Friday, February 27, 2015

Rob - UR - Humble Beginnings of an ArcGIS Project Undertaking...

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, for my Independent Research Project this semester I am working with a database of water quality data obtained by water quality volunteers with the Marine Discovery Center in New Smyrna Beach. This data was collected between Jan 2013 and Oct 2014. In addition to this database, OCE1001 and OCE2013 Lab students have performed water quality sampling and analysis on the Tomoka River in Oct 2014, and Feb 2015.

Although I have not appropriately narrowed down the focus of my IRP, I have decided that I will be using ArcGIS 10.0 software to combine the data with a spatial component and create some type of water quality map that can be accessed by anyone who would like to access it.

So as a preliminary step, I have begun to start manipulating the data so that I will eventually be able to import the entire spreadsheet into ArcGIS. This is a major selling point, since ArcGIS is capable of importing data from a number of different sources; such as Oracle Databases, Access Databases, Excel Spreadsheets, and even CSV (comma separated value) Files. The first item I had to manipulate was the list of locations where the samples were obtained. In most cases, the Latitude and Longitude coordinates of the location were recorded in Degrees/Minutes/Seconds. In order to import the locations into ArcGIS however, the locations must first be converted into Decimal Degrees. This is quite simple, as there are 60 seconds in one minute, and 60 minutes in one degree. To convert to Decimal Degrees, first the seconds are divided by 60 to obtain the decimal value, which is then added to the minutes. The minutes+decimal are then divided by 60 once again to obtain the full decimal value which is then added to the degrees. This gives a full Decimal Degrees value which can then be imported as a point into ArcGIS.

All 31 water quality testing sites relative to map of Volusia County

Zoomed in on the layer of testing sites

Tomoka River Water Quality OCE1001/2013 Lab testing sites

Same sites, different base map

Amanda, UR., The Land meets the water.

As many of you know my project began on land last semester. I walked my neighborhood to see which yards where chemically treated and which were natural so I could avoid chemical lawns when walking my little dog to the park. However, this semester, I'll be taking it to the water!

If you remember the map from my previous post, you'll see I've actually highlighted (in the lavender blueish color) some areas of interest to me for sampling sites. I'm curious if there's runoff from my neighbors using these nasty chemicals.

The chlorophyll readings in the lab from my sample site showed: sample 1 the reading was 15.42  µm/L using 201 mL of filtrate, and sample 2 showed 17.25  µm/L using 100 mL of filtrate.

Per Dr. Woodall, we have the ability to test for nitrogen, phosphorous, and copper. Therefore, that's what I'll be testing. 

I drew a box around the 1 little stand alone body of water that isn't surrounded by houses and isn't accessible via the other water ways. This spot interests me for that very reason; I want to see if it has the same properties or contaminants as the others or none at all.

I'm getting excited!

Courtney, UR- Mysteries of the Horseshoe Crab

The east coast of the United States is home to one of four species of horseshoe crabs found in the world, the Atlantic Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus). My attempt to find as much research about information on how water parameters might impact horseshoe populations came up empty. In fact there is very little information on horseshoe crabs in general such as how long they live, are they like sea turtles and return to the beach of their birth, why do their spawning cycles revolve around the moon and where do they go 10 months out of the year when they're not spawning? So many unanswered questions that biologists and researchers have yet to answered and this article, Horseshoe Crabs Remain Mysteries to Biologists, touches on this information a little bit. In this article it also touches on how in Maine they tag horseshoe crabs with plastic tags for later identification.
Also I did read somewhere that they can tolerate many different levels of salinity which is one of the important factors that have kept them around for more than 500 million years!

