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!

From CORAL May/June 2017 pp 32-33, Article by Daniel Knop

From Koralle, Number 103, Feb/Mar 2017

From Reefs Magazine

Search for the Flapjack Octopus

By Richard Ross I can hardly contain myself as we park by the dock in front of the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in Moss Landing California. As we unpack our gear for the cruise it is dark and cold, the sun is still asleep, and I am literally jumping up and down with excitement. I try to get myself under control as colleagues from the Monterey Bay Aquarium start arriving until I notice that they are also overflowing with excitement. The science staff arrives, and they are equally excited. We are all giddy with anticipation as we board the 135 foot research vessel, Rachel Carson, the support ship for the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Ventana. Why are we all so excited? Today is the last cruise of the year for the ROV collection of deep water cephalopods for both public display and research; the forecast is for calm seas and our quarry is the Flapjack octopus (Opisthotheusis sp). 

The adorable Flapjack octopus just prior to being transferred to a transport bag. Photo by Rich Ross.

I don’t get seasick. Ever. Even in terrible conditions. When I was 14 going out trawling with the local college marine bio classes in LA, we used to pack food that would make other people on the boat a little grumpy – my favorite was peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, which are delicious, but not to queasy people. More »