Tag Archive | "rosenstiel school of marine and atmospheric science"


Research Suggests Caribbean Soft Corals Resist Acidification


Study co-author Juan A. Sanchez of the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia, captured this stand of Caribbean soft corals off the coast of Curacao.

Special to UM News

MIAMI, Fla. (December 5, 2014)—A new study on tropical shallow-water soft corals, known as gorgonians, found that the species were able to calcify and grow under elevated carbon dioxide concentrations. These results suggest that Caribbean gorgonian corals may be more resilient to the ocean acidification levels projected by the end of the 21st century than previously thought.

An international team of scientists that includes researchers from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science tested the effects of elevated CO2 concentrations on the growth and calcification rates of the sea rod Eunicea fusca, a type of gorgonian or soft coral found throughout the Bahamas, Bermuda, South Florida, and into the Gulf of Mexico.

Researchers collected E. fusca specimens from Big Pine Shoals in the Florida Keys to simulate a range of predicted future ocean acidification conditions—CO2 concentrations from 285-2,568 parts per million (pH range 8.1-7.1)—during a four-week experiment at the Rosenstiel School’s Coral Reefs and Climate Change Laboratory. E. fusca showed a negative response to calcification under elevated CO2 concentrations, but growth and calcification did not stop under any of the CO2 levels used in the study.

“Our results suggest that gorgonian coral may be more resilient than other reef-dwelling species to the ocean acidification changes that are expected to occur in the oceans as a result of climate change,” said Chris Langdon, professor and director of the Coral Reefs and Climate Change Laboratory. “These findings will allow us to better predict the future composition of coral reef communities under the current ‘business-as-usual’ scenario.”

The results showed that calcification dramatically declined at extremely high levels of CO2 but not at mid-elevated levels, which led the study’s authors to suggest that tropical gorgonian corals may be more resilient to the future levels of ocean acidification expected to occur during this century. Gorgonian corals form complex structures that provide essential habitat for other important reef-dwelling organisms.

Based upon studies of encrusting coralline algae and echinoderms, scientists have suggested that corals with skeletons formed by high-magnesium calcite may be more susceptible to the impacts of ocean acidification than aragonite-depositing corals. This is the first study to find that not all high-magnesium calcite secretors, such as soft corals, are more susceptible than aragonite secretors, such as stony reef-building corals.

The absorption of carbon dioxide by seawater, which results in a decline in pH level, is termed ocean acidification. The increased acidity in the seawater is felt throughout the marine food web as calcifying organisms, such as corals, oysters, and sea urchins, find it more difficult to build their shells and skeletons, making them more susceptible to predation and damage. According to the IPCC 5th Assessment Report, year 2100 projected changes in surface ocean chemistry compared with preindustrial values are expected to fall by 0.14 to 0.43 units depending on whether there is global effort to sharply curtail emissions, or if emissions continue to increase each year.

The paper, “Reponses of the tropical gorgonian coral Eunicea fusca to ocean acidification conditions,” was published in the online first version of the journal Coral Reef. 

In addition to Langdon, the study co-authors include Carlos E. Gómez and Juan A. Sànchez of the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotà, Colombia; Valerie J. Paul and Raphael Ritman-Williams of the Smithsonian Institution in Fort Pierce, Florida, and Nancy Muehllehner of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

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Marine Scientists  Awarded More than $29M for Gulf Research


Marine Scientists Awarded More than $29M for Gulf Research

Special to UM News


Members of the CARTHE team deploy drifters off the coast of Fort Walton Beach in Florida’s Panhandle last December.

MIAMI, Fla. (November 19, 2014)—Researchers at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science were awarded more than $29 million in research grants from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) to lead the Consortium for Advanced Research on the Transport of Hydrocarbons in the Environment (CARTHE) and to study the toxic effects of crude oil on fish that reside in the Gulf of Mexico. The  Rosenstiel School was the only research institution to receive two of the 12 highly competitive GoMRI grants.

