015

Just another reason to ALWAYS stop to pick up marine debris

It was just another day at sea for Captain Ryan and his trusty mate Chelsea when they were driving students from the reef back to MarineLab.  Someone spotted plastic in the water so Cap’n stopped to retrieve it.  Turns out the plastic they were picking up was part of a NOAA radiosonde.  Once back to the dock, we were all intrigued and immediately got online to figure out what it was that they found.

The radiosonde is a small, expendable instrument package (weighs 100 to 500 grams) that is suspended below a large balloon inflated with hydrogen or helium gas. These “weather balloons” are deployed by NOAA National Weather Service to get data on forecasts, weather and climate change research, input for air pollution models, and ground truthing for satellite data.   As the radiosonde rises at about 1,000 feet/minute, sensors on the radiosonde measure profiles of pressure, temperature, and relative humidity. These sensors are linked to a battery powered radio transmitter that sends the sensor measurements to a sensitive ground tracking antenna.

If the radiosonde could talk, oh the places it has been…

  • A typical “weather balloon” sounding can last in excess of two hours, and  the radiosonde can ascend to over 115,000 feet and drift more than 180 miles from the release point.
  • During the flight, the radiosonde is exposed to temperatures as cold as -130oF and an air pressure less than 1 percent of what is found on the Earth’s surface.
  • If the radiosonde enters a strong jet stream it can travel at speeds exceeding 250 mph

When released,  the balloon is about 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) in diameter and gradually expands as it rises owing to the decrease in air pressure.  When the balloon reaches a diameter of 6 to 8 meters (20 to 25 feet) in diameter, it bursts.   A small,  orange colored parachute slows the descent of the radiosonde, minimizing the danger to lives and property. 

IMG_0245

Southwest Florida Christian Academy students assisted with the collection of the radiosonde

Ryan, Chelsea and Southwest Florida Christian students retrieved the waterlogged radiosonde (with it’s balloon and parachute) from the water just after seeing some see turtles mating at the surface.  An exciting day and we all get to learn something new.  The science never stops at MarineLab!

 

Posted by: sarahegner | April 8, 2015

MRDF Research Department Lowdown

The research department has been busy the past few weeks.  Whenever we have a lull in student groups (they are far and few between this time of year) MarineLab’s instructors are making the most of them.  Just in the past two weeks we have been cruising Florida Bay collecting water samples to be analyzed by UM researchers for cyanobacteria, collecting and filtering samples from Tarpon Basin for a University of Florida program (with assistance from visiting students), surveying our (3!) seagrass sites in Largo Sound and entering data for Seagrass Watch scientists, and analyzing phytoplankton samples collected by 10 different local community members for a collaborative project with NOAA.  Looking forward to getting out to our mangrove restoration site this Friday to check on the babies.

Days that look like this aren't so bad...  Every other month we head out into Florida Bay to collect water samples at 15 different sites.  The samples are analyzed by University of Miami's Dr. Brand who is specifically looking for cyanobacteria levels.

Days that look like this aren’t so bad… Every other month we head out into Florida Bay to collect water samples at 15 different sites. The samples are analyzed by University of Miami’s Dr. Brand who is specifically looking for cyanobacteria levels.

One of the mangrove babies planted last year that we will measure this week

One of the mangrove babies planted last year that we will measure this week

Cap'n Driver taking us out to seagrass site #2

Cap’n Driver taking us out to seagrass survey site #2

SK looks super excited after an afternoon of seagrass surveys.  (I know Breege is smiling behind that bubble...)

SK looks super excited after an afternoon of seagrass surveys. (I know Breege is smiling behind that bubble…)

Posted by: sarahegner | March 18, 2015

Ghost Fishing…

Does ghost fishing sound like a spooktacular good time?  Watch this and think again!

Ghost fishing is actually a term that describes what happens when derelict fishing gear “continues to fish.”  Derelict fishing gear, sometimes referred to as “ghost gear,” is any discarded, lost, or abandoned, fishing gear in the marine environment. This gear continues to fish and trap animals, entangle and potentially kill marine life, smother habitat, and act as a hazard to navigation. Derelict fishing gear, such as nets or traps and pots, is one of the main types of debris impacting the marine environment today.

