Friday, August 14, 2009

Night 6... Shockingly Spawntastic!

This update is somewhat delayed because we have been very busy raising lots of larvae!
We went out on again on night 6 (after the full moon) to Elbow Reef and Sand Island (with help from Evan D'allesandro of Univ Miami) and got a spawn from nearly every clone within our monitoring plots at Elbow and a few outside the plots. In all 7 to 8 different genets released anywhere from a small dribble to massive amounts of gametes.
The Sand Island group reported a vigorous spawn, much more than we have seen in the past. They were able to collect from 3 different colonies that were likely different genets (though we are not sure). Night 6 after the full moon is typically the first night that we begin to look for Montastraea faveolata spawn so after collecting bundles we hung around to have a look at Montastraea and the Elbow group did not see any bundles but the Sand Island team did.

SCUBAnauts - 8/10/09

Hi it's Marcos again. Today we quickly ate breakfast with the hopes of getting out early to dive The Eagle. Unfortunately when we got there the dive was called because the current was way to strong. Instead we headed over to Crocker Reef, where we did an amazing 70 foot dive. Many of us got to see a sea turtle swim by. After that we decided to go to Davis' Ledge to snorkel. At night we decided that we should monitor the coral one last time, but this time, we headed over to a different location called Sand Island. At night the Acropora palmata spawned for us a third night in a row, and we were there to collect the gametes. We were speechless at the fact that we had seen the coral spawn even once, but three times was unbelievable. There was only Acropora palmata at this site, and it spawned at about 10:40 PM.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Night 5 Better!

We were watching palmata at Elbow and Sand Island (with help from the SCUBAnauts!) tonight and got some dribbles from Sand Island once again but did a bit better at Elbow Reef. The same clone that has spawned the past few nights spawned big tonight! 3 different genets on the other spur spawned tonight but in lesser amounts. One large colony gave us a decent volume and we got a bit from the other 2 (forgive the vague measurements!). Given that this spur has lagged a bit and seems to be just getting started we are hoping to try to go out again tomorrow night. Traditionally we only watch them from nights 2-5 after the August full moon but can't help but wonder what will happen on night 6 this year!

SCUBAnauts - 8/9/09

Hey it's Marcos once again from the SCUBAnauts. Today we did two morning dives at Aquarius, a one-of-a-kind underwater marine lab. Our first dive we hit around 60 feet, and our second dive we stayed at about 50 feet. There were some of the biggest fish in all of the Keys swimming around and underneath Aquarius, including two huge Tarpon, and three large Goliath Groupers. We received a call from NOAA earlier in the day saying that the coral might spawn again tonight, so we gathered a group of 11 kids to do more night dives. The current at our site was less then the nights before, and the visibility was pretty good, so the dives were very enjoyable. The coral ended up spawning again at around 10:30. We collected the gametes, and had them transfered to a neaby NOAA boat.

SCUBAnauts - 8/8/09

Hey it's Marcos again from the SCUBAnauts. Today we got up around 10:00 AM a little tired but pumped from last nights dives. We did two recreational dives in the morning, the first at The Benwood, and the second at Snapper's Ledge. The Benwood was an amazing dive, with great visibility, and amazing wildlife. Snapper's Ledge was great too, but the current was killer. At night each group did two dives again in rotation, and the coral started spawning during my second dive. The two species we were monitoring, Acropora palmata, and Acropora cervicornis, both spawned at approximately the same time (~10:40), releasing their gametes into collection nets we had placed above the coral to collect them. The dive left us amazed and wanting for more.

SCUBAnauts - 8/7/09

Hey, my name is Marcos, I'm 18 years old, I just graduated from high school, and on my way to Notre Dame. Thanks to NOAA and FWC, the SCUBAnauts are monitoring the coral spawning in the Keys. We arrived today in Key Largo, a little tired but ready to do science. We first did a checkout dive at Molasses Reef (mooring ball 11), the site that we are supposed to be monitoring, and although the dive was only 15 minutes, it gave us a chance to get a good feel for the reef. At night we split into two groups, each group going down for 30 minutes at a time in rotation. There was no spawning that night, but it was a good practice run.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Night 4 So so spawn

We were watching 3 sites again last (Sunday) night and as you can see from the SCUBAnauts post, there was some spawning at Molasses Reef again. Although it was a good volume, it was unfortunately all one clone. Sand Island only saw a few bundles. One clone (same one as Saturday night) spawned even more than last night at Elbow Reef but all the other clones kinda sat around twiddling their tentacles. Oddly enough the same tiny patch of tissue in the picture from last night's post had a few (but even fewer) bundles but that was it from the others. So for any hope of fertilization we had to high tail it home to meet up witht he gametes collected from Mollases. Talk about artificial insemination! Since Puerto Rico saw very little last night too, we are hoping that tonight will be 'the night' but we are getting tired of saying that!