“We are thrilled that GoMRI awarded such a substantial portion of the overall research funds to the two exceptional research teams put together by our scientists in collaboration with many partners at various institutions,” said Rosenstiel School Dean Roni Avissar. “This will allow these two teams to conduct the critical research studies necessary to understand the impacts of oil spills from both oceanographic and biological perspectives.”

Under the leadership of Professor Tamay Özgökmen, the CARTHE research consortium received more than $20 million to continue the research necessary to predict the path of oil released into the environment and help guide the response to future oil spills. This second phase of CARTHE, which supports research through 2017, will help scientists develop and improve computational tools to accurately predict the fate of hydrocarbons found in crude oil that are released into the environment, and help guide risk management and response efforts in mitigation and restoration of the economy and the ecosystem in situations like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“An integral part of any informed response to a future event like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill requires knowledge of the distribution of pollutants in the water column and the ability to predict where and how fast the pollutants will spread,” said Özgökmen, lead investigator of CARTHE. “This information is also crucial to estimate the pollutants’ impact on the local ecosystem and coastal communities.”

Since 2011, CARTHE has conducted two major observational experiments—GLAD (Grand Lagrangian Deployment) and SCOPE (Surfzone Coastal Oil Pathways Experiment)—several laboratory experiments, developed enhanced ocean transport models, and produced 75 peer-reviewed, scientific articles (53 published/accepted, 22 submitted).

The second research consortium, RECOVER, led by Rosenstiel Professor Martin Grosell, received a $9 million research award to conduct further studies on the impacts and toxic effects of crude oil on ecologically and commercially valuable fish in the Gulf of Mexico. The RECOVER (Relationships of Effects of Cardiac Outcomes in Fish for Validation of Ecological Risk) team, which consists of seven members from four institutions, will conduct studies at the molecular, cellular, organ level and whole animal physiology, as well as behavioral studies at different life stages for two important Gulf of Mexico fish, the coastal redfish and the pelagic mahi-mahi.

Previous studies by RECOVER consortium members showed that fish embryos and larvae exposed to crude oil during early development results in malformation of hearts, which likely results in mortality or reduced cardiac performance in surviving individuals. The RECOVER team also recently published a study that showed that such surviving individuals display reduced swimming capabilities.

“There is still much more to understand about the impacts of crude oil on fish at all life stages,” said Grosell. “We are pleased GoMRI has chosen to invest in our important work in this area.”

The CARTHE and RECOVER awards are part of a $140 million research investment by GoMRI to support research on the impacts of oil, dispersed oil, and dispersant on the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and public health to be carried out from 2015 through 2017.

GoMRI is a 10-year research initiative established in 2010 and funded by a $500 million commitment by BP. GoMRI is administered by an independent Research Board, which consists of 20 experts in science, research administration, and public health. The board evaluates research proposals following merit review guidelines of the National Academies of Science and procedures similar to those of the U.S. National Science Foundation. All funding decisions are made by the Research Board, which is independent of BP and not connected to the Natural Resources Damage Assessment process.

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UM Dedicates Cutting-Edge Facility for Hurricane and Marine Life Research

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UM Dedicates Cutting-Edge Facility for Hurricane and Marine Life Research

The $50 million Marine Technology and Life Sciences Seawater Complex will help improve coastal resiliency and hurricane forecasting and look to the oceans to shed new light on how to treat human diseases.

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News


The Alfred C. Glassell, Jr. SUSTAIN Building is part of UM’s new Marine Technology and Life Sciences Seawater Complex.

VIRGINIA KEY, Fla. (October 3, 2014) – It still astonishes meteorologists. In the span of just 24 hours, Hurricane Wilma, the 22nd named storm of the record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, intensified from a tropical cyclone to a Category 5 hurricane—its wind speed soaring from 70 to 175 mph.

But as remarkable as Wilma’s rapid intensification was, it isn’t the only case of a storm muscling up at warp speed. As Hurricane Charley approached Florida’s west coast in 2004, its sustained winds jumped from 110 to 150 mph in only three hours. And in 2007 Felix strengthened from a meager tropical depression to a Category 5 hurricane in 51 hours.

