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.

Conjoined dwarf seahorses born

On August 17, 2020 our undergraduate researcher, Cameron Eskew, discovered conjoined newborn dwarf seahorses, H. zosterae were born in the lab.

After three days the twins are both active, eating and swimming which is a promising sign they could continue to grow. The twins are joined at the mid abdomen. Internally this area contains the intestines and reproductive organs. It’s unclear if our twins are only joined by the skin, bony plates, or if the connection is deeper into the body. We’ll continue to support and monitor them!

Oyster Reef field work and prepping for laboratory analysis

Today was a long, hot and wet day out in the field collecting oyster cores and bags from our research site at Cape Canaveral National Seashore.

Time lapse of the long march to the research site

Masters student Jennifer Spain is testing recruitment differences between oyster cores and oyster bags.

M. S. Student Jennifer Spain field sampling her oyster reefs
Oyster cores
Oyster bags

While oyster bags are well established methods for protecting shorelines and recruiting oysters by providing conspecific cues, they rely on the use of plastics. Oyster cores remove these extra plastics from estuaries but which method is best? Well hopefully be able to contribute answers to these questions soon!

Time lapse video of field sampling with Dr. Krejci, Jennifer Spain and Cameron Eskew

After field sampling the oysters were transported back to the lab and placed in a recirculating aquaculture system. Jennifer will be examining these shells and cores for settled organisms over the next few days.

Cleaning macro algae from collected samples

A beginning!

Very excited that we were able to get our first large recirculating system up and running! It will soon be filled with oysters and then will be transitioned into one of our ocean acidification systems.

Field work? Hurricane? Oh Florida!

Poor MS student, Jennifer, might have a slight delay in collecting her oysters from the field for lab analysis due to impending tropical storm Isaias. Even with the weather we are still working to get all our field gear together so we can be ready when the storm clears.

We have corals!

Yesterday Dr. Krejci and undergraduate researcher, Cameron Eskew, took a road trip to Nova Southeastern Univeristy to pick up baby stony corals (Porites astreoides) donated by professor Dr. Joana Figueiredo. Cameron was able to get a tour of the lab, advice about coral care and graduate school.

The road trip was 3.5 hours each way and the corals arrived Bethune-Cookman Univeristy around 11pm. They were slowly acclimated to their new tank where they will be monitored daily for the next few weeks.

Cameron’s future research on the corals will be comparing how supplemental feeding can improve growth rates. Stony corals along the Florida reef tract are being devastated by diseases and climate change. Researchers around the state are making significant progress on captive spawning and restoration methods to aid in fighting reef loss. We are happy to be apart of that fight now at B-CU!

Video of coral pick up and transport from NSU to BCU

Little video of lab today

Saturday in the lab writing proposals and feeding fish! Our afternoon feed was some home grown harpacticoid (Tisbe) copepods for the seahorses and adult artemia for the pipefish