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Ocean Research

2018:  FEB

July 2017 Issue

New Carnivorous Sponge
Found in North Atlantic

A new species of carnivorous sponge has been discovered in the North Atlantic Ocean by a team of scientists from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography (BIO). The sponge, Cladorhiza kenchingtonae, was named after Dr. Ellen Kenchington of Fisheries and Oceans Canada for her numerous contributions to the scientific field of deep-sea benthic ecology, biodiversity monitoring and protection.

The sponge is approximately 2 m in length and feeds on zooplankton. The surface of the sponge is covered in microscopic hook-like glass spicules (sponge bones), so the whole sponge has a Velcro like surface.

A sample of the sponge was collected as part of Kenchington’s research trip in 2010 at almost 3,000-m depth.

WorldDEM Ocean Shoreline
Covers Entire Earth

For decades, there has been no new commercially available shoreline product that covers the Earth from pole-to-pole and 360° around. Airbus Defence and Space has entered into a cooperation agreement with the Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing at the University of Miami to fill this gap and generate a new global vector product accurately delineating the world’s ocean shorelines: the WorldDEM Ocean Shoreline product. WorldDEM has a high-resolution at a global scale that can support a wide range of applications. It offers the accuracy required for tsunami or hurricane storm surge inundation modeling and sea level rise studies, as well as coastal and littoral spatial planning, hazard mitigation and community preparedness. It will be globally available at the end of 2017.

Star Ascidian to Support
Cardiovascular Research

The star ascidian or golden star tunicate (B. schlosseri) is an invertebrate closely related to humans. The University of California (UC) has awarded Megan Valentine, an associate professor in UCSB’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and partners at UCLA and UC Irvine with $300,000 for a pilot project to study the creature, which has vasculature located externally. When it is treated with a drug that disrupts collagen crosslinking (it responds to drugs that humans also respond to), it retracts the vascular structure in a process clearly visible via microscope and even the naked eye.

The long-term goal is to investigate how blood vessels know when to grow and shrink and how to control those decisions to fight human diseases such as cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration and cancer. The project also seeks to understand the role of phagocytes, cells that protect an organism by ingesting harmful foreign entities, cells and tissues that are no longer needed.

New Way to Identify
Dolphins Using Framing

FAU Harbor Branch Photo ID team volunteer Chris Waln has created a process called framing, which views dolphin fins from an engineer’s perspective, rather than a biologist’s. With 40 years of sailboat racing experience, Waln noticed that a dolphin’s dorsal fin is like an upside-down sailboat keel and that a process similar to the one used to assign racing handicaps to boats could be applied to dolphins.

Framing assigns numerical characteristics to each dolphin fin, taking into account the aspect ratio, sweep, contour and the position of damage to the fin. The data go through a Microsoft Excel algorithm, which supplies the names of dolphins who match all measurements. Framing provides the most likely dolphin match candidates in 4 to 6 minutes instead of hours. The team is working to complete at least 250 samples before expanding the project.

Acoustic Emissions Can Monitor
Mooring Rope Condition

Cohort company SEA is supporting the University of Exeter on a research project on how acoustic emissions (AE) signatures can be used to monitor the condition of synthetic mooring ropes widely used in securing floating offshore structures.

The research investigates using AE signatures to assess the degradation of mooring lines by subjecting the ropes to sinusoidal tension loading in a controlled environment, using a large-scale dynamic tensile test rig.

The main findings are that the failure location and breaking load can be identified through the detection of AE. The occurrence of high-amplitude AE bursts in relation to the applied tensile load allows the detection of an imminent failure, compared to most existing monitoring techniques that can detect the failure but not the degradation of mooring lines. Using AE for remote monitoring could become an attractive and less costly option than using submersible vehicles.

Scripps Center for Marine
Archaeology Launches

Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Department of Anthropology have joined efforts within the University of California San Diego to launch the Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology (SCMA). Researchers will conduct field work at key underwater and coastal archaeological sites around the world, studying the influence of marine environments on human cultures.

SCMA will explore human societies in coastal zones and adaptation processes to climate and environmental changes. Over the next two years, the center plans to launch a series of research projects in the eastern Mediterranean, southern Peru, Puerto Rico, Belize and along the California coast.

Acidifying Water Could Slow
Black Band Disease

New research suggests ocean acidification could slow some coral diseases. A controlled lab study led by Mote Marine Laboratory revealed that black band disease was less deadly to mountainous star coral (Orbicella faveolata) as water acidified. Ocean acidification may weaken or dissolve corals’ hard skeletons. Warming water stresses corals, causing them to lose the vital algae in their tissues. Coral diseases may worsen in corals stressed by warming water temperatures. The new study is the first to examine how low-pH water affects black band—a fast-progressing, often deadly worldwide coral disease. Black band affects species including mountainous star coral, a major contributor to the reef system of the Florida Keys that is listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

2018:  FEB

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