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Hanley K.A.,Ocean Research and Conservation Association | Widder E.A.,Ocean Research and Conservation Association
Photochemistry and Photobiology | Year: 2017

Three major hypotheses have been proposed to explain why dinoflagellate bioluminescence deters copepod grazing: startle response, aposematic warning, and burglar alarm. These hypotheses propose dinoflagellate bioluminescence (A) startles predatory copepods, (B) warns potential predators of toxicity, and (C) draws the attention of higher order visual predators to the copepod's location. While the burglar alarm is the most commonly accepted hypothesis, it requires a high concentration of bioluminescent dinoflagellates to be effective, meaning the bioluminescence selective advantage at lower, more commonly observed, dinoflagellate concentrations may result from another function (e.g. startle response or aposematic warning). Therefore, a series of experiments was conducted to evaluate copepod grazing (Acartia tonsa) on bioluminescent dinoflagellates (during bioluminescent and nonbioluminescent phases, corresponding to night and day, respectively) at different concentrations (10, 1000, and 3000 cells mL−1), on toxic (Pyrodinium bahamense var. bahamense) and nontoxic (Lingulodinium polyedrum) bioluminescent dinoflagellates, and in the presence of nonluminescent diatoms (Thalassiosira eccentrica). Changes in copepod ingestion rates, clearance rates, and feeding preferences as a result of these experimental factors, particularly during the mixed trails with nonluminescent diatoms, indicate there is a concentration threshold at which the burglar alarm becomes effective and below which dinoflagellate bioluminescence functions as an aposematic warning. © 2017 The American Society of Photobiology

Johnsen S.,Duke University | Frank T.M.,Nova Southeastern Oceanographic Center | Haddock S.H.D.,Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute | Widder E.A.,Ocean Research and Conservation Association | Messing C.G.,Nova Southeastern Oceanographic Center
Journal of Experimental Biology | Year: 2012

Bioluminescence is common and well studied in mesopelagic species. However, the extent of bioluminescence in benthic sites of similar depths is far less studied, although the relatively large eyes of benthic fish, crustaceans and cephalopods at bathyal depths suggest the presence of significant biogenic light. Using the Johnson-Sea-Link submersible, we collected numerous species of cnidarians, echinoderms, crustaceans, cephalopods and sponges, as well as one annelid from three sites in the northern Bahamas (500-1000 m depth). Using mechanical and chemical stimulation, we tested the collected species for light emission, and photographed and measured the spectra of the emitted light. In addition, in situ intensified video and still photos were taken of different benthic habitats. Surprisingly, bioluminescence in benthic animals at these sites was far less common than in mesopelagic animals from similar depths, with less than 20% of the collected species emitting light. Bioluminescent taxa comprised two species of anemone (Actinaria), a new genus and species of flabellate Parazoanthidae (formerly Gerardia sp.) (Zoanthidea), three sea pens (Pennatulacea), three bamboo corals (Alcyonacea), the chrysogorgiid coral Chrysogorgia desbonni (Alcyonacea), the caridean shrimp Parapandalus sp. and Heterocarpus ensifer (Decapoda), two holothuroids (Elasipodida and Aspidochirota) and the ophiuroid Ophiochiton ternispinus (Ophiurida). Except for the ophiuroid and the two shrimp, which emitted blue light (peak wavelengths 470 and 455 nm), all the species produced greener light than that measured in most mesopelagic taxa, with the emissions of the pennatulaceans being strongly shifted towards longer wavelengths. In situ observations suggested that bioluminescence associated with these sites was due primarily to light emitted by bioluminescent planktonic species as they struck filter feeders that extended into the water column. © 2012. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.

