|Day 1: New coral planulae emerge on the mother sea plume colony (November 23, 2016)|
Dr. Mary Alice Coffroth (SUNY Buffalo) and her team from the BURR Lab (Buffalo Undersea Reef Research) captured the purple sea plume (Antillegorgia bipinnata) spawning event at KML. These corals spawned 1 week before the November new in moon KML's new seawater well system.
|Day 10: Planulae settling on tiles, mouth parts developing (photo by DJ Valent)|
|Day 15: New recruits! Planulae metamorphosed and settled on pre-conditioned ceramic tiles, polyp tentacles beginning to develop. Baby corals were inoculated with photosynthetic algae (Symbiodinium) harvested from the mother colony.|
|Day 21: Brownish tinge in tentacles 6 days after inoculation, is evidence of the uptake of Symbiodinium which photosynthetically provides nutrients to the growing coral.|
|Day 23: More purple sclerites and brown algal symbionts visible|
|Spawning! Gamete bundles rise from an Elkhorn Coral colony - 10:50pm 3 nites after full moon (photo K Neeley)|
|Divers head to the reef to monitor for spawning|
|Diver Bill Ferrell rigging a marker buoy at sunset|
|Elkhorn Coral colonies (Acopora palmata)|
|Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis) provides a sheltered bed for a juvenile parrotfish (photo C Lewis)|
|Moonjellies dancing in the moon beams|
|Diver checking on "tripod" of eddy correlation instruments at their monitoring site|
|Despite several days of rough seas, the team returned to their site each day over a 10-day period to download data and re-deploy equipment.|
|Capturing Bonnethead and juvenile Lemon and Nurse sharks temporarily held in the KML Mesocosym for transport|
Are corals genetically adapted to different habitats, or are they able to change their physiology to match novel environmental conditions? Carly Kenkel, a PhD candidate from the University of Texas at Austin hopes to answer this question for her model coral species, the Mustard Hill Coral (Porites astreoides), in the Florida Keys. She came to KML to set-up a large reciprocal transplant experiment to test for local adaptation of P. astreoides to differing thermal environments in the Keys. Because she was only able to spend 5 days here, the KML staff scientists helped with her collections and field deployment of the experiment. KML divers collected 15 P. astreoides colonies from a near-shore and off-shore site.
Carly then fragmented these colonies using a tile saw, and mounted them on cement pucks with cattle tag labels to keep track of all the individuals.
Finally, Carly weighed all the fragments so that she can monitor growth during her experiment.
Katherine (Kat) Heldt, PhD candidate from Clemson University, has spent several months at KML, observing "social status" among lobsters and testing what mechanisms by which they choose shelters. Kat hopes to determine whether dominance status or familiarity can influence denning behavior and dispersal.
Boulder Star Coral (Montastrea faveolata) setting gamete bundles prior to spawning (photo by P. Gillet)
(Buffalo Undersea Reef Research) had plenty to share with fellow scientists in the Upper and Lower Keys.
Upside-down jellyfish, Cassiopea xamachana
In Cassiopea, establishment of the symbiosis occurs in the scyphistomae (polyp) stage of development where multiple strains of Symbiodinium can be acquired. Upon infection, the scyphistomae produce ephyra (young medusa) through a process termed strobilation. Once they reach the adult medusa form, they typically harbor one specific type of symbiont (Symbiodinium A1).
Cassiopea scyphistomae (polyp) stage
To understand the potential fitness advantages to the host of harboring different symbiont types, Rachel has set up laboratory experiments which look at the how different symbionts affect the growth rate, survivorship, and timing of strobilation of scyphistomae, and if strobilation occurs with only certain symbionts (A1). (photos by R Mellas)
KML staff recently participated in the Middle Keys Lionfish Derby, which was the first derby of REEF's 2nd Annual Lionfish Derby Series. The City of Layton was one the derby's major sponsors which was held at Fiesta Key Resort on Long Key.
Though the team was unable to improve upon last year's 2nd place finish, they had a great time and were able to catch 66 lionfish, which was just a few fish behind the 3rd place team that had 69.
To see the complete derby results follow this link:
Then the week following the derby, researchers Carmen Schloeder and Andrew Sellers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama visited KML and were also in search of the invasive lionfish.
They completed 9 dives in 3 days off of Long Key and were able to find lionfish on every dive except for 1. On the dives they were looking at density of the fish to compare to reefs in Panama and Belize. They also collected fish to look at gut content, size classes, distribution, and parasitology. In total they were able to catch 44 lionfish on their dives during the visit.
Dr. Hummon and his able assistants, wife Meg and daughters Jules and Cheryl, gathered samples from 2 dozen intertidal and subtidal sandy banks throughout the Keys, from Harry Harris State Park to the beaches of Key West.
KML Divers positioning equipment underwater in preparation for data readings
Divers placing mesh nets over coral heads prior to spawning
Meanwhile, another team of divers traveled each evening to Cheeca Rocks on KML's R/V Diodon to capture the Montastrea faveolata (mountainous star coral) spawning event Aug 27- Sept 1. Success! The spawn was brought back to KML's Wet Lab and reared in special chambers of circulating filtered seawater, until ready to settle on ceramic tiles.
