News

Derek Nelson Wins UNT 2016 Graduate Student Innovator Award

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Measuring environmental impact

Previous research revealed that exposure to crude oil caused some fish to swim slower.

Working with faculty mentor Dane Crossley, professor of biology, Nelson and other researchers are trying to learn why.

Nelson implants sensors on the fishes’ hearts to monitor cardiac functions such as heart rate, stroke volume and contractility and other aspects of the heart.

His mahi-mahi study was published in Aquatic Toxicology in November and he has presented some of his findings thus far at conferences for the Gulf of Mexico Research Institute, the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, and the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology.

Article courtesy of the University of North Texas. To see the complete list of award winners please click here.


Study Examines Gulf Killifish Rapid Adaptive Resistance to Contaminants

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Story courtesy of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative

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Scientists conducted exposure experiments on Gulf killifish populations with known adaptions to common environmental contaminates to determine how rapid adaptation affects future fish health. The researchers found that larvae from killifish that adapted to dioxin-like compounds exhibited higher resistance to oxidative stress and carbamates than did killifish larvae from areas with little-to-no known toxicant exposure. These findings suggest that adaptive toxicant resistance may involve multiple mechanistic pathways.  The team published their findings in Aquatic Toxicology: Cross-resistance in Gulf Killifish (Fundulus grandis) populations resistant to dioxin-like compounds.

Previous research identified that killifish populations in the Houston Ship Channel, which has a long history of industrial pollution, rapidly adapted to resist developmental cardiac deformities caused by a complex mixture of toxicants. The expectation was that the toxin-resistant adaptation passed on to the next generation but came with physiological trade-offs such as increased sensitivity to other environmental stressors, such as hypoxia. However, no such tradeoff could be established.

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Contaminated site along the Houston Ship Channel where elevated levels of toxicants are coincident with resistant populations of Gulf killifish. Here, traps are set in a small tidal cut amid trash and debris to collect resistant fish for study. Photo by Benjamin Dubansky.

Author Benjamin Dubansky noted the significance of the study’s findings, “It is astounding to see not only a fish population that appears to be unbothered by PAHs [polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons] and other contaminants that would otherwise be lethal, but also that this trait is transmitted from one generation to the next.” He continued, “However, we did observe some interesting differences between populations, which are now driving the research in new directions to help better understand the long-term effects of toxicant exposure on fish populations.”

Author Warren Burggren emphasized the study’s contributions to understanding oil spill impacts and recovery, “In a research area where there are such frequent findings of long-term environmental disruption and damage, it’s encouraging to see that some key organisms can develop resistance to human-induced environmental degradation. This encourages us to think that some effects can be mitigated relatively quickly through the natural characteristics of the organisms.”

The study’s authors are Elias M. Oziolor, Benjamin Dubansky, Warren W. Burggren, and Cole W. Matson.

Data are publicly available through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Information & Data Cooperative (GRIIDC) at doi: 10.7266/N7513W6W; doi: 10.7266/N78S4MWF.

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This research was made possible in part by a grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) to the Relationship of Effects of Cardiac Outcomes in Fish for Validation of Ecological Risk (RECOVER)consortium. Other funding sources included the Baylor University’s C. Gus Glasscock, Jr. Endowed Fund for Excellence in Environmental Sciences and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) is a 10-year independent research program established to study the effect, and the potential associated impact, of hydrocarbon releases on the environment and public health, as well as to develop improved spill mitigation, oil detection, characterization and remediation technologies. An independent and academic 20-member Research Board makes the funding and research direction decisions to ensure the intellectual quality, effectiveness and academic independence of the GoMRI research. All research data, findings and publications will be made publicly available. The program was established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP. For more information, visit http://gulfresearchinitiative.org/.


