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News Article | October 26, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Portable observatories and new marine vehicles: The hinge of historic change in deep sea exploration Five hundred vents newly discovered off the US West Coast, each bubbling methane from Earth's belly, top a long list of revelations about "submerged America" being celebrated by leading marine explorers meeting in New York. "It appears that the entire coast off Washington, Oregon and California is a giant methane seep," says RMS Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard, who found the new-to-science vents on summer expeditions by his ship, Nautilus. The discoveries double to about 1,000 the number of such vents now known to exist along the continental margins of the USA. This fizzing methane (video: http://bit. ) is a powerful greenhouse gas if it escapes into the atmosphere; a clean burning fuel if safely captured. "This is an area ripe for discovery," says Dr. Nicole Raineault, Director of Science Operations with Dr. Ballard's Ocean Exploration Trust. "We do not know how many seeps exist, even in US waters, how long they have been active, how persistent they are, what activated them or how much methane, if any, makes it into the atmosphere." Further research and measuring will help fill important knowledge gaps, including how hydrocarbons behave at depth underwater and within the geological structure of the ocean floor. Expeditions this year include also NOAA's Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas Trench - a 59-day voyage with 22 dives into the planet's deepest known canyons in the Pacific Ocean near Guam. NOAA explorers added three new hydrothermal vents to the world's inventory and a new high-temperature "black smoker" vent field composed of chimneys up to 30 meters tall - the height of a nine-story building. Also revealed: a tiny spot volcano (the first ever discovered in US waters), a new mud volcano, thick gardens of deep-sea corals and sponges, a rare high-density community of basket stars and crinoids (a living fossil), and historic wreckage from World War II. (Photo, video log: http://bit. ) Scores of spectacular, rare and sometimes baffling unknown species encountered on this year's first-ever voyages to new deep ocean areas include several purple animals such as: Beyond being spectacularly photogenic, such animals help scientists better understand the web of life that sustains all species, including humans. As well, understanding how "extremophile" lifeforms survive in such conditions (piezophiles, for example, thrive in high pressure; pyschrophiles, aka cryophiles, live in water as cold as ?20 °C, as in pockets of very salty brine surrounded by sea ice), is usefully relevant to food and pharmaceutical preservation technologies, medical technology, nanotechnology and energy science. Dr. Ballard and about 100 other leading figures in marine science meet Oct. 20-21 to compare thoughts on the future of marine exploration at the 2016 National Ocean Exploration Forum, "Beyond the Ships: 2020-2025," hosted in New York by The Rockefeller University in partnership with Monmouth University. The Forum is also supported by the Monmouth-Rockefeller Marine Science and Policy Initiative, NOAA, the Schmidt Ocean Institute, and James A. Austin, Jr. Ocean exploration has arrived at a historic hinge, Forum organizers say, with profound transformation underway thanks to new technologies, led by increasingly affordable "roboats" - autonomous or remotely controlled vehicles that dive into the ocean or ply the surface laden with sensors collecting information from instruments suspended beneath them. ROV SuBastian, for example, is a new eco-friendly 3,100 kg (6,500 pound) deep-sea research platform for the Schmidt Ocean Institute's R/V Falkor, equipped with ultra high-resolution 4K cameras, mechanical arms that move seven ways and can sample to depths of 4,500 meters (2.8 miles), with a lighting system equivalent to the lamps of 150 car high-beams. (SuBastian sea trials video: http://bit. High-res photos, b-roll: http://bit. ). Says Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute: "With ROV SuBastian we will help make life on the ocean floor real to people who will never visit the sea, so they, too, can begin to appreciate the importance of ocean health and make the connection between life in the deep sea and life on land." "You don't have to be a scientist at sea to recognize the importance of the marine environment, and we are only at the beginning of our understanding. We never anticipated discovering the world's deepest living fish, the ghostfish (video: http://bit. ), back in 2014, and are excited about the life we will discover next." ROV SuBastian will have that opportunity this December during its first science cruise, in the Mariana Back-Arc in the western Pacific. (Cruise details: http://bit. . All dives will be live-streamed on Schmidt Ocean Institute's YouTube page: http://bit. ). Contributing as well to the transformation: Modern communications and sampling techniques, including eDNA, big data analysis and other high-tech advances that automate and vastly accelerate the work, opening the way for experts and the public to reach, see, chart, sample and monitor formerly secret depths of the seas. Innovations include portable observatories for underwater monitoring and a "curious exploration robot," programmed to focus on everything unfamiliar to its data bank brain (photo: