Next batch of corals at Bethune-Cookman!

Today Dr. Krejci and undergraduate researcher Cameron Eskew made the trek to Nova Southeastern University’s Marine Larval Ecology And Recruitment Laboratory run by the amazing Dr. Joana Figueiredo! Dr. Figueiredo has donated two species of corals to Bethune-Cookman’s Aquatic Research Laboratory: Porites astreoides and Agaricia agaricites

New stony coral species: Agaricia agaricites
Stony coral species Porites astreoides

Cameron will be studying if supplemental feeding of zooplankton to the corals will improve growth. Many coral facilities rely only on photosynthesis of zooxanthellae for coral growth, but corals are animals with stinging polyps capable of feeding on zooplankton in the water column.

Microscopic image of coral polyp Diploria labyrinthiformis growing at Dr. Figueiredo’s laboratory. The “flower petal like” structures are the stinging tentacles of the polyp. The small dots on the tentacles are the symbiotic zooxanthellae inside the coral tissue which give them their color and produce food through photosynthesis. The mouth of the coral is visible in the center.

Cameron will be comparing growth of corals feeding on copepods to determine if these highly nutritious prey will lead to significantly greater growth rates.

B-CU researcher, Cameron Eskew, adding coral tiles into their tank in the Aquatic Research Laboratory.

This summer has seen several coral breakthroughs from Dr. Figueiredo’s lab, Mote Marine Laboratory and Florida Aquarium. Stony corals can now be spawned in captivity and restored corals in the field were found to reach sexual maturity quickly. Stony corals throughout the Florida reef tract are plagued by disease including white and black band disease, and a new disease called stony coral tissue loss disease. These diseases, the impacts of climate change and other human stressors are placing Florida’s reefs in serious trouble. Our researchers at Bethune-Cookman are excited to play a role in helping improve coral culture, which will aid future restoration efforts.

This research is funded by the Center for Transdisciplinary Data Scholars Program at Bethune-Cookman Univeristy.

A special thank you to Dr. Figueiredo for her support of B-CU research and offering new and innovative opportunities for our students! We are grateful for your support and generosity which will enrich our student research and courses.

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