By Keiko Wilkins
After a few weeks of getting set-up at Southern Cross, my advisor and I have begun preparing for our experiment to explore the effects of increased temperature and high DMSP on coral feeding rates. To conduct the experiment, we have to travel to Coffs Harbour where the National Marine Science Centre (NMSC) is located. This centre has amazing laboratory and aquaculture facilities for researchers to conduct their projects. In addition, our coral feeding expert Alejandro Tagliafico will be helping us with the experiment which is similar to the experiments that he conducted for his PhD research at Southern Cross. Our stay in Coffs Harbour will last 2 weeks with one week being for preparation and the other full week being for the experiment.
Preparation for our travel from Lismore to Coffs Harbour where the NMSC is located
We have our packing list ready to go, our accommodation has been booked and we are eager to begin. However, Australian weather always has different plans. Apparently in Lismore, when it rains, it pours. A cyclone off the eastern coast has caused heavy flooding in the Lismore area with the main road in and out of Lismore being completely underwater. From extreme droughts and bushfires to cyclones and flooding, our experiment must go on!
Heavy flooding in Lismore delaying our arrival at the NMSC
A long detour later, adding on additional time to our 2.5-hour drive, we arrived at our destination. The first few days at the NMSC we spent preparing for the arrival of the coral by setting up large coral tanks with the proper temperature. Of course, science never goes the way that you want it to and we had to work through several difficulties. The first major issue was maintaining the temperature within optimal conditions when it is so hot and sunny outside. The second major one was too much seawater from our tanks draining and causing flooding due to the drains being clogged. After several hours of troubleshooting (re-doing the draining system and playing with the temperature), our tank set-up looked amazing.
Potential experiment set-up
After a couple more days of testing our system, we are ready for our coral to be placed into an acclimatization tank for a few days before fragmentation for the experiment. On Tuesday, we received 6 coral colonies of Duncanopsammia axifuga from Cairns Marine that we will care for before starting the experiment on Saturday. We love our little coral so much so that we monitor them every hour to ensure that the temperature and light conditions are suitable and that they look happy.
Happy corals = Happy researchers: Me happily unpacking our coral from their box after they were shipped to us from Cairns Marine
Our beautiful coral: Duncanopsammia axifuga
Only a few days until the experiment starts and the anticipation is killing us. Will our babies survive the high temperatures and the high DMSP? Will we be able to keep our coral happy with the high ambient temperatures expected? Find out on the ASLO social media pages this coming week as we take over the social media accounts with live updates on the experiment progress and more pictures of our beautiful coral.