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 (http://www.researchstationcarmabi.org/_). (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!