Good Eats and Good Times at the Coconut Grove Seafood Festival

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On Sunday October 16th, Christina Pasparakis, Rachael Heuer, Yadong Wang, Dan DiNicola, and Emma Esch from the RECOVER team participated at the 2016 Coconut Grove Seafood Festival Ecodiscovery Zone presented by Celebration of the Seas Foundation.

“The Coconut Grove Seafood Festival is all about celebrating seafood, waterfront living and giving people their fill of the freshest, tastiest delicacies of the sea. Bushels of shrimp, oysters, crawfish, lobster, clams and fresh fish will soon overflow in Miami, just in time for the opening of stone crab season in October.” The festival also offers live music and local artist exhibitions to draw in the Miami masses.

The event also presented an Ecodiscovery Zone in the center of the festival for visitors to learn about marine and environmental issues pressing to the local communities. Joining RECOVER in this area, was fellow GoMRI consortium CARTHE, along with the University of Miami Shark Tagging and Rescue a Reef programs.

Early morning thunderstorms parted once the gates opened and hundreds of hungry guests came piling in the festival grounds. At the Ecodiscovery Zone, the groups were able to share their research and knowledge with attendees including displaying live samples of mahi embryos and corals and decorating their own drift plates to track ocean currents. For RECOVER, it was a unique opportunity to educate people about a species of fish that was readily available to eat at many of the vendor tents. Visitors at these kinds of outreach activities are always fascinated to learn how fast mahi grow, and as a result, how it contributes to a sustainable fish population.

View some of our photos below!

 


Study Suggests Wider Range of Mahi-Mahi’s Genetic Responses to Oil Exposure

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Story courtesy of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative

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Scientists used novel bioinformatics to investigate molecular-level changes over time and toxicity pathways in mahi-mahi embryos and larvae exposed to Deepwater Horizon oil. They observed that weathered oil (collected from slick skimming operations) induced more pronounced gene expression changes than a non-weathered source oil (collected from the subsea containment system directly over the wellhead). The tools predicted impairment of heart rates and increased pericardial edema which the researchers observed in the fish. The method also predicted disturbances in eye and nervous system development. These results suggest new genetic and developmental toxicity pathways targets associated with Deepwater Horizon oil. They published their findings in Environmental Science and Technology: Time- and oil-dependent transcriptomic and physiological responses to Deepwater Horizon oil in mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus) embryos and larvae.

The timing and location of the oil spill coincided with the spawning window for many economically and ecologically important Gulf of Mexico fish species. Natural weathering processes can significantly alter the composition and structure of individual polyaromatic hydrocarbons in the water column possibly increasing oil toxicity. This study builds on recent research about early life stage fish heart health and oil exposure. Researchers conducted exposure experiments with mahi-mahi embryos and water-accommodated fractions of weathered and non-weathered oil at 24, 48, and 96 hours post-fertilization. Using high throughput RNA sequencing and gene signature identification software (On-RAMP; Ingenuity Pathway Analysis), the team analyzed the regulatory directions of gene expression, making it possible to predict additional biochemical, cellular, and tissue pathways targets for the oil.

The researchers observed that both oils induced similar molecular responses at 24 hours, but there were more prominent changes in gene expression in weathered oiled treatments at 48 and 96 hours. The number of genes that were differentially expressed increased from 196 (48 hours) to 1,469 (96 hours) in weathered-oil treatments compared to increases of 128 to 297, respectively, in non-weathered oil treatments. The study provides more detailed genomic responses which indicate affecting specific molecular functions may be altered.

“By understanding how fossil fuels cause toxicity, we can have a better understanding of the risks associated with these contaminants and determine regulatory or management strategies that reduce risks,” commented study co-author Daniel Schlenk. “This experiment was the first to demonstrate that weathered oil more significantly altered gene expression than unweathered oil and suggests that there are multiple targets of oil toxicity to this species at this life stage, including the heart, eye, and neurological systems.”

The researchers noted that their use of rapid genomics annotation analyses coupled with advanced informatics tools may be useful elsewhere to identify species specific molecular and physiological responses to environmental contamination.