If you have been to MarineLab during stone crab or lobster season, you have probably noticed your captain weaving around the trap buoys (though students often think we are just trying to take them on a crazy roller coaster of a ride).  If not aware, running over and cutting a trap line is easy enough to do.  That trap then becomes a ghost trap.  Anything caught in the trap will  starve to death.  The traps can also harm the sea floor- seagrass, hardbottom, coral reef- as the traps move around.  No sea creature is safe- the marine debris affects dolphins, sea turtles, fish and invertebrates.  As you can imagine, derelict fishing gear is a huge problem in South Florida.

A MarineLab instructor from years past, Casey Boleman Butler, now works for Florida Fish and Wildlife as a lobster biologist and spends much of her time researching the effects of ghost fishing and finding ways to eradicate the problem.  Casey created this video to better explain the issue.

lob 2 lob trap

Posted by: sarahegner | March 6, 2015

Staghorn babies 6 months post outplant

IMG_1872

In collaboration with the Coral Restoration Foundation, MarineLab staff outplanted 300 staghorn corals in August of 2014.  We planted 30 colonies, 10 corals each with 5 different genotypes represented at our site.   You can read about outplanting here.

We went and surveyed the site in Sept 2014, per CRF protocols.  Due to the extreme warm water temperatures in the summer, many of our corals had bleached.  Read about the results here.

The good news is many of our corals have recovered from the bleaching event!  MarineLab staff ventured out to our outplanting site for the 6 month monitoring protocol.  Coral bleaching tends to happen when corals are stressed, often the source of that stress is extreme water temperatures.  While coral bleaching does not necessarily kill the coral automatically, if the coral does survive, these corals are more susceptible to diseases.  We will continue to monitor our corals to help determine survival rate and provide data to determine if some genotypes are more resilient than others.

GENOTYPE K1 CLUSTER 8

Genotype K1 Cluster 8 in September 2014

SEPT 2014

Genotype K1 Cluster 8 Feb 2015

FEB 2015

GENOTYPE K1 CLUSTER C10

Genotype K1 Cluster 10 Sept 2014

SEPT 2014

K1 C10 Feb 2015

FEB 2015

GENOTYPE U52 CLUSTER 4

U52 C4 Sept 2014

SEPT 2014

U52 C4 Feb 2015

FEB 2015

GENOTYPE U52 CLUSTER 8

U52 C8 Sep 2014

SEPT 2014

U52 C8 Feb 2015

FEB 2015

Posted by: sarahegner | February 12, 2015

Yet another reason to love (and restore!) our mangroves…

mangrove coral blog

A recent study on reef-building corals growing on mangrove roots in St John, USVI, is giving us yet another reason to conserve and restore mangrove habitats.

We already know mangroves are important to coral reefs (if YOU don’t know why, you better read the Alert Diver article written by MRDF’s Director of Research, Sarah Egner: http://www.alertdiver.com/MangrovesAndSeagrass)

But now, the mangrove habitat could be coral’s saving grace in the climate change effects that some scientists are considering inevitable.  Risk analyses indicate that more than 90% of the world’s reefs will be threatened by climate change and local anthropogenic impacts by the year 2030. Increasing temperatures and solar radiation cause coral bleaching and increasing CO2 levels reduces seawater pH (ocean acidification), slowing coral growth and impacting the integrity of the reef structure.

Amongst the mangroves of Hurricane Hole in St. John, USVI, researchers found more than 30 coral species.  The older corals survived recent bleaching events that killed corals at nearby reefs, perhaps due to protection from the mangroves in the shade they provide.  The corals found in the mangrove habitat may have also evolved to be more resistant to bleaching.  Previous studies have shown that corals that become accustomed to environmental fluctuations, as is common in a mangrove habitat, have a higher survival rate in extreme heat.  Perhaps these more resilient corals will be able to recolonize reefs in the future?

Just when I thought I couldn’t love mangroves any more…

Yates, K. K., Rogers, C. S., Herlan, J. J., Brooks, G. R., Smiley, N. A., and Larson, R. A.: Diverse coral communities in mangrove habitats suggest a novel refuge from climate change, Biogeosciences, 11, 4321-4337, doi:10.5194/bg-11-4321-2014, 2014.

Posted by: sarahegner | February 4, 2015

Coral Restoration

MarineLab has had a partnership with the Coral Restoration for many years.  We have sponsored restoration sites, created our own restoration sites, worked on an ongoing research project at a Molasses Reef restoration site and have logged hours underwater with coral transplant maintenance and monitoring.  Recently, we are excited to assist CRF with maintenance of their nursery near Elbow Reef.  It is an awesome opportunity for staff to get underwater, use their skills and get their hands “dirty.”  The following are some photos from yesterdays dive at the nursery.  MarineLab staff spent their dives scrubbing the “trees” to allow the coral babies to grow without the algal competition.

