Friday, January 16, 2015

Entertaining video on CO2 rise and photosynthetic bacteria from SOEST

I learned about plants and photosynthesis in grade school (many many many many years ago). In college I learned about phyto-plankton - single celled plant plankton in the ocean (many many many years ago). Then I learned that the plankton in the ocean created (cycled) about 1/2 of the oxygen on the plante (many years ago).

The fact that photosynthetic bacteria are doing most of this work is slightly more recent and still very cool to me. Go microbes!

Check out this video from our parent department: SOEST at UH - This video was submitted into the Ocean180 Film Challenge. For more information on this, see: 

Aloha, Mark

Friday, January 2, 2015

Glass Anemones

In recent months, our water tables have started to succumb to an ever-frustrating anemone infestation.  Glass anemones, Aiptasia pulchella, found their way into our systems and large buildups occur if we do not remove them regularly.  They are known to be strongly disliked by aquarists because they sting corals and invertebrates in their closed environments.

When Aiptasia settle onto a substrate, they can easily come into contact with the other organisms nearby.  The anemones possess stinging cells called nematocysts that reside within the tentacles.  The nematocysts cause tissue damage to areas of the corals that they attack.  A few of ours have already fallen victim to their stings and were removed to other tanks to avoid further damage.

Aiptasia in our education water table
Taken by Casey Ching

Although we aren't happy about their presence in our tanks, these anemones, in their proper habitat are wonderful creatures and have many similarities to corals. Like reef building corals, their skin is largely transparent. The brown color comes from harboring algal zooxanthellae, a thin layer of symbiotic algae.  The zooxanthellae algae get a safe place to live and since they are able to photosynthesize, they take the waste products of the Aiptasia and produce extra sugars, fats and oxygen for the anemone.  This relationship is very similar to what happens in reef building corals, with one significant difference, corals are strongly dependent on this algae and will die without it, while Aiptasia do fine with or without.  

Because of this, Aiptasia are widely used on studies regarding zooxanthellae because they react similarly to reef building corals without the detrimental effects.  Dr. Ruth Gates worked in collaboration with UCLA to determine the effects of heat stress on Aiptasia pulchella and found that they reacted similarly to the reef building coral Pocillopora damicornis (lace coral) under the same conditions.  When exposed to raised temperature conditions, cells with the zooxanthellae attached to them would detach from within the anemone and be expelled producing the bleached look that is prominent among corals under stress.  We have both lace coral and Aiptasia in our tanks.

An example of bleached Aiptasia pulchella
Taken by AUS photography
To counteract the harm during bleaching events, HIMB researcher Robert Kinzie tested the adaptive bleaching hypothesis with multiple zooxanthellae-using organisms, one of which were Aiptasia.  He found supporting evidence that different types of zooxanthellae respond differently to various stressors and other types of zooxanthellae can be acquired from the environment once the original symbionts die off from the host.

Despite the bleaching events we've had in Kane'ohe Bay due to our recent temperature anomalies, studies have demonstrated that there's always the possibility of a recovery.  We may not like these Aiptasia in our tanks, but we appreciate the contributions they make to science.

Written by Casey Ching

Gates R, Baghdasarian G, Muscatine L (1992) Temperature stress causes host cell detachment in symbiotic cnidarians: Implications for coral bleaching. Biol Bull. 182:325-332.

Kinziee R, III, Takayama M, Santos S, Coffroth M (2001) The adaptive bleaching hypothesis: Experimental tests of critical assumptions. Biol Bull. 200:51-58. Accessed 12/24/14.

NOAA Ocean Service Education. Coral and zooxanthellae relationship. Accessed 01/02/15.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Holiday Greetings and Year End Notes

It has been a great year thanks to all our staff, volunteers, students, teachers and visitors!

Every tour or lab we give is really an opportunity for all of us to learn from each other.  We learn history from those that have been here in the years before; stories of growing up in Kane'ohe and visiting the island in times gone by. Each student brings a new vision to our labs and tours. They find new animals we have not noticed in the plankton before, discover marine life behaviors we have never seen, and ask us questions that we can not answer, stretching our minds and keeping our brains in top shape.

Moku o Lo'e pulls the best from all of us.

Some statistics to think about,
In the past year our program hosted 4,722 visitors to Moku o Lo'e. We reached another 3,602 through community fairs and events and thousands more through this blog and other media outreach.
Visitors included 2,395 5th grade - college level students as well as 253 teachers in teacher workshops. 2,142 visitors were here as families or with community groups, and the program serviced an additional 414 VIPs, government or management related visitors.

Our volunteers contributed over 3,700 hours of their time and ran over 310 tours and programs mornings, afternoons and evenings, weekdays and weekends throughout the year. The students, children and adults whose lives they touched will not soon forget their visit to Moku o Lo'e.