Data are publicly available through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Information & Data Cooperative (GRIIDC) at https://data.gulfresearchinitiative.org (doi:10.7266/N7BG2M0J).

The study’s authors are Elvis Genbo Xu, Edward M. Mager, Martin Grosell, Christina Pasparakis, Lela S. Schlenker, John D. Stieglitz, Daniel Benetti, E. Starr Hazard, Sean M. Courtney, Graciel Diamante, Juliane Freitas, Gary Hardiman, and Daniel Schlenk.

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This research was made possible in part by a grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) to theRelationship of Effects of Cardiac Outcomes in Fish for Validation of Ecological Risk (RECOVER)consortium. Other funding sources included the Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine and the Genomics Shared Resource, Hollings Cancer Center.

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) is a 10-year independent research program established to study the effect, and the potential associated impact, of hydrocarbon releases on the environment and public health, as well as to develop improved spill mitigation, oil detection, characterization and remediation technologies. An independent and academic 20-member Research Board makes the funding and research direction decisions to ensure the intellectual quality, effectiveness and academic independence of the GoMRI research. All research data, findings and publications will be made publicly available. The program was established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP. For more information, visithttp://gulfresearchinitiative.org/.


Weathered Oil in Gulf of Mexico May Threaten Development of Fish Embryos and Larvae

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UC Riverside-led study, focusing on Mahi embryos and larvae, shows this toxic oil affects developing heart, eye and neurological function

Story courtesy of , UC Riverside – July 11, 2016

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill, in which nearly three million barrels of crude oil got released in 2010 into the northern Gulf of Mexico, is the worst oil disaster in US history, contaminating the spawning habitats for many fishes. A research team led by an environmental scientist at the University of California, Riverside has now found that ultraviolet light is changing the structure of the DWH oil components into something more toxic, further threatening numerous commercially and ecologically important fishes.

“Ours is the first experiment evaluating the effects of DWH oil on the genetic responses of Mahi embryos and larvae,” said Daniel Schlenk, a professor of aquatic ecotoxicology, who led the study published in Environmental Science and Technology.  “It is also the first experiment of this nature on a lifestage and species that was likely exposed to the oil.  We found that the weathering of oil had more significant changes in gene expression related to critical functions in the embryos and larvae than the un-weathered oil. Our results predict that there are multiple targets of oil for toxicity to this species at the embryonic life stage.”

First, the researchers exposed the fish embryos to the oils at three different time points: 24 hour post fertilization, 48 hour post fertilization, and 96 hour post fertilization. (Hatching to larvae in Mahi occurs at 48 hour post fertilization; the researchers bracketed this time point at 24 hour post fertilization and 96 hour post fertilization.) Then, the researchers collected transcripts of all the genetic information at each time point and evaluated these transcripts using novel bioinformatic methods. Finally, they evaluated the toxicity and heart functions in animals using the embryos’ gene expression to predict biochemical, cellular, and tissue targets where the oil was causing an effect.

For their experiments, Schlenk and his team from the University of Miami collected Mahi off the coast of Miami, Fla., and exposed embryos to two types of oil: one set of embryos was exposed to slick oil (weathered) from the spill while another set was exposed to oil that came from the source of the spill. The researchers carried out the experiment this way because fish in the northern Gulf of Mexico had been exposed during the spill to both types of oil. Their study attempted to understand which of the two oils – slick oil or source oil – is worse for the fish and how oil affects development.

“We found that the heart, eye and neurological function were affected,” Schlenk said. “In collaboration with other consortia members from the Universities of Miami, Texas, and North Texas, we are now following up with these results.  Previous studies have shown that the heart is the primary target for oil. Our study shows that in addition to heart function, risk and recovery should also examine eye and neuronal function.”

Schlenk believes that it is imperative for environmental scientists to understand how contaminants cause toxicity so that uncertainties in risk assessments can be diminished.