http://bit. , video: http://bit. , credit WHOI). According to innovator Yogesh Girdhar of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in a recent test off the Panama coast, a similar swimming robot discovered a startlingly enormous population of crabs. Other engineers, meanwhile, are developing "game changing" unmanned undersea and surface vehicles tricked out with an array of sophisticated sensors to perform a suite of underwater tasks, enabled to run for months by recent improvements in battery technology. (See video, for example, of Boeing's 51-foot Echo Voyager: http://bit. ). Such "roboats" can be programmed to conduct deep sea exploration or searches using a lawn mower pattern, surfacing regularly to report data back to shore via satellite, or to patrol a coastal area, returning to port after one or two months to recharge and redeploy. These technologies will enable today's generation to "explore more of Planet Earth than all previous generations combined," predicts Dr. Ballard, whose celebrated career will be recognized at the Forum with the Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute's Champion of the Ocean award. The technologies will not only help discover and monitor new mineral and living resources, they could help secure interests vital to the world's economy or identify the best paths for communications cables that span the ocean floor - the veins of the Internet. Until recently, ocean exploration has involved ships operated like fishing vessels, dipping sensors and hauling up data. Forum participants such as John Kreider of Oceaneering International envision such ships in future serving as hives from which flotillas and squadrons of autonomous underwater, surface and aerial vehicles are launched - robots guided by experts on board or remotely, such as from a distant university campus via "telepresence," returning with images and data orders of magnitude larger than ever before. Thanks to modern communication technologies, schoolchildren, their teachers and indeed any interested members of the public can, and do, now follow expeditions online in real time. Among the many compelling interests and pursuits of marine scientists and historians in the public, private and military sectors: Says scientist James (Jamie) A. Austin, Jr. of the University of Texas, "the slow, time consuming and expensive way we've done ocean exploration forever - one ship doing one task at a time - is giving way to autonomous systems that net massive hauls of data, with advances in big data analysis enabling scientists to make sense of it rapidly." Dr. Austin envisions installations on the seafloor - measuring tremors or helping scientists estimate the rate at which Earth swallows carbon into its mantle through plate tectonics, for example - with data delivered by a device periodically flying up and down to the surface. Simply mapping the ocean floor is an important goal. While satellites have fully charted the seafloor in low resolution, only 10% is mapped in detail. At an estimated cost of $2.9 billion - or about $9 per square kilometer ($23 per square mile) - a "Gurgle Earth" map of the deep oceans could be completed at high resolution using swath like, multi-beam sonar. The hazard of uncharted oceanic mountains, trenches, volcanoes and other features was dramatically underscored in 2005 when a nuclear attack submarine, the USS San Francisco, struck a seamount in the Pacific at high speed, killing one crew member and injuring 97. Over 50% of US territory lies beneath the ocean surface and such mapping could also expand American territorial and resource claims. With documentation of the continental shelf, America's Exclusive Economic Zone, 11.3 million square km in size today, could extend a further 2.2 million square km - a 20% enlargement, representing an underwater area larger than Alaska. (See http://bit. ). Other recent finds of ancient shipwrecks and even ancient human remains, he adds, reveal that early mariners didn't simply hug the coastline but sailed courageously great distances from shore, and make it possible to determine who they were. While these and countless biological discoveries represent things discovered underwater, the intent of future exploration campaigns include measuring more, sampling more, and better understanding physical, geological and living processes - knowledge of vital importance for security, responsible ocean use and sustainable resource management. Asked what he thought might yet be discovered underwater, Dr. Ballard compares that to asking Lewis or Clark what they thought they'd find on their historic traverse of America. The reply, he says, would have been "I don't know. I'm getting into a canoe and I'm going to paddle." In one of several papers written for the Forum, meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador Cameron Hume adds that, beyond exploring and the initial characterization of an ocean area, humanity also needs to pursue subsequent research and long-term observing. In his paper, Dr. Jerry Schubel of the Aquarium of the Pacific, lamenting the relatively low level of public attention accorded to ocean exploration, points to new opportunities for awareness raising created by social media. "Understanding life on other planets," he says, "may help us understand the origins of life in the universe, but it can't match the relevance and importance of ocean exploration to the future of life on this planet." Says organizer Prof. Jesse Ausubel, faculty member at The