Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dolphin Communication Project at RIMS

The Roatan Institute for Marine Science is ideally situated for marine study on the northwest coast of Roatan where over 30 miles of fringing and barrier reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves and shoreline are home to an astonishing profusion of life. RIMS is located at Anthony’s Key Resort. Read More and watch video of research....

TME 2011 -Participants work with dolphin trainers.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Leavin' On A Jet Plane Saturday....

TME 2011 concluded today with our flights back to the States. It was a great week of lectures and field studies. Thanks everyone for consistent participation throughout the week. Hopefully what we experienced will have a positive impact on our students this coming year! Here are some favorite picks from the week...

Fireworm eats a Gorgonian

Can you see me? I'm good at hiding!

Peacock Flounder tolerates a photo

A Green Sea Turtle grazing at the reef

Going to the surface for a quick breath

Fighting Flounders

A Christmas Tree worm

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fabulous Friday

The last day on Roatan began with an interesting lecture on dolphin research being conducted at Roatan Institute for Marine Science.  We were all amazed to learn that dolphins not only communicate with each other, but they can work together to come up with new coordinated behavior together.  Dolphins can also respond to signs or symbols drawn on a board as well as they can to the many hand signals given by their trainers.  It just goes to show the intelligence of these magnificent marine mammals.

Afterwards we headed to Lime Key, a secluded beach getaway at the eastern end of the island.  We snorkeled in a beautiful patch reef area filled with sponges of every shape and color.  We swam around 2 unique coral formations, known as The Cow and Calf.  We added 2 new fish to our fish list, that now is up to over 100 different fish species!!

The afternoon finished with an intertidal walk, complete with brittle seastars, urchins, sea cucumbers and other invertebrates that spend their lives in these harsh tidepool areas.

Before heading back to Anthony's Key, we stopped for some shopping in Coxen Hole and West End,
where folks purchased locally made crafts and souvenirs.

Scenic overlook on our way to the east end of Roatan

A sea fan at the Cow & Calf snorkel site

Red Rope and Tube sponges with a Gorgonian

Intertidal walk at Lime Key

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thursday update

We started the day with a lecture on mangroves, which was followed by a snorkel to these
important ecological environments.  We saw all types of juvenile fish, including a barracuda less
than 3 inches long.  We also saw oysters, sponges, crabs and spaghetti worms with long white
sticky tentacles that give this weird worm it name.

Afterwards we snorkeled Blue Harbor and collected organisms to examine before we released them.
Along with sea stars, urchins, crabs, shrimp and other interesting life forms, we found an inch long
green moray eel in the algae mats we examined.

Some of the group went on an afternoon dive, while others went for a horseback ride.  The day ended
with a night dive that featured lobsters, squid, and plenty of sleeping parrotfish.

Mangroves by Man O' War Key

Juvenile Moray Eels

Invert collection

Free time!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wonderful Wednesday

The morning started with a lecture on algae (green, red, and brown), and was followed by a field study to apply our lesson where we picked various species of algae that we found on the reef..  We found over 20 different algae, sorted them according to species, and immediately noted their diversity.

 The afternoon lecture compared and contrasted marine and freshwater fishes from the Great Lakes.  The group also learned about the dangers of pharmaceuticals in the water and how to properly dispose of unused and unwanted medicines.

The afternoon snorkel//dive brought about the greatest surprise...a friendly, feeding hawksbill turtle that stayed with the group for over 10 minutes at one of the dive sites.  We recognized her as a  female due to her shorter tail, which we learned about on an earlier lecture.  We watched as she grazed on a variety of algae that she eagerly crunched and munched in front of the excited group.

The evening ended with an island fiesta night, complete with a delicious dinner, dancing, crab races, fire dancer and limbo contest.  Our own, Wilma, came in second place!
Helen and Hawksbill Turtle Happily Hovering!

Giant Mithrax Crab

Invasive  Lionfish

Island Fiesta Dancing.....

Terrific Tuesday

After a morning lecture on sea turtles, the group headed out to a snorkel/dive at Four Sponges, a beautiful reef location with not 4, but maybe 4000 sponges tucked in among the corals!!  We didn’t see any turtles at this spot, but the group has had watery encounters with both green and hawksbill turtles on previous snorkels and dives and now they are familiar with knowing how to tell these reef reptiles apart.