“By understanding how fossil fuels cause toxicity we can have a better understanding of the risks associated with these contaminants and determine regulatory or management strategies that reduce risks of these substances,” he said. “To this day, we remain uncertain of the magnitude of the DWH oil spill effects, particularly in sensitive life stages of fish. We are also uncertain of whether biota exposed to the oil can recover, or have recovered, from this event. And we are still uncertain about how compounds present in oil or any other combustion byproduct or fossil fuel cause toxicity.”

The approximately four-month study was expedited by a unique software, On-RAMP, that the researchers used to identify the gene signatures from the fish.

“Normally, it can take months to annotate the genes and identify the regulatory directions of expression,” Schlenk explained. “But by using On-RAMP, we could identify the genomic responses in a matter of weeks, allowing pathway analyses with sophisticated software normally only used for human/mice responses.”

The research was funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, Grant No: SA-1520, as well as the Relationship of Effects of Cardiac Outcomes in fish for Validation of Ecological Risk (RECOVER) consortium.

Schlenk was joined in the research by Elvis Genbo Xu, Graciel Diamante and Juliane Freitas at UC Riverside; Edward M. Mager, Martin Grosell, Christina Pasparakis, Lela S. Schlenker, John D. Stieglitz, and Daniel Benetti at the University of Miami, Fla.; and E. Starr Hazard, Sean M. Courtney and Gary Hardiman at the Medical University of South Carolina. Xu is a postdoctoral researcher in Schlenk’s lab. Diamante is a Ph.D. graduate student in environmental toxicology.  Freitas, a visiting student from Brazil, helped with some of the analyses.

Next, the research team will follow up with whole animal physiological and behavioral effects to see if the newly identified molecular responses can be linked to function.


2016 University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame Celebrity Fishing Tournament

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Story courtesy of Judy Layne 

MIAMI, June 28, 2016 – The Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys / University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame (UMSHoF) Celebrity Fishing Tournament Presented by Yamaha and Caribee Boat Sales has wrapped its 6th annual tournament. It was held June 24-25 at Founders Park at Mile Marker 87 on the Overseas Highway in Islamorada, Fla. This unique event gives anglers the opportunity to fish alongside some of their favorite Canes All-Stars and mingle with dozens of celebrity participants. The tournament has continued to be a huge success with over 500 participants, making it one of the largest tournaments in the Florida Keys.

This year’s tournament was co-hosted by University of Miami Hall of Famers and football greats, Alonzo Highsmith and Melvin Bratton. The tournament weekend began Friday evening with a kick-off party, final boat registration, silent auction and captains’ meeting followed on Saturday by a full day of fishing. On Saturday afternoon, while the Offshore Boats weighed their fish and the Inshore Boats turned in their score cards, Centennial Bank provided a BBQ for the participants and spectators.

Dr. Georgina Cox and Lela Schlenker from the RECOVER team were on site at the weigh-in festivities to share their research with anglers and attendees. It was a great opportunity for our scientists to interact with a knowledgeable and passionate audience that care about the long-term sustainability of the species we study.

After all the fish were weighed and the inshore score cards tallied the results were the following:

OFFSHORE DIVISION:

1st Place – Tracy Kerdyk on See Shores with a 35.5 lb. Dolphin – Winning $3,000

2nd Place – Luke Waddell on Stage Two with a 29.1 lb Dolphin – Winning $2,000

3rd Place – Chris Martinez on Monster Catch with a 26.9 lb. Dolphin – Winning $1,000

4th Place – Tanya Toro on Halftime with a 25.2 lb Dolphin

5th Place – Chris Martinez on Monster Catch with a 24 lb. Dolphin

Top Lady Anger – Tracy Kerdyk on See Shores with a 35.5 lb. Dolphin

Top Junior – Luke Waddell on Stage Two with a 29.1 lb Dolphin

King of Fish – Jim Marco on Priority with a 19.7 lb. Wahoo – Winning $500

ADDED VALUE CATEGORIES:

