This week, the University of Miami aquarium club had the privilege of, for our first big event and second meeting of the semester, hosting Colin Foord, the owner of local aquaculture facility, Coral Morphologic. Colin is a UM alumni, and in many ways, the grandfather of Aquarium Club at the University. Currently, he is involved in a number of different projects, the foremost of which being the rescuing of the corals from Government Cut, but more on that later. Colin's company, Coral Morphologic, is a scientific art endeavor using living coral and aquarium aquaculture as the primary medium. They do some absolutely awesome work with coral and its fluorescent properties. Enough on that however, lets learn more about Government Cut, and what Colin is doing there.
This is Government Cut, a shipping channel that was dredged out for the last time about 60 years ago. Since then it has been virtually untouched, and the tides bring large amounts of clean water in through there every day, flushing the life that lives there. Which in our case, or our interest per say, is the coral. However, due to the widening of the Panama Canal and its new ability to accommodate larger ships, Miami wants to be able to accommodate said ships as well. So the solution, is the re-dredging of the Cut and in doing so, they will kill just about everything there, and all of this life will be lost. Colin showed a number of videos showcasing what is living in Government Cut. Due to the large amounts of water flushing, the diversity here is unbelievable. There are corals here that aren't even found out on the reef systems around the same area.
Why are these corals so important however? Well Colin explained, in addition to the large diversity of corals here, they are so interesting because they are not just hangers on from a once great reef, but because they are pioneering an urban environment and thriving, so called "Corals of Opportunity".So here is where Colin comes in, his mission, his goal is to save these corals. He wants to save them and transplant them to an area where they can be studied for their ability to thrive in this urban environment and can have their biodiversity preserved. He spoke to why these corals are so important, because they are highly adaptable, ideal for research and readily available for the people who want to use them. He reached out to the University and wants us to get involved in helping with these corals, because their scientific potential is huge. So all in all, this talk was extremely informative and hopefully, going to help students get involved with working with these Corals of Opportunity.
This Saturday a UMAC took a trip up to Hollywood, Florida for MACNA, the Marine Aquarium Conference of North America. This is the 25th time MACNA has been held and this year it was hosted by the Florida Marine Aquarium Society. Many of our favorite fish stores (such as Exotic Aquariums), marine equipment suppliers, and other local places we’ve visited such as Coral Morphologic had booths set up.
A very common thing to see were tanks filled with coral frags of every color and form imaginable. On the fish side of things, clownfish that had been selectively bred for specific colors and patterns were around every corner. Tanks were set up demonstrating filtration, lighting and other features. Even gravel and fish food had a place in the convention.
After touring the booths, making a few purchases and winning some raffles we stopped by the lecture hall to hear Julian Sprung speak. For those who were in UMAC last year, you’ll remember that Julian came to a meeting of ours and gave an informative talk about saltwater aquariums. The lecture he gave Saturday was about how current proposals to list certain coral species as endangered will hurt both the aquarium hobby and more hands on conservation tactics such as coral aquaculture.
As you can see, we all had a great time and are so excited to be kicking off another year of UMAC. We hope to see you at our weekly meetings, and at some of the fun events we have planned for the semester!
After ten years of building up Hydrogen Sulfide in the deep sand bed, our tank was in serious need of a cleaning. We made the call to take everything out. The rock was in disarray and there was far too much of it. As you can see above, it looked... like a well established Atlantic reef system. But it was lacking the color and artistic aspect that a tank like ours deserved. It also had hundreds of Protopalythoa grandis polyps, which contain palytoxin: "an intense vasoconstrictor... considered to be one of the most toxic non-peptide substances known, second only to maitotoxinin terms of toxicity"... they needed to be removed
The same goes for the refugium (left.) The deep sand bed had reached its carrying capacity and was about to crash. About a year ago it did crash, and we ended up losing a significant portion of our livestock.
While removing the rockwork, we noticed something long crawling into one of the rocks. We let it drop off the rock and discovered a very large (several feet) Bobbit Worm (Eunice aphroditois.) A type of predatory coralivous polychaete worm.
After much deliberation, we were able to remove all the sand, rock, and livestock from the tank. We discovered that the plumbing on the tank had essentially been jury-rigged and there was no bulk head. There was a piece of pvc siliconed to the glass itself. The tank was over ten years old, and it was at the end of its life. We decided to replace it with a tank that had been donated a year ago. This meant a lot more work for us... but in the end it was worth it.
In today’s blog we will be giving you a little bit of background information about the company run by our guest speaker (coming in tomorrow) and the organisms they feature. Marine biologist Colin Foord, who is coming to talk to us, and musician Jared McKay are the people behind Coral Morphologic, a scientific art experiment that strives to showcase the natural beauty of corals.
Corals are cnidarians, which means they are radially symmetrical. Their basic body plan consists of a polyp stage that grows together with other polyps in a colony. These colonies can have diverse shapes and sizes; some are branching, some are large and round such as brain coral, some grow in flat plates, and others grow in different ways entirely! ,
As anyone who has seen a coral reef can attest to, they can be quite gorgeous, but they are also important to the ecology of the world’s oceans. Coral reefs offer a habitat for many organisms, including but not limited to: sponges, algae, crustaceans, worms, and an incredibly wide variety of fish.
While Coral Morphologic focuses on the aesthetic value of coral colonies, they also have an eye on the future and are studying the ways corals reproduce, grow, and are affected by their environment. Corals are fragile organisms, requiring specific ranges of temperature, salinity and nutrient levels to grow. Global changes such as ocean acidification are negatively affecting corals and the responsibility falls on us to preserve the diversity of these natural wonders.
Here's a link to one of their awesome videos:
Make sure you come out to our meeting tomorrow to hear more about the folks at Coral Morphologic!
This weekend, UMAC traveled up to Tampa with the goal of visiting the Florida Aquarium! It was an excellent weekend full of nature, fun, and of course, our fish friends (and otters and octopus and so much more).
On Saturday afternoon, we went canoeing on the Hillsborough river. While the starting point looked a little unimpressive, the river was gorgeous, flowing through a peaceful cypress swamp. We saw many birds, including ibis, osprey, anhinga, and several different species of heron. Other wildlife included spiders (my canoe had at least 15 8-legged hitchhikers by the end, most likely due to our tendency to steer into trees), damselflies, and alligators! The river was surprisingly pristine and a great escape from the busy metropolis of Miami.
After a bit of swimming, dinner, and a walk around downtown Tampa, we headed back to the hotel to rest before the Florida Aquarium on Sunday.
Although we missed meeting the penguins in the lobby, the Florida Aquarium was worth seeing! We enjoyed all of the exhibits, including a stingray/bamboo shark and a Pacific Northwest invertebrate touch tank. There was even a special section devoted to the art of home aquariums with helpful tips and tanks filled with species you could have in your home. The centerpiece of the aquarium was an enormous tank filled with sharks, moray eels, barracuda and a very wide array of fish species.
My favorite exhibits were those featuring Florida ecosystems, including both freshwater and saltwater species. In addition to native Florida animals, the aquarium houses aquatic species from regions around the world, including the North Pacific and the Indo-pacific. Some remarkable displays included tanks featuring garden eels, sea dragons and seahorses, and even an octopus guarding her eggs. The Florida Aquarium was truly spectacular.
-Kathryn Doering with Allison LaChanse
We are the University of Miami Aquarium Club. Blog topics will include anything and everything aquarium related.