Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mike Salisbury, UR - Sea Turtles vs. THE WORLD

Last week I researched human activity on the beach and its effects on sea turtles, specifically beach driving. I wanted to take a step back this week and check out some more threats to sea turtles.  

This week’s article discusses some general threats to sea turtles. Some of the threats mentioned in the article are as follows: natural threats, human-caused threats, illegal sea turtle shell trade, commercial fishing, marine debris, artificial lighting, coastal armoring, beach erosion, beach activities, invasive species predation, marine pollution, oil spills and climate change. After listing all of these threats, it looks like it’s sea turtles vs. the world.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these threats:
  • Natural threats refer to natural sea turtle predators (raccoons, crabs, sharks, etc.), and other threats that occur naturally in the wild.
  • A common human-caused threat is the consumption of sea turtles and their eggs. People also use parts of the sea turtle for products (oil, cartilage, shell, skin, jewelry, etc.).
  • Annually, many sea turtles are accidentally caught in fisheries. Fishing methods that involve nets are notorious for accidental sea turtle capture.
  • Consumption of plastic debris is a major concern regarding sea turtles.  For leatherbacks, jellyfish are a main component in their diet. It can be difficult for turtles to distinguish between jellyfish and floating plastic bags.
  • Artificial light can discourage female sea turtles from nesting and disorient sea turtle hatchlings.  
  • Beach erosion/nourishment and coastal armoring structures (sea walls, jetties, sandbags, etc.) interrupt the natural nesting process by altering habitats.
  • Invasive species predation refers to non-native species that have become invasive predators for sea turtles. In Florida, cats and dogs are two of the common invasive predators for hatchlings.  
  • Oil spills and marine pollution have major impacts on sea turtles and their diet. When pollution enters the water, it kills plants and animals that are part of the turtles’ diet. Fibropapillomas, a disease that kills many sea turtles, may also be linked to pollution
a sea turtle caught in fishing net

Here is an example of artificial light; this can be a big disturbance for the turtles. 

If you look at this turtle’s neck you can see a cauliflower-like tumor (fibropapillomas). 

All of these threats may seem overwhelming, but it is important to acknowledge these issues. As mentioned in last week’s article, there are a few things we can do to try and even the odds:
  • Don't drive on sea turtle nesting beaches                                                                              
  • Make sure to fill in any holes you dig while visiting the beach                                       
  • Remove any beach chairs, beach umbrellas, boats, or other beach furniture each evening 
  • Avoid disturbing marked sea turtle nests, and take your trash with when you leave the beach

Samm, UR - Free Radicals Everywhere!

This week, I have been reading up more on the relationship between titanium oxide and zinc oxide, and their affects on the environment (and possible ourselves).
After our class discussion about all our IRP project ideas, I am more convinced I want to pursue how sunscreens are affecting marine environments here in Central Florida, more specifically our Florida springs. The hydrogen peroxide created from the mixture of titanium oxide and zinc oxide can be very reactive in water. Both oxides are photoactive materials and can produce free radicals.
According to The ARC Centre of Excellence for Free Radical Chemistry and Biotechnology, "Free radicals are molecules with unpaired electrons". These molecules are active, trying to find something to pair itself with and, in doing so, can cause damage to surrounding molecules. Free radicals are a reason why some materials peel, crack, or degrade. And while free radicals are naturally found everywhere (including yourself!), an excess, or imbalance, of them can cause damage. For example, we produce free radicals in our bodies naturally. When we are stressed, eat fatty foods, or smoke, we produce more than we need. This imbalance can help cause many different diseases, including cancer.
I am thinking about centering my IRP on seagrass in our springs, and conducting experiments to see how the use of sunscreen on humans is affecting them. Whether or not I use several different locations with the same type of seagrass is something I will continue to think about.


Angela B. - If this is the route you choose to go, I'd be interested to know if ultraviolet light suppresses or promotes any kind of harmful bacteria in freshwater.

Upon doing some research on the web, most of the websites I found that related to this was using UV light in ponds and aquariums to kill out any bad bacteria using a sterilizer. The Pet Education website had an article on UV sterilizers. Basically, most harmful bacteria floats on the top of the water. When it passes under the UV light, the light mutates the DNA, preventing it from growing or multiplying.

I am unsure if this can be applied to real life proportions, like UV rays from the sun to our ocean. If I were to make a hypothetical guess based on this article and my general knowledge, I would guess that UV light would be a factor in whether or not harmful bacteria is allowed to multiply or if it is suppressed. I would think that there are many other things that would also affect the growth/suppression of bacteria, not just UV light.