Master of the Ocean – Contagious with 108.1 points – Winning $5,865.00

1st Place Bucket of Bucks – Monster Catch with 68.8 points – Winning $1,615.00

2nd Place Bucket of Bucks – Contagious with 60.6 points – Winning $969.00

3rd Place Bucket of Bucks – Tiki with 48.8 points – Winning $646.00

INSHORE DIVISION:

Grand Slam Winner – Luca Musico on Line Management with 70.5 overall points

Longest Sea Trout – Kathy Gillen on Dave Denkert – 23” Sea Trout

Longest Snook – Luca Musico on Line Management – 30.5” Snook

Longest Redfish – Kathy Gillen on Dave Denkert – 20” Redfish

The Weigh-in was followed by the Grady White Boats Awards Dinner catered by Mangrove Mike’s Café. There were auctions, music, games and more. A portion of the tournament proceeds will go to Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys, The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, Coastal Conservation Association and the UMSHoF.

“We are pleased to have Yamaha Motors and Caribee Boats as presenting sponsors for our 6th Annual University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame Celebrity Fishing Tournament,” said Gerard Loisel, President of the UMSHoF. “It is thanks to the commitment of these, and all of our great sponsors, donors and participants that our tournament continues to grow each year.”

Jack Niedbalski from Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys added; “Not only are we fortunate, but also proud to be a benefactor of this great summer classic charity tournament. From the entire Habitat for Humanity-Upper Keys Board of Directors we thank all our friends from the U of M Sports Hall of Fame Fishing Tournament for allowing us to be a part of the “U”.”

Tournament Information

The 6th Annual Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys/UMSHoF Celebrity Dolphin Fishing Tournament is presented by Yamaha and Caribee Boat Sales and brought to participants by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council. For more information visit www.canesfish.com, call (305) 667-0399 or contact the Tournament Director, Judy Layne at judy@canesfish.com. Follow the tournament on Facebook at www.facebook.com/canesfish and Instagram at www.instagram.com/canesfish .

About the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame (UMSHoF)

Nestled on the Coral Gables campus of the University of Miami, the UMSHoF is a 501(c)(3) corporation whose main purpose is to recognize those student athletes, coaches and administrators who have brought acclaim to the university through their accomplishments and championships. The showcase for the UMSHoF and the repository of the great sports traditions of the University of Miami is the Tom Kearns Sports Hall of Fame Building, located next door to the Hecht Athletic Center on San Amaro Drive. On display are photos and memorabilia representing the 300 inductees, National Championship Trophies, and artifacts that span the 90 year athletic history of the university. The UMSHoF displays include memorabilia from all of the university sports programs. For information about planning a visit, participating in one of the annual fundraising event or contributing to the UMSHoF, visit www.umsportshalloffame.com, send an email to umsportshallfame@aol.com or contact Executive Director John Routh directly at (305) 284-2775.

Photos courtesy of Endless Imagery

 


Summer Aquaculture Field Course in Panama

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Course Announcement
Summer 2016
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
MES 619/MAF 519 – Aquaculture III

 

Field Course at Open Blue Sea Farms Hatchery and Open Ocean Aquaculture Facilities in Panama

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Annual Workshop on Physiology and Aquaculture of Pelagics with Emphasis on Reproduction and Early Developmental Stages of Yellowfin Tuna, (Thunnus albacares)

 

Dates: July 5-17, 2016

Location: IATTC Achotines Laboratory and Open Blue Sea Farms

Republic of Panama, Central America

 

The Aquaculture Program of the University Of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) is organizing the AQUA III MES 519 Summer Course 2016 Session simultaneously with the 14th Annual Workshop on “Physiology and Aquaculture of Pelagics with Emphasis on Reproduction and Early Developmental Stages of Yellowfin Tuna”. Number of UM students is limited to six, and number of outside participants of IATTC is limited to six. The organizer is Dr. Daniel Benetti, a Professor and Director of Aquaculture at UM-RSMAS. This course is conducted simultaneously with the Annual Tuna Workshop at the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATCC).