Andrew examining Ecteinascidia turbinata on the mangrove roots.
Fieldwork involves the collection of sexually mature worms from clumps of Ecteinascidia by snorkeling and kayaking in mangrove creeks. These worms are then brought back to the lab, where their eggs and larval stages are preserved for future genetic analysis.
A team of University of Florida researchers from the College of Pharmacy, led by Dr. Hendrik Luesch, assistant professor, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, recently stayed at KML. Using the Lab as their base of operations, the team collected cyanobacteria and algae from reefs in the Middle Keys, with the assistance of KML staff.
Once back at UF, the team will test the collected samples for production of secondary metabolites with pharmaceutical value.
Symbiodinium spp., commonly referred to as 'zoozanthellae', are single-celled dinoflagellate algae which form an obligate symbiotic relationship with schleractinian corals in oligotrophic environments. These symbionts are diverse both genetically and in their physiologies. The symbiont type can vary both with specific coral host species, as well as with different environmental conditions..
Ann working on samples in Lab II at KML
Ann returned to Buffalo after her 2 weeks at KML, where she will analyze her most recent samples to see how the January 2010 Keys cold-spell affected her P. divaricata colonies at Craig Key.
Department of Biology
Department of Biological Sciences
Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton, FL
FAU PhD student, Tricia Meredith, recently conducted experiments at Keys Marine Lab to determine how well sharks can smell odors. There are many myths about the extreme olfactory sensitivity of these animals with very little scientific evidence to support these claims.
For this research Dr. Stephen Kajiura, Tricia, and a few volunteers long-lined for Bonnethead Sharks (Sphyma tiburo) in shallow seagrass meadows and mangrove habitats near Long Key. The sharks were quickly transported back to KML and kept in flow-through seawater tanks until used in the experiments. One female shark gave birth to 6 pups while in the holding tank over-night. All 6 pups can now be found swimming in KML's Shallows.
To determine the olfactory sensitivity of Bonnethead Sharks, they used a technique called an electro-olfactogram (EOG). During an EOG, odors are delivered into the nose of an immobilized shark while an electrode positioned over the olfactory organ detects the shark's response to the odor.
So far, Tricia has found that while sharks are very sensitive to odors, they are no more sensitive than bony fishes - disproving many of those shark myths.
A gravid bonnethead shark (Sphyma tiburo), gave birth to 6 live pups while being held for a visiting scientist in one of the large seawater tanks at the Lab .
Actively swimming at birth and measuring 8-10" from nose to tail, these miniature replicas of their mother have been transferred to our Shallows where they are chasing small fry and slurping squid tentacles.
1) determining the relative abundance, growth rates, and sex ratios of coastal shark species;
2) determining the presence and concentrations of mercury toxicity in coastal sharks;
3) characterizing sites important to the life history and ecology of sharks;
4) developing geographic information systems maps that incorportate data on shark population dynamics, genetics, eco-toxicity, and habitat use;
5) delineating areas of important for shark congregation, foraging, migration, and parturition as well as areas where sharks are susceptibale to bio-accumulation of mercury toxicity.
Bullshark being brought alongside the boat for measuring and taggingAnother important aspect of the project is to foster marine sciences, environmental stewardship mentoring, and public awareness through a network of interaction among high school, undergraduate and graduate students.
Magnificent 11' Great Hammerhead
14' Small-toothed Sawfish: Sawfish are an endangered species and require special permits to handle and tag. This fish was released unharmed, as quickly and safely as possible.
A very successful day in the field!
(photos by M. McCallister)
University of Miami
This study will use the Long Key Bridge Rubble, an existing artificial reef structure in the Florida Keys, to explore the role of habitat complexity and spatial configuration in structuring coral communities.
Coral reefs are valued as unique ecosystems with high levels of biodiversity; however, little is known about which features of reef structure are crucial in supporting the diverse coral assemblages found on these reefs. While studies have linked greater reef complexity to greater fish diversity and abundance, the role of structural habitat complexity on the stony coral community remains unclear. By utilizing an existing artificial patch reef array with varying physical structure and a distinct spatial arrangement among patches, we will test the hypotheses that greater habitat complexity (‘habitat heterogeneity hypotheses’) and great proximity to neighboring patches supports greater coral diversity and abundance. This approach capitalizes on the unique structural variations within an existing artificial reef complex to test predictions of habitat complexity that would be difficult, if not impossible, to manipulate on natural reefs. In addition, we will be able to test the impacts of patch spatial arrangement on recruitment rates and coral abundance by monitoring both ‘edge’ and ‘middle’ patches within the artificial reef complex.
Field sampling will consist of extensive surveys of existing coral reef communities across similarly sized artificial patches of varying substrate complexity and spatial configuration. Percent cover of benthic organisms and coral species richness will be determined for each patch. Lastly, rates of coral recruitment will be measured using coral settlement tiles attached to each study reef.
