Black Band Disease Project in the Florida Keys

This week, I have been extremely lucky to be included in a project run by Dr. Erinn Muller at Mote’s Tropical Research Lab on Summerland Key. Dr. Muller is looking at the effects of pH and temperature on the spread of Black Band disease on three species of corals. Coral reefs have the highest diversity of all marine ecosystems, but they have deteriorated rapidly in the past few decades. Coral reefs have undergone significant declines with changes in their composition, structure, and function. These alterations are attributable to one or more natural or anthropogenic factors. The emergence of diseases and bleaching emphasize the need for rigorous assessments to understand their causes and ecological impacts on coral reefs. This project is specifically looking at Black Band disease, pictured below.

Black Band Disease on Diploria strigosa

Black Band Disease on Diploria strigosa

My work this week consisted of helping set up the water table and tank system where the corals will live (die), building manifolds that can send water to the separate tanks, putting disease into cups, infecting coral, taking water quality measurements like pH and dissolved Oxygen, and doing some microbiology lab work.

Cups of black band disease. The disease was suctioned up from diseased corals out on the reef.

Cups of black band disease. The disease was suctioned up from diseased corals out on the reef.

Newly infected corals. The corals were scraped with a razor blade and the disease was added into the cut.

Newly infected corals. The corals were scraped with a razor blade and the disease was added into the cut.

System for delivering low and high pH water to tanks

System for delivering low and high pH water to tanks

I also was able to spend some time diving in Mote’s coral nursery. I helped re-attach fragments of staghorn coral to “coral trees.” The coral nursery really is just like an underwater garden, it was very zen. I spent almost 6 hours underwater that day.

 

Coral Tree, where staghorn coral fragments grow in an underwater nursery, photo by Matt Wittenrich.

Coral Tree, where staghorn coral fragments grow in an underwater nursery, photo by Matt Wittenrich.

 

 

Comments

  1. amansaray says:

    This is very cool. I have read and learned extensively about the loss of coral reefs and I am sure you have too. It must be very exciting to see and use what you have learned in the past in your current research. Your research sounds hand on, and it sounds like it is going great. Keep up the good work.

  2. Christopher Godschalk says:

    That is really interesting research and very important, as well. How much does the low/high pH water affect the spread of black band disease in coral?