At noon we headed over to Bailey’s Key, home to over 20 Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins, including two calves born in the past month.  After an orientation, we entered the enclosure to have a fabulous meeting with these social marine mammals.  Each of us got to touch the dolphins, give them a “high five” which amounted to a hand-to-fin rub and ended the experience with a dolphin kiss!  Afterwards, we spent 30 minutes snorkeling with the entire group as they rushed around us looking for underwater rubs and pats or a game of seaweed “take away” where a blade of sea grass is presented to an interested dolphin, who grabs it and tries to keep you for getting it back.  The biggest thrill came when the new mothers brought their youngsters over to show off their lovely little gray bundles of joy!  The mothers are protective and keep the calves more than an arms-reach away, but both mommas were happy to receive rubdowns from the group.

The evening lecture on dolphins, served as a perfect review of what we had learned at the encounter.  Of course, the day wouldn’t come to a perfect end without a night snorkel to try and find some of the nocturnal creatures of the reef…..lobster, anyone??

On our way to the Dolphin Encounter

Meet Dixon, four years old!

A very photogenic and friendly Green Moray getting cleaned!

A Spiny Caribbean Lobster

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Whale of a Monday

 After a morning lecture on corals, we headed out to the reef to see the animals that create the beautiful "stage" that supports the colorful fish and invertebrate "actors" we have been learning about.

As we headed out to the morning's first dive/snorkel, we were greeted by a pod of pilot whales, including two beguiling calves that brought out "oohs" and 'aahs" from the group.  What a way to start the day in Roatan.

The dive and snorkel featured beautiful fish, cleaning stations and an experiment with a special (harmless) dye to show the filtering abilities of some of the sponges we learned about.  What a
great experience seeing the dye go into the sponges body and coming out its excurrent opening.

Dye injected into the base of this sponge exits with filtered water

A hermit crab finds a home in an abandoned conch shell

See the fish in this slide?

Now the Peacock Flounder is easier to see

Divers having their fingers cleaned by tiny cleaner gobies

Divers in the water -great visibility today!

pilot whales --Thanks Rhonda!

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Today was a day of classroom lectures to help us identify fish and creatures we observed on snorkels and dives.  Fish Identification and Invertebrates were covered today, and we anticipate learning about various corals tomorrow. Participants are all well and here are a few of the things we saw on the reef.

Julie's Stoplight Parrotfish over Elkhorn Coral

Kathy's Hawksbill Turtle

Nassau Grouper

Yellowhead Jawfish

Saturday, July 30, 2011

We're Here!

Saturday night dinner... Shrimp bisque & Red Snapper!

Hi Everyone,

We all arrived on time, safely and with our luggage! After our check-out snorkel (everyone did really well) we snorkeled between the reef and Anthony’s Key. Loads of juvenile Angelfish and Butterflyfish, urchins, sea cucumbers, Flamingo Tongues, a spotted snake eel, and even a day time sighting of an octopus! Hope to have photos up tomorrow….

Friday, July 22, 2011

Parasites help reveal new ecological rules

"The major finding of our research is that all types of animals –– parasites or otherwise –– appear to follow exactly the same for how common they are," said Ryan Hechinger, lead author and associate research biologist with the Marine Science Institute at UCSB.

"This includes birds, fishes, insects, crabs, clams, and all the parasites that live inside and on them," said Hechinger. "They all seem to follow the same rule. And the rule is simple. You can predict how common an animal is just by knowing how big an individual is and how high in the food chain it is."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Roatan Marine Park

The Roatan Marine Park (RMP) is a grass roots, community-based, non-profit organization located on the island of Roatan, 50 kilometers off the mainland coast of Honduras. 

The organization was formed in January 2005 when a group of concerned dive operators and local businesses united in an effort to protect Roatan’s fragile coral reefs. Initially, it was our goal to run a patrol program within the Sandy Bay-West End Marine Reserve (SBWEMR), to prevent over exploitation through unsustainable fishing practices. Over time, we expanded the scope of our environmental efforts through the addition of other programs encompassing the entire island.

Click here to visit the Roatan Marine Park web site.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Recommended Reading

Reef Fish Behavior has become a classic reference and overview of what is presently know about the behavior and ecology of reef fishes inhabiting the waters of Florida, Caribbean and Bahamas. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Reef Relief

Reef Relief Goals


  • Increase public awareness of the importance and value of living coral reef ecosystems
  • Increase scientific understanding and knowledge of living coral reef ecosystems
  • Strengthen grassroots community-based efforts to protect coral reef ecosystems
  • Design, develop, and help implement strategies for marine protected areas associated with coral reef ecosystems
  • Encourage and support eco-tourism as part of sustainable community development that protects and preserves coral reef ecosystems
  • Strengthen our organizational capacity to carry out our mission
  • Reef Relief’s goal is S.E.A. for C.P.R.
Reef Relief has great educational resources at their site.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Student's Coral Reef Art Inspires Marine Conservation

artist and NOAA Administrator, Dr. Lubchenco, in front of the art installation during the opening reception

A large-scale (10-feet wide and nearly 15-feet high) ceramic coral reef art installation will be on display from April 15 to June 15, 2011 in the lobby of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration headquarters in the Herbert C. Hoover Building, US Department of Commerce, 14th Street NW at Constitution Avenue, Washington, DC.

