Environmental Microbiology Lab

Our Environmental Microbiology lab was in the field yesterday collecting phytoplankton and environmental data for a lab on culture methods using dilution and agar plating. The students learned to filter water, prepare media and agar plats, autocalve and how to ID and count algal cells on a hemocytometer. They’ll be monitoring algal growth over the next few weeks to create growth curves.

The awesome thing about being at B-CU is we are a 5 minute drive from the Halifax River Lagoon and running out for a field experience in the middle of the day isn’t difficult! The local fisherman on the pier always love hearing our impromptu lessons and asking in the Halifax is “healthy”.

Is the lagoon healthy? It’s hard to say. The Halifax is an incredibly understudied system with substantial urban development along the shores. We are working on publishing a study on water quality and there are definitely areas of concern with nutrients and evidence of with low oxygen.

Safety first! We wore our masks and social distanced as much as we could.

The fluid the students are working with in the video below is sterilized seawater.

Some of our upcoming labs will take our students kayaking to collect water samples 🌊

Integrated Environmental Science students Lauren Albury, Mario Watson and Cameron Eskew

Sad news to report

It is with sad hearts that we report the conjoined twins passed away yesterday after 15 day alive. Sadly it appears the smaller twin passed away in the evening and was followed by the larger twin. Dr. Krejci is planning a detailed necropsy, or animal version of an autopsy, to understand more about their internal anatomy and why they may have died. We will share those results when they are ready.

Conjoined twins from day three (left) and day seven (right)

While this is disappointing news, their presence at Bethune-Cookman was a source of inspiration, wonder and discovery for our students and faculty.

Dr. Krejci (far left) and junior Integrated Environmental Science Researchers (from left to right): Cameron Eskew, Lauren Albury, and Mario Watson

The presence of conjoined seahorse twins is a very rare occurrence. Even in previous reported cases, none made it past their first day of life. We are blessed to have had this opportunity to study these seahorses for as long as we could. Everyday they survived was a cause for celebration and we are grateful for everyone that took interest in them.

Our seahorse and coastal ecology research at B-CU will continue to be chronicled online as our students conduct research that contributes to aquaculture and Florida conservation efforts.

Weekend check in

Our conjoined twins are 12 days old, there were 10 more babies born today and 6 yesterday. The corals are growing and healthy!

A quick view of the lab
Conjoined twins day 12

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