No spawn at our Rincon PR last night but trying again tonight

Last year we got a massive spawn in Rincon three nights after the full moon of (Aug 19 to be exact) which we had not realy expected but luckily were ready for it. This was later in the calendar year than this year. Minor spawning observations have been reported this year by others in Curacao and Florida Keys (except for massive at Horseshoe Reef in Key Largo which does not surprise me because it always seemed to go off earlier than other reefs). Spawning in A palmata has been observed as late as 7 to 8 days after the full moon in previous years and as early as 2 days after the full moon (e.g. July 31 in 1996). Thus the later we get after the full moon the higher the probability there will be spawning, up to a point. A good number of years we have failed to observe spawning in A palmata in spite of our best efforts to be out there (e.g. 1994, 2000 and others). This may have been because beginning day 5 or 6 we used to switch our attention to Montastraea spawn which is more predicatbel, and the A palmata likely spawned later in the cycle those years, or maybe not at all. While some populations (like Horseshoe seem to be like Old Faithful, others seem flakey and maybe do not spawn every year. This is something that bears morfe attention.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Night 3 dribbles

We were only occupied 3 of our sites (Elbow, Molasses and Sand Island) last night and saw some activity at all 3. At Elbow, several ramets from one clone had small areas that produced bundles and one colony of a different clone had a very small patch of bundles.
Sand Island reported about the same. At Molasses, one palmata clone spawned farirly well and some cervicornis also spawned. They cervicornis colonies were outplanted by Ken Kedimyer so it is pretty exciting that they are out in the wild doing their thing!
We have had some uncooperative weather so far and the bundles that are released are getting washed out of the collectors so we end up with only a small portion of what is there. Hopefully the spawn will be so big tonight that we will get enough even with the surgey conditions we are expecting!
The Florida Aquarium and University of Florida team were out at Western Sambo Reef (south of Key West) last night (Aug. 7) and were watching colonies of both palmata and cervicornis. No activity.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Night 2 Going back in...

Empty handed! Night 2 after the full moon and no signs of any Acropora spawning at two of the four sites we were watching tonight. Horseshoe Reef had some spawn and Molasses had one Palmata and one Cervicornis go but that is it for tonight. Seas are supposed to be even rougher tomorrow night so we were really hoping to get what we needed tonight!
We often see some small dribbles on the first night before most of the activity so hopefully tomorrow will be the big night!!

BEAR Spawning and Sky watch 2009!

For those of you who do not know, our Miami research group is officially called the BEAR unit (Benthic Ecosystem Assessment and Research) and thanks to Abel Valdivia, we now have a logo!

We have 'finalized' our field plans and after many changes we have settled (no pun intended) on monitoring the following locations (click to bigify the map):

  1. Elbow Reef where we have observed and collected for the past 4(?) years and have detailed information on each colony's history and genotype.
  2. Sand Island where we have observed and collected for many many years. It has some colonies with known genotypes.
  3. We are also working with the SCUBAnauts who will be assisting us by monitoring both staghorn and elkhorn out at Molasses Reef. We have genotype identifications for most and the diversity is less but should the palmata spawn we hope to cross the gametes with those collected from sand Island. The staghorn that is there are restored colonies outplanted by Ken Nedimyer and we have no idea whether they are large enough or inclined to spawn but the SCUBAnauts (accompanied by our own Ben Mason) will be reporting back on any sightings.
  4. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary office will be sending a contingent out to try to collect some spawn from Horseshoe Reef that we are hoping to cross with our Elbow Collections if needed.
In sum we will have information on four sites that we will report here starting tonight!
Also, while sitting around on the boat I will be looking upward as it is that time of year for the Perseid Meteor Showers which can be quite a spectacular show! It will peak on August 12th but I hope to see some tonight too! FOr more info on them go here:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Welcome to Spawn 2009

As I was leaving my house this morning at 5:30, the full moon lit up the sky and I said a little prayer...Although I will not be witnessing this year's spawn in person, I am very hopeful that we will have a very successful event! I look forward to reading about all of your observations...