Our team conducted our second reef survey at Pepper Park Reef. We surveyed the benthic cover at the reef and collected water, macroalgae, and urchin samples. We look forward to analyzing these samples to help us better understand what forces are shaping this reef community.
We are excited to welcome our new summer volunteer, Jody Smith! Jody is an undergraduate student of Environmental Studies at University of California Santa Cruz. She's going to help us in the lab and with fieldwork over the next month. Welcome to the world of algae Jody!
Megan McRoberts of WPTV tagged along for an exciting day of fieldwork surveying coastal reefs for signs of eutrophication with the Lapointe HAB Lab. The story highlighted the importance of this new project. We are looking forward to analyzing the data collected and sharing the results.
Dr. Lapointe spoke to WPTV about the causes of increasing Sargassum beaching in Florida and globally.
Our first sampling trip for a new nearshore reef survey was conducted June 20, 2018 using the Harbor Branch Dusky. The HAB Lab team, Lapointe, Brewton, and Wilking, set out along with our collaborator Alex Tewfik of Wildlife Conservation Society Belize, HBOI photographer Brian Cousin, and WPTV news anchor Megan McRoberts to survey some coastal reefs for reported symptoms of eutrophication. We became aware of the potential problem from divers who were reporting unusual numbers of algae and sea urchins, possible signs of an ecosystem out of balance. We collected, environmental measurements, water samples, and macroalgae samples. Additionally, SCUBA surveys were done of the benthic (algae, wormrock, coral, sponges, etc.) and fish communities. We will try to sample these sites monthly, as visibility and weather conditions allow. The goal will be to understand what is influencing the distribution and abundance of algae and other organisms on these important habitats.
We're excited to welcome our new HAB Lab volunteer, FAU Biology undergraduate student Rachael Stark! Rachael is a senior with a focus in Marine Biology. She will graduate this fall and hopes to attend graduate school next year. We hope that by volunteering in our lab she will learn some valuable skills and get a better idea of the sorts of research that she would like to do in graduate school. She's already been been extremely helpful in the lab by washing bottles and grinding Sargassum samples. Welcome to the world of algae Rachael!
Dr. Lapointe discussed the increased strandings of the brown algae, Sargassum, with the Palm Beach Post. These strandings are an issue for coastal communities in many locations and one of the reasons we study Sargassum. Link to the article below.
On Monday, May 21, 2017 the Lapointe HAB Lab presented the findings of the recently released report, "Microbial Source Tracking of Bacterial Pollution in the North Fork of the St. Lucie River" at a special meeting of the Port St. Lucie City Council. Dr. Lapointe, Lynn Wilking, and Rachel Brewton all attended the meeting. Brewton presented the findings of the study and all were on-hand after the presentation to answer questions. WPTV reported on the meeting and the link to their coverage is below.
We are in the process of writing a scientific paper that will examine the biochemistry and nutrient sources supporting different seagrass species within the Indian River Lagoon, Florida. There are seven species of seagrasses reported for the Indian River Lagoon, however of particular interest, is the oligotrophic seagrass, Thalassia testudinum. Often referred to as "turtle grass", Thalassia has the highest light requirement of all seagrasses and is considered to be an indicator of a healthy ecosystem. On the Atlantic coast, Sebastian Inlet was considered to be the northernmost limit of Thalassia, however there is concern that is may be receding to the south. There were reports of locations where Thalassia might still exist in this area, so we took the HBOI Sundance out to investigate. After thoroughly surveying multiple sites, we were unable to confirm any Thalassia in this area currently. We did find abundant populations of Caulerpa prolifera, an alga that resembles Thalassia, but thrives in nutrient rich and low light water. Could these previous reports have mistaken Caulerpa prolifera for Thalassia or has it recently receded and is no longer present at Sebastian Inlet?
On April 29, 2018, Brian conducted a belated birthday dive at Looe Key reef. The wind was less than 4 knots and the seas were calm, however the water was still relatively turbid and green with visibility around 35 ft. Brian collected water samples for nutrient analysis to add to our long-term database. He also observed blooms of the macroalgae Dictyota menstrualis and Liagora ceranoides. The shallow fore reef experienced intense wave action during Hurricane Irma and the coral spur framework had been blown apart exposing fossil remains of elkhorn coral Acropora palmata. This is a reminder that elkhorn coral played a major role in the construction of the spur and groove formation of Looe Key reef over geological time. Currently, greater than 95% of the elkhorn coral at Looe Key is gone, indicating that this reef can no longer keep pace with sea level rise, and would be considered to be a "give up" reef. The HAB Lab has just submitted a research article detailing three decades of Brian's water quality monitoring at Looe Key reef, we look forward to sharing this paper when it is in press.