Rockefeller University: "SuBastian and the Roboats sounds like a rock band, but it is the future of ocean exploration. One million marine species and one million shipwrecks may remain to be discovered. Let's use new approaches to multiply exploration." Says Forum organizer Vice Admiral Paul Gaffney, former President of Monmouth University and Urban Coast Institute Ocean Policy Fellow: "America is the greatest maritime nation in the history of the world, yet we scarcely know submerged America and only about 10% of the global oceans. At this Forum, we are encouraging ocean technology leaders to join the discussion and support more comprehensive exploration campaigns indispensable for sustainable use of the oceans and inspiring ocean stewardship." The ultimate aim: to formulate compelling, feasible campaigns to be carried out by the participants in the 2020-2025 timeframe. At the Forum, Dr. Jyotika Virmani will share the roster of teams for the $7 million Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, a global competition to promote unmanned ocean exploration. In a letter to the Forum (in full: http://bit. ), the President of the US National Academy of Sciences, famed ocean explorer Marcia McNutt, says "a number of events have underscored how essential our mission is to vastly improve knowledge of the marine environment." Inadequate knowledge of ocean terrain and currents hampered the search for flight MH 370 in 2014, for example. CubeSats, she notes, have "'democratized' space, providing access for pennies on the dollar. Similarly, new commercial tools, although still in their infancy, hold the promise of ushering in the citizen science era of ocean exploration." "The task we face is simply too large to continue to use 20th century tools if we hope to make a dent in the problem." Oct. 20-21Venue: The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Ave, New York, NY.Website, including Forum programme and speaker biographies: http://phe. Supporters: the Monmouth-Rockefeller Marine Science and Policy Initiative , NOAA, the Schmidt Ocean Institute, and James A. Austin, Jr. Positioning Ocean Exploration In a Chaotic Sea of Changing Media Jerry R. Schubel (Aquarium of the Pacific) http://bit. Exploring the Ocean through Sound Jennifer L. Miksis-Olds (University of New Hampshire) and Bruce Martin (Dalhousie) http://bit. Discussion Paper on Marine Minerals Mark Hannington, University of Ottawa, and Sven Petersen, GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research http://bit. Emerging Technologies for Biological Sampling in the Ocean Shirley Pomponi, Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, & Technology [CIOERT], Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University http://bit. The Forum is the latest in a series mandated by Congress (Title XII of Public Law 111-11) in March 2009 when it officially established the NOAA ocean exploration program. This law requires NOAA to consult with the other federal agencies involved in ocean exploration, as well as external stakeholders, to establish a "coordinated national ocean exploration program" that promotes data management and sharing, public understanding, and technology development and transfer. The law also requires NOAA to organize an "ocean exploration Forum to encourage partnerships and promote collaboration among experts and other stakeholders to enhance the scientific and technical expertise and relevance of the national program." The 2016 Forum convenes approximately 100 experts from academia, government, and the private sector to discuss adaptation and integration of technologies that can be employed in ocean exploration campaigns in the 2020-2025 timeframe. The Forum will look to a future of expanded exploration activities by making more platforms capable of measuring, sampling, or imaging yet-to-be-explored areas - employing a suite of technologies that have been dubbed "flyaway systems." Expanding spatial coverage and reducing cost of data collection are key ocean exploration priorities over a ~10 year time horizon. These priorities can be realized by creatively adapting and assembling existing technologies, and deploying them onboard autonomous devices, buoys, various so-called ships-of-opportunity, and other platforms, in addition to the existing fleet of dedicated ocean exploration vessels. The Forum will help federal funding agencies and foundations define and prioritize exploration technology investment options for 2020-2030, and stimulate a vision among leading explorers of what it might be like to conduct expeditions in this time frame. James A. (Jamie) Austin Jr., University of Texas Robert Ballard, Ocean Exploration Trust and University of Rhode Island Frank Herr, Office of Naval Research, US Navy John Kreider, Oceaneering International Alan Leonardi, NOAA Ocean Exploration and Research Shirley Pomponi, Florida Atlantic University Rick Rikoski, Hadal Inc. Jerry Schubel, Aquarium of the Pacific Lance Towers, The Boeing Company Victoria Tschinkel, 1000 Friends of Florida Invitees represent the academic, government, non-profit, and for-profit communities, with expertise in both the engineering aspects of creating relevant equipment, and in exploratory and scientific applications of such equipment. Beyond the Ships: 2020-2025 is the first of four annual Marine Science & Policy Series conferences that will be organized by Rockefeller and Monmouth, with events taking place on alternating campuses in New York City and West Long Branch, New Jersey.


