Monday, October 24, 2016

Jeff UR - The Extremes

The Extremophiles

Hydro-thermal Vents
Cold Seeps (Cold Vents)

   Hot and Cold Running Water


The effluent from the hydrothermal vents, black smokers, is chemically rich and hot enough to melt lead. They are found in volcanically active locations within tectonic plate zones.

Cold Seeps (Cold Vents) are sites where oil and methane mixed with water 'seep' from fissures and become diffused with sediments. They spread over a very wide area and develop a unique topology.
The reaction of hydrocarbons and seawater create carbonate rock formations and reefs. The chemically rich effluent often forms a brine pool on the ocean floor. The word 'Cold' does not mean the effluent is colder than the surrounding sea water. Mostly it is often a bit higher in temperature. Cold seeps often support a diverse Biome that serves many indigenous species. Cold seeps are categorized by depth. They arise over fissures located on the seafloor due to tectonic activity.

Jeff: UR - The Extremes

Cold Tube Worms
Hot Tube Worms
The Extremophiles

Hot and Cold Running Tube Worms

Riftia Pachyptila are giant hydrothermal tube worms around hot vents.They are the fastest growing of known marine invertebrates. Growth of five feet in ~ two years is normal.

Lamellibrachia Luymesi are giant cold seep tube worms that grow very slowly. Growth of two meters takes ~ 250 years.

At two to three meters in length and 1.5 inches diameter the tubes certainly resemble worms (annelids), but they are really Bivalve Molluscs (clams / oysters). The bacteria that live within the 'Worms' change toxic chemicals into organic particles that provide food for their hosts. The bacteria receive their nutrients through an exchange system supplied by the worms. The worms have no eyes but sense vibrations that threatens them and retreat into their protective chitin coverings.

The worms reproduction process is akin to fish. The female tubes release eggs that float upwards, and the male tubes release sperm that swims after them. The fertilized larvae then swim down and attach to rocks on the seafloor. The larvae develop a temporary primitive mouth and gut and bacteria becomes trapped inside them when the organs dissolve. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Jeff UR - The Extremophiles

Real Worm Holes:

The hydrothermal ocean vent extremophiles live in colonies around the black smokers.

The magma heat source from the volcanic ocean ridge system heats the ejected water to 400 degrees centigrade. The water at these depths of up to 5000 meters is under extremely high pressure. The hot fluid or the smoke, ejected from the vents is very caustic and dissolves out metals and other minerals from the rock it passes through. 

The ejecta contain minute metallic sulfide particles that precipitate out and form the smokers 'Chimneys'. The chimneys can attain heights of tens of meters.

This extremely hostile environment is the perfect habitat for giant tube worms. Tube worms have no eyes, mouth, digestive tract (gut) or anus, and yet they can grow eight feet tall. The white tube they live in is a natural covering made of chitin (kite-in).

The giant tube worms exist via a symbiotic relationship with a group of supporting bacteria that live in them. The bacteria convert the toxic soup from the vents into a feast for the worms. This process is termed Chemosynthesis. Life dependent upon the conversion of chemicals into energy without the necessity of sunlight (photosynthesis). 

The worms are crowned with a bright red crest that is actually their breathing mechanism. A special form of hemoglobin in their blood takes oxygen from the water and creates the red color. They have also been referred to as giant Lipsticks. The scientists from the 1979 group that discovered the vents and the new life forms named one location of worms: " The Rose Garden ". Other newly discovered extremophile life forms also live within the 'Extreme Goldilocks Zones' of the ocean vents.

The discovery of earthly extremophile life forms has prompted some astrobiologists and other scientists to theorize about the existence of extraterrestrial life. One often mentioned possible location is Jupiter's moon Europa. Europa is believed to have miles deep oceans covered by ice. Maybe the study of earthly extremophiles will prepare us for the eventual discovery of 'extraterrestrial-ophiles', my newly coined term.    


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Jeff UR - The Extremes

 Crushing pressure, freezing temperatures, and zero sunlight aren't enough of a challenge for giant tube worms. They've adapted to thrive at the edge of hydrothermal vents, which spew superheated water saturated with toxic chemicals. This colony was photographed 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) below the ocean's surface on the East Pacific Rise near the Galapagos Islands.