Frias-Torres S.,Ocean Research and Conservation Association
ORYX | Year: 2013

The Goliath grouper Epinephelus itajara has been protected in the USA since 1990. In Florida commercial and recreational fishers consider the species a top predator of fish and lobster and advocate culling the grouper population as a solution to recover declining stocks. I examined the scientific evidence for and against culling the Goliath grouper, using commercial landing data from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (1950-2010), fisheries-independent diver-based surveys from the REEF Environmental Education Foundation (1993-2007), and published dietary and morphological studies. An analysis of the commercial extinction of the Goliath grouper in Florida indicates that its recovering population is not the cause of declining fish and lobster stocks. The recovering Goliath grouper population could provide ecological and socio-economic benefits: as top-down control on other lobster predators, in ecotourism, and as potential biocontrol of the invasive Indo-Pacific red lionfish Pterois volitans on Atlantic reefs. Copyright © Fauna & Flora International 2012.

Widder E.A.,Ocean Research and Conservation Association
Science | Year: 2010

From bacteria to fish, a remarkable variety of marine life depends on bioluminescence (the chemical generation of light) for finding food, attracting mates, and evading predators. Disparate biochemical systems and diverse phylogenetic distribution patterns of light-emitting organisms highlight the ecological benefits of bioluminescence, with biochemical and genetic analyses providing new insights into the mechanisms of its evolution. The origins and functions of some bioluminescent systems, however, remain obscure. Here, I review recent advances in understanding bioluminescence in the ocean and highlight future research efforts that will unite molecular details with ecological and evolutionary relationships.

Johnsen S.,Duke University | Marshall N.J.,University of Queensland | Widder E.A.,Ocean Research and Conservation Association
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2011

Because light in the pelagic environment is partially polarized, it has been suggested that the polarization sensitivity found in certain pelagic species may serve to enhance the contrast of their transparent zooplankton prey. We examined its potential during cruises in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean and at a field station on the Great Barrier Reef. First, we collected various species of transparent zooplankton and micronekton and photographed them between crossed polarizers. Many groups, particularly the cephalopods, pelagic snails, salps and ctenophores, were found to have ciliary, muscular or connective tissues with striking birefringence. In situ polarization imagery of the same species showed that, while the degree of underwater polarization was fairly high (approx. 30% in horizontal lines of sight), tissue birefringence played little to no role in increasing visibility. This is most likely due to the low radiance of the horizontal background light when compared with the downwelling irradiance. In fact, the dominant radiance and polarization contrasts are due to unpolarized downwelling light that has been scattered from the animal viewed against the darker and polarized horizontal background light. We show that relatively simple algorithms can use this negative polarization contrast to increase visibility substantially. © 2011 The Royal Society.

Cusick K.D.,U.S. Navy | Widder E.A.,Ocean Research and Conservation Association
Bulletin of Marine Science | Year: 2014

Bioluminescence in dinoflagellates is thought to function as a "burglar alarm," alerting visual predators to the presence of dinoflagellate grazers. However, many bioluminescent dinoflagellates, particularly those associated with harmful algal blooms (HABs), have a much lower bioluminescence capacity that seems less well-adapted for attracting the attention of distant secondary predators. The present study was motivated by a question regarding the impact of extreme differences in bioluminescence potential among dinoflagellates, particularly those with the capacity to form HABs. This study examined the function of bioluminescence in the bright emitter, Pyrocystis noctiluca (Murray, 1876), compared to the much dimmer HAB species, Lingulodinium polyedrum F. Stein (Stein 1883). The foraging efficiency of the nocturnal teleost, Apagon maculatus (Poey, 1860), was determined at a range of cell concentrations with both dinoflagellate species. At low cell concentrations of P. noctiluca, both the foraging efficiency and the orientation distance of the fish to the prey increased, indicating that bioluminescence functions as a burglar alarm. However, neither fish foraging efficiency nor orientation distance increased in the presence of luminescent L. polyedrum at low cell concentrations. At higher concentrations, the bioluminescence of L. polyedrum improved the foraging efficiency of the fish, but the orientation distance to the prey was no greater than with non-luminescent cells, indicating that at low cell concentrations, bioluminescence does not function as a burglar alarm in L. polyedrum. The role of bioluminescence as a possible aposematic signal in L. polyedrum is discussed, along with the implications for the role of bioluminescence in HAB dynamics. © 2011 Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science of the University of Miami.

