MarineLab Research PartnersMarineLab students now have the opportunity to participate in actual scientific research as part of their MarineLab program. Sarah Egner is our Director of Research and Program Development, and is busy contacting other researchers and universities to see how MarineLab's staff and students can help them. MarineLab instructors spend a lot of time in the field and observe the same sites over the course of years. Most reseachers cannot afford to pay field scientists to spend that much time in the field as our instructors do. We decided to actively seek out organizations that can use data collected over long periods. MarineLab is very pleased to join these organizations as partners and data providers. Our activities enhance our students' participation and understanding of current research going on about the seagrass, mangrove, and coral reef ecosystems of the Florida Keys. To see our most recent activities, check out our blog!
WATER QUALITY MONITORING
Global Learning & Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) is a worldwide, hands-on science & education program. Water quality data collected by MarineLab students is now uploaded to the GLOBE international database, to be used by scientists, teachers, and other students around the world.
SOUTHEAST ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH CENTER (FIU) WATER QUALITY MONITORING NETWORK For the past three years or so, MarineLab has had a sonde on loan from the SERC and has been collecting water quality data for Florida International University. Student data is also included when it is collected.
Seagrass Watch is a global, scientific, non destructive seagrass monitoring and assessment initiative. MarineLab is now an official observer with Seawatch and will be using their protocols and data sheets.
Reef Check Foundation is an international organization dedicated to the conservation of two ecosystems: tropical coral reefs and California rocky reefs. MarineLab uses the organization's ReefCheck protocol in its Advanced SCUBA and Teacher Workshop programs, providing Reef Check EcoDiver certification to these students and teachers.
is a volunteer monitoring and observation program operated by Mote Marine Lab in conjunction with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. MarineLab students are briefed on what to look for, and any bleaching events are reported to the Bleach Watch network.
MRDF joined the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network in 2012. Under the direction of Director Sarah Egner, staff members conduct bimonthly tows and plankton identification in the water off Key Largo. Thanks to funds from the Protect Our Reefs grant program, a lab has been developed to include students in these phytoplankton tows, educating them about the dangers of harmful algae blooms and showing them how citizen scientists can help government agencies predict where these blooms might occur.
Recently, MRDF has partnered with PMN in creating a study looking at the implications of Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP) at artificial reefs versus natural reefs. The dinoflagellates responsible for CFP are benthic or epiphytic in nature. Previous studies have shown an increase in the densities of these toxin-producing species after coral bleaching events or other damage to coral reefs allowing new habitats to colonize. This is of concern due to the increased frequency of coral bleaching events as well as the overall degradation of many of the worlds’ reefs. One of the increasingly more frequent means to try and combat the loss of reef habitat is through the promotion of artificial reefs. MRDF biologists will be deploying small fixed collection nets in healthy, impaired, and artificial reefs off of Key Largo. Samples will be collected once a month by MRDF (and students when possible) which will then be sent to PMN for analysis. In this way, we will quantify the accumulation of the toxigenic plankton and elucidate whether CFP is of increased concern in artificial reef environments.
Dr Deron Burkepile’s lab of Florida International University has been researching the effects of herbivorous fish on the Florida Keys coral reefs. Visiting students to MarineLab can be trained to assist in this study and collect some parrotfish feeding data. While snorkeling, students will locate one of four species of parrotfish. After fish have been given three minutes to acclimate to the presence of the observer, students will start their stopwatches and begin recording the number of bites taken by the focal fish on six different substrates (algal turf/crustose coralline algae, live coral, macroalgae, seagrass, sponge, sand) on a data sheet below. All usable data will be submitted to Dr. Burkepile’s lab.
Great Annual Fish Count is an annual event sponsored by the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF). Held in July, it affords MarineLab students the opportunity to participate in a global fish count and to have their data included in the results.