Horseshoe crabs spawning at dusk, Limulus polyphemus, Delaware Bay, New Jersey
mass spawning on the beach

There are so many possibilities for an independent research project due to the little know information about horseshoe crabs! Right now because my internship, from what I understand, will involve collecting data that FWC can use in further research and conservation. I am interested in collecting information about what beaches in the Indian River Lagoon do horseshoe crabs prefer and what environmental conditions on these beaches make them so ideal for the horseshoe crab spawning? Once I talk with Annie this week I will have more of an idea of exactly how I want to do my IRP. I feel that there is so much I can do with this and I am really excited to begin my research, the more I read the more fascinating I find these extremely important marine animals!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Todd UR, Pondering Updates

I am really looking forward to the lab tomorrow on Febuary 27 2015. Mainly because it will be on the Tomoka River downstream from my test site.  It was suggested that I use salinity amounts as my key tracer in my project.  My prediction is that the further I get from the Ocean the less salinity my sample should contain. So far my first practice test holds this to be true. The tool I will use to measure the salinity levels is the refractometer.
SALINITY REFRACTOMETER shown with viewing screen (in background) with a 50 ppt sample applied.
According to the average salinity content in the ocean is 35 ppt (parts per thousand)
When I took a test sample last Friday, February 20 2015 at International Speedway Blvd. @ Tomoka River bridge my two samples showed 1 and 0.5 ppt and this is near the start of the River.
I was also advised to take my samples at different depths if I could get some guidance on why this is so important it would be appreciated.   Personal professional experiences would be great guidance!  

Paul Ferguson, UR - Time for a Change

After meeting with Chad Macfie at the Marine Science Center, it looks as though my research might be taking another direction from observing coral in the lab. We sat down and tried for quite some time to develop a study on coral in relation to either food size or current velocity in the lab. There are many ways we could set up experiments to test different factors however the problems arise when trying to determine the results of the experiments. Unfortunately there are few ways to determine how well a coral is feeding. One is as I discussed from looking at other studies which is where groups of polyps are removed and dissected under microscope. This destroys sections of the coral and I cannot do this at the MSC. Another way is to weigh the coral to determine growth however with the growth rates of coral, it would take much longer than allowed. While discussing some of the problems involved, we switched gears to talking about corals specifically in the Indian River Lagoon. We came up with a study we could do out in the environment with a little more real world application. Chad talked to me about a specific area in the Indian River Lagoon that offers a unique chance to research current velocity and the effects it has on growth and succession of marine life. He told me about an area part of a marina with floating docks. There are floating docks in the main river, floating docks in a channel that makes a 90% angle to the main river, then the channel makes another 90% angle and there are more floating docks. What he proposed was picking three of these docks in the same area where the only difference is current velocity, and taking a chisel to the bottom of these three docks clearing a square that can then be analyzed to determine succession rates of marine life with different current velocities. A quick way to sum up succession is talking about clear-cutting a section of forest. Underbrush is the quickest to sprout up, along with other typical fast growing vegetation. The composition of vegetation eventually changes from brush and low canopy trees to hardwoods and evergreens. What we would expect to see after clearing a section underneath these floating docks would be algae quickly covering then being replaced by other more permanent marine invertebrates. These floating docks host a habitat that I think would be interesting to watch as the areas are reclaimed by life.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Taylor - UR - Meet the Octopus

From my last post (here), I talked about researching octopus enrichment with the octopus at the Marine Science Center, BUT I forgot to introduce the little octopus!
This octopus species is the Octopus Vulgaris (the common octopus) and they are found around the world in warm waters. As of now, the sex of the octopus has not been identified, but after some research, I found an article that has some great facts about octopus and how you can actually identify if an octopus is male or female. If the third arm on the right side of the octopuses body is slightly different than the rest of the arms and has fewer suckers this indicates that it has a male reproductive organ. (I am still going to call it a "he" as I think it's a male).

The octopus at the Marine Science Center came from the Florida Keys when it was trapped in a stone crab pot and then brought to the MSC for educational purposes. Most octopus can escape after trying to get crabs out of the traps, but some don't get out in time before the fisherman retrieve the traps. These common octopus usually only live 12-18 months, this is due to a poor vascular system even though they have three hearts. We believe that this octopus is a young adult as common octopus do get a little larger than his size.

Some other interesting facts I thought were interesting: Octopus see the same image whether they're upside-down or right-side up due to their pupils being horizontal. Female octopi can lay up to a thousand eggs, but usually die after laying them. Since the only solid body part they have is the beak/mouth, they are able to squeeze through very small spaces that are smaller than their body mass. Another cool fact is that they have blue blood and are the most intelligent invertebrate!

