August 3 – Visit CARMABI research center, Brooder collection dive and first spawning night dives

Visit to the CARMABI Research center

In the morning, we visited the CARMABI Foundation. As you might know, CARMABI is the abbreviation of Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity.
Paul Stokkermans, general director of CARMABI, gave us a very nice welcome and introduced us to the diverse work the foundation does. At present the foundation runs a Natural Parks program to  manage several protected areas such as the Christoffel Park (2000 hectare), the Shete Boka Park, known for its nesting turtles and the Curacao Marine Park, spanning 20 km of uninhabited shore line. Different activities and projects are organized in these parks to support sustainable development. The CARMABI foundation further implements an environmental education program for different levels of the local primary and secondary schools.

CARMABI also operates a field research station at the opening of Piscadera Bay offering a variety of services to scientists that visit Curacao for biological fieldwork on terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Dr. Mark Vermeij runs an impressive research program and about 6 courses are taught in Coral Reef Ecology every year. At this moment, CARMABI is building a brand new research center, which Paul Stokkermans also showed to us. It’s an impressive four-story building, which will accommodate visiting scientists with modern dormitories and a well equipped laboratory. Then Valérie Chamberland gave us a tour around the current laboratory and librabry.

Brooder collection dive

In the afternoon Bob Snowden and Valérie took the group on a dive to collect brooders. They taught the group how to identify the right coral species in the field and demonstrated how to chip off coral using hammer and chisel. Though it looks quite rough to handle the corals this way, they usually do well afterwards and will probably already release larvae during the coming night. After collecting them, the brooders were placed in the coral nursery.

Getting the coral culture system ready for the larvae

Since tonight might be the first spawning night, the coral culture system needs to be ready! Mark Schick and Mitch Carl instructed the group how to set up the kreisels in the system, which will harbor the developing larvae in the coming days. The nets to catch the larvae that are released by the brooders were set up as well.

First spawning dives

At night the group was again divided in two. One group would dive at the Sea Aquarium reef, the other at Spanish Waters. As no spawning occured, we just enjoyed a relaxed night dive in very calm waters.

Observation protocol

The SECORE team is working together with other researchers which are currently monitoring the Elkhorn coral spawning at other places in the Caribbean (Mexico, Puerto Rico, Puerto Morelos, Belize, Florida and St. Thomas). As a matter of fact, former SECORE workshop participants are joining some of these groups to implement the techniques that they have learned from SECORE.

In order to make our observations valuable for the research community and to be able compare the findings, we need to give more detailed information which includes data on the precise dive location, timing of spawning, observed species, etc. For this, we use a form that has been provided to all groups by Dr. Nicole Fogarty (Smithsonian Institute):

Region: Curacao
Dive Sites: Sea Aquarium
Principle observers: Dirk Petersen, Valerie Chamberland, Mark Vermeij, Kristen Marhaver
Date of spawning observation: Aug. 3, 2012
Sunset time: 7pm
Monitoring start time: 9pm
Monitoring end time: 9.45pm
All species monitored: Acropora palmata
Depth: 3-7 ft
Approx. monitoring area: 30x50m
Species that spawned: none
Time Set: -
Time Spawn: -
Approx. % of corals monitored that spawned: -
Environmental date (i.e., conditions, tide, moon rise time): partly cloudy, calm
Notes: -

Region: Curacao
Dive Sites: Spanish Waters
Principle observers: Mark Schick, Bob Snowden
Date of spawning observation: Aug. 3, 2012
Sunset time: 7pm
Monitoring start time: 8.45pm
Monitoring end time: 9.50pm
All species monitored: Acropora palmata and Acropora cervicornis
Depth: 3-7 ft
Approx. monitoring area: 30x20m
Species that spawned: none
Time Set: -
Time Spawn: -
Approx. % of corals monitored that spawned: -
Environmental date (i.e., conditions, tide, moon rise time): partly cloudy, calm
Notes: -

The information that will be collected during the coming nights will contribute  to estimate the current reproductive state of the Elkhorn coral and the Staghorn coral populations in general , as well as the data will help us to predict future spawning events in the Caribbean.

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2 thoughts on “August 3 – Visit CARMABI research center, Brooder collection dive and first spawning night dives

  1. Good luck this year! We are watching our A. cervicornis here in Florida and haven’t seen any spawn yet, but they are full of eggs! The corals that have been in tanks for two years have eggs too, so we are excited!

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