2023 Division Of Research Annual Report

NOVA S OU T H E AS T E RN UN I V E R S I T Y 21 Animal Disease REEF REVIVAL Part I When coral disease hit South Florida nine years ago, the largest, oldest coral colonies in the region began dying in a matter of weeks. Brian Walker, Ph.D., was serendipitously mapping these corals, some larger than minivans and more than 300 years old, to highlight their important ecological functions and recognized a dire need. So, he directed his focus on the emerging calamity and forged strong collaborations with experts in coral reef disease. Walker’s team was the first group performing disease interventions on the reefs in 2018. The team currently visits about 100 corals monthly to save these corals, track spatial and temporal disease patterns, and study why some corals are more resistant to the disease. Under Construction Part II When a devastating coral disease that originated in South Florida spread into the Florida Keys and elsewhere in the Caribbean, Karen Neely, Ph.D., sprang into action. Armed with a Florida Department of Environmental Protection grant, she and her team began developing in-water intervention strategies. The result was a topical medicine for dying corals. Every two months, more than a dozen priority reefs are visited to monitor the treatments; apply additional medicine, if needed; and collect information on the health of affected corals. Health histories of several thousand corals have been aggregated as a result. In addition, Neely has provided training and information to other professionals working in areas experiencing this disease to try to mitigate this underwater outbreak. Part I Scan for more. Part II Scan for more. Part III Threatened corals have found refuge and a chance to repopulate thanks to NSU’s onshore nursery and coral propagation efforts by Abigail Renegar, Ph.D. Fragmentation from adult colonies yields smaller corals that grow faster, so they can be replanted to help reefs rebound sooner. Disease is a recent reason NSU nursery work has intensified. Displacement from dredging and bulkhead replacements is another. Additional “stressors” like increasing ocean temperatures and toxins also prompt recovery and rescue efforts. As of February 2023, NSU is caring for more than 300 coral colonies and 4,000 coral fragments; more than 1,500 corals from the nursery have already been transplanted. NSU’s nursery comprises eight 400-gallon raceways—the SEACOR system that includes thirty individual tanks and two indoor propagation systems with two 200-gallon raceways each. All boast independent life-support systems. Part III Scan for more.