So, there are some cool facts about octopus and the introduction of the one I will be studying for the next several weeks. He doesn't have a name yet, but I will be naming him as soon as I get him a little more social and see his personality (yes, octopus do have personalities). Since I've been able to see him during feeding times, I've gotten a pretty good look at him and to say the least, I absolutely love him!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Robin, UR..... "How Oyster Mats are Made"

 Until further notice my project is to create  oyster mats without plastic, So I needed to see how the plastic mats were made with the plastic mats in order to get an idea.
 Google provided me with some great images and after talking with Annie Morgan last Friday, it all starts with donations of recycled oyster shells, which are then washed and set to air dry for one to several months, purchasing of plastic matting and zip-ties.
 After the drying process it is now time to drill holes and with large plastic zip-ties they are fasten to the plastic mats as shown below.

 Once the mats are assembled they are transported to destination and with cement sprinkler holes they are again zipped-tied together to hold  them in place.

I hope to continue with this project and if I do my next blog will be on the natural oyster beds and a little comparison in order to get some ideas.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Jody, UR.... Guess what I found out during my chlorophyll sampling!!!

Graph from Chlorophyll Class

First of all my chlorophyll readings were the highest (surprise!!) of all the samples submitted for lab class with Pond#1 at 35.76 µg/L, and Pond#2 at 34.891µg/L with an average of the two samples at 35.326 µg/L. Here is my graph from class as a comparison. This sample was taken from a pond that is surrounded by golf course on all sides and cannot get it's water from any other source than surface runoff from our property.

 I chose this site having a suspicion that it would have higher numbers because it is surrounded buy golf course on all sides and only has one point of overflow, also it does not get treated (more on that to come). Also we have very recently put down granular fertilizer on the tee's and have had two rain events since, so I am sure the runoff from those rain events has had an opportunity to get in the pond and begin to exacerbate the organic growth.
My future water samples will, I'm sure be more specific for phosphates and nitrates and possibly copper among others, to get a better understanding as to what is going on in these lakes water chemistry with input from these anthropogenic impurities.

In my attempt to not be totally negative on golf course impacts on the environment I have to try and balance my blogs so here is an article I found in my research regarding water birds and golf courses. Even if it is a study sponsored by the US Golf Association I know it has some value because we have a lot of aquatic birds constantly feeding in our lakes. MORE TO COME>>>     


Friday, February 20, 2015

Todd UR, updates

From advice on a prior blog and personal advice given from Dr. Woodall it was suggested that I narrow my ideas.  In doing so my main focus will be:  Does the Tomoka landfill affect the water quality of the Tomoka River?  Important chemicals I want to test for are staying the same:   They are according to Cornell University they do define known contaminants as having "a high biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and high concentrations of organic carbon, nitrogen, chloride, iron, manganese, and phenols. Many other chemicals may be present, including pesticides, solvents, and heavy metals" (Cornell Waste Management Institute).       
Further advice from the professor suggested that I concentrate more on sampling methods.  some suggestions were : Transect.. dilution, tracer  ….    I am kind of unclear about the tracer method.  I would like further advice on the tracer method aspect because from class I see it used in a reference to determine if air quality is from natural or man made aspects and.  The articles I have read concerning anything tracer, their method uses a dye or something they added to the water to determine flow.  Since the river starts at the area I want to test the direction of the flow is obvious.
Tomoka River 

Amanda, UR, Wading anyone?

This is a sample site for me.
When I pulled up this picture in my phone the lat/long coordinates were actually off a bit, as I note below the following image.

I don't know if you can actually see the little green "x"s that I drew on the map around the water body to the far left; however, if you can, the "x" in the circle is where my phone pinpointed my location and the free standing "x" is where I actually took the photo above. You can actually access all of these lakes by trails or by kayak.
My phone put my lat/long at 29◦16’29.6”N 81◦04’15.0”W, which is actually still in my neighborhood and not at the site where I actually took the picture.