Widder E.,Ocean Research and Conservation Association
Sea Technology | Year: 2013

The 2012 expedition was initiated based on the success of Dr. Tsunemi Kubodera, who captured the first still images of a giant squid off Ogasawara in 2004. For those images, he used a baited fishing line outfitted with a camera that was programmed to take a picture every 30 seconds. After three years of attempts, he succeeded. Kubodera captured a series of still images of a giant squid attacking bait on a line at 900 meters. The enormous public interest that followed encouraged the Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) based in Tokyo, Japan, to finance the most ambitious attempt to accomplish the Holy Grail of natural history filmmaking-filming the giant squid in its natural habitat. The Discovery Channel partnered with NHK and helped finance the eight-week expedition. Standard cameras restrict viewing distances to less than one attenuation length. The much larger viewing volume needed to observe large animals in their natural state was achieved by combining low-light-level (LLL) cameras with far-red illumination.

Cook S.B.,Ocean Research and Conservation Association | Holloway A.,Consortium for Ocean Leadership | Lettrich M.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Yarincik K.,Consortium for Ocean Leadership COL
Oceanography | Year: 2016

This article draws on several sources to provide background information on the composition of the 2015 ocean science graduate education community. We identify 148 US institutions of higher education that offer graduate degrees in the marine and ocean related sciences. Using data on degree completions and program size, the balance between master’s and doctoral programs, and the demographic characteristics of degree recipients for the 73 higher education institutions that report marine degree data to the federal government, we develop a descriptive snapshot of the 2015 ocean sciences graduate education landscape. For programs administered by members of the Ocean Sciences Educators’ Retreat community within the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, we present time-series information on the “supply side” of program dynamics (i.e., applications, enrollment), including detailed demographics, as well as an overview of curricular patterns and administrative structures. This information provides a framework that the graduate education community can use for further reflection, discussion, and collaborative action focused on the future of postbaccalaureate education in the ocean sciences. © 2016 by The Oceanography Society. All rights reserved.

PubMed | Ocean Research and Conservation Association
Type: | Journal: Photochemistry and photobiology | Year: 2017

Three major hypotheses have been proposed to explain why dinoflagellate bioluminescence deters copepod grazing: startle response, aposematic warning, and burglar alarm. These hypotheses propose dinoflagellate bioluminescence (A) startles predatory copepods, (B) warns potential predators of toxicity, and (C) draws the attention of higher-order visual predators to the copepods location. While the burglar alarm is the most commonly accepted hypothesis, it requires a high concentration of bioluminescent dinoflagellates to be effective, meaning the bioluminescence selective advantage at lower, more commonly observed, dinoflagellate concentrations may result from another function (e.g. startle response or aposematic warning). Therefore, a series of experiments was conducted to evaluate copepod grazing (Acartia tonsa) on bioluminescent dinoflagellates (during bioluminescent and non-bioluminescent phases, corresponding to night and day, respectively) at different concentrations (10, 1000, and 3000 cells ml