As in previous years, we anticipate the participation of qualified students and researchers and professionals from several countries combining advanced technologies to improve methods for raising larval tuna and other species of marine fish. Participants will be assisted by a qualified technical staff and by graduate students from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. The course/workshop will be conducted at the world renowned Achotines Laboratory in Provincia de Los Santos, on the Pacific coast of the Republic of Panama, as well as at the Open Blue Sea Farms, the most advanced hatchery and offshore marine fish aquaculture operation in the Americas.

The course/workshop will cover reproduction and larval development of commercially and ecologically important marine fish species. Topics include physiology, biology, ecology, genetics, nutrition and environmental issues related to aquaculture of pelagic fish species such as tuna, mahimahi, cobia, yellowfin kingfish, Seriola and other Carangidae. The workshop also covers capture, handling, transportation, maturation, spawning, larval husbandry, nursery and growout techniques of a variety of marine fish species. Participants will learn about the research projects being conducted by the IATTC with yellowfin tuna, Thunnus albacares, including spawning and larval rearing. Course/workshop attendees will have the opportunity to participate in ongoing efforts to capture, transfer, and handle yellowfin tuna. At least half of the time will be spent at Open Blue Sea Farms site off Viento Frio, Colon, in the Atlantic Ocean side of Panama.

The registration fee for enrolled UM students is $550.00 and includes accommodations and 3 local style meals a day at the Achotines Laboratory and transportation while in Panama. The registration fee does not cover accommodations in Panama City.

 

MES 619/MAF 519 – Aquaculture Management III – AQUA III

Summer 2016 – July 5-17

Panama, Central America

Field Work at Iattc Achotines Tuna Laboratory and Open Blue Sea Farms Hatchery and Offshore Cage Farm

Professor: Dr. Daniel Benetti

Office Phone: + 1 (305) 421-4889; Cell Phone: + 1 (786) 553-5557

Email: dbenetti@rsmas.miami.edu

 

Course Syllabus

The course covers theoretical and practical/lab classes on all stages of yellow fin tuna and cobia aquaculture, fisheries, physiology, energetics, nutrition, etc. Course topics encompass theoretical and practical classes about all stages of R&D, operation and production at Open Blue Sea Farms and at the IATTC, including but not restricted to the following:

 

Part I – Achotines Iattic Tuna Laboratory

  • Systems Description
  • Capture
    • Transport
    • Transfer From Boat
    • Acclimation
    • Tagging
  • Quarantine
    • Prophylaxis
    • Transfer From Quarantine to Reserve Tank
    • Transfer from Reserve Tank to Maturation Tank
  • Broodstock
    • Broodstock Feeding
    • Spawning
    • Egg Collection
    • Tank Cleaning/Siphoning
    • Fertilization Rates
  • Egg Incubation
    • Sampling and Counting
    • Stocking Incubators
      • Upwelling
      • Banjo Nets
      • Aeration and Water Exchange
    • Egg Counting
      • Volume
      • Fertilization Rates
    • Yolk-Sac Larvae
      • Hatching Rate
  • Stocking
    • Passive Transfer
    • Other methods
  • Feeding
    • Microalgae
    • Rotifers
      • Feeding
      • Enrichment
      • Treatments
  • Oil Surface Tension
  • Water Exchange, Aeration, Mesh
  • 24 hour light, mosquito net
  • Offshore Cages
    • Harvest
    • Cage Management
    • Net Cleaning and Changing
  • Juvenile
    • Transfer
    • Feeding
  • Field trip to Open Blue Sea Farms
    • Conduct day to day operation and training at commercial hatchery and offshore cage site
    • Theoretical and practical classes
  • Final Presentation/Final Projects/Assignments submitted

 

Part II – Open Blue Sea Farms

Visit to Open Blue Sea Farms Hatchery, Nursery and Growout Offshore facilities. Hands-on work at all stages of the production process, from water intake, pumping and filtering systems to broodstock management, spawning, larval rearing, live feeds production, nursery and growout and feeding and proactive health management.