Thursday, February 19th I did go get my very cold water samples from Central Park closest to my house. I now have the lat/long coordinates that I was able to pull up from the computer as 29.273023 lat/ -81.072640 long.
My anticipation is mounting as I await our lab today to see what lurks beneath the surface of these waters.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Paul Ferguson, UR - Troubles in keeping Gorgonians

While I was not able to meet with the Environmental Specialist at the Marine Science Center and get fully briefed on the specific experiments being conducted at the MSC, I did continue researching Gorgonian care, feeding and flow rates. While researching a question of how to tell how much a coral is feeding, I was able to find one study conducted by the University of Miami in a Marine Ecology Progress Series that discussed in materials and methods, their way of determining this. After allowing these corals to feed on particulate matter, feeding was detected by determining numbers of prey in the guts of 20 randomly selected polyps through dissection under microscope at 40X.
Leptogorgia virgulata with extended polyps
 I read the article Invertebrate Non-Column: Gorgonians discussing the best way to ensure a proper set up and factor in all the requirements to sustain health and encourage growth. While the species discussed in this article are not the specific species I will be studying at the MSC, the same problems must be addressed. Variables such as flow rates, food size, coral position, polyp size all factor in to finding the best possible setup. There are some generalizations that can be made when discussing flow rates and polyp size and that is, generally, the smaller the polyp, the higher the flow rate at which they are able to feed. However, one of the study discussed in this article points out that of the species being studied all fed best at a flow rate of 8 cm/s while another study determined between 10-15 cm/s. Either way, this gives a rough estimate of flow rates at which to start. Also discussed in this article is prey size. As I discussed in my last post, there is a wide variety microscopic prey. While Gorgonians filter feed water, there is a limit to the size of prey items they are able to catch, subdue and devour. Primarily, zooplankton from 100-200 micrometer size range accounts for over 75% of the Gorgonian coral discussed which also has small polyps. The species I will be working with are described as unable to capture zooplankton but feed on particulate matter Artemia cysts. 

Crystal UR - Make way for Wawa!

Adjacent to my work, there is a construction project to build a much anticipated Wawa. What interesting to note about this project is that prior to construction there was nothing there. When I say "nothing," I don't mean a vacant wooded lot. I mean there was nothing but a hole connected to a small sink hole lake. Meaning construction could not commence until the hole was partially filled. I plan to sample the water of this small lake and another pond nearby as a control so see what, if any, havoc construction has caused.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Courtney, UR- Biomedical Bleeding of Horseshoe Crabs

Blood harvesting of live horseshoe crabs
Limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL) is a pharmaceutical product that can only be obtained from the blue blood of horseshoe crab, It is used to ensure that vaccines and medical equipment are bacterial free which makes it lifesaving to humans. Each year almost half a million live horseshoe crabs are harvested for their blood and they are heavily bled, taking 20-30% of their blood. Unfortunately about 20-30% also die due the blood harvesting. 

This device is the accelerometer used to track the movements before blood harvesting. 

Researchers in this article, "Biomedical Bleeding Affects Horseshoe Crab Behavior", were curious as to exactly how many of the released horseshoe crabs are falling into the same fate and to help answer this question researchers monitored the movements of captured crabs for a week  before taking blood from them. "Electronic data recorders called accelerometers that measure the crabs’ speed and direction were strapped to their backs and the crabs were placed in running wheels in tanks filled with seawater." It was noticed that the horseshoe crabs moved less and seemed almost disorientated for up to two weeks after the procedure.
spawning horseshoe crabs
Horseshoe crabs are harvested in the middle of their spawning season because they are easily captured by the thousands but if taking their blood alters their behavior in negative ways then could this make them less likely to breed? If so then this could be a huge factor in the declining populations of horseshoe crabs along the east coast of the United States.

Researchers in the recent article believe that with improved capture and transport methods as well as wait until the end of the breeding cycle could drastically improve the declining population numbers of these unique and crucial creatures!

Taylor - UR - An Experiment on Octopus Enrichment

Today I went to the Marine Science Center to speak with Chad Macfie who is the Environmental Specialist and Live Collection manager there along with Dr. Amy Osmon from DSC about an experiment we could work on with the octopus located at the MSC. I was able to see the octopus and get some information on it's personality. Just like most animals, each one has its own personality and ways of going about its instinctive nature. As for the octopus at the Marine Science Center, since they brought him in on January 29th, they have found him to be reclusive and prefer to stay in his lair most of the time. He will come out during feeding times and enrichment sessions with toys and puzzles. Fortunately, I was able to see an enrichment display done by Chad to see how the octopus reacts with toys and give it some "play time." The octopus almost came fully out of his lair during this play time, but it didn't last long until he decided to hide away again.

