Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fingers Crossed!

Preston Perez, Incarnation Catholic 7th grade, Tampa, FL

Last night on August 6th, the TRUE Dive Team embarked on a mission to watch the staghorn coral spawn. We left the dock around 8 o'clock and motored out to the beautiful Molasses Reef on the wide and comfortable Orion (Florida Keys Dive Center). Some of the new Explorers stayed back, because they weren't used to the rolling waves on the reef and rock the boat like there's no tomorrow.

We entered the water at 9:00 pm, starting our first dive. We all picked out various sets of staghorn coral and started the observing, AKA staring. This staring went on for over an hour, and afterwards I felt like I had gone cross-eyed. We thought we may have noticed a little puffiness, but no definite indicators that the coral would spawn.  After an 11 minute surface interval we headed back into the water, with our fingers crossed once again. The staring repeated itself once again.  In the end, we monitored the coral until 11:15pm, and no spawning was observed. We heard from the other research groups in the upper keys and they turned up empty handed as well.  Even though we were a little discouraged we're really hoping that it will spawn tonight. It is a waiting game-wait on the coral, wait on the weather, wait and see.

Gale Porter,  TRUE Explorer, Junior Plant High School, Tampa, FL

Monday, August 6, 2012

Here's Hopin that Third Time's the Charm!

Hey-o all! We braved rough seas and looming storms to bring you.... still no spawn. Despite the lack of spawn, we saw a massive moray eel, several squid and the turtle and octopus from our first night made another appearance. I'm always pleasantly surprised and impressed by the younger explorers on these trips. The rough seas made a couple of people sea sick but they didn't complain and even got back in the water- #troopers. WIth the advantage of having a large charter boat and the storm hanging ominously in the distance  rather than right over head, we were able to "outlast" the other, smaller research vessels.
On the bright side we learned that the coral spawned Saturday night around 11pm in the CRF laboratory, later than expected. Mr. Stephens and myself both noticed the slightly puffy look last night we remember from years past when the corals prepare to set so there's great optimism that tonight will be the night. We're planning on changing it up by going into the water a bit later to sustain our air, so when the corals spawn tonight (and we really hope they do)- we have enough time to stay submerged for the duration of the spawning.

Andrea Lee Schmidt, incoming Freshman at FSU and diver extraordinaire

Sunday, August 5, 2012

To Spawn or not to Spawn?

Last night (8/4/12) TRUE went out to Molasses in order to collect staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) spawn from the once a year coral brodcast spawn. The staghorn on Molasses have been grown from fragments by The Coral Restoration Foundation, and transplanted onto the reef with the aid of an underwater apoxy.  Our first dive was at dusk and was intended so we could get to know the layout of the corals we would be monitoring.  Our dive leaders laid transect from near the anchor line to three coral sites, marked by strobes.  After the short 20 min dusk dive it was time to split into groups.

Six teams were created, A1 A2 A3 for the first shift and B1 B2 and B3 for the second shift.  The first teams dropped first for a 20 min dive, to be relieved by the second group of teams. While the first teams switched tanks, the second teams monitored the corals. While monitoring we needed to get as close to the corals as possible in order to observe if they were setting or not. Setting is the process which occurs immediately before spawning. Unfortunately, the spawn did not occur last night, and we came back empty handed, aside from some great encounters with a gigantic turtle, an octopus and squid. We will be back tonight to hopefully observe and collect the spawn!

Joseph Guerrera, East Lake High School Senior, Senior Explorer

TRUE Dive Team Monitors Acropora Coral Spawning!

On Saturday, August 4, 2012, the Teen Research Underwater Explorers left Tampa Bay, Florida to head to Key Largo for a coral spawning reserach expedition.  In collaboration with NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center, TRUE is monitoring Staghorn Coral, Acropora cervicornis, at Molasses Reef in Key Largo.  The corals were farm raised and transplanted to Molasses Reef by the Coral Restoration Foundation, Key Largo, Florida. Three years ago, the TRUE Dive Team monitored farm raised corals spawn on Molasses Reef. That was the FIRST time farm raised corals were observed spawning in the wild!!! We are excited for another exciting expedition!

Libby Carnahan, TRUE Vice President