 

IMG_1832 IMG_1833 IMG_1834 IMG_1835 IMG_1836 IMG_1838 IMG_1839 IMG_1840 IMG_1842 IMG_1843 IMG_1845

 

 

Posted by: sarahegner | January 30, 2015

Winter Fun at MarineLab

When MarineLab staff have off time from molding visiting students to become our future’s scientists, they are conducting valuable research on the habitats they teach about.  The winter months are especially busy for the Research Department.

Mangrove Restoration.  Growth and % survival fata are collected quarterly.

Mangrove Restoration. Growth and % survival data are collected quarterly.

Lizzie conducting one of our MANY seagrass surveys.  Now that we have three sites established, our quarterly seagrass surveys can be time consuming (especially in the COLD water!)

Brittany conducting one of our MANY seagrass surveys. Now that we have three sites established, our quarterly seagrass surveys can be time consuming (especially in the COLD water!)

Water quality samples have to be collected, filtered and prepared for pickup by Florida State researchers every month.

Water quality samples have to be collected, filtered and prepared for pickup by Florida State researchers every month.

Ryan is getting ready to head out into the Bay next week to collect water samples for cyanobacteria analysis by U of Miami researchers.

Ryan is getting ready to head out into the Bay next week to collect water samples for cyanobacteria analysis by U of Miami researchers.

Phytoplankton samples are normally analyzed bimonthly.  Now that we have a huge team of Key Largo locals collecting samples for us every month, it is all hands on deck to go through the samples.  If specific target species are found, samples are preserved,packaged and shipped to NOAA.

Phytoplankton samples are normally analyzed bimonthly. Now that we have a huge team of Key Largo locals collecting samples for us every month, it is all hands on deck to go through the samples. If specific target species are found, samples are preserved,packaged and shipped to NOAA.

Next week,staff will be heading out to one of the Coral Restoration Foundation's coral nurseries to assist with maintenance.

Next week,staff will be heading out to one of the Coral Restoration Foundation’s coral nurseries to assist with maintenance.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: sarahegner | January 19, 2015

Save our Seas, they could Save Your Life

Why should we save our oceans?  Why do we care about the coral reefs?  There are plenty of reasons, but our oceans and the creatures in it could save your life one day.horseshoe IMG_2047 IMG_1778 seafan2  Eight approved drugs derived from marine chemicals are currently being used today to fight cancer, pain, viruses and inflammation.  Another twelve chemicals are in clinical trials and we have only explored 5% of our oceans.  Who knows what else is out there???

Visiting students to MarineLab tend to be most fearful of marine animals like sharks and barracuda.  But, the animals that can’t move require the greatest of defenses—think sponges, tunicates, anemones, corals, etc.  These organisms tend to use chemical defenses.  The organisms evolved these chemicals naturally and use them to defend against predators, communicate with their neighbors or prevent encrusting species from growing over them.  Some of these chemical compounds have already proven to be of use for the medical industry.  Many more are yet to be discovered.

Cone snails hold their venom in a gland within a tooth.  They can fire this tooth at prey like a harpoon.  The smaller species produce a painful sting like a bee but larger ones can be fatal.  Painkillers for humans have been created using conotoxins- the chains of amino acids found in the venom of cone snails.  The cone snail painkillers could be 100-1000 times as effective as morphine.  Scientists believe conotoxins could help treat epilepsy, depression and other disorders by interacting with the nervous system.

One of the first marine drugs discovered comes from a sponge that is native to Florida.  Chemicals from the sponge were developed into the active component in a herpes medication.  Another drug called Yondelis was derived from a sea squirt, also known as a tunicate.  A Caribbean gorgonian (flexible coral) produces a group of compounds with anti-inflammatory properties, which are also used in an anti-wrinkle cream.  Horseshoe crabs are commonly used to test for bacterial contamination.  A Bryozoan species has a compound that is currently being tested as a cancer drug.

What if humans could regenerate lost limbs like a sea star? Scientists are currently studing echinoderms like sea stars and sea cucumber to see if this could be a possibility.

Many medical advances are thanks to our oceans.  But there is much more to be discovered…

http://www.fau.edu/hboi/mbbr/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-ellen-prager/to-fight-disease-protect-_b_6432038.html

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

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