The North Fork of the St. Lucie River in Port St. Lucie, Florida is impaired for fecal bacteria, nitrogen, phosphorus, and dissolved oxygen. Periodically, the system is closed for recreational use due to high bacteria levels. In order to determine the sources of this problem, the City of Port St. Lucie undertook a Microbial Source Tracking Study in partnership with St. Lucie County and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The Lapointe HAB Lab provided analytical assistance of the resulting data. The final report has been submitted to the city for review and the HAB Lab will present the results to the City Council on May 21, 2017.
During the study surface water samples were collected from tributaries of the North Fork, canals draining into the North Fork, and the main stem of the river from White City Park into the St. Lucie Estuary. Water samples were analyzed for molecular markers, chemical tracers, bacterial concentrations, and dissolved nutrients during the 2016 wet season, the 2017 dry season, and a 2017 rain event; nutrients were also sampled once during the 2017 wet season. The data collected during the study indicated a few potential sources of fecal bacteria to the North Fork, such as septic systems, sewer system leaks, and urban runoff. The highest concentrations of wastewater tracers and reactive nitrogen were found in residential canals. The HAB Lab suggested future research and monitoring activities to further hone in on sources contributing to this issue. Link to the report below.
The newest video from Dr. Lapointe's collaboration with the Florida Chamber of Commerce was featured in Florida Politics. This video describes the water quality issues facing the Kissimmee River basin, which extends from Orlando to Lake Okeechobee. Link to the story and video below.
HAB Lab M.S. Student Bret Kaiser defended his thesis, "Relationships between Dissolved Nutrients, Environmental Variables, and Acidification in the Indian River Lagoon". He will graduate in May 2018. Congrats to Bret!
Brewton and Wilking successfully completed the final 2018 Dry Season sampling event in Lee County. Once all the samples have been analyzed, we will begin to assess the data and produce a report for the county. Looking forward to the results of this joint effort between Lee County, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the HBOI HAB Lab!
The HAB Lab traveled to St. Augustine to present at the Spring 2018 SEERS meeting.
Dr. Lapointe manned an outreach booth during Florida Springsfest 2018 at Silver Springs State Park. While at Springsfest, Brian got to meet the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Ricou Browning.
The HAB Lab had a big presence at the 2018 Indian River Lagoon Symposium. Brewton, Madio, and Kaiser all gave oral presentations, while Wilking presented a poster.
The HAB Lab research project looking at changes in water quality after widespread fertilizer bans was featured in the TC Palm. This project should be submitted for publication in a scientific journal late this spring.
The Palm Beach Post featured the HAB Lab's newly published paper. The article, authored by Dr. Lapointe, Laura Herren, and Armelle Paule, described water quality in the St. Lucie Estuary and the relationship with wastewater from septic systems. In this research, sucralose was used as a tracer of human wastewater within the system. A link to the article from the Palm Beach Post and the WPTV coverage can be found below.
What does a coral reef look like after a major hurricane? About six weeks post-Irma, Dr. Lapointe dove at Looe Key Sanctuary Preservation Area in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to find out. At Looe Key reef Brian found fine turbidity in the water, which made it appear cloudy, and high chlorophyll a levels that gave the water a green tinge. There was sediment deposited on the reef biota and many coral heads were split apart. Brian will continue to dive at Looe Key as often as possible to keep a watchful eye on the reef. The lab is hard at work writing up a research article that compiles thirty years of Brian's Looe Key monitoring data, so stay tuned for that near the end of 2018.
Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Lower Florida Keys on September 10, 2017. Irma brought with it some very intense wind, with gusts up to 180 mph, and 20 ft. of storm surge on the windward side of Big Pine Key. In the wake of the storm there was severe physical and biological damage throughout the Florida Keys. Dr. Lapointe's lab on Big Pine Key was flooded, but was not destroyed. The disturbance of large storms, such as Irma, can result in water quality issues, such as increased turbidity and algal blooms, and can have broad ecological effects, including species shifts and habitat loss. In the coming month, Dr. Lapointe, a part-time resident of Big Pine Key since 1983, will be keeping a watchful eye on the health and future trajectory of the unique ecosystems of the Lower Florida Keys.
Studying water quality and harmful algal blooms throughout Florida and the Caribbean.