Chemical reactions from super-heated water forms 'Hydrothermal Fluid' as it erupts from the deep ocean vents known as black smokers. The water combines with molten rock from below and the fluid contains many compounds. Sulfide minerals including hydrogen sulfide and other chemical compounds are excreted. These minerals are used as an energy source by microbes, bacteria, and archaea. The many newly discovered extreme life forms such as giant tube worms, crabs, clams, and shrimp thrive there as a result of the transformation of the toxic chemicals into an energy supplement.   

Some scientists now believe that the origin of life on earth came from deep ocean vents. The hypothesis is that life first existed as an aquatic microorganism. The claim is that this organism existed in a zone of extremely high temperatures such as ocean vents. The theory is enhanced by recent DNA sequencing of modern organisms. This new idea for the origin of life on earth certainly increases the number of possible theories. If the new hypothesis holds water, it would indicate that life came from the ocean floor and then ... grew-upwards.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Jeff: UR - The Extremes

The Extremophile Files

Video of Deep Sea Vents and Extremophiles

 Additional Video on Vents 

The above video links demonstrate the dynamics of Deep Ocean Vents, aka Black Smokers, and the extreme life that thrives there. These newly discovered life forms are based not upon Photosynthesis but on Chemosynthesis.

The pressurized, toxic water gushing out is hot enough to melt lead (621.5 degrees F.). Although the pressure of the surrounding water a mile + deep is immense, the plume of discharge water dissipates and cools down.

My science background and life experiences have well prepared me for the existence of alien life. I just did not expect it to be found right here on earth beneath my feet, or more succinctly just below in the depths of the ocean. Life forms so extreme that no sci-fi authors ever wrote them into existence.   

The term "Goldilocks Zone" has been used to describe the earths distance from the sun. A zone that is not too hot or too cold and just right for life as we know it. There is even some use of the term in describing extremophiles. In my research, I have noticed that the extreme life forms dependent upon the deep ocean vents seem to cluster close around them. That distance that supports the life appears to be a relatively small area. I am now coining a new term that I personally have not seen before in my research. That term is: "The Extreme Goldilocks Zone".            

Monday, September 26, 2016

Jeff UR - The Extremes

I've always loved the Sciences and it's easy to imagine how this love evolved. I believe a mix of environment, experience, and nature predisposes one toward an innate objective. But what ignites the fire?

I was born in the outer ring of a big northern city. The residential neighborhood was interspersed with factories, railroad and mass transit tracks, junkyards, warehouses, parking lots, commercial businesses, and even a large graveyard. The geomorphology of the area consisted of a river, flood plains and marshes, hilly terrain with rock outcrops, and irregular wooded areas. There were no pools or tennis courts in any back yards but it was certainly a stimulus rich environment to grow up in.

I was twelve when I joined a rocket club and got my first telescope. During this time period I also had an ongoing affair with all the classic works of science fiction. Works that included journeys into the center of the earth as well as travels into outer space. Extreme movie creatures from inner earth, outer space, and the oceans just fueled the fire.

An aunt gave me all the large picture books about oceanography, astronomy, and the universe. I was thirteen when she took me to New York City where we explored the Museum of Natural History, and visited aquariums, planetariums, and zoos. Lions, tigers, and bare
 bones of dinosaurs. Wow! The fire was lit.

Tardigrade; most extreme animal on the earth

That is why I am now 'Hooked' on Extermophiles from the ocean depths.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Jeff - UR Researcher

The Eiger at Grindelwald Switzerland Alps ( Me on your left )

Hello from Jeff. My blog is about extremophiles. Extremophiles are animals and organisms that exist and thrive in extreme environments. Having lived, worked, traveled and experienced many different environments, I am something of an extremophile myself.  I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Earth Science (including oceanography, geology, climatology and astronomy). A minor in Urban Studies including the effects of climate and environment on the existence of urban areas.

