Monthly Archives: May 2010

Sunray Venus Clams: A new Florida Aquaculture Product?

The Florida clam culture industry has grown dramatically over the past 20 years. Yet, the industry is built on a single clam species. Crop diversification could enhance economic growth and stability of the industry. Florida Sea Grant- funded research has demonstrated the native sunray venus clam can be successfully grown and has market potential.

Now, with additional Florida Sea Grant support, UF, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and extension faculty will be working on developing improved brood stock, determining optimum growing conditions, and assist with market development.

Existing clam farmers will be involved in the project. At least 18-24 growers in Franklin, Levy and Lee counties will be provided with 10-15,000 seed clams. Using a portion of these seed clams, farmers will follow directions developed during previous trials. The remaining seed clams may be used by the growers to experiment with other methods. The project is funded through 2012. We will be collecting brood stock from a number of areas, including Tampa Bay.

A Tale of Two Chinas

The same article that provided the information on offshore- wind electrical generation, also had some comments on China’s efforts to develop renewable power sources. I thought you would find the following interesting.

China has wildly contradictory policies on energy development and climate change, as if it were two separate countries racing in opposite directions. China has become the global leader in greenhouse-gas emissions, building a new, dirty, inefficient coal-fired power electric plant almost every week, particularly in its poorer western provinces.

At the same time, China’s eastern seaboard is increasingly prosperous and forward thinking. Eastern cities have become centers of innovation in development of high-tech, low-carbon power as they scramble to stem choking air pollution, slow contributions to climate change, and sustain blistering economic growth.

Indeed, China’s renewable-energy development is moving so quickly that it will soon be the international leader in wind and solar power. Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist, recently warned “China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power, and wind power”.

Attention Charlotte County Waterfront Property Owners–Scallop Gardeners Needed

The Charlotte County Sea Grant Extension Program in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is recruiting volunteers who live and have docks on Lemon Bay, Gasparilla Sound and Coral Creek. Participating volunteers will hang cages containing bay scallops from their docks where scallops will grow and spawn. The goal is to increase bay scallop abundance in the area. For more info contact Betty Staugler at (941) 764-4346.

Red Grouper: A Natural Engineer

The red grouper is one of the most economically important commercial and recreational species in the Gulf of Mexico. Besides their importance as a popular seafood dish, grouper also play a significant role in their underwater environment by acting as “marine engineers,” researchers have discovered. A group of researchers led by Dr. Felicia Coleman of Florida State University recently discovered that red grouper help enhance biodiversity by creating and maintaining structural habitat for other marine life.

Red GrouperAlthough much of the Gulf bottom is relatively featureless, “solution holes” exist that formed thousands of years ago when sea level was lower, and freshwater dissolved holes in the limestone surface. When sea level rose to its present state, these solution holes filled with sediment. Red grouper are commonly associated with these limestone solution holes, but scientists were never able to demonstrate they actually helped create and maintain them.

Coleman and her colleagues discovered that red grouper remove the sediment from these holes, and help restructure the flat bottom into a three dimensional structure. Much like beaver who construct dams, red grouper act as ecosystem engineers that modify their environment and create habitat for themselves and other species. They remove sand with their mouths, exposing the limestone bottom that can be colonized by other marine life such as corals, anemones, and sponges as well as the organisms that depend on them. The study also showed that commercially important species such as spiny lobster, black grouper, red porgy and vermillion snapper among others, benefited from the red grouper’s engineering abilities.

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Offshore Wind–Testing the Water

Within a few years, wind turbines could be spinning off the U.S. East coast, their flashing blades capturing Atlantic Ocean winds and producing clean, renewable energy for coastal communities.

The U.S. Atlantic seaboard from Maine to South Carolina is blessed with a broad, shallow continental shelf where winds blow hard and steadily much of the time. Five northerner coastal states – from Delaware to Massachusetts – are poised to construct wind farms in the sea and recruit wind-power manufacturers in an effort to stimulate new green industries and jobs.

U.S. wind farms have sprung up across the Great Plains and the Upper Midwest from frozen Minnesota to sun-scorched West Texas, along rocky Appalachian ridgelines, in open spaces in New York and California and in the Pacific Northwest. Wind power accounted for 42 percent of all new electric generation capacity added in the U.S. in 2008.

Still, not a single turbine has been built in some of America’s windiest places – its oceans or Great Lakes. That will soon change. Within two years, if all approvals are acquired, Cape Wind, a project that will install 130 wind turbines five miles off the Massachusetts coast, could become the nation’s first offshore wind farm connected to an electrical grid.

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Deepest Known Undersea Volcanic Vents Discovered

British scientists have discovered the world’s deepest known undersea volcanic vents, known as “black smokers”, 3.1 miles (5000 meters) down in the Cayman Trough in the Caribbean. The vents consisted of rainbow-hued spires of copper and iron ores, erupting water hot enough to melt lead. The pressure at this depth – 500 times normal atmospheric pressure – is equivalent to the weight of a large family car pushing down on every square inch of ocean floor. This high pressure prevents the super heated water from boiling.

Deep-sea vents are undersea springs where geothermally superheated water erupts from the ocean floor. They were first seen in the Pacific three decades ago. Scientists are fascinated by deep-sea vents because the scalding water that gushes from them nourishes lush colonies of deep-sea creatures fueled by chemicals dissolved in the water. One of these chemicals, hydrogen sulfide, is highly toxic to most known organisms.

Life has traditionally been seen as driven by energy from the sun, but discovery of the biological communities supported by these deep-sea vents has forced scientists to rethink the rules of biology. Studying the life forms that survive under such bizarre conditions is providing insights into patterns of marine life around the world, how life on earth began, and even the possibility of life on other planets. Active hydrothermal vents are believed to exist on Jupiter’s moon Europa and ancient hydrothermal vents have been speculated to exist on Mars.

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