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St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center

Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST)

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USGS Research Marine Biologist to participate in 38th U.S. Coral Reef Task Force meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

From August 7–11, Ilsa Kuffner (Research Marine Biologist, SPCMSC) will represent the Coastal and Marine Geology Program (CMGP) at a meeting of the United States Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF), which was established in 1998 by Presidential Executive Order to lead U.S. efforts to preserve and protect coral reef ecosystems. The USCRTF includes leaders of 12 Federal agencies, seven U.S. States, Territories, Commonwealths, and three Freely Associated States working together to build partnerships and strategies in support of on-the-ground action to conserve coral reefs. The theme for the 38th USCRTF meeting is "healthy reefs for a healthy economy." Kuffner will attend the weeklong meeting to promote USGS science results and lend her scientific expertise as a member of the USCRTF Climate Change Working Group. Kuffner's participation in the meeting will increase visibility of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST) project and strengthened coordination and collaboration with partner agencies and jurisdictional governments.

posted: 2017-07-20

CMGP Marine Biologist tapped for scientific advice on restoring Caribbean coral reefs

USGS Research Marine Biologist Ilsa Kuffner is serving on the inaugural steering committee of the Coral Restoration Consortium (CRC), the formation of which is being announced to the scientific community this week. The development of a consortium emerged as a priority recommendation from the November 2016 "Workshop to Advance the Science and Practice of Caribbean Coral Restoration." The CRC is a community of practice that comprises scientists, managers, coral restoration practitioners, and educators dedicated to enabling coral reef ecosystems to adapt and survive the 21st century and beyond. The CRC's mission is to foster collaboration and technology transfer among participants, and to facilitate scientific and practical ingenuity to demonstrate that restoration can achieve meaningful results at scales relevant to reefs in their roles of protecting coastlines, supporting fisheries, and serving as economic engines for coastal communities. Kuffner will serve on the CRC steering committee for a three-year term.

posted: 2017-07-13

USGS Research Scientist quoted in Inside Climate News regarding prognosis of reef recovery following coral bleaching

USGS Research Marine Biologist Ilsa Kuffner (SPCMSC) was quoted in a June 21, 2017 article of Inside Climate News. The author of the article asked Kuffner to comment on a NOAA press release out this week regarding the winding down of the 3rd global coral bleaching event and the prognosis for recovery of coral reef ecosystems. Kuffner explained that, while temperatures have abated and some coral populations have survived the bleaching, many corals are now succumbing to disease outbreaks, including in the Florida Keys. Several coral species are trending quickly toward local extinction, forcing decisions and immediate management actions to preserve the remaining genetic diversity.

posted: 2017-06-22

USGS scientists continue investigations into the history of coral reef development in Dry Tortugas National Park

Dr. Lauren Toth (Research Oceanographer, SPMSC) will be leading a 10-day reef-coring expedition to collect data on the Holocene history of reef development in Dry Tortugas National Park. USGS researchers have been studying the geology and ecology of coral reefs in Dry Tortugas National Park since the late 1960s, but there are important unanswered questions about the history of reef development in this region. In particular, it is unknown why elkhorn coral, which was historically dominant throughout the western Atlantic, was absent in the fossil record of the Dry Tortugas. Recently, however, SPCMSC CREST scientists Ilsa Kuffner (Research Marine Biologist) and Anastasios Stathakopoulos (Oceanographer) discovered extensive deposits of sub-fossil elkhorn on Pulaski Bank in the northeast part of the park. In mid-June, Toth and her team from SPMSC—Anastasios Stathakopoulos (Oceanographer), BJ Reynolds (Oceanographer & Dive Safety Officer), and Hunter Wilcox (Research Technician, CNT) will collect reef cores and additional samples of sub-fossil elkhorn from Pulaski Bank to better understand the history of elkhorn populations and their role in reef development in the region. The team will also be joined by Christina Kellogg (Research Microbiologist, SPCMC) who will be studying the meta-genome of coral reefs in the park.