Our front yard after Hurricane Bob slams Cape Cod in 1991

I have experienced a wide range of employment positions in many industries. I was a supervisor on drilling rigs for a company that built nuclear and coal fired power plants. I collected and categorized subsurface soil and rock samples. I traveled to different locations around the U. S. Working in cow pastures in Wisconsin in winter, and collecting soil samples from the bottom of the Ohio River on a barge offshore from a nuke plant was all just very normal.  

Black Sand Beach in Hawaii

I have physically traveled approximately half way around the globe. Ranging from Hawaii to Western Europe. From Canada to the Caribbean. From Sweden to the Greek Islands. The accumulated experience from my travels and employment gave me a wide range of knowledge. I have witnessed extreme events from multiple hurricanes, floods, wild fires, blizzards, and other record setting situations.    

Friday, May 6, 2016

Emily UR - Conclusions

Well the time has come to use what I've learned these past two years and try to get paid for it! Graduating in a week will open so many doors through which I'll be able to work outside, doing what I love. That being said, it's time to review and conclude my semester long research regarding Nutrient Pollution in Stormwater Management Ponds (SMPs).

Stormwater Management Ponds are man-made ponds designed to prevent flooding and act as a reservoir for the rainwater as well as the surface runoff that fills them from the higher elevations surrounding. These ponds generally have a weak current, if any at all and absorb sunlight all day which allows perfect conditions for algae growth and eutrophication of the water body. Nutrients and other debris associated with surface runoff and atmospheric deposition become introduced into the pond and feed these algae. I became curious about these sources so I came up with the official scientific questions of:
1. Does the setting surrounding an SMP influence the input of nutrients by surface runoff?
2. Does atmospheric deposition play a role in nutrient input?

 So  the pond to the left, HPSMP, is the Halifax Plantation Stormwater Management Pond located in Ormond Beach.

Below, TPSMP, is the Tuscawilla Park Stormwater Management Pond located in Tuscawilla Park in Daytona Beach.

Difference of water quality seen at each site in HPSMP
I decided to study these two ponds because of their locations and the area surrounding them. HPSMP is surrounded by 4 houses to its North, a golf course to it's South and a small path for residents and golf carts to cross to the East. I decided to take three samples from each pond since each side is effected by different environments hoping I would find some sort of variance of nutrient concentrations at each site.
Materials I worked with include:
  •  Field Journal
  • 4 2-Gallon Pail w/Handle
  • Hach 2100N Turbidimeter
  • Hack DR/890 Colorimeter
  • VWR Clinical 20 Centrifuge
  • NOAA Surface Weather Maps
  • 500mL Bottles for Water Samples
  • AquaFluor Handheld Fluorometer
  • Wide Mouth Quart-Size Mason Jars
  • NOAA Hi-Def Radar App for iPhone
  • Fisher Scientific MaximaDry Filter Pump
 My method used to answer my questions was rather simple; I wanted to see the difference of nutrient content before and after a storm to see how much content varied but I also wanted to see how much the rain itself contributed as well. So therefore my method was to:

1.      Three water samples from different sites in each pond were collected prior to a storm and brought to the lab to be tested for Total Inorganic Nitrogen using Method 10021 and Total Phosphates using Method 8048. Chlorophyll & Turbidity were analyzed using the AquaFluor and the Hach 2100N Turbidimeter, respectively.
2.      Tracking a storm using the NOAA Radar app, two buckets were placed around each pond to collect the rainwater associated with the later runoff. This water was jarred and stored in a cool, dark place for later analysis.
3.     Once the storm had passed, three new samples were collected from the same sites and stored in a cool, dark place for later analysis using the same methods listed earlier. 

My Results:

Measurements of Total Nitrogen

Measurements of Total Phosphates
Positive Correlation of Chlorophyll & Turbidity
 Very fun this experiment was. The storm that brought me the rainwater traveled across the Northwestern United States before it reached Florida as it is seen as the cold front (blue line with blue triangle) entering the state, proceeding on its way Southeast. I decided not to create a HYSPLIT model because it was an overcomplicated version of a regular surface radar map. Anyway, considering my results, I've determined that atmospheric deposition does play a role in nutrient input into the pond and that the setting surrounding a pond does play a role in nutrient runoff as well. Next time though, I'd like to collect a sample of surface runoff as it's entering the pond, for comparison.

