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Emerging technologies: Environmental DNA

Published 2016-12-13

Photo: Center for Ocean Solutions Environmental DNA (eDNA) is a new and rapidly improving genetic tool that scientists are using to monitor a wide range of habitats around the world. eDNA is the nuclear or mitochondrial DNA that organisms shed into their environment and can be used to analyze the presence and abundance of populations. Recently, studies have characterized brook trout populations (Baldigo et al. 2016), surveyed marine fishes (Kelly et al. 2014), and discovered novel lineages of deep-sea foraminifera (Pawlowksi et al. 2001) using eDNA techniques. Using eDNA technology allows... (more)

Mortality on the Great Barrier Reef

Published 2016-11-01

Photo: ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies After the most widespread and severe coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef, scientists are continuing to watch the health of the reefs closely. In October 2016, 6 months after the high temperature event, scientists have returned to conduct surveys and measure coral survivorship and mortality. They have found that many of the corals that bleached have now died on the northern areas of the Great Barrier Reef and this mortality is compounded by predation from coral-eating invertebrates like snails. Scientists are concerned that... (more)

Follow-Up on Fukushima

Published 2016-10-18

Photo Credit: WHOI A new scientific study published in the October issue of Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, Jordi Vives i Batlle describes the status of research and findings on the impacts of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident that occurred five years ago in Japan. It is estimated that 80% of the radioactive discharge fallout was over the Pacific Ocean, striking concern for the long-term impacts on marine life. The impacts of radioactivity on marine organisms throughout the food chain are influenced by a few key factors: How long the organisms are... (more)

Microplastics Ingested in the Deep-Sea

Published 2016-10-04

Photo: Michelle Taylor A unique collaboration between scientific researchers at the University of Oxford, University of Bristol, National History Museum in London, and Staffordshire University’s Department of Forensic and Crime Science recently led to the discovery of microplastics in ingested material from deep-sea creatures. Microplastics are plastic particles under 5mm in length and are found in cosmetics, cleaning materials, and other common household products. They can be in the form of small beads or microfibers composed of polyester, nylon and acrylic. The UK government recently... (more)

Launch for New Reef Restoration Initiative

Published 2016-09-20

Photo: Nature Conservancy On September 12, 2016, the Mote Marine Laboratory and The Nature Conservancy signed a one-year memorandum of understanding initiating the first steps of a 15-year partnership to restore and conserve coral reefs at an unprecedented scale. The goal of this collaboration is to restore over one million corals across Florida and Caribbean reefs while building conservation solutions with multiple partners and setting up the infrastructure for coral gene banks. Mote Marine Laboratory, located Florida, is an independent nonprofit marine science and education... (more)

Expanding the Papahanaumokuakea Monument

Published 2016-08-31

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (PMNM) are home to some of the world’s most northern and healthy coral reef ecosystems. Blue whales, albatross, Hawaiian monk seals, turtles, and the oldest living animals on Earth, black corals, are all found in these Pacific waters. Many of the organisms found on the reefs, seamounts, and sunken islands of the PMNM are found nowhere else in the world, with many remaining to be discovered. You can read more about one of these newly discovered creatures, the white octopus called Casper, here:... (more)

A new microscopic view of the marine world

Published 2016-08-02

Researchers at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of San Diego are changing the way marine scientists can use microscopes to study life in the ocean. The team of researchers have successfully developed an underwater microscope (the Benthic Underwater Microscope, or BUM) that can observe marine organisms in their natural habitat at the scale of nearly one micron resolution. At this scale, the BUM is capable of imaging single cells underwater. To do this, it is built as a two-part system including a computer with a diver interface connected to an imaging unit. The imaging... (more)

A complex story for deep-water corals

Published 2016-07-12

Photo: NOC Eight years after the establishment of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) off North West Scotland in the Rockall Trough, scientists have found a complex story for deep-sea coral reefs. Deep sea corals are different from their tropical counterparts in that they do not form a symbiotic relationship with dinoflaggelate algae, and can therefore survive in colder, deeper, and darker waters. Similar to tropical reefs, cold-water corals provide habitat for many other organisms, including commercially important fish species. Unfortunately, this means that cold-water corals are often in areas... (more)

The 3rd hot year for corals

Published 2016-06-28

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is advising the public, scientists, and ocean resource managers to be on watch for a 3rd consecutive coral bleaching event this year. The NOAA Coral Reef Watch program predicts that there is a 90 percent chance of a widespread coral bleaching occurring once again during a probable the La Nina cycle. The combined effects of climate change and an intense El Nino cycle led to an increase in sea surface temperatures and triggered coral bleaching starting in mid-2014. Since then, 70 percent of United States coral reefs, for example, have... (more)

Coral spawning triggered by temperature

Published 2016-05-31

Photo: Australian Geographic As summer approaches in the northern hemisphere, coral colonies of certain species are preparing for mass spawning events, in which coral parents synchronously release egg and sperm into the water to be fertilized. Following fertilization, the embryos develop into swimming larvae, which will seek a suitable substrate upon which to settle and metamorphose into a polyp. During these mass spawning events, timing of release of egg and sperm by coral colonies on a reef is key. Scientists are still perplexed by the processes that trigger spawning release in... (more)