Mullen L.,Command Systems | O'Connor S.,Command Systems | Cochenour B.,Command Systems | Dalgleish F.,Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute
Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering | Year: 2013

The detection and identification of underwater threats in coastal areas is of interest to the Navy. Conventional optical imaging systems are limited to scenarios where the number of attenuation lengths between the system and the object are less than 4. With a desire to operate at extended ranges and threats becoming smaller and better camouflaged, new approaches are needed. In response to these challenges, new transmitters and receivers are being developed to support the next-generation of underwater optical imaging systems. One of these systems is based on the modulated pulse concept where a pulsed laser source is encoded with a radar signal, and a range-gated, high-speed optical receiver recovers the radar modulation envelope. Subsequent processing of the radar signal provides a way to discriminate against multiply scattered light and to enhance image contrast and resolution. The challenge is developing transmitter and receiver hardware that meets the requirements of the modulated pulse technique. We report recent progress that has been made in developing modulated pulse transmitter and receiver hardware. A working prototype was demonstrated and tested in a controlled laboratory environment. The results of these initial experiments are presented. © 2013 SPIE.


News Article | November 16, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Declines in the Arctic sea ice are arguably the most dramatic evidence of the effects of current climate warming on ocean systems. Native peoples of the far north have long appreciated and relied upon the migrations of animals with the changing seasons, including some of the largest and least studied, the Arctic whales. While sea ice is perhaps the most defining feature of their habitat, the relationship between Arctic whales and sea ice is still largely a mystery, and there is increasing concern over how these species will adapt to climate related changes in sea ice. Researchers from Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and a team of scientists working in collaboration with Native hunters in Alaska and Canada have just published results of a study in the Royal Society Biology Letters titled, "Genetic Profiling Links Changing Sea Ice to Shifting Beluga Whale Migration Patterns," assessing the relationship between changing sea ice and beluga whale migration as well as summer residency patterns of a number of populations over two decades of dramatic sea ice changes in the Pacific Arctic. The researchers found that beluga whales, often known as the white whale, (Delphinapterus leucas) exhibited a tremendous ability to deal with widely varying sea ice conditions from one year to the next over a 20-year time frame in their return to traditional summering grounds each year. "It was not clear how sea ice influences beluga whale migration patterns and their summer habitat use, and climate change has added urgency to determining how environmental factors might shape the behavior and ecology of this species," said Greg O'Corry-Crowe, Ph.D., lead author and a research professor at FAU Harbor Branch, whose research focuses on combining molecular genetic analysis with field ecology to study the molecular and behavioral ecology of marine apex predators. Using a combination of genetic profiling, sighting data and satellite microwave imagery of sea ice in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas, O'Corry-Crowe and collaborators also found some dramatic shifts in migration behavior in years with unusually low spring sea ice concentration and in one case with an increase in killer whale (Orcinus orca) sightings and reported predation on beluga whales. For the study, O'Corry-Crowe and collaborators from the University of Alaska; the North Slope Department of Wildlife Management, Alaska; the Alaska Department of Fish and Game; the Native Village of Kotzebue in Alaska; the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee; and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Yellowknife, Canada, used genetic "fingerprinting" to investigate the population of origin of whales returning to four traditional coastal sites in the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic between 1988 and 2007. They compiled detailed beluga sightings and harvest data for the same period to assess inter-annual variation on timing of return. Lastly, they analyzed sea ice data in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas to determine seasonal and regional patterns of sea ice from 1979 to 2014. They used data from tissue samples from 978 beluga whales, which were collected over a 30-year period. "Continued reductions in sea ice may result in increased predation at key aggregation areas and shifts in beluga whale behavior with implications for population viability, ecosystem structure and the subsistence cultures that rely on them," said O'Corry-Crowe. Co-authors of the study are Andrew Mahoney, Ph.D., University of Alaska; Robert Suydam, Ph.D., North Slope Department of Wildlife Management, Alaska; Lori Quakenbush, Alaska Department of Fish and Game; Alex Whiting, Native Village of Kotzebue, Alaska; Lloyd Lowry, Alaska Beluga Whale Committee; and Lois Harwood, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada. Founded in 1971, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University is a research community of marine scientists, engineers, educators and other professionals focused on Ocean Science for a Better World. The institute drives innovation in ocean engineering, at-sea operations, drug discovery and biotechnology from the oceans, coastal ecology and conservation, marine mammal research and conservation, aquaculture, ocean observing systems and marine education. For more information, visit http://www. . Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU's world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of critical areas that form the basis of its strategic plan: Healthy aging, biotech, coastal and marine issues, neuroscience, regenerative medicine, informatics, lifespan and the environment. These areas provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU's existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit http://www. .


