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Diving into Coral Disease

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Montastraea franksi with black-band disease
Above: A head of Montastraea franksi (star coral) with black-band disease (BBD). A consortium of marine organisms, including cyanobacteria, sulfate-reducing bacteria, and sulfide-oxidizing bacteria, cause black-band disease.
Below: Christina Kellogg surveying a species of Montastraea at the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary.

Christina Kellogg surveying a species of Montastraea

From July 12-20, 2003, Mote Marine Laboratory's Tropical Research Laboratory (TRL) hosted a course titled "Diseases of Corals and Other Reef Organisms."

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) microbiologist Christina Kellogg (St. Petersburg, FL) attended the course, held on Summerland Key in the lower Florida Keys, to learn a variety of methods employed in studying coral diseases.

Esther C. Peters (Tetra Tech, Inc., of Fairfax, VA) and Robert B. Jonas (George Mason University, also of Fairfax) taught the course, which consisted of lectures, dives, and laboratory sessions designed to introduce students to the field of marine pathobiology. The main focus was diseases affecting hard corals, but diseases of other reef organisms, such as fish, coralline algae, and sea urchins, were also addressed.

The course was limited to 12 students to allow everyone to get hands-on experience. Methods of studying diseases included collection of field-monitoring data and physiological, histological, and microbiological techniques.

Specific exercises included underwater demonstrations of coral-sampling techniques, radial transects for counting coral species or disease incidence, and video transects. Microbiological techniques included bacterial isolation, characterization using Gram stain, API strips, and Biolog (biochemical characterization), as well as microscopy and a discussion of molecular-biological methods.

Overall, the course was a fantastic opportunity to meet other people from various institutions and countries who are working on different aspects of coral-reef ecology. It was an invaluable chance to get experience with relevant techniques and be immersed (pun intended!) in the multidisciplinary approaches necessary to really begin to grapple with coral diseases and the many possible interactions causing reef decline.

Related Web Sites
Tropical Research Laboratory (TRL)
Mote Marine Laboratory
Tetra Tech, Inc.
engineering and technical consulting firm
St. Petersburg Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), St. Petersburg, FL

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in this issue: Fieldwork cover story:
Ancient Landscapes Beneath South Carolina Beaches

Tracking Hawaiian Coral Larvae

Suspended Sediment in Hawaiian Waters

Sediment Movement Near the Sea Floor

Outreach Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council

Helping Spadefoot Toads in California

Meetings ESRI User Conference

Diving Into Coral Disease

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Updated May 06, 2014 @ 02:11 PM (THF)