posted: 2017-05-25

USGS Researchers study the balance between reef growth and erosion on a Florida Keys reef

Dr. Lauren Toth (Research Oceanographer, SPCMSC) is leading a research expedition to the Florida Keys to assess the balance between reef growth and erosion at Hen & Chickens Reef. This research will follow up on a previous study by Toth, Ilsa Kuffner (Research Marine Biologist, SPMSC), and Harold Hudson (retired NOAA-FKNMS) that measured rates of bioerosion at Hen & Chickens using an experiment set up by Hudson nearly two decades ago. Toth and her team—Hunter Wilcox (CNT contractor at SPMSC), Elizabeth Whitcher (M.S. candidate at Florida Institute of Technology), and Robert Fidler (Ph.D. candidate at Florida Institute of Technology)—aim to develop a more complete picture of the balance between reef growth and erosion at this site by developing a survey-based carbonate budget. This CREST research project will provide important new insights into the drivers of reef erosion in the Florida Keys.

posted: 2017-04-27

NSF-GRIP fellow to visit USGS SPCMSC for research on coral reefs

University of Hawai?i Ph.D. candidate, Elizabeth (Beth) Lenz, will arrive in April to work with Ilsa Kuffner (USGS Research Marine Biologist) on the Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST) project. Beth received a Graduate Research Internship Program (GRIP) award to complete the study "Adding Coral Physiology and Genetic Metrics to USGS Calcification Monitoring on Florida Keys Reefs." The GRIP program is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide opportunities for NSF Graduate Fellows to enhance their professional development by engaging in mission related research experiences with partner agencies across the federal government. Beth will be visiting SPCMSC for one month this spring, during which she will join Kuffner's field expedition to the Florida Keys, and again for several months next fall to process her samples in the laboratory. Beth's work will expand the understanding of reef resilience at the reef sites where USGS conducts calcification monitoring by incorporating novel, additional data on the reproductive status and symbionts of the coral colonies being monitored. Her data will allow USGS to test the hypothesis that seawater temperature, bleaching history, and/or symbiont type affect coral fecundity and growth rate.

posted: 2017-04-06

USGS Research Scientist quoted in Inside Climate News regarding coral bleaching

USGS Research Marine Biologist Ilsa Kuffner (SPCMSC) was quoted in a March 15, 2017 article of Inside Climate News. The author of the new article asked Kuffner to comment upon the results of a study published in Nature this week about the connection between ocean-heat stress and coral bleaching on the Australian Great Barrier Reef. The new study found that 2016 coral bleaching intensity was almost entirely explained by the amount heat-stress and not by reef-management status, water quality, or bleaching history. Kuffner explained that the study provides further evidence that the primary agents of coral mortality, mainly bleaching and coral disease, do not have to be the same as those preventing reef recovery. It is to the process of reef recovery that secondary stressors—like poor water quality and overfishing—are important.

posted: 2017-03-16

Local-scale ecosystem resilience amid global-scale ocean change: the coral reef exampleUSGS Powell Center coral reef working group to meet for 2nd workshop in Ft. Collins, Colorado, March 20–24, 2017

USGS Research Marine Biologist Ilsa Kuffner (SPCMSC), Research Ecologist Caroline Rogers (Caribbean Field Station), Research Oceanographer Lauren Toth (SPCMSC), and eleven other colleagues from around the world will meet to discuss and analyze existing datasets on coral reef status in concert with remotely sensed physical oceanographic data at the John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis. The working group’s goal is to uncover the geographic, biological, ecological, and physical features that characterize coral reef “oases” which have maintained populations of corals against a background of reef ecosystem degradation. For this second and final meeting of the working group, members will finish one manuscript and conduct analyses for a second that will assess the physical, biological, and oceanographic settings where areas qualifying as “reef oases” presently exist.

posted: 2017-03-16

Growing the right coral for the job: Fine tuning coral nursery techniques for coral-reef restoration