“We don’t know completely what causes hurricanes to rapidly intensify,” said Brian Haus, a professor of ocean sciences at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. “Track forecasting has gotten better and better, but intensity forecasts have not improved, and one of the possible reasons for that is we don’t fully understand what’s happening where the ocean and atmosphere meet in really high winds.”

That could all change soon now that the Rosenstiel School has opened its Marine Technology and Life Sciences Seawater Complex, a $50 million facility that houses a 38,000-gallon, 75-foot-long tank into which researchers pump seawater to study how the ocean and atmosphere interact—the critical air-sea interface that could tell us why some storms intensify so quickly.

The SUSTAIN building's centerpiece is a 38,000-gallon, 95-foot-long tank  which researchers will use to study the rapid intensification of hurricanes--still a forecasting puzzle.

The centerpiece of the SUSTAIN Building is a 38,000-gallon, 75-foot-long tank, which will be used to study the rapid intensification of hurricanes—a phenomenon forecasters often cannot predict.

Under a brief rain shower, UM officially dedicated the facility Thursday, unveiling for guests what President Donna E. Shalala called “a game changer” that will address a multitude of research initiatives, including investigations of the ocean and atmosphere, marine life, human health, and disease.

The Glassell Family Foundation supported construction of the seawater tank in the research facility, which is now officially known as the Alfred C. Glassell, Jr. SUSTAIN (Surge-Structure-Atmosphere Interaction) Building. A $15 million stimulus grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) got the ball rolling.

“I still remember the meeting I had with faculty from Engineering and Rosenstiel,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc. “They had a vision, and we started off wondering how we would eventually pay for this facility. But we never had any doubt that we needed it.”

Shalala said the new building “is about the future—what we discover here will shape our decisions and actions.”

Rosenstiel School Dean Roni Avissar said that “it takes literally a village to build the kind of facility we’re opening here today.” He recognized some of the many individuals who played key roles in making the facility possible, including Haus, who designed the seawater tank and helped spearhead the $15 million NIST grant that partly funded the building’s construction. Generous gifts from the Marta Weeks Family and the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation also made the building possible.

Haus is ecstatic about its opening. Among the storm-related research he said it will foster are studies on designing coastal structures to survive hurricanes, improving coastal resiliency and wave modeling, and the transfer of carbon dioxide across the air-sea interface.

“I was just at the Southeast Florida Climate Leadership Summit in Miami Beach, and White House chief scientist John Holdren and several other people said that facing the issue of mitigation and adaptation to climate change is the grand challenge for going forward in science and policy,” said Haus. “It’s the greatest threat humanity is facing. So it’s very timely that on the day of that summit, we are opening this facility, which is focused directly on research related to improving our ability to mitigate and adapt to climate change.”

After the ribbon cutting, guests streamed into the facility by the dozens, observing the giant waves inside the SUSTAIN tank, which had been filled to almost half its 38,000-gallon capacity with a mixture of fresh and seawater. They also toured the other major component of the complex, the Marine Life Science Center, which is home to a number of labs, including the National Institutes of Health-funded Aplysia lab, billed as the only facility in the world that cultures and raises sea hares for scientific research on aging, memory, and learning.

In another lab, Ph.D. student Molly Broome briefed tour groups on how she is studying the effect of Prozac on the cardiovascular system of toadfish. She has discovered that oxygen consumption in fish treated with the drug declined, while fish that were not exposed to the drug were able to regulate and maintain stable oxygen levels. Broome said the lab is always a site of scientific discovery, noting that its principal investigator, Danielle McDonald, is investigating how oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill affects the physiology of toadfish.

In Rosenstiel School researcher Michael Schmale’s lab, Kirstie Tandberg, an undergraduate marine science and microbiology and immunology major, directed the attention of one tour group to a row of aquariums containing small damselfish, explaining that the colorful marine organisms may hold the key to understanding a disease in humans once known as Elephant Man’s Disease for its disfiguring tumors. Tandberg told the group that damselfish develop tumors similar to how humans are affected by the genetic disorder neurofibromatosis.