 

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Daniel Benetti

MES – RSMAS – University of Miami

4600 Rickenbacker Causeway

Miami FL 33149 U.S.A.

Tel: +1(305) 421-4889

Fax: +1(305) 421-4675

Email: dbenetti@rsmas.miami.edu

Website: www.rsmas.miami.edu/groups/aquaculture


An Ocean Oil Spill Science Legacy

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An Ocean Oil Spill Science Legacy

There have been two large scale oil spills over the past 4 decades in the Gulf of Mexico. The Ixtoc I spill in 1979 off the coast of Carmen, Mexico released 3.5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf, and the Macondo wellhead blowout off the coast of Louisiana, USA in 2010 released 3.19 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. Both of these incidents resulted in scientists coming together to gather the data needed to understand the fate of the oil, the disturbances it caused to the ecosystem, and its impacts on humans. One of the largest drivers of research efforts surrounding the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident is the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). GoMRI-funded research has significantly enhanced our knowledge of Gulf ecosystems and the impacts of oil spills on the Gulf

It has also identified gaps in our understanding that are leading to new research and insights that will inform society’s response to future oil spills through improved mitigation efforts, refined detection of oil and gas in the environment, more robust spill simulation models, and novel technologies.

Rapid Responses to Continuing Spill Threats

Oil spills are a persistent threat to the Gulf of Mexico. Just last month, a subsea wellhead oil flow line discharged an estimated 2000 barrels off the coast of Louisiana. When the flow line leak was detected, GOMRI scientists mobilized to visit the site within a few days of the leak to begin studying the impacts of the oil. This rapid response was the result of the research infrastructure developed by GoMRI funding. Similar to last month’s spill, GoMRI scientists have rapidly responded to other smaller spills. Within a few days of the July 2013 explosion on the Hercules gas platform off the coast of Louisiana, a diverse team of GoMRI scientists from five research consortia quickly mobilized to visit the rig site.

The next year, after a cargo ship off the coast of Texas collided with a barge, spilling 168,000 gallons of bunker fuel oil into Galveston Bay, GoMRI scientists were on the scene alongside government and industry workers within days.

This rapid response is not limited to the Gulf of Mexico. In May 2015, 2,000 miles away from the Gulf, a spill occurred off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA and within hours GoMRI scientists were remotely assisting local researchers.

The GoMRI Legacy

The GoMRI legacy focuses on creating an overall preparedness for future spills by increasing our knowledge of the Gulf, oil, and dispersants; advancing technology and modeling; training future generations of scientists and engineers; engaging and informing the public and stakeholders; and making all GoMRI data available through online open access.

Importantly, unlike during the era of the Ixtoc I spill, technology now allows scientists to archive and share their data with other researchers. Currently there are 26,000 GB (gigabytes) of data stored in the GoMRI Information & Data Cooperative (GRIIDC) public, online data repository with datasets added daily. Such data accessibility was not available decades ago. In many cases, all we have are the publications that resulted from Ixtoc I research, but much of the original data were lost to time.

To date, GoMRI research represents the efforts of 293 institutions from 42 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and 17 countries. The almost 3,400 GoMRI scientists spread across these institutions collaborate on 242 projects and have created 1,100 unique datasets and counting. GoMRI funding has provided research opportunities for over 2,400 students from high school through post-doctoral studies.

The story of some of these researchers and their important discoveries about petroleum pollution, and marine and coastal ecosystems is portrayed in the “Dispatches from the Gulf” documentary produced by Screenscope.