In this time of giving, if you feel overwhelmed by all of the material buying and spending, think for a moment of those volunteer hours and be comforted. The true giving season is really all year long. And yes, our volunteers have asked if there are tours to help with over the holidays, it does not stop.

With Aloha,


Friday, December 12, 2014

Punahou O-bots Team

 Not too long ago, we had the pleasure of hosting the Punahou O-bots on Coconut Island.  Through visiting our institution and a few others, they gained insight to create the following rendition of the Hawaiian legend, "The Shark and the Poi".  The video highlights the role of sharks as protectors of Hawaiian waters and important to our ocean's health.  It also promotes their video game on Scratch, a program created by MIT, to teach children interesting facts in a creative and fun way!

 Show your support for the Punahou O-bots by watching the video and playing the video game here!

 The Shark and the Poi

 CLICK THIS LINK to try the: Shark and the Poi video game


Friday, December 5, 2014

Newest Member to HIMB's Community Education Program

Aloha Everyone!

I'm Casey Ching, the new Kupu intern here under the AmeriCorps organization.  I just finished my first month working on Moku o Lo'e and am grateful to have the chance to be here for the next year.

Taken by Mark Heckman

Having been born and raised in Kailua and Kane'ohe, I've grown up hearing about HIMB.  Even my advisors at Boston University often spoke about it while I pursued my Bachelor's degree in marine science.  When I made the decision to move home following graduation, I also made it a personal goal of mine to seize the first opportunity I was given to visit.  Even better though was actually landing the position here through Kupu allowing me to work for the Community Education Program.

After spending the past four years in Boston, I have a lot of catching up to do in Hawaii's marine science community.  I'm still unsure what type of career I'd like to establish for myself, but being at HIMB is the best place to figure it out.  I've had experience with educational programs as well as research, so this position allows me to apply skills I've previously learned while exploring other possibilities.  I find all aspects of Hawaii's marine life engaging, but am looking forward to honing in on a specific focus that stimulates my interest while I'm here.

Me with a colleague, Ka'ilikea Shayler, at our program's touch table.
Taken by Mark Heckman

Mark has got me starting on a few projects, but I am most excited to map out an invasive algae clearing event around Coconut Island.  When I was in elementary school, these community events caused me to aspire towards a career in marine biology.  Gracilaria salicornia (common name, Gorilla Ogo) was the first scientific name I learned at the age of 10.  I'm thrilled to contribute to the alien algae removal efforts and to hopefully instill the same passion I received into its participants.

I'm also getting trained in a few skills, my favorite is learning how to drive the Boston whalers! Hopefully I'll be able to do my boating check out soon and help shuttle our groups to and from the island.

Taken by Mark Heckman

I'm thankful to the HIMB Community Education Program for giving me the chance to work with all of the wonderful HIMB volunteers, staff and faculty.  I'm looking forward to an exciting first year here.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Booking a Tour of Moku o Lo'e (Coconut Island)


This week's blog post is on the Header Bar at the top of our SCIENCE ISLAND BLOG for the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.

Interested in taking a tour or having one of your friends sign up for at tour? Check out the TOURS tab at the top of the page.

You want to do a tour, but also want to see if the date is open? Check the CALENDAR tab.

Interested in the marine life of HIMB. We can't say we have written about it all, but, alongside of the Marine Life Posts to the side, there is a MARINE LIFE tab above we are adding to fairly frequently.

Have a great weekend.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Fish Aggravating or Fish Aggregating Houses in the Sea

2nd FAD houseboat
Houseboat/FAD off Ontong Java Atoll.  SOI/Mark Heckman
One of my last posts from the Ontong Java Plateau was our discovery of some floating "houses" hundreds of miles from anywhere. You can see the post here: It's a Houseboat FAD.

Non-fishing oriented conservationists sometimes joke about the FADs, most of which in Hawaii are buoy's but can be a variety of devices. The question is often put, when a vessel is sunk to provide more "fish habitat" or a floating FAD is put in - are these devices actually producing more fish by creating fish habitat, or just creating ways for fishers to harvest dwindling and hard to find fish by creating an attractive space that lures them in. Hence the title, "Fish aggravation or aggregation." The answer depends on the level of use of the FAD and the type. PEWTrusts has a very interesting read on effects of FADs on tuna, see: Fish Aggregation Devices and Tuna, and Hawaii always seems to have some current research on FADs as a matter of course, of which HIMB's Holland lab is often involved through their HIMB Pelagic Fisheries Research unit. They do, as always, excellent work.

FAD houseboat above Ontong Java Plateau
Houseboat FAD 2. SOI/Tomer Ketter
It is unlikely that FADs will go away, so it is important that management based research continues on these devices.  As is common in fishing issues, research will give us the facts upon which to base opinions and action. So have a read through some of the resources given above. Interesting stuff!