USGS Research Marine Biologist Ilsa Kuffner, Research Oceanographer Lauren Toth, Oceanographer Anastasios Stathakopoulos, and colleagues from NOAA and Mote Marine Tropical Laboratory published a research article in the journal Coral Reefs entitled "Plasticity in skeletal characteristics of nursery-raised staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis." The Staghorn Coral is a threatened species and is the primary focus of reef restoration activities throughout Florida and the Caribbean. This study provides valuable new data demonstrating that the two most common rearing techniques used in offshore coral nurseries produce colonies with different skeletal characteristics. The results also indicate that variability in coral-calcification performance is genetically based. These results will be of great interest to coral restoration practitioners, reef conservationists, governmental resource managers, and other scientists in the field of coral reef research and restoration.

posted: 2017-03-08

Scientists used a core from this Massive Starlet (Siderastrea siderea) coral colony in Dry Tortugas National Park to reconstruct ocean temperatures going back to 1837. Photo: USGSUSGS Press Release: Florida Corals Tell of Cold Spells and Dust Bowls Past, Foretell Weather to Come

Scientists seeking an oceanic counterpart to the tree rings that document past weather patterns on land have found one in the subtropical waters of Dry Tortugas National Park near the Florida Keys, where long-lived boulder corals contain the chemical signals of past water temperatures. By analyzing coral samples, USGS researchers and their colleagues have found evidence that an important 60- to 85-year-long cycle of ocean warming and cooling has been taking place in the region as far back as the 1730s. Read the entire Press Release.

posted: 2017-01-26

Using corals as archives of past sea-surface temperatures

Corals provide a useful archive of ocean conditions because they live for centuries and record environmental variability in their calcium carbonate skeletons. On Monday, Jan. 1, USGS Research Marine Biologist Ilsa Kuffner and Research Geologist Julie Richey published a research article in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems entitled “Fidelity of the Sr/Ca proxy in recording ocean temperature in the western Atlantic coral Siderastrea siderea”. This work advances the application of the skeletal strontium-to-calcium ratio as a temperature proxy by providing new quality control protocols, thereby strengthening inferences about past climate variability reconstructed using coral records. This research was funded by and represents synergy between two USGS mission areas (Hazards, and Climate and Land Use Change).

posted: 2017-01-04

USGS Scientist Delivers Invited Talk at Workshop to Inform Coral Reef Restoration Practitioners

Ilsa B. Kuffner (Research Marine Biologist, SPCMSC) was invited to give a talk at the 'Workshop to Advance the Science and Practice of Coral Restoration,' at Nova Southeastern University, Dania Beach, Florida, November 15–17, 2016. The workshop's agenda includes sessions focused on both the science and practical nature of coral-reef restoration, and promotes cutting-edge science with a focus on turning science into actionable restoration practices. The primary theme of the workshop is scaling up restoration to provide for meaningful coral reef ecosystem recovery. Kuffner will be speaking during the session on 'New Approaches to Assist in Site Selection and Design' and will be presenting data and science results from the USGS Calcification Monitoring Network.

posted: 2016-10-27

Graphic showing synchronized fieldwork research activitiesUSGS Multidisciplinary Field Effort at Dry Tortugas National Park

From September 26 to October 7, SPCMSC researchers Christina Kellogg and Kim Yates, assisted by Nathan Smiley, Sara Snader, and volunteer Mitch Lemon, will be engaged in integrated data and sample collection at Dry Tortugas National Park, approximately 70 miles west of Key West, as part of the Coastal and Marine Geology Program's Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST) project. Reefs are complex ecosystems where environmental and biological factors are constantly affecting each other, creating a heterogeneous and ever-changing landscape on both spatial and temporal scales. This effort will combine water sampling for carbonate chemistry and reef metagenome analyses. Understanding the processes that underlie whether the reef is accreting (growing) or dissolving are fundamental to questions of reef health and resiliency.

posted: 2016-09-21

USGS Powell coral reef working group to meet next week in Ft. Collins, Colorado, July 18-22, 2016