The work of art brings to the surface, and to the capital, a submarine scene more commonly viewed through a diving mask. Each piece in the installation is handcrafted ceramic. Various species of coral and other marine life—in varying states of vitality or degradation—populate the scene and tell a story of impacts to reefs from human-caused threats. In the photo: Dr. Lubchenco, NOAA Administrator, with the artist during the opening reception of the installation. Photo credit: NOAA, Derek Parks
Read more and check out NOAA's Coral Reef Resources

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ocean Acidification and Coral Reefs: An Emerging Big Picture

John E. N. Veron
Review: Ocean Acidification and Coral Reefs: An Emerging Big Picture
Abstract: This article summarises the sometimes controversial contributions made by the different sciences to predict the path of ocean acidification impacts on the diversity of coral reefs during the present century.

PDF Full-text Download PDF Full-Text [153 KB, uploaded 30 May 2011 09:46 CET]

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mucous Sleeping Bags vs. Vampire Crustaceans

Sleep tight; don't let the bed bugs bite. As you may have observed during night dives, for mucus-producing reef fish such as parrotfish and wrasse, that means snuggle up in your mucous cocoon to ward off the parasites.
Click here to read this article from DAN.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lionfish Update and great video...

Dear Coral List,

Earlier this year I read this post with interest as I have seen evidence of the Carribean Lionfish invasion on all my trips to the area. I was due to visit Roatan Island and was curious to see the behaviour recorded and how it fit into the local authorities attempts to manage the species. The post below initiated a lot of discussion on the list so I thought the video produced of what I found on the island would be of relevance.

Here is the link:

Best Regards,


Jon Slayer

Dear Colleagues,
Last week I had an amazing dive in Roatan during which a nassau grouper and mutton snapper closely followed our fearless lionfish hunter - and the mutton snapper actually ended up eating the lionfish.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Snorkeling Man-O-War Key

From The RIMS Instructor's Guide....

Red Mangrove roots
There are two approaches to exploring the mangroves around Man-O-War Key. One approach is by snorkeling through the shallow tidal creeks. Snorkeling allows the students to look at the dense communities attached to the prop roots. Communities found associated with the mangrove roots include algae, seagrass, invertebrates, fish and phytoplankton. Some species of algae associated with the prop roots include Bostrichia spp., Dasycladus vermicularis, Caulerpa spp. and Acetabularia spp. In addition Halimeda spp., Udotea spp., Avrainvillea spp., Penicillus spp., Caulerpa spp., Rhipocephelus phoenix and other Chlorophytes can be found in the extensive Turtle Grass (Thallasia testudinum) beds and the mud adjacent to the roots. The second approach is to wade on shore and explore the tangles of prop roots from land. It’s important to observe both the above water and below water communities that mangroves create. Walking around the key allows students to examine and identify characteristics of the Red Mangroves and the more landward Black Mangroves found in areas with less tidal submergence. Students can also identify some of the important terrestrial organisms associated with mangroves.

Man-O-War Key is outside of the marine reserve. Collection is allowed.
INVERTEBRATE FAUNA Specifically Associated with Mangroves:
Fire Sponge (Tedania ignis)
Green Sponge (Haliclona viridis)
White Sponge (Geodia gibberosa)
Pale Anemones (Aiptasia pallida)
Corkscrew Anemone (Bartholomea annulata)
Stinging Mangrove Anemone (Bunodeopsis antilliensis)
Collared Sand Anemone (Actinostella flosculifera)
Upside-down Sea Jelly (Cassiopea xamachana, C. frondosa)
Sea Wasp (Carybdea alata)
Fireworm (Hermodice carunculata)
Magnificent Banded Fanworm (Sabellestarte magnifica)
Banded Featherduster (Sabella melanostigmata)
Medusa Worm (Loimia medusa)
Coffee Bean Snail (Melampus coffeeus)
Mangrove Periwinkle (Littorina angulifera)
Lettuce Sea Slug (Tridachia crispatus)
Mangrove Oyster (Isognomon alatus)
Mangrove Star Barnacle (Chthamulus fragilis)
Ghost Shrimp (Ocypode quadrata)
Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus)
Land Crab (Cardisoma guanhumi)
Mangrove Crab (Aratus pisonii)
Spotted Mangrove Crab (Goniopsis cruentata)
Spiny Lobster (Panularis argus)
Black Encrusting Tunicate (Botrylloides nigrum)
Mangrove Tunicate (Ecteinascidia turbinata)
Variable Encrusting Tunicate (Botryllus planus)
Green Encrusting Tunicate (Symplegma viride)

