Student Projects

The E. O. Smith Coral Project offers many opportunities for students to learn about corals, aquaculture and do indpendent research that will lead to a better understanding of the science that will help us to preserve these ocean residents. The involvement of students ranges from the more traditional in-class project model to a university research lab model where students design, set-up and run their own research projects based on their own interests. The focus of the research projects ranges from developing the fundamentals of captive growth and propagation of corals to studying impacts of evnvironmental changes on wild coral colonies. Students who take part in the project learn about coral husbandry, biology, propagation, and conservation.

The Effects of Decreased pH on Stony Coral

Many ocean organisms with hard shells, or skeletons, construct these structures by the process of calcification. Calcification is defined as the precipitation of calcium-rich minerals over an organic matrix. The rate that organisms calcify relates to how fast they grow. Calcification is a process under biological control, but it is also affected by environmental factors such as availability of calcium, temperature, pH, etc...

The Effectiveness of Feeding on Growth in Anthelia sp.

In today’s changing global environment, the need to understand global ecosystems has become more necessary than ever. One vital part of the global environment is the marine ecosystems around the world, especially those with large coral components. These coral ecosystems are astonishingly diverse, possibly containing hundreds of thousands of species. The diversity of these ecosystems makes them incredibly fragile, and therefore all the more important [5].

The Effect of Water Current Levels on Growth of Anthelia sp.

The world’s corals are dying at the alarming rate of 600 square miles of reefs per year (Telegraph). This loss has been attributed to human encroachment, and global climate change. In order to understand the effect these factors will have on wild corals, aquacultured colonies, corals grown in captivity, can be used. If grown successfully, these captive grown corals, have the potential to not only allow use for scientific study, but also the potential to repopulate the wild coral populations (U.S. Department of Commerce).

The Impact of Interspecific Competiton on Growth of Acropora

Corals are known to compete for space on the reef using chemical compounds released into the water and sometimes even via direct contact through polyp extension or sweeper tentacles. These “coral wars” are crucial to life on the reef, as certain species affect the growth of other neighboring species, with and without directly contacting them. The growth of coral species in captivity, ex. aquaculture, depends on theses often unseen factors as well. Little has been done to examine the impact that this factor has on growth of captive grown corals. Max and Josef are working on a collaborative project that will quantify the effect different species of stony coral have on the growth of adjacent stony coral specimens.

The Effect of Water Temperature on Captive Coral Growth

The continued dependence on fossil fuels for power has increased carbon emissions in the atmosphere. One of the many greenhouse gasses, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps heat as it radiates out from the planet. This “greenhouse effect” is essential for life on earth, but with too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere more and more energy from the sun is being trapped, causing increased temperature to the delicate ecosystems of Earth. Although the actual rise in temperature over ninety-nine years, from 1904 from 2005, has been 0.95°C (IPCC), this has a very negative effect on most life forms, and has substantially increased over the last fifty years.

The Effect of Lighting Intensity on Concentration of Zooxanthellae in Soft Corals of the Genus Rhodactis

The bleaching of corals and coral reefs has become a common phenomenon. When conditions for living aren’t ideal, the coral begin to expel their Zooxanthellae [3]. Since the Zooxanthellae are the source for color in the coral, when they are expelled it creates a white coral. Not only is the color lost, but the ability for the coral to sustain itself is hurt greatly. At the E.O. Smith Aquaculture lab (Figure 1), an experiment was designed to see if lighting intensity affected the concentration of the Zooxanthellae present in the corals. Three groups of the Rhodactis sp. were put into three separate tanks under different intensities of light.

Evolution of the CO1 Gene in Hard and Soft Coral Species

Cnidarians are often misidentified because they can appear differently in various environments. In order to learn more about the evolution of different cnidarian species, the Cytochrome Oxidase subunit 1 gene was chosen for investigation. This gene codes for a membrane protein involved in the electron transport chain, which helps to convert stored energy into ATP energy, which is usable by cells. In the below diagram, cytochrome oxidase is the third membrane complex. Cytochrome oxidase is essential to aerobic respiration, making it universal to cnidarians.