The USGS John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis working group investigating 'Local-scale ecosystem resilience amid global-scale ocean change: the coral reef example,' which includes Principal Investigators Ilsa Kuffner (SPCMSC), Peter Edmunds (California State University Northridge), and Ruth Gates (University of Hawaii); along with Lauren Toth (SPCMSC), Caroline Rogers (USGS Caribbean Field Station), and twelve experts from around the globe will meet July 18–22 in Ft. Collins, Colorado. The working group's goal is to uncover the geographic, biological, ecological, and physical features that characterize coral reef "oases" which seem to be doing better than others at the moment, and to evaluate the potential of these oases to catalyze broader-scale ecosystem recovery. This will be the first of two meetings, with projected products to be two high-impact journal articles.

posted: 2016-07-14

USGS Research Marine Biologist attends NSF-sponsored workshop on coral bleaching coinciding with 13th ICRS in Hawaii

Ilsa Kuffner (Research Marine Biologist, SPCMSC) will be attending a NSF-sponsored workshop on coral bleaching as an invited participant just prior to the International Coral Reef Symposium in Oahu, Hawaii. The purpose of the workshop is to convene a group of U.S. researchers to discuss current research and to deliver a white paper to NSF summarizing the most pressing research issues on the topic of coral bleaching. The researchers are also tasked with providing guidance on prioritization of research topics for the next five to ten years.

posted: 2016-06-09

USGS Research Marine Biologist quoted in Inside Climate News

Ilsa Kuffner (Research Marine Biologist, SPCMSC) is quoted in the June 8, 2016, Inside Climate News article, 'As Coral Bleaching Goes Global, Scientists Fear Worst Is Yet to Come.' The article describes the longest and most widespread coral bleaching event on record. According to the latest report from NOAA's Coral Reef Watch and other research, bleaching worldwide has reached reefs near at least 38 countries and island groups. Corals in the areas continuing to be affected by El Niño, including corals near Florida and in the Caribbean, will likely be hit hard again this summer.

posted: 2016-06-09

Photograph of the authors holding Acropora cervicornis dating to several centuries ago from Crocker Reef, Florida, and a typical specimen from today's reefs in the western AtlanticMarine Biologist and Geologist publish review article on the degradation and conservation of western Atlantic coral reefs

Ilsa Kuffner (Research Marine Biologist) and Lauren Toth (Mendenhall Fellow) of the St. Petersburg Coastal & Marine Science Center (SPCMSC) published a review article entitled "A geological perspective on the degradation and conservation of western Atlantic coral reefs" in the resource-management focused journal, Conservation Biology. The article highlights the importance of geologic processes and geomorphologic structure of reefs in providing ecosystem services such as coastline protection and habitat for fisheries. The authors provide justification for adding direct measurement of biophysical processes to ecologically focused monitoring programs to achieve a more effective and balanced approach to managing coral reefs. The publication is available open-access through the journal's website: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12725/abstract

posted: 2016-05-17

The living surface of a Quaternary coral reef in Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida Keys, USA. Photo by Ilsa B. Kuffner.USGS scientists publish new record of a now-extinct coral species from the fossil record of the Dry Tortugas National Park

St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center (SPCMSC) researchers Lauren Toth (Mendenhall Postdoctoral Fellow) and Ilsa Kuffner (Research Marine Biologist) have just published a paper documenting what could have been one of the last records of a once-dominant Caribbean coral species that suddenly went extinct during the late-Pleistocene. The coral, Pocillopora palmata, was preserved in a reef core collected in Dry Tortugas National Park as part of a USGS-led expedition in 1976, and housed in the SPCMSC core archive since then. Toth identified the coral while collecting new data from the archive as part of her research with the Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies project. The coral's occurrence in the Dry Tortugas significantly expands its known range and may help scientists better understand the controls on species extinction in the past and in the future. The article was published in the December issue of PALAIOS, and the cover features a photograph taken by Kuffner.

posted: 2016-01-06

The Coral Reef Example project slide on the John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis websiteUSGS Research Marine Biologist gives invited talk at California State University, Northridge