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Oct. 19, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Recognizing the importance of protecting the environment, particularly protecting Florida’s water resources, Scotts today announced it has introduced new 50 percent slow-release nitrogen lawn food products throughout the entire state of Florida. This unique-to-Florida lawn fertilizer will help consumers play a role in protecting the state’s critical water resources.  In properly caring for the lawns around their homes, these spaces can act as barriers to counteract the many sources of urban nutrient runoff. The product innovation builds on Scotts’ nationwide phosphorus-free lawn maintenance fertilizer initiative completed in 2013 as well as a multi-year Smarter Solutions for Cleaner Waterways initiative that began in 2014 and culminates this year. “As leaders in lawn and garden, we have an on-going commitment to innovation that helps gardeners nurture plant life in ways that work in harmony with the world around them,” said Jim Hagedorn, Chairman and CEO of parent company ScottsMiracle-Gro, who is a resident of Florida.  “Florida’s water bodies make our state a truly amazing place and we view it as our responsibility to help Floridians be confident that they are doing their part to protect our most valuable natural resources. We began a three-year program in 2014 that dedicated support for groups conducting research, restoration and greenspace projects around many of the state’s most sensitive water bodies and will expand this work with environmental leaders across the state beyond 2016.” More than five years ago, Scotts made the groundbreaking announcement that it would remove phosphorus from all its lawn maintenance products nationwide in order to improve the environmental impact of its lawn care products.  This innovation lead to a 10,000 ton reduction in phosphorus use nationwide, leading to an approximate 500 ton reduction annually in Florida. The introduction of 50 percent slow-release nitrogen products to the entire state of Florida signals a new milestone in the Company’s national “Water Positive Landscapes” initiative aimed at protecting waterways by providing homeowners with actionable ways to responsibly use water when working in their lawns and gardens. “Water quality remains a concern throughout Florida as algae blooms increasingly threaten the health of Florida’s water bodies,” said Josh Peoples, Vice President and General Manager of Scotts brand products.   “We have taken this step to continue our pursuit to provide consumers the best products for their lawns so that they can that positively impact the environment around them.” “We have watched ScottsMiracle-Gro prove they are committed to being part of the solution in restoring water bodies like the Everglades by removing phosphorus from their products years ago and, now, in taking another important step to help residents across Florida improve their nitrogen footprint when working in their own yards. The Everglades Foundation applauds Scotts’ ongoing efforts to implement nutrient solutions in our state,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation. This will be the first 50 percent slow release nitrogen product that uses Scotts’ patented All-In-One Particle® technology for even feeding across lawns. When nutrients, such as nitrogen, are slowly released over an extended period of time, it enables lawns to stay consistently healthy and properly serve as a barrier to runoff particularly during heavy rains, such as the ones that occur during Florida’s summers. More than $8 million and five years were invested into the research necessary to develop a reliable slow release nitrogen technology, uniquely designed with Florida’s climate, sandy soil composition and year-round gardening in mind. “There is simply no question about whether or not the level of nutrients, particularly phosphorus and nitrogen, in our waterways is contributing to the problems we are seeing in the Indian River Lagoon and other water bodies,” said Dr. Edith “Edie” Widder, Founder of the Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA). “Providing Floridians with a means for reducing their environmental footprint will go a long way to restoring the health of these delicate and precious ecosystems.” Furthering the Commitment to Innovation and Environmental Stewardship In June, ScottsMiracle-Gro announced a nationwide Water Positive Landscapes initiative, which is equipping homeowners with educational and actionable resources to help them use water responsibly in their lawns and gardens. The initiative is also focusing on product innovation, such as 50 percent slow release nitrogen, and continued research on the intersection between lawn care and gardening and water stewardship. This latest water protection initiative follows the Company’s "Florida Smarter Solutions for Cleaner Waterways” initiative that sponsored in-state water quality research, habitat restoration, consumer education and green infrastructure improvements. ScottsMiracle-Gro funded an independent research project by the Ocean Research & Conservation Association to determine the sources of pollution in the Indian River Lagoon. The results of this research will help create solutions to improve the lagoon’s water and wildlife, and also create a model that can be replicated for other polluted waterways. Through its partnership with Tampa Bay Watch, more than 20 acres of salt marsh plants will be restored in Tampa Bay. Grants to community gardens, farms and greenspaces throughout Florida have protected more than 47,600 square feet of land. “As a partner in the ScottsMiracle-Gro ‘Florida Smarter Solutions for Cleaner Waterways’ initiative and a participant in the ‘Water Positive National Partner Network’, we have seen, first-hand, their willingness to listen to stakeholders and work with nontraditional allies to identify solutions,” said Peter Clark, President of Tampa Bay Watch. “Scotts is being responsive to Florida’s water quality issues as proven by their significant investment in research and restoration projects throughout the state.” The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company is passionate about helping people of all ages express themselves on their own piece of the Earth.  With approximately $3 billion in sales, the Company is the world’s largest marketer of branded consumer products for lawn and garden care. The Company’s brands are the most recognized in the industry. In 2016, the Company ranked in Forbes 100 Most Reputable Companies in America for the second year in a row. To learn more about the Company and our initiatives, visit us at

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