News Article | November 18, 2016
Site: www.sciencedaily.com

Declines in the Arctic sea ice are arguably the most dramatic evidence of the effects of current climate warming on ocean systems. Native peoples of the far north have long appreciated and relied upon the migrations of animals with the changing seasons, including some of the largest and least studied, the Arctic whales. While sea ice is perhaps the most defining feature of their habitat, the relationship between Arctic whales and sea ice is still largely a mystery, and there is increasing concern over how these species will adapt to climate related changes in sea ice. Researchers from Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and a team of scientists working in collaboration with Native hunters in Alaska and Canada have just published results of a study in the Royal Society Biology Letters titled, "Genetic Profiling Links Changing Sea Ice to Shifting Beluga Whale Migration Patterns," assessing the relationship between changing sea ice and beluga whale migration as well as summer residency patterns of a number of populations over two decades of dramatic sea ice changes in the Pacific Arctic. The researchers found that beluga whales, often known as the white whale, (Delphinapterus leucas) exhibited a tremendous ability to deal with widely varying sea ice conditions from one year to the next over a 20-year time frame in their return to traditional summering grounds each year. "It was not clear how sea ice influences beluga whale migration patterns and their summer habitat use, and climate change has added urgency to determining how environmental factors might shape the behavior and ecology of this species," said Greg O'Corry-Crowe, Ph.D., lead author and a research professor at FAU Harbor Branch, whose research focuses on combining molecular genetic analysis with field ecology to study the molecular and behavioral ecology of marine apex predators. Using a combination of genetic profiling, sighting data and satellite microwave imagery of sea ice in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas, O'Corry-Crowe and collaborators also found some dramatic shifts in migration behavior in years with unusually low spring sea ice concentration and in one case with an increase in killer whale (Orcinus orca) sightings and reported predation on beluga whales. For the study, O'Corry-Crowe and collaborators from the University of Alaska; the North Slope Department of Wildlife Management, Alaska; the Alaska Department of Fish and Game; the Native Village of Kotzebue in Alaska; the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee; and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Yellowknife, Canada, used genetic "fingerprinting" to investigate the population of origin of whales returning to four traditional coastal sites in the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic between 1988 and 2007. They compiled detailed beluga sightings and harvest data for the same period to assess inter-annual variation on timing of return. Lastly, they analyzed sea ice data in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas to determine seasonal and regional patterns of sea ice from 1979 to 2014. They used data from tissue samples from 978 beluga whales, which were collected over a 30-year period. "Continued reductions in sea ice may result in increased predation at key aggregation areas and shifts in beluga whale behavior with implications for population viability, ecosystem structure and the subsistence cultures that rely on them," said O'Corry-Crowe.


