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.

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Research Buffet

Ok, so it is half way through the summer already and I have yet to post anything. I’ve been SUPER busy. Unfortunately, field work in the USVI didn’t happen because of permitting issues. Permit requirements are great for protecting the corals on the reef, but also a huge pain to work around when trying to do science on endangered species (most coral species). I arrived in Sarasota on June 14th, a whole two weeks earlier than I had originally planned. Since then, I have re-organized the data for my project (scoured through 4 different external hard drives for all of the files I needed), identified colonies of my species of interest and diseased colonies in 10 new sites (looked at pictures of coral until my eyes bled ),  merged the rows into sites (completed coral jigsaw puzzles), and helped with all of the other intern’s projects (took breaks from staring at my computer screen). My research can be extremely tedious and mind-numbing at times, BUT I love how it combines into a big picture conclusion in the end. And don’t let me fool you, I actually like working through all the computer work, but If I tell everybody that I like looking at thousands of pictures of coral, then they might start to think I’m crazy.

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