Friday, April 8, 2011

NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program

We have a new tool for educators to help them teach about the concept of ocean acidification! Check out the FREE Webinar our staff are giving with colleagues from the National Science Teachers Association on Thursday, April 14 at 6:30 pm eastern. The Webinar is targeted to high school science teachers, but open to all interested parties. Follow the link to learn more or register:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

COSEE Scholarship Still Available!

We still have one or possibly two COSEE Scholarships available. Please call if you are interested.

Garry (I will be in the Science Center on Monday April 4. Phone number is on the downloadable enrollment form in the right side bar.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program

Learn about "Caribbean Marine Etiquette" before your next visit. Academy Award-winning actor Benicio del Toro voiced the video’s main character, a smooth trunkfish, who teaches us to be good stewards of the marine environment by not collecting corals and marine life as souvenirs.

The Caribbean Marine Etiquette PSA is an entertaining visual experience starring Academy Award winner Benicio Del Toro. It engages, intrigues and educates residents, tourists, and children alike with stunning underwater imagery of the Caribbean Islands....

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TME Information Night

Join us at 7:00 PM on March 29, 2011 at the Science Center, 10001 Route 60, Fredonia for an informational presentation about Tropical Marine Ecology. Applications and scholarship requests may be submitted at the meeting. Light refreshments will be served. Please call 716-679-3419 if you have questions or are interested but unable to attend.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

TME 2011 -Dates, Prices & Scholarships!

The 2011 TME trip information to Roatan is now available! Download links for the Flyer with Enrollment Form and COSEE Scholarship Application may be found on the right side of the Blog.

DATES: July 30 to August 6, 2011

COST: $1664.00 for COSEE Scholars and $2414.00 without scholarship. COSEE-GL will offer ten scholarships to educators in the amount of $750.00 each. See the application for details.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Globe's coral reefs take second worst beating on record during 2010

Record warm ocean temperatures across much of Earth's tropical oceans during the summer of 2010 created the second worst year globally for coral-killing bleaching episodes. The warm waters, fueled in part by the El Niño phenomena, caused the most coral bleaching since 1998, when 16 percent of the world's reefs were killed off. "Clearly, we are on track for this to be the second worst (bleaching) on record," NOAA coral expert Mark Eakin in an interview last month. "All we're waiting on now is the body count." The summer 2010 bleaching episodes were worst in Southeast Asia, where El Niño warming of the tropical ocean waters during the first half of the year was significant. In Indonesia's Aceh province, 80% of the bleached corals died, and Malaysia closed several popular dive sites after nearly all the coral were damaged by bleaching. However, in the Caribbean's Virgin Islands, coral bleaching was not as severe as experienced in 2005, according to National Park Service fisheries biologist Jeff Miller. I'll discuss the reasons for this in a future blog post. In other portions of the Caribbean, such as Venezuela and Panama, coral bleaching was worse than that experienced in 2005.

Figure 1. An example of coral bleaching that occurred during the record-strength 1997-1998 El Niño event. Image credit: Craig Quirolo, Reef Relief/Marine Photobank, in Climate, Carbon and Coral Reefs

Read the whole article at

Dr. Jeff Masters' WunderBlog

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ocean Connections: National Environmental Education Week

April 10-16, 2011
 Photo Credit: Jiangang Luo/Marine Photobank
The ocean covers nearly three quarters of our planet's surface, provides 70 percent of the oxygen in the atmosphere and houses about 20 percent of the known species on Earth. It regulates climate and weather and provides food and energy resources for humans worldwide. No matter how far from the coast, water in every stream or river on the planet eventually ends up in the ocean, and all life on Earth is dependent upon its health. Recognizing the importance of protecting the health of our ocean and understanding our dependence upon it regardless of its proximity, EE Week's 2011 theme is Ocean Connections. Register today to participate in EE Week 2011.