Adult beluga whales are migrating through fractured sea ice in the Alaskan Arctic. Credit: Vicki Beaver, NOAA Declines in the Arctic sea ice are arguably the most dramatic evidence of the effects of current climate warming on ocean systems. Native peoples of the far north have long appreciated and relied upon the migrations of animals with the changing seasons, including some of the largest and least studied, the Arctic whales. While sea ice is perhaps the most defining feature of their habitat, the relationship between Arctic whales and sea ice is still largely a mystery, and there is increasing concern over how these species will adapt to climate related changes in sea ice. Researchers from Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and a team of scientists working in collaboration with Native hunters in Alaska and Canada have just published results of a study in the Royal Society Biology Letters titled, "Genetic Profiling Links Changing Sea Ice to Shifting Beluga Whale Migration Patterns," assessing the relationship between changing sea ice and beluga whale migration as well as summer residency patterns of a number of populations over two decades of dramatic sea ice changes in the Pacific Arctic. The researchers found that beluga whales, often known as the white whale, (Delphinapterus leucas) exhibited a tremendous ability to deal with widely varying sea ice conditions from one year to the next over a 20-year time frame in their return to traditional summering grounds each year. "It was not clear how sea ice influences beluga whale migration patterns and their summer habitat use, and climate change has added urgency to determining how environmental factors might shape the behavior and ecology of this species," said Greg O'Corry-Crowe, Ph.D., lead author and a research professor at FAU Harbor Branch, whose research focuses on combining molecular genetic analysis with field ecology to study the molecular and behavioral ecology of marine apex predators. Using a combination of genetic profiling, sighting data and satellite microwave imagery of sea ice in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas, O'Corry-Crowe and collaborators also found some dramatic shifts in migration behavior in years with unusually low spring sea ice concentration and in one case with an increase in killer whale (Orcinus orca) sightings and reported predation on beluga whales. For the study, O'Corry-Crowe and collaborators from the University of Alaska; the North Slope Department of Wildlife Management, Alaska; the Alaska Department of Fish and Game; the Native Village of Kotzebue in Alaska; the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee; and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Yellowknife, Canada, used genetic "fingerprinting" to investigate the population of origin of whales returning to four traditional coastal sites in the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic between 1988 and 2007. They compiled detailed beluga sightings and harvest data for the same period to assess inter-annual variation on timing of return. Lastly, they analyzed sea ice data in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas to determine seasonal and regional patterns of sea ice from 1979 to 2014. They used data from tissue samples from 978 beluga whales, which were collected over a 30-year period. "Continued reductions in sea ice may result in increased predation at key aggregation areas and shifts in beluga whale behavior with implications for population viability, ecosystem structure and the subsistence cultures that rely on them," said O'Corry-Crowe. Explore further: Study shows beluga whales dive to great depth to catch cod