Hope y'all enjoyed the ride!

Pedro UR; wrapping up

So, it's been an exciting semester. The most interesting by far. My independent research project was  to conduct a series of test in the canals off of the Matanzas river and the river it self and try to pinpoint a particular source which may be causing poor water quality. this Idea was brought up by a concerned resident, Mr. Charlie Faulkner.  Mr. Charlie Faulkner is convinced that a nearby water treatment facility with a not so squeaky clean track record may be contaminating the river and leading to excess nutrients flowing into the canals upon which his community was built. 

Flagler Beach Water treatment facility
My scientific question was , Is the treated effluent water discharge contaminating the canals? After conducting a transect of samples from North of the canals to the back of Mr. Faulkner's community and South of the discharge point. I have compared various results with criteria of the water body. one example is this.

The levels of chlorophyll found at the furthest point of the canal system (site three) of the transect Showed chlorophyll in this area exceeds the standard criteria. This one of  the major areas of concern because it is the furthest away from the fresh supply of water. The results of the research at this time do not prove that the treatment facility is damaging the canals or surrounding areas. In the future I plan to return to the Matanzas river and the canals to perform the same test. I feel that the conditions in this area may change during the warmer months of summer. If my future results validate Mr. Faulkner's concern I feel that the city of Flagler Beach will have to listen not only to me but, to the rest of the EST students of DSC.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Deanna UR- The Results Are In!

Q & A: Jeff sec. 50. What will you do if you don't catch any red drum and what does that tell you about the fact that you weren't able to catch anything and the current regulations?

Thanks for your question! If I was not able to catch anything I would assume that red drum in the area have been overfished and that perhaps the regulations should be adjusted to allow the population to grow again. This could be done by imposing a closed season, where a few months out of the year it would be illegal to harvest red drum in the area.

Total Red Drum Length Measurements- the green
represents the legal harvesting size.

Fortunately, that did not happen and my persistence paid off. We ended up fishing a total of six different areas in Flagler and northern Volusia County and caught a total of thirteen red drum. We fished eight or nine times, going to a couple of the same areas a few times. I did not always fish from the kayak, I fished from the banks a few times. Of the thirteen fish we caught, ten of them were legal harvesting size (18 - 27 inches in total length). To my surprise, ten of the fish we caught were caught in Volusia County and three were caught in Flagler County. My scientific question is: do the current harvesting rules and regulations for red drum in Flagler and Volusia County need to be adjusted? I would say yes based on my data. I would say that perhaps the harvesting bag limit for red drum in Flagler County (which is currently two per person per day) should be dropped down to one fish per person per day. Or perhaps increasing the Volusia County bag limit from one to two per person per day.

Fish Length by County- the green box represents
the legal harvesting lengths.
As far as what did I learn from my IRP, I surprisingly learned more than I thought I would. This project was a great way for me to learn more about my local environment and the marine life living in it, which is a plus considering my future career goal of being a game warden with FWC. Also, I typically prefer freshwater fishing but from this project I am starting to enjoy salt water fishing more than I originally used to. And of course any fishing trip is a reminder of how important patience and perseverance are.

"A bad day of fishing, is still better than a good day at work".

Victoria UR- Tigers, and Bulls, and Teeth!! OH MY!!!

Through thick and thin, you have to push your way to the top. It has been a long process, but the work has been accomplished.

Image result for bluefish
The fishing trip on Saturday was an interesting event. Fishing took place from around 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. inside the inlet of New Smyrna Beach. There were a lot of other people fishing and enjoying the beautiful day outside. Through the 2 hours we were out, the only fish caught was a 15" bluefish.

Although no sharks were caught during my research this semester, I was still able to collect data through online sources such as OCEARCH and the George Burgess International Shark Attack File as well as the information from Dr. Eric Reyier at the Kennedy Space Center.

With all of the information available, I was able to put enough into excel to make multiple graphs, determining how many of the sample were male versus female, as well as an average length of the species caught. The species found were blacktips (the most abundant), one bullshark, two great whites (the largest in length), and some tiger sharks.

