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

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

 

 

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