In still another lab, grad student Merly Ovares explained how she and other researchers are injecting artificial DNA into zebrafish to detect harmful algae blooms in aquatic environments. “It’s important work, because algae blooms can sometimes get into the drinking water,” she said, noting a recent toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie that prompted a tap water ban in Toledo, Ohio.

The complex is one of only a handful of proposals funded by NIST. “We picked only the best of the best,” said Mary Saunders, NIST associate director for management resources.

Saunders recalled that NIST led a technology team to the devastated regions in the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to examine and better understand just what caused buildings and bridges to fail. “In the coastal regions and in New Orleans, we would have benefited from the data and measurements that will result from this research facility,” she said. “I firmly believe it was money well spent.”


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An Acoustic Repertoire:  Study Shows Fish Larvae Make Sounds


An Acoustic Repertoire: Study Shows Fish Larvae Make Sounds

Researchers suggest that these sounds are key to maintaining group cohesion.


Researchers discovered that gray snapper larvae produce “knocks” and “growls” in the range of 200–800 Hz, which is within the hearing range of most adult fish.

MIAMI, Fla. (October 1, 2014) – A new study from researchers at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science has documented for the first time that fish larvae produce sound. These “knock” and “growl” sounds may help small larvae maintain group cohesion in the dark.

“Although many adult fishes produce sounds, no one has previously considered that larvae, too, may be sound producers. This is the first study to show that fish larvae have an acoustic repertoire,” said Claire Paris, associate professor of ocean sciences. “This is a true discovery as it reveals the existence of a communication system for young fish larvae.”

The Rosenstiel School research team set up both field and laboratory experiments to listen to larval gray snapper, Lutjanus griseus, economically valuable fish that spend their first 30 days of life as pelagic larva before settling in shallow seagrass beds.

In the field experiment, the scientists set a drifting in situ chamber, called DISC, equipped with audio and video recording systems, near Fowey Rocks lighthouse in the northern Florida Keys to record larval orientation behavior in the pelagic environment. A total of 58 deployments were conducted, 27 during the day and 31 at night. The team also recorded sounds in a laboratory setting to confirm that the sounds heard in the field were from gray snapper larvae. The researchers also referred to the public sound archive at the Macaulay Library to compare the larval sounds to those produced by adult L. griseus.

The researchers observed that larvae produced “knocks” and “growls” in the range of 200–800 Hz, which is within the hearing range of most adult fish. The fish larvae produced these sounds during 70 percent of the nighttime trials, and none of the daytime trials. The gray snapper larvae used in the study arrived in a large group over the span of a few hours, suggesting that these acoustic signals may provide a mechanism for these larvae to maintain group cohesion during their pelagic journey.

“The study was set up to record ambient sounds around the drifting arena that might guide the fish larval orientation,” Paris said. “It was a fantastic surprise to listen to the recording and hear that the larva itself was emitting sounds. Communication between larvae could allow them to maintain group cohesion, which is critically important for faster swimming, finding navigational signals and settlement cues, and better survival during the pelagic phase.”

The paper, titled “First evidence of fish larvae producing sounds,” was published in the October 1 issue of the journal Biology Letters. In addition to Paris, the study co-authors include lead author Erica Staaterman, a Ph.D. student, and RSMAS  graduate student Andrew Kough.

“This discovery has important conservation implications as well,” Staaterman said. “As anthropogenic noise in the marine environment continues to increase, it is important to understand potential impacts on these previously undiscovered acoustic communication systems.”

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New Study Confirms Water Vapor as Global Warming Amplifier

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New Study Confirms Water Vapor as Global Warming Amplifier

Special to UM News

Color enhanced satellite image of upper tropospheric water vapor. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Color enhanced satellite image of upper tropospheric water vapor. Photo courtesy of NASA.

MIAMI, Fla. (July 28, 2014)—A new study from scientists at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and colleagues confirms rising levels of water vapor in the upper troposphere—a key amplifier of global warming—will intensify the impact of climate change over the next decades.

“The study is the first to confirm that human activities have increased water vapor in the upper troposphere,” said Brian Soden, professor of atmospheric sciences and co-author of the study. Read the full story

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