Although there were others found in the area, there were no sex, length, or weight recorded. Most of the information found on OSEARCH we the tracking of sharks that were tagged in other states, like the great whites tagged in Cape Cod. But the satellite tags tracked one, who swam to the shore right off of Bethune Beach at one point in her recent travels.

Myself and my boyfriend out shark fishing
with Dr. Woodall and Dr. Osmon.
Due to many conflicts in schedules, I was only able to be in the field once myself, but in future research, a planned out schedule will make data easier to collect. While collecting data, it is not guaranteed to collect the data you set out to find.

In the end, I found that of the species I found had been collected, there were more Females than Males. I had a sample size of 17 sharks, with 3 that had not been recorded and are marked as unknown.

I personally feel like continuing this research on my own to determine what conditions may affect the catchability of the different shark species as well.

Phaleisa-section 01
          What species of sharks can we find in the Atlantic Ocean?

Book cover to sharks found in the Atlantic.
To answer this question correctly, it would almost be a book, since there are just so many different species. I will answer in a more simplified way.

The major species found here off the eastern coast of Florida can include Blacktips, Blacknose, Sandbars, Tiger Sharks, Sand Tiger Sharks, Spinners, Threshers, Scalloped Hammerheads, Smooth Hammerheads, Bonnetheads, Lemon Sharks, Nurse Sharks, Great White Sharks, Mako Sharks, Blue Sharks, Sixgills, Smoothfin Dogsharks, Altanic Sharpnose, Blacktip Reef Sharks, Carribean Reef Sharks, Whitetips, and Bull Sharks.

Among these are others, but farther off the coast in deep waters you can also find Whale Sharks and Basking Sharks since they are so huge, they need deeper waters in order to swim. There are a lot of other species of sharks found all around the world. These are just some of the most common species found around here, although the Great Whites are found here, they prefer deeper and cooler waters and can migrate from Cape Cod, around Africa, and into the Australian waters. So just listing the sharks in the Atlantic doesn't always work for these guys.

I hope that answers your question enough, and Thank you for asking such an interesting one too.

Renee; UR: Welcome to the finish line!! Kinda....

This is my final blog for the Aquatic Environments Class! I know tis very sad... but I do plan to start my own blog in a week or two concerning my own continued research and any other related research I might come across in my travels through existence. So this is not an ending but yet another beginning! Now to wrap the semester up in a nice bow...

A pH of 4 or less is preferred by S. minor
 Sadly I have not yet received my results from the UF IFAS Extension so anyone curious as to how that mess turns out will have to come out to the Florida Lake Management Symposium in June. You can register for it HERE.

Luckily I had the means by which to take pH and redox potential readings as I mentioned in a previous post. Remember my lovely assistant?

400mV is the accepted minimum redox potential for
aerated wetland soils. Considering the dry state
of my bog the soil can be considered aerated.
There was no evidence of stark differences in pH or redox potential between the root zone and contrast samples. Hopefully more interesting numbers will come back from UF and give us a better idea of the details of the soil content.

Along with the data from UF I am considering taking a closer look at the flooding patterns within the big during the coming rainy season along with aiding Dr. Emmett in further study of the germination rates of S. minor's seeds and other seed dispersal mechanisms. Provided he doesn't mind the company and my tendency to talk rather constantly.

Once I have my new blog set up I do hope all of you will join me there for more carnivorous plant fun! Including some fun updates on my exotic babies here at home. A preview in two words: feeding time!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Samantha, CUR- Phosfurious