Ilsa Kuffner (Research Marine Biologist, SPCMSC) gave a talk entitled "Rise and Demise of Western Atlantic Coral Reefs" at the CSUN Biology Department on December 7, 2015. Kuffner also met with CSUN professor Peter Edmunds and Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology Director Dr. Ruth Gates to discuss a new Working Group at the John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis, whose focus is "Local-scale Ecosystem Resilience Amid Global-scale Ocean Change: The Coral Reef Example." This Working Group will gather 16 experts from around the globe to examine the geographic, biological, ecological, and physical features that characterize 'oases' in coral reef communities, and to evaluate the potential of these oases to catalyze broader-scale ecosystem recovery. The first meeting of the working group will take place in July of 2016.

posted: 2015-12-16

Coral bleaching on Hen and Chickens ReefCoral reef scientist participates in 34th U.S. Coral Reef Task Force meeting in Fajardo, Puerto Rico

From October 26–30, Ilsa Kuffner (Research Marine Biologist, SPCMSC) represented CMGP at a meeting of the the United States Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF), which was established in 1998 by Presidential Executive Order to lead U.S. efforts to preserve and protect coral reef ecosystems. The USCRTF includes leaders of 12 Federal agencies, seven U.S. States, Territories, Commonwealths, and three Freely Associated States. The USCRTF helps build partnerships and strategies in support of on-the-ground action to conserve coral reefs. Kuffner is the USGS representative on the steering committee of the USCRTF responsible for attending the Atlantic Ocean jurisdictional meetings of the task force, and also serves as a member of the USCRTF Climate Change Working Group. Kuffner's participation in the task force meeting increased visibility of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST) project and strengthened coordination and collaboration with partner agencies and jurisdictional governments.

posted: 2015-11-05

Photo of a 10-foot tall colony of Orbicella faveolata, one of the species that has been hard hit by bleaching and disease over recent decadesCoral Reef Scientists to collaborate on coral-reef erosion study

From October 11–15, a multi-agency team led by Ilsa Kuffner (SPCMSC-Research Marine Biologist) will be meeting at a long-studied reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) to complete an experiment that began in 1998. Along with Kuffner, Harold Hudson (retired NOAA-FKNMS), Bill Goodwin (NOAA-FKNMS), and Lauren Toth (SPCMS- Mendenhall Postdoctoral Fellow) will attempt to locate 29 markers that were installed by Hudson and Goodwin in the reef structure nearly 20 years ago. They will make measurements to see how fast the reef is being eroded by natural, destructive processes of fish grazing, mechanical and chemical dissolution by sponges, and the activities of other biological agents of erosion. Data gathered during the expedition will allow a quantitative assessment of the rate of decrease in reef elevation (height above the seafloor). Scientists and managers are concerned that the rates of reef loss may be increasing due to ocean acidification (declining ocean pH due to absorption of atmospheric CO2) and eutrophication (nutrients added to the ocean by man), resulting in a cascade of ecological impacts like loss of habitat for economically important fisheries and loss of reef functioning as natural breakwaters against waves and storms. This information will help DOI, State, and U.S. Territory agencies charged with stewardship of coral reef ecosystems to better manage for reef resilience under future ocean change. Together on this project, USGS and NOAA are providing the science to put the recent changes observed on coral reefs into a geologic context to assist in making sound management decisions.

posted: 2015-10-08


Photos showing coral reef degradation over timeUSGS Coral reef scientist presenting research summary to Senior Ocean Policy Team, Main Interior Building, on July 1

Ilsa Kuffner (USGS–Research Marine Biologist) will be giving a talk to the Department of Interior Senior Ocean Policy Team (SOPT). The SOPT coordinates and advises on the DOI's approach to implementing the National Ocean Policy. President Obama signed an Executive Order on July 19, 2010, adopting the final recommendations and establishing a National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes. Kuffner will highlight the work of USGS scientists working on coral reefs within our National Parks, NOAA Sanctuaries, and State and Territory waters. Coral reefs are ecosystems in crisis: they are degrading quickly from the effects of climate change, overfishing, and many other stressors. Kuffner will be representing the work of several scientists at St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center, including Kim Yates, David Zawada, Christina Kellogg, Julie Richey, and Lauren Toth.