But what exactly is enrichment? In the article "Enrichment for Giant Pacific Octopuses: Happy as a Clam?" it is explained that animals kept in captivity need environmental enrichment for their well-being. Environmental enrichment is, "an animal husbandry principle that seeks to enhance the quality of captive animal care by identifying and providing the environmental stimuli necessary for optimal psychological and physiological well-being." So in a less confusing definition: environmental enrichment is a principle that stimulates an animals senses to keep it physically and mentally healthy. As an example, the octopus at the MSC will play with toys or try to get food out of a jar or snorkel tube. This gives this invertebrate physical and mental stimulus that keeps them "happy" and healthy. In some ways, its just how humans react to stimuli. When we get bored, we find something to entertain us, if we don't find anything that keeps us entertained then we tend to get tired and unhappy. This goes just for any animal, especially animals with a higher "intelligence" or more adaptive brain. Enrichment also helps with stress and negative behavior. If an octopus is having a hard time adapting to it's environment and is unhappy, it will instigate negative behaviors such as swimming sporadically around the aquarium, hitting their heads against the side of the tank and in some extreme cases, begin to eat themselves (this is a disease that is common in all octopi, but is only exposed when an animal is stressed and their immune system decreases. Such is the same with a human, if you have a virus inside your body and your immune system is weakened by outside sources, the virus will then attack your body.) So, enrichment is an extremely important factor when taking care of captive animals.

So from talking over some of the wonderful articles Chad gave me, working with Dr. Osmon and debating on what kind of experiment we could actually take data on with enrichment, we all finally came up with a plan. The octopus in the aquarium is again, very reclusive; he hinds under a rock with a barrier of smaller rocks and barnacles and doesn't seem very social. Since the octopus is new at MSC, he hasn't been worked with as much except for the feeding times and enrichment periods throughout the day. He is fed raw food, but Chad has introduced a concept that I will be able to play a role in; which will be to introduce live food to the octopus. Over the period of a few weeks, we will be documenting and taking data on the level of activity that is induced from different enrichment and feeding periods, along with timing how long it takes for the octopus to come out of it's lair to interact with us. I will be creating a data sheet that will then be filled out as we watch the octopus interact with it's new surroundings.
There is a lot going into this Independent Research Project and I could not be more excited to see if we can make this reclusive octopus a more social one!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Jody, UR....More Being Reveiled About Golf Course Ponds!

HOLE #16
A few more questions that were asked regarding my IRP on Golf Courses impacts on the Aquatic Environment are as follows. Can you tell us more about the ponds and lakes created for golf courses? e.g., are there size and depths requirements? When they are created, are there steps taken to prevent groundwater seepage? Are they monitored for water quality? If so, for which parameters and how often? 
 I will answer these the best I can from my 20+ years of golf course construction experience and then with a little research.
There are three main reasons reasons for ponds on golf courses. First as I stated in an earlier post they are in place to capture water (precipitation) to be used as irrigation, because purchasing water from a municipality for said would be cost prohibitive. Second the material (dirt) excavated from them is used throughout the rest of the course to give it it's topography, raised Tee's and Green's complexes and other undulations. These are set forth by the designer on a set of plans and followed by the contractor. And third as you can see by this picture (above left) of  hole #16 a par 3 at my course, they give the course character by adding visual aesthetics and also making play a little more challenging. The size, depth, and amount of ponds/lakes are usually set forth by the designer but site characteristics will usually nudge these specifications a bit.Take for example the the long pencil lake at the bottom center of the picture at left. That is our main lake and it is 11 acres. That is where our pump stations are that deliver the irrigation water to the other 120 grassed acres. I have no idea how deep it is to the bottom but at full pond we have five+ feet of water over our intake for the pumps. Lets see.... that's 17,921,640 gallons if it is five foot deep.  To be continued!