Today I come bearing great news !  As of last weekend (April 22-24)  I now have a whole of 10 data points taken within Canal Street Canal drainage basin, at discharge point.  As I mentioned in my previous blog, Polluted Perception having 10 data points, 5 taken during an Ebb Tide and the other 5 taken during a Flood Tide provides me with sufficient evidence of possible excessive (anthropogenic) nutrient concentrations being released into the basin.  Most importantly, in my last blog I spoke about noticing for the first time some chemical agents drifting in the canal basin more closely towards discharge point.  Saturday morning, April 23 called for a Flood tide at 9:27am.  With this being said Dr. Woodall and I not only found, what we expected, lagoon water "flooding" into the culvert system, there was also clear, noticeable water flowing outside of the culvert system as well. With a total of  1.40in. of rainfall this did not surprise us.  This suggested all of the water we were seeing, flowing out of the culvert system during flood tide(carrying cigarette buds, chemical agents, sticks, leaves) must be all of that rainwater runoff accumulating from the untreated CSC culvert system.  However, there was more needed to be done to be comfortable with this conclusion.  Ergo, during this sampling time, not only did I measure salinity at sub surface  (0.2 ppt;parts per thousand a measurement in which salinity is measured,expressing concentrations of constituents within the water.) salinity was also measured at ~1ft of the water column(33.3 ppt), showing a significant difference in measurements within the water column (between 0-1ft).  This was huge ! I wanted more data to determine the difference in water quality at discharge as opposed to the water quality further East within the basin.  I took a sample ~100m East of the Canal (towards the IRL), within this area, salinity measured the same as below surface at discharge (33.3 ppt) which makes sense.  So, in order to achieve nutrient concentrations, a water sample was also taken at the East end of the basin. Below lies the results.....

Within every water sample taken within CSC at discharge point, Total Phosphate (TP) levels exceed
 Florida Department of Environmental Protection acceptable TP criterion (<0.049mg/L).

With this data I was able to determine that subsurface water salinity measurements were much lower than salinity measured (same point) at the surface (1ft).  Also, I have shown here in the above graph that not only did Total Phosphate levels exceed FDEP TP criterion taken within this canal at discharge point, the only time that TP concentrations did not exceed FDEP criterion was when the sample was taken at the East of the CSC basin, towards the IRL at flood tide (measuring 0.01 mg/L). On this same day, only ~100m West of the basin, TP levels reached 0.62 mg/L. Which, not only was significantly higher than the same day sample taken farther East, this data point measurement was of the highest TP concentration out of all 10 data points taken at discharge.  If that doesn't suggest this TP is ultimately anthropogenic and leaking to this body of water through the culvert system, than stay tuned, I am not giving up on this Canal yet and much more research will be coming! 


  • CoCoRaHS - Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network."CoCoRaHS - Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network. Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network., n.d. Web. 02 May 2016. <>.

Emily UR - The results are in!

Well friends, it has been a moderately exciting journey, dancing for rain then analyzing water once it came. I realize now that the graph I posted last week was nothing short of a mess and rather hard to look at. I've decided to leave it where it is as an example of what NOT to do when making a graph. I apologize for any confusion, so this week I made two new graphs that represent the same data but more clearly. Note that there are no more -4,-5,-6 sites, instead I've used the original 3 site names for each and changed to a clustered bar graph to better show data from before and after the rain. Also, rather than using the Lower Halifax water quality criteria, I did some research and found the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) water criteria for ponds which is better fitted for the water I'm working with.

Ahh, yes, much nicer to look at. Notice, I made the rainwater a gradient blue colored bar just because there is no before or after for the rain. My results took me by surprise when I found not only that the rainwater contained the highest nutrient measurements of all the water samples, with the exception of HPSMP-2 site which I'll touch on momentarily. Also some sites experienced a decrease in nutrients after the rain despite the amount present in the rainwater I collected, while others experienced an increase. I have to look into why this is.
Now, I still have to work with the NOAA HYSPLIT computer model to see where the storm that brought the rain had developed and traveled over. This will help me determine a source for all the nutrients found. I collected a second sample of rainwater for comparison and while it contained less nutrients than the first sample, it still contained more nutrients than those found in the ponds so I plan to make a trajectory model for that storm as well.
Looking again at HPSMP-2, one can see that after rain, both levels of Total Nitrogen and Phosphorus had increased, the nitrogen levels dramatically. This may not be due to surface runoff associated with the storm though, I'm inclined to believe the results were of anthropogenic origin. Found at the HPSMP-2 site after the rain was this:

Fertilizer bag extracted from HPSMP-2 site
Truly a shame, but the damage is done. I attempted to speak with the people whose house lies directly in front of this site but there has been no answer at the door. 
Still to come are my HYSPLIT models which are to be generated soon and an update will be made this Friday when I conclude my project and reflect on it.
 Thanks for tuning in!