From Wired by 

CORALS ARE IN SERIOUS TROUBLE. THIS LAB COULD HELP SAVE THEM

(Local copy of the video available here)

Nestled among giant fish tanks at the California Academy of Sciences, there’s a black box—just big enough to hold six aquariums and maybe five humans. What it lacks in size, though, it makes up for in preciousness: Running here is a experiment that could help save corals from annihilation.

The corals in these tanks are reproducing sexually. Which is weird, because even out in the wild, coral spawning is a fragile process, easily disrupted by changes in temperature and acidity. Reproduction has to be precisely timed with the phases of the moon, and it occurs just once a year, as corals release great clouds of sperm and eggs that mix together, fertilize, and descend once more to the seafloor.

Corals are animals, not plants; each organism is made up of lots and lots of polyps. Some species can reproduce asexually, essentially producing clones of themselves. But not the ones in this black box, which are somehow spawning away thanks to some fancy technology and a team of doting humans.

Researchers have brought gravid corals back to the lab before, where they immediately got down to business. But the Academy of Sciences is on the verge of establishing a more permanent population that could reproduce year after year, allowing researchers to perform crucial long-term studies. That’d make this only the second lab to do so, after London’s Horniman Museum. If it works, these scientists could turn corals in model organisms, like fruit flies and mice. They’d have a reliable population to study in detail over multiple generations.

“We built this whole dark room, but that’s only the first part of it,” says Rich Ross, aquarium biologist at the Academy. “What really comes into play is controlling the light—the moonlight, the temperature, and the intensity of all that light. The coral spawn is triggered by all of those factors.” More »

From Science Friday

Full-time biologist—part-time cephalopod matchmaker, Richard Ross invites us into his secret home lab where he studies the mating rituals of the lesser Pacific striped Octopus.

Local copy:

I’m a .gif!

Rich talks to Gary and Christine about dealing with a reef tank when you travel a lot for work

Click this ReefThreads link to see the entire show

 

From Wired Magazine, Rich interviewed

A common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco.

withingsFrom: Withings


Raise your hand if you’ve never met a renowned marine biologist who enjoys mixed martial arts, glass blowing, and juggling barefoot in a fish store. OK, hands down — you’re about to. We’ll tell you how he met Penn Jillette, how he got healthy, and why he has an octopus on his head.

When Richard Ross decides to learn a new subject or skill, he dives into the deep end. A passion for juggling became a 15-year career as a performer. When he fell for glassblowing, Ross trained up so he could create his own glassware and sculptures. As a child, he tended home aquarium tanks with his father. When he rediscovered the hobby years later, it evolved into his current role as a biologist at the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco where he tends to the Philippine coral reef display within a 212,000-gallon tank, the deepest in the world.

Until last year, Ross’s stick-to-itiveness fell short when it came to changing his diet and exercise so he could lose the weight he’d been putting on steadily for years. He chalked his weight gain up to a natural byproduct of aging. He tried a few diets, would lose the weight, and then swiftly gain it back. “I didn’t look well anymore. I looked generally unhealthy.” More »