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

A compound extracted from a deep-water marine sponge collected near the Bahamas is showing potent antibacterial activity against the drug resistant bacteria methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Also called the "super bug," MRSA bacteria are resistant to all beta-lactam antibiotics such as methicillin, penicillin, oxacillin and amoxicillin and can be fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 80,000 invasive MRSA infections and 11,285 related deaths occur every year. Results of the study, led by researchers at Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, are published in the current issue of the journal Marine Drugs. Researchers have been able to demonstrate the isolation, structure elucidation and biological activity of a new indole (basis of many biologically active substances) alkaloid isolated from a marine sponge. They have named the antibiotic compound "dragmacidin G" and shown that it has a broad spectrum of biological activity including inhibition of MRSA as well as a panel of pancreatic cancer cell lines. "Sponges of the genus Spongosorites, have been a source of a number of biologically active bis-indole alkaloids that are reported to have a variety of activities including antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiplasmodial, cytotoxic as well as anti-inflammatory activities," said Amy Wright, Ph.D., lead author and a research professor at FAU's Harbor Branch who directs the Institute's drug discovery program. "We found substantial antibacterial activity for dragmacidin G. It is greater than 10-fold more potent than other members of the bis-indole alkaloids while retaining selectivity towards bacterial over mammalian cells." For years, scientists at FAU's Harbor Branch have been collecting unusual marine organisms -- many of them from deep-water habitats -- that are the source of novel natural products. The majority of samples come primarily from around the Atlantic and Caribbean; others have come from the Galapagos, western Pacific, Mediterranean, Indo-Pacific, Western Africa and the Bering Sea. FAU Harbor Branch's drug discovery program looks for treatments for pancreatic cancer and infectious diseases, and their scientists also have collaborations with other scientists working on other forms of cancer, malaria, tuberculosis, neurodegenerative disease and inflammation. "The primary goal of our marine biomedical and biotechnology program is to discover marine natural products with utility as medicines or as tools to better allow us to understand disease processes," said Wright. Over the past 10 years, the team has developed a library of materials (the FAU Harbor Branch-enriched fraction library) that are tested against a variety of diseases both at FAU's Harbor Branch and in partner laboratories. Once an activity is discovered, the team uses bioassay-directed fractionation to purify the bioactive natural products. The structures of these new compounds are determined through spectroscopic means with an emphasis on the use of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The researchers can then define how the compounds work using a wide array of methods such as small molecule immunochemical (affinity) chromatography or in this instance developing bacteria that are resistant to dragmacidin G and then defining what genetic changes are present in the resistant bacteria. For this study, fractions from the FAU Harbor Branch-enriched fraction library were screened in a number of assays including growth inhibition of the drug-resistant human pathogenic bacteria MRSA. Wright also worked with researchers from the University of Central Florida to test the growth inhibition of the causative agent for tuberculosis and the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, one of the causes of malaria in humans. The highly enriched fraction containing the new compound showed activity in all three assays and was further purified to obtain pure dragmacidin G, which enabled its structure elucidation and biological testing. The researchers are planning further studies based on these preliminary results. Wright collaborated with FAU Harbor Branch scientists Esther A. Guzmán, Ph.D.; Dedra Harmody; Peter J. McCarthy, Ph.D.; Tara Pitts; Shirley A. Pomponi, Ph.D.; and John K. Reed; and Debopam Chakrabarti, Ph.D.; Bracken F. Roberts, Ph.D.; Carolina Rodriguez Felix, Ph.D.; and Kyle H. Rhode, Ph.D., scientists from the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Central Florida; as well as K. Brian Killday formerly of FAU's Harbor Branch and now with Bruker Biospin Corporation in Massachusetts. Funding for the anti-MRSA testing came from a grant to McCarthy from FAU's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation and funding for the Tuberculosis and pancreatic cancer testing came from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants R33 AI105977 and RO1CA093455, respectively. Founded in 1971, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University is a research community of marine scientists, engineers, educators and other professionals focused on Ocean Science for a Better World. The institute drives innovation in ocean engineering, at-sea operations, drug discovery and biotechnology from the oceans, coastal ecology and conservation, marine mammal research and conservation, aquaculture, ocean observing systems and marine education. For more information, visit http://www. . Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU's world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of critical areas that form the basis of its strategic plan: Healthy aging, biotech, coastal and marine issues, neuroscience, regenerative medicine, informatics, lifespan and the environment. These areas provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU's existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit http://www. .


Dix N.,Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute | Phlips E.,University of Florida | Suscy P.,St. Johns River Water Management District
Estuaries and Coasts | Year: 2013

Patterns in phytoplankton biomass are essential to understanding estuarine ecosystem structure and function and are the net result of various gain and loss processes. In this study, patterns in phytoplankton biomass were explored in relation to a suite of potentially regulating factors in a well-flushed, subtropical lagoon, the Matanzas River Estuary (MRE) in northeast Florida. We examined temporal variability in water temperature, light availability, nutrient concentrations, phytoplankton productivity, and phytoplankton standing stock over 8 years (2003-2010) and explored relationships among variables through correlation analysis. Laboratory experiments in the spring and summer of 2009 quantified phytoplankton growth rates, nutrient limitation potential, and zooplankton grazing rates. The potential influence of oyster grazing was also examined by scaling up population metrics and filtration rate estimates. Results indicated that phytoplankton biomass in the study area was relatively low mainly due to a combination of low temperature and light availability in the winter and consistent tidal water exchange and bivalve grazing throughout the year. Relatively low levels of phytoplankton standing stock and small inter-annual variability within the MRE reflect a balance between gain and loss processes which provide a degree of resilience of the system to natural and anthropogenic influences. © 2013 Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation.