posted: 2015-06-24

Graphic describing the synchronized field work on the reefscapeMultidisciplinary winter field effort at Crocker Reef, Florida Keys

From January 26–February 6, researchers from the USGS will be engaged in an integrated data and sample collection at Crocker Reef, Florida Keys, as part of the Coastal and Marine Geology Program's (CMGP) Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST) project. The seasonal study, begun last summer, is a major part of a year-long focus on Crocker Reef, combining expertise in three specific areas: geochemistry, geology, and metabolic processes. The effort will combine water sampling for carbonate chemistry, reef metagenome analyses, and will also include servicing temperature loggers and current meters. Principal investigators are Christina Kellogg, Kim Yates and David Zawada; assisting are Chris Moore, Nathan Smiley, and Legna Torres-Garcia. University of Tampa professor Rob Masserini is collaborating on nutrient profiles and will also be sending a student on the trip.

Reference: http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/crest/research-themes/reefscape.html.

posted: 2015-01-29

Islamorada in the Florida KeysIslamorada, Florida fieldwork continues for supporting Coral Reef Project

USGS Dave Zawada and Kim Yates have sent a 4-person team (Nate Smiley, Legna Torres-Garcia, Anesti Stathakopoulos, and Chris Moore) to Islamorada in the Florida Keys from 12/7 to 12/12, as part of their ongoing work on Crocker Reef for the Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST) project. The team will be performing regular maintenance and downloading data from the Ocean Carbon System (OCS). They will also be deploying 4 Acoustic-Doppler Current Profilers (ADCPs). The ADCP data will be used to model water transport on the reef.

posted: 2014-12-11

Photo showing coral bleaching on reefUSGS Press Release on ocean-temperature study generates news coverage

On September 9, the USGS Newsroom posted a release about "Ocean Warming Affecting Florida Reefs." The release describes the findings of a study by Ilsa Kuffner, marine biologist from the USGS, on how ocean temperatures have changed since the late 1800s at two historic lighthouses on the Florida Keys outer-reef tract. The research was recently published in Estuaries and Coasts, "A century of ocean warming on Florida Keys coral reefs: Historic in-situ observations." The story was picked up by ClimateWire and aired on the news reel on radio station WLRN in Miami on September 12.

posted: 09/18/2014


coralMillennial-scale history of corals in Florida Keys Reef Tract

In June, 2014, Lauren Toth joined USGS-St. Petersburg as a Mendenhall Post-Graduate Fellow. Lauren will be working with coral ecologist Ilsa Kuffner on the CREST project (Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies) looking at corals from the USGS-St. Petersburg drill core collection. She will be analyzing the rates of reef accretion to understand why some reefs had slower rates of growth over the last 4000 years. Lauren will be utilizing the ICP-OES (Inductively Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectrometer) to look at geochemistry of the corals in the drill core sections to understand not only changes in reef development, but also changes in the environment of the reefs through time.

posted: 2014-07-17

Monitoring underwater sampling equipment in the Florida KeysMultidisciplinary field effort at Crocker Reef, Florida Keys

From July 7–17, researchers from the USGS will be engaged in integrated data and sample collection at Crocker Reef in the Florida Keys as part of the Coastal and Marine Geology Program's Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST) project. Reefs are complex ecosystems where environmental and biological factors are constantly affecting each other, creating a heterogeneous and ever-changing landscape on both spatial and temporal scales. We are combining expertise in three specific areas (geochemistry, geology, and metabolic processes) to better characterize the processes that affect carbonate precipitation and dissolution. This effort will combine sediment sampling for mineralogy with water sampling for carbonate chemistry and reef metagenome analyses. This summer sampling trip will be followed by another collection trip in December/January to capture seasonal variation. Understanding the processes that underlie whether the reef is accreting (growing) or dissolving is fundamental to questions of reef health and resiliency. Principal investigators are Christina Kellogg (metagenomes), Kim Yates (carbonate chemistry) and David Zawada (sediments). Assisting on this field trip are Chris Moore, Nathan Smiley, and Molly McLaughlin.