A Legacy Still Being Written

This summer GoMRI scientists forge ahead with fieldwork to continue to monitor the long term impacts of Deepwater Horizon oil and understand oil spill dynamics, including revisiting the Ixtoc I spill site. GoMRI researchers are wading into marshes and retrieving creatures from the deep ocean; sampling the sediment and surface wave dynamics; examining sounds of whales and bubbles of methane. Along the way, these researchers will also continue to write the GoMRI legacy.

At the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, researchers from the RECOVER consortium – which focuses on the affects of oil exposure on fish – will satellite tag captive mahi-mahi to examine spawning behaviors; look at how oil exposure can alter vision and smell in mahi-mahi and red drum; observe the heart cells oil-exposed mahi-mahi, evaluate the impacts of oil on genetic profiles of embryos of mahi-mahi and red drum to better predict adverse effects on the heart and whether there can be recovery; use Gulf toadfish to examine how ingesting oil-contaminated seawater affects the ability of marine fish to maintain hydration and electrolyte balance while living in a salty environment.

Today, on World Oceans Day, we can reflect on the progress GOMRI has made in advancing oil spill research, and subsequently our ability to deal with the ever present threat of oil spills. Due to the groundbreaking research GOMRI has sponsored, we will be better prepared to understand and respond to any future petroleum releases into marine systems.

About GoMRI

All research discussed in this article was made possible by grants from The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). The GoMRI is a 10-year independent research program established to study the effect, and the potential associated impact, of hydrocarbon releases on the environment and public health, as well as to develop improved spill mitigation, oil detection, characterization and remediation technologies. An independent and academic 20-member Research Board makes the funding and research direction decisions to ensure the intellectual quality, effectiveness and academic independence of the GoMRI research. All research data, findings and publications will be made publicly available. The program was established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP. For more information, visit http://gulfresearchinitiative.org/.

 

Media contact:

Leslie Smith

(202) 787-1613

lsmith@oceanleadership.org

 

Dan DiNicola

RECOVER Outreach Coordinator

(954) 644-2642

ddinicola@rsmas.miami.edu


New Experiment has Researchers Satellite Tagging Captive Mahi-mahi

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A new video documents why Ph.D students Lela Schlenker is satellite tagging captive mahi-mahi at the University of Miami’s Experimental Hatchery.

The tags are capable of recording location, depth, temperature, light levels and acceleration.

Findings from this study will shed light on the under-studied spawning behavior of mahi and is also the first time such events have been recorded.

These studies will then be replicated in the field on wild mahi-mahi.


Getting Creative with Ocean Education – Ocean Kids 2016

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On April 23, we set up an oil-themed station for children at the annual Ocean Kids day to show the effects of oil on juvenile fish.

Ocean Kids is a University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science sponsored event that “enhances environmental awareness and appreciation, while empowering students and teachers from underserved communities to become ocean ambassadors and effect positive change in their communities and beyond.”

This year’s event was held at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park in Key Biscayne. Children and families who attended could go to themed stations with creative activities set up by students and scientists from UM RSMAS to learn about different areas of marine science and conservation. There was a wide variety of themes this year ranging from coral reef conservation and biology, to the impacts of oil spills on juvenile fish to marine acoustics and noise pollution. One group even created a garbage monster costume out of just a few days worth of trash from the beach to bring attention to littering.

The RECOVER booth – titled “Oil Spill – Mini Mahi Malady!” – enabled visitors to have a close encounter with some live mahi-mahi larvae under the microscopes. These samples were collected from the UM Experimental Hatchery the previous day. There was even a fishing game with trivia questions where children could test their knowledge and win prizes.

Children enjoyed moving the petri dishes around looking for different baby fish to see how they compared to one another. Most of them were too young to remember the oil spill, but were very curious to see what happened to the animals affected and sad to learn many of them a were hurt by it.