Heather UR- Up in Smoke

Last week I posted a blog where I talked about cigarette butts as a pollutant being my main focus of research. Mrs. Woodall asked me a series of questions that would help in my research. She asked me –“exactly what chemicals would be worthy of analysis? What actual chemicals are generally released into water/sediment? which ones are most toxic? and to which organisms? and at what levels?”
Cigarettes contain over 165 toxic chemicals and during the production of cigarettes from start to finish they have the potential to introduce over 4000 chemicals into the environment. This is taking into consideration the pesticides and fertilizer used on the tobacco, the flavoring or additives added to the tobacco, and the chemicals used to preserve the cigarette.

Marine Topsmelt  
Freshwater Flat Head Minnow
After searching the internet for hours trying to find a list of chemicals and their potential affects on the environment I decided to revisit the test that was performed on  the marine topsmelt (Atherinops affinis) and the freshwater fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) that I mentioned in last weeks blog.
In the experiment the researchers tested three different cigarette leachates:
The first leachates where with smoked cigarette butts, with 1–2 cm of remnant tobacco left intact with the filter, one test with artificially smoked cigarettes and one with naturally smoked cigarettes
 The second leachates where from smoked cigarette filters with all tobacco removed. This was performed three times, once with artificially smoked cigarettes and twice with naturally smoked cigarettes
The third leachates used where unsmoked cigarette filters with no tobacco, this test was only ran once.

Before introducing the minnows the researchers allowed the cigarette butts to soak for 24 hours and prepared several samples that were less concentrated (dilution is the solution to pollution right?) Each concentration was replicated four times and tested with 5 fish each making a total of 20 fish per concentration level. The test ran for 96 hours and the results where that there was a 50% mortality in the fish species.

The results between the artificially smoked cigarettes and naturally smoked cigarettes with tobacco remnants didn’t show much of a variation; however the artificially smoked cigarettes without tobacco were found to be more toxic than their naturally smoked counterparts. The reasons for this outcome was stated as “unclear”, maybe when the cigarette is being smoked naturally the person absorbs more of the toxins through the filter? At the end of the experiment it was found that toxicity increased significantly from unsmoked filters, no tobacco to smoked filters no tobacco to smoked filters with tobacco remnants. This leads me to believe that most of the toxins that result in fish mortality are found in the tobacco and not just the filter.

Some of the possible causes of toxicity that the researchers list are pesticides, nicotine which can be used as an insecticide,  Ethylphenol which has been shown to be capable of building up in aquatic organisms, and chemical additives such as ammonia; as well as, the glues and paper that go into making the filter. Not only do these toxins affect fish but they also effect daphnids (water flea) and marine bacteria which are important to the marine environment. 

I will have to conduct more research on which chemicals are the most abundance in cigarettes and what pesticides are more commonly used on tobacco plants. Do they vary based on brand? Where the tobacco was grown? Once I can pin point a cigarettes highest concentrated toxic chemicals I will be able to research the affects that they may have on the aquatic organisms. With so many toxins found in cigarettes and the overwhelming amount of information on the internet about cigarettes I am finding it hard to find information on the specific chemicals and their concentration levels.    

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Brent, UR- Natural Noise in the Ocean

     After further consideration I have decided to focus on noise pollution in the ocean. The article this week is of course on noise pollution but more towards natural sound. It starts by saying all the noises in the ocean make up ambient noise and they can be categorized by frequency. The ambient noise frequency ranges between 20 Hz and 500 Hz when no boats are present however the sounds of distant shipping is still picked up. In the frequency range of 500-100,000 Hz most of the noise comes from spray and bubbles due to crashing waves and this increases due to the wind velocity. Also at frequencies over 100,000 Hz is something called thermal noise which is the movement of water molecules. Now there are sources of natural noise in the ocean. High noises, usually read in decibels at one meter, consists of things like lighting striking the surface of the water which has a reading of 260 dB at 1 meter. Also an underwater volcanic eruption carries a reading of 255 dB at 1 meter. The sounds produced by marine animals are many. Marine mammals , such as blue whales and harbor porpoises, produce sounds over a wide frequency range, from less than 10 Hz to over 100,000 Hz which is the range that they can hear as well. Marine mammal calls can actually increase ambient noise levels by 20-25 dB in some locations at certain times of year. Blue and fin whales produce low-frequency moans at frequencies of 10-25 Hz with estimated source levels of up to 190 underwater dB at 1 m. being that marine mammals use such a large frequency range it's easy to see how an overwhelming amount of noise from boat traffic, sonar, drilling platforms, and natural noise can drive marine mammals crazy. If you like explore the site below but make sure you go to the audio gallery and listen to all the cool noises like lighting hitting the water and underwater volcanic eruptions.

noises by marine species 

common noise in the ocean plus man made noise

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Angela, CUR – “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish”

After my last post, in which I examined the insides of a Koi, I was asked whether I was looking for a specific type of plastic or plastic in general. At this point in time, I would be happy to find any type of plastic in fish that succumbed to a natural death or will be used as nourishment. I guess what it really boils down to is the type of fish and where within the water column it feeds.