Initial mapping of artificial patches was completed in March 2009, and complexity of each patch was recorded. In mid-March, a 6-member dive team conducted the initial sampling of the 16 study patches. Fish counts, benthic cover, coral demography and patch complexity data was taken for each patch. Recruitment tiles could not be hammered into the concrete of the artificial reefs, hence the tiles were not deployed. We are currently testing and building alternative rigs to hold recruitment tiles for deployment at our study reefs and hope to install the tiles in early May 2009.
Given the current degradation of reefs from bioerosion, coral disease and habitat fragmentation, there is a pressing need to elucidate the importance patch quality and spatial configuration to coral community dynamics. Results from this study will enhance our ability to manage reefs for abiotic features that contribute to robust coral communities, shaping future restoration efforts and design of coral reef reserves.
University of Regensburg, Germany
Elongate twig ant sucking honey placed on a leaf in the field (
The feeding ecology of corals of the
To accomplish these research goals the researchers will use a combination of field collections, field transplants, microcosm experiments, and the application of novel molecular-level biochemical and stable isotopic techniques to determine the relative importance of heterotrophic feeding versus autotrophically-derived organic matter in satisfying the nutritional requirements of the coral host. The results of this study will provide important insights into how corals may be able to adapt to declines in water quality associated with increasing coastal development and environmental change, and will therefore have direct implications for the conservation of corals in
Recent research has clearly shown that the vulnerability of corals to disturbance can be influenced by their energetic status and that the lipid reserves stored by corals may allow them to increase their resistance and resilience to stress. Moreover, the ability of corals to switch their main feeding mode, from autotrophy to heterotrophy, under marginal conditions marginal (i.e., high turbidity, sedimentation, high nutrients) can provide an adaptive mechanism for sustained growth over the short-term that may be fundamental to corals exposed to multiple stressors. The increased availability of heterotrophic energy and nutrient sources in nearshore coastal habitats has already been linked to higher coral growth, increased energy storage, and increased resilience to disturbances such as coral bleaching. These findings have led to the hypothesis that inshore habitats in the
With logistic support provided by KML’s science staff, Lirman and Teece completed coral collections at 4 reefs in the Middle Florida Keys. At each reef (2 inshore and 2 offshore reefs), small (2-4 cm2) tissue shavings were collected from 2 abundant coral species, Porites astreoides and Montastraea faveolata, using a wood chisel. Some of the samples were kept for isotopic analyses and the remaining coral chips were used for a reciprocal transplant experiment established between inshore and offshore coral reefs. In addition to the coral tissue, researchers collected water, macroalgae, zooplankton, and sediment samples to analyze the isotopic composition of benthic primary producers and potential coral food sources. All samples were initially processed at the lab facilities provided by the Keys Marine Lab at Long Key,
In June, 2008, reciprocal coral transplants were performed using tissue chips from colonies from inshore and offshore habitats to document changes in nutritional sources and lipid and protein storage as corals are transplanted to different habitats, and to evaluate the role of nutritional sources and reserves on coral growth and survivorship. Coral chips were glued to terracotta tiles and placed on PVC platforms at
Mitch Ruzek, Ph.D. canidate
University Of South Florida (USF)
Tampa, FLMy colleagues and I in the Brian Livingston lab at USF are interested in mechanisms of control within cells that help to determine when and why certain cells take on certain fates at defined times in a developing embryo. We are specifically interested in the group of genes that is responsible for embryonic skeletal development in the brittle star Ophiocoma wendtii that is common in the Florida Keys. While utilizing the facilities at the Keys Marine Lab we collect brittle star specimens in ten to thirty feet of water around Long Key.
We carry out a great deal of our wet laboratory work directly on premise at the Keys Marine Lab. While staying in the dormitories on site we can spawn animals, collect fertilized eggs and developing embryos at various stages of development where the larval skeleton begins to form. We can preserve animals, extract both DNA and RNA as well as perform microscopic injection of embryos while at the KML.
Work continues on the embryos and genetic material collected while at KML when we return to Tampa. Once back at USF we work to determine what genes are responsible for the larval skeleton that is characteristic of the brittle star. Our work will help to contribute to a better understanding of the networks of genes found within all cells that function as groups to accomplish individual functions or tasks. Without the facilities and staff of the Keys Marine Lab our work with this fragile and difficult-to-transported species would be nearly impossible.
Chris Langdon, Remy Okazaki, Peter Swart
University of Miami
Scientists working from the Keys Marine Lab are doing their part to investigate the effects of climate change, in particular, the phenomenon of ocean acidification. The
Based out of the Keys Marine Lab, the UM scientists are measuring coral calcification and photosynthesis in a wide array of environmental conditions. Additionally, the scientists are analyzing a 190-year old coral skeleton from the study site to reconstruct the water chemistry and determine how the coral has grown during the last two centuries. These experiments should indicate whether corals have indeed adapted or acclimated to changing CO2. If they have, then hope exists for corals in the future.
(photo: This core sample is from a star coral skeleton and represents ~50 years of growth. Scientists will attempt to reconstruct the history of Florida Bay from this skeleton.)