Monday, September 28, 2015

Jumping right into research at BIOS

My name is Kayley You Mak, and I just finished my second year at Barnard College in New York City, where I study biology and mathematical sciences. I am at BIOS working with Dr. Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley and studying the coral, Porites astreoides. Continuing the work of summer interns Hannah Reich and Kevin Wong, I am investigating if the growth and survival of juvenile P. astreoides differs between those whose parental colonies came from shallow versus deeper (mesophotic) reefs.

Photo credit: Charlie Veron
We are interested in studying differential growth and survival because of the relationship of larval fitness between depths to the "deep reef refugia hypothesis" (DRH). The DRH postulates that because the effects of climate change and anthropogenic stressors are less severe on deep reefs, they may serve as refuge for corals whose larvae can repopulate shallower reefs following a disturbance event. Our experiment is designed to test if it is possible for gametes from corals on deeper reefs to recruit to and survive on the shallow reef by examining how parental depth affects the growth and survival of juveniles under shallow water conditions, thus indicating variations in fitness.

To measure the growth and survival, I examine tiles that contain our coral spats under a microscope in the lab. I check maps we made of all of the spat and count which are still alive and which have died. A healthy spat looks like the top image, where there is tissue evident. However, not all of our spat are doing so well (the water is very warm right now!), so some no longer have tissue and instead you can only see their skeleton as seen in the lower image.

Live Porites astreoides spat

Porites astreoides skeleton
Using a microscope camera, I take photos of the live spat so that I can calculate the surface area of each one with a computer program. From my size data, I calculate growth rates over time to compare growth rates of spat that came from shallow corals to those that came from mesophotic corals.

Photo credit: Kelvin Santana Rodriguez
It has only been a couple weeks, but jumping right into research at BIOS (I already have my first few data points) with an amazing group of people has been really great. We have bonded at meal times, exploring Bermuda together, and over our shared love of ocean sciences!

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