Ideally, I’d love to get my hands on myctophids (lanternfish) caught in vicinity of the North Atlantic garbage patch; preferably around 670 of them just like Captain Charles Moore’s team did as described in his book “Plastic Ocean”. Per Captain Moore, these fish feast on zooplankton (p.213), and 35% out of the 670 fish sampled in the North Pacific contained plastic fragments, yielding 1,375 pieces in total (p.239). One of these fish actually contained 83 plastic pieces (p.239)!
Source: WoRMS

Friday, September 19, 2014

Heather, UR- No Butts About It

After the discussion that I had with Mrs. Woodall today I have decided to concentrate my research into one source of pollutant and possibly one specific region that is being affected (plant life, organisms, water quality, or sediment.) We both agreed that an interesting pollutant to study would be cigarette butts since, as we all know, they are a popular pollutant and are found in abundance in every ecosystem (unfortunately). I have found a blog post “52.9 Million Cigarette Butts on the Beach” on the NOAA Response and Restoration Blog and it describes the amount of cigarette butts collected over the past 25 years during the annual International Coastal Cleanup Events. Cigarettes make up 32 percent of the total debris cleaned up during these events.


 Let’s break the cigarette down into its components and see where the possible hazards to the environment are located. The cigarette filters consist of a non-biodegradable plastic called cellulose acetate. Not only is this plastic going to remain in the ecosystem for an extremely long time but it is also a hazard to the local wild life. Local wild life like fish and birds will confuse this for food and they may choke or (which I never knew this) they will starve to death because the plastic is not digestible and it will fill up the organism’s stomach.

The cigarette butt contain toxins that have been documented to affect the health of fish. In a test done by public health non-profit Legacy® they found that a single cigarette butt soaking in one liter of water would kill half of the fish exposed to it. Now let’s slow down and think about this, if the volunteers found 52.9 million cigarette butts in the past 25 years (let’s just say that every year the number of butts was equal) that would mean that they found 2,116,000 butts a year! Imagine if all of those butts made it into a water source that had little flow or drainage the concentrations of these toxins would potentially destroy the fish population.

As an experiment I would like to take a cigarette butt and put it into one liter of distilled water to test exactly how much of the chemicals leach in given amounts of time. I would be interested to see if there is a final concentration where all the data will eventually plateau, or maybe will the data decrease through toxin being emitted out through evaporation? Then I would like to run an experiment where I introduce and organism (possibly a sea grass) to see if the concentrations decrease. If they do decrease then I’d want to test the organisms to see if they have been contaminated with the toxins. There are many ways that I can go about this research but now that I have it down to the one pollutant it will be easier to limit my variables and hopefully have more precise data.    

Angela, CUR – Dottie the Koi

In 2011 my parents decided to convert their pool into a pond and started adding different species of fish, including Koi. Until recently I was taking care of the pond and its inhabitants, and noted the Koi reproducing these last two years. This spring, black racer snakes took a swim in the pool-pond and some sort of turtle made itself at home in it. We also end up with hundreds of tadpoles several times throughout the year.

During one of his visits, my dad built plant islands with Styrofoam bases; after heavy storms, bits of Styrofoam float on the surface. I have seen the older Koi (about 1 foot long and thicker than my wrist) accidentally sucking these pieces in but then spitting them right back out. Recently one of the Koi born this spring was sluggish, didn’t submerge more than two to three inches, seemed blind, and kept rapidly moving its mouth. I pulled it out, fed it by hand, and then placed it into a temporary habitat for observation, but it perished overnight. Based on my recent experience in the OCE1001 lab, I decided to check the stomach for Styrofoam.

First of all, I had to choose between a butter and a steak knife; turns out a steak knife is not the ideal tool since I did more sawing than cutting. During last week’s lab, Samm (one of the current students) mentioned reading about plastic microbeads getting caught in fishes’ gills, thus I checked the gills for Styrofoam particles but did not see any with my bare eye. Guess what, there wasn’t any Styrofoam in the stomach either because apparently, to my surprise, Koi do not have stomachs! In my confusion I thought maybe it died because its stomach shrunk or due to inbreeding it was born without this vital organ and finally succumbed to this defect. After some googling I learned carp (Koi is a type of carp) do not have stomachs but the food is digested directly in the intestine on its way out.