Bonin C.A.,University of California at San Diego | Goebel M.E.,Southwest Fisheries Science Center | O'Corry-Crowe G.M.,Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute | Burton R.S.,University of California at San Diego
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology | Year: 2016

Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella) are polygynous and both sexes are typically faithful to a breeding site. These characteristics could promote remating among individuals over time, leading to increased relatedness levels and negatively affecting genetic diversity. To examine this issue, the reproductive output of 55 females was monitored annually for 12 years and their pups were sampled (n = 280) and genotyped using 17 microsatellite markers. A full likelihood pedigree inference method was used to confirm maternities inferred in the field and estimate the number of full sibling pups born across years. Relatedness coefficients were estimated for pairs of individuals in the pedigree and compared to simulated values for each relationship category. There were nine cases where a female mated with the same male twice and one case where a female mated with the same male three times over the study period. The observed relatedness coefficients estimated among the sampled pups matched the simulated distribution for half-siblings. In addition, no first order relatives were found among the fur seal mothers studied, nor did observed relatedness coefficient distributions differ significantly from simulated values. Together, these results suggest a low remating rate and a negligible effect of remating on pair-wise relatedness. Territorial male replacement over time as well as female small-scale movements, driven by suitable pupping habitat, likely contribute to the low remating frequency observed in Antarctic fur seals. © 2015 .


Gibson Q.A.,University of North Florida | Howells E.M.,Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute | Lambert J.D.,University of North Florida | Mazzoil M.M.,Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute | Richmond J.P.,University of North Florida
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology | Year: 2013

Adult female bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) form fission-fusion social networks and adjust their association patterns with respect to their reproductive status. It is commonly reported that mothers with dependent calves preferentially utilize 'nursery areas' consisting of protected, shallow water habitats. However, few studies have tested whether females adjust their ranging patterns based on their reproductive status. Using photo-identification data from the Indian River Lagoon, Florida (1997-2007), we conducted both longitudinal and cross-sectional analyses to compare the ranging patterns of adult females with calves versus females without calves. The size of females' home ranges (HR) and core areas (CA) were not significantly different between reproductive states (P>0.05), presumably due to a lack of directional pattern in the relative sizes of female's home ranges when with a calf and without a calf. HR size varied greatly among individual females, 9.37-190.83km2 for females with a calf (x-±SE=76.50±10.20km2) versus 20.90-186.13km2 for the same females without a calf (97.00±11.50km2). CA size ranged from 0.35 to 56.75km2 for females with calves (14.62±3.60km2) and 0.39 to 49.72km2 for females without calves (20.01±3.60km2). Overlap between females' ranges with calf and without calf also varied greatly among individuals (HR: 13.92-94.97%, CA: 0-93.97%). On average, females with calves continued to utilize 51.98±5.08% of their without calf HR but only 19.09±5.45% of their without calf CA. In our cross-sectional analyses, a large percentage (65.55±3.36%) of the 95% utilization distribution for females without calves was also used by females with calves across all seasons. However, overlap between the 50% utilization distributions of females with calves and females without calves was low (<11%) in all seasons, especially autumn. These findings suggest that variation in ranging patterns among individual females was greater than by reproductive state. Females continued to use a large proportion of their overall range, but concentrated in different areas depending on their reproductive status. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.


Bonin C.A.,University of California at San Diego | Goebel M.E.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | O'Corry-Crowe G.M.,Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute | Burton R.S.,University of California at San Diego
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology | Year: 2012

Genetic analyses can reliably determine the relationships among putative cases of twins in pinniped species. These studies demonstrate that field observations of nursing twins may often be cases of adoption or foster nursing of unrelated pups. A recent study of Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella) on South Georgia Island found that only 3 of 11 putative twin cases were truly twins. Here we report results of genetic testing of eight putative cases of twinning (twin siblings and mother) observed at Cape Shirreff (62°27'30S, 60°47'17W), Livingston Island, Antarctica. Parentage and relatedness analyses using 18 microsatellite markers confirmed six out of the eight cases as twins and two cases of adoption/foster nursing of unrelated pups. All twins analyzed were dizygotic and in five out of six cases, the twins were likely full siblings (relatedness coefficient, or r xyμ=0.46, σ 2=0.004). In one case, the twins were likely half-siblings (r xy=0.17), supporting a previous finding of heteropaternity in Antarctic fur seals. This result suggests that mate infidelity during estrus maybe common in Antarctic fur seals, which has implications for our understanding of this species's mating system. The twinning rate estimated at Cape Shirreff (0.12% or 6 twins per 4,965 births) is consistent with the scarcity of twin births observed in pinnipeds, which is associated with the high cost of nursing multiple pups in these animals. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.

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