Reference: http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/crest/research-themes/reefscape.html

posted: 07/02/2014

Photo showing a calcification stationCREST team continues calcification monitoring efforts in Florida Keys

From 4/28–5/9, a team led by Ilsa Kuffner (USGS-Research Ecologist) will be visiting the USGS calcification monitoring network stations at Biscayne National Park (NP), Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (Sombrero Sanctuary Preservation Area (SPA) and Crocker Reef), and Dry Tortugas NP, as a continuation of the semi-annual monitoring effort for the Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST) project. Additional field staff from the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center include Jennifer Morrison and BJ Reynolds.

posted: 04/23/2014

Image showing the CREST website Home pageOceanographer leads Continuing Fieldwork for Coral Reef Ecosystems Studies (CREST) Project

From March 11–18, USGS Oceanographer Dave Zawada will be leading a research team to Crocker Reef off Islamorada in the Florida Keys, the CREST-II study site. The team of 3 will be downloading six months of temperature and irradiance data from an array of instrumented-moorings, as well as changing batteries and performing necessary maintenance. CREST stands for the Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies project and involves a blend of process and monitoring activities relevant to understanding the health and resilience of shallow water reef environments.

For an overview of the CREST project, visit: http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/crest/

posted: 02/20/2014

Coral Disease Study Results Published in PLOS ONE

Our microarray study comparing the bacterial communities between healthy and white plague-like diseased corals in the Virgin Islands and Dry Tortugas has been published in the open access journal PLOS ONE. There were no apparent biogeographic differences between the diseases at the two locations (all diseased samples clustered together). Several Gram-positive groups were enriched in healthy samples (Actinobacteria and Firmicutes) and diseased samples (Corynebacteriaceae, Lachnospriaceae, and Streptococcaceae). Much previous coral disease work has used clone libraries or culturing, both of which seem to be methodologically biased toward recovery of Gram-negative bacteria, so the importance of these Gram-positive groups has been largely overlooked.

Read the article: Comparing Bacterial Community Composition between Healthy and White Plague-Like Disease States in Orbicella annularis Using PhyloChip™ G3 Microarrays.

posted 11/22/2013


New Approach to Measuring Coral Growth Offers Valuable Tool for Reef Managers

Photo of SCUBA diver working on a clacification station at Fowey Rocks, Biscayne National Park, Florida: Photo credit: Carlie Williams (USGS).

A new more sensitive weight-based approach for monitoring coral growth in the wild has been developed by U.S. Geological Survey researchers leading to more definitive answers about the status of coral reefs.

Using the weight-based approach, scientists discovered that colonies of the Massive Starlet coral calcified about 50 percent faster in the remote Dry Tortugas National Park compared to three sites along the rest of the island chain from Miami to Marathon, Fla. The reasons behind this surprising pattern are not clear, leaving a mystery sure to pique the interest of many reef managers.

To learn more about the new more sensitive weight-based approach for monitoring coral growth, read the USGS press release.

posted 07/10/2013


Study Offers First Look at Green Sea Turtle Habitat Use in the Dry Tortugas National Park

A Green sea turtle fitted with a USGS satellite tag on Loggerhead Key, Dry Tortugas National Park, Fl, USGS. Note: All marine turtle images taken in Florida were obtained with the approval of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Marine Turtle Permit 176 issued to K.M. Hart, USGS, under conditions not harmful to this or other turtles.

USGS science is helping NOAA and the National Park Service enhance management strategies to protect sea turtles. A new study confirms that green sea turtles are spending much of their time in protected sites within both Dry Tortugas National Park and the surrounding areas of the Florida Keys Marine National Sanctuary. The USGS study is the first to track the federally protected turtles in Dry Tortugas National Park.

Read the USGS press release.

posted 04/29/2013

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