Monday, October 8, 2012

Spawning in Curacao!

Developing embryos
  Great news from the Carmabi Lab!

Saturday night the team in Curacao collected spawn from about 14 colonies of Montastrea faveolata! Success in the Caribbean as Shelby reports that the spawn was fertilized for 1.5 hours then divided into 3L containers at pretty low densities with about 80% fertilization.

News update from Shelby (9:30am Saturday morning)

After examining the larvae in the lab, Shelby notes a few patches of film in some of the high density containers which were cleaned up with a saran wrap technique and a bit of pipetting... so they are clean and happy for now! 

There are 12 cake pans with 3L each; 6 of them have probably 2,000 larvae and the other 6 have closer to 5,000 larvae (guessing by eye). These have been maintained in .45um filtered seawater. There is also one large white cooler with twice filtered sea water. 

There are a few random containers with larvae plus two other scientist's projects as well (Valarie and Kristen's projects). 

High density

The day older larvae are swimming their little circles already and seem happy!
The team is not going to collect more tonight since there is plenty, but there was talk about going out to observe for other species spawning if things are under control in the lab. 
For the moment, Shelby is keeping an eye on them and waiting for the crashing of the unfertilized eggs so she can then do a water change later in the day.

Low density


Thus far everything is going well, and we will be keeping you posted on their development with hopes for high survivorship and healthy larvae for their transport back to Buffalo at the end of October.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Spawning 2012 Part 2!

Update from our satellite BURR member in Curacao!

Shelby has arrived in Curacao and is prepping for the spawning which is predicted to occur Oct. 5-7.  All the sea water is filtered, so now they are just waiting and helping in the lab with whatever else needs to be done before the spawning event occurs.

Shelby has surveyed the dive site and reports: "AMAZING...the clarity here is incredible and there is so much to see (including some huge Acropora palmata, Dendrogyra (a personal favorite of Shelby's!), and massive stands of Porites porites."

 There are only four scientists working together, and the site they are collecting the spawn from is driving distance from the lab. Once at the site, they just walk out into the water to the site to observe the spawning.

Last night was the first dry run of Montastrea spawning, so we are all hoping everything went smoothly in preparation for tonight!

Good luck Shelby we'll be thinking of you the next few nights and hope that those corals spawn!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sometimes Science isn't easy.....

Its been a few weeks since the last post on BURR's 2012 Coral Spawning blog....and I'm very sorry to say, that after having a good run of luck with the spawning event (perfect weather conditions, many colonies spawned and high fertilization rate), we have been extremely unlucky with survivorship. We had three independent kreisels set up, and apart from a few tiles with polyps on them, all coral larvae have all died. 

Once-happy and living coral polyps......

Dead coral larvae
So sad to see the dead polyps!

We are still unsure at this point as to why that might have happened....

Even with all the hard work, sometimes Mother Nature has other plans!

Currently down at KML (The Keys Marine Lab on Long Key, FL) all kreisel set-ups have been taken down, and most all of team BURR and volunteers have left, except for Anke and Shelby.

Anke will be there until the end of September, bleaching the coral to generate symbiont-free coral tissue for the genome project and Shelby leaves on October 2 with high hopes to catch the spawning in Curacao! She will be at the Carmabi Lab ( (Thanks to Mark Vermeij and crew for their willingness to accommodate her!)  We are all hoping for the best for her down there, and will keep you posted on her travels.

Before we all get too busy with the start of semester, respective jobs, and the fun of Autumn festivities (especially here in Western New York!),  BURR lab would like to thank ALL our volunteers, the KML staff and those at MOTE who helped make coral spawning this year possible. Despite the larvae not surviving as we all hoped and worked so hard for, we are still so grateful for all the help from the following coral enthusiasts: 

Natasha Mendez-Ferrer  
Tanya Brown
Xaymara Serrano
Phillip Gillette
Lystina Kabay
Peter Grasso
Christopher Grace
Jenna Soulliere
Amanda Montgomery
Ian Rodericks
Charlotte A Berry
Tiffany Babcock
Sascha Cushner
Nick Corby
Kate Correia
Bryan Danson
Bishoy Hanna
Jessica Hornbeck
Pam Marcum
Kim Ritchie
Chris Page 
Erich Bartels 
Cindy Lewis
Bill Ferrell
Trevor Luna
Bill Dent
Lisa Tipsword
Heddy MacBain
Dave Norman
Ben Binder

THANK YOU for all your help, hard work, and positive attitudes.....keep next year in mind! 

Mary-Alice Coffroth (Mac)
Anke Kleuter
Shelby McIlroy
Rachel Mellas
D.J. Valint

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Night 4 on the Reef......

OMG, I think they just spawned on me!

High hopes for tonight!

Friday night....our BURR team and volunteers headed out for the 4th night out on the reef....high hopes for spawning tonight from everyone!

File fish checking out our tents
Rachel swimmin with the fishes
 Rachel left KML and the team of coral spawning volunteers and had to head back to beautiful Buffalo.....disappointed that she didn't get to be there for the ultimate event....coral spawning!
Shelby, about to dive in to check the colonies for spawning
On this night when we jumped into the water early to check for setting and we were relieved to see that it was actually happening! In preparation for a synchronized release of their egg-sperm bundles, coral polyps will move these pinkish balls into their mouth causing the polyps to swell and the egg-sperm bundles to be visible in the polyp mouth. Setting gives us about a 15-20 minute window to get our dive and snorkel teams into the water and to get ready to collect before the spawning begins. An amazing phenomenon is that the rest of the organisms on the reef seem to know what is coming and come out of their usual hiding place. When the spawning begins, these organisms take advantage of the extra food in the water as well and we can actually feel them on our hands, face and any exposed skin. We saw brittle stars, mysid shrimps and many fish active on the reef that night. We waited patiently with the rest of the reef community until, almost all at once, around 11:15 p.m., all of the Montastrea faveolata colonies released these bundles into the water where they slowly float to the surface (or into our collecting jars). 

Mac taking care of the larvae on the boat

At the surface the bundles from each of the colonies break up and mix together for fertilization and a new generation of corals. The bundles that we collect are passed from divers to snorkelers who shuttle the jars to the boat for mixing and fertilization on board.

Bishoy collecting egg sperm bundles for his project

 As soon as the spawning slows to a stop, we collect our supplies from the reef and get our newly fertilized eggs back to the lab as quickly as possible. 

Mac teaching coral larvae survival!

The first 48 hours of their lives are critical and they require 24 hour observation, water changes and mixing.

Caring for the coral spawn late into the night....

 We are in for a long but fruitful evening!

  Welcome to the world, coral babies!

Coral spawn care is a 24 hour job!