Midland College research project allows students hands-on opportunities to study coral reefs throughout the world

Midland College research project allows students hands-on opportunities to study coral reefs throughout the worldAugust 22, 2022

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. Student conducting underwater research on coral reef off the shore of Bonaire, Netherlands.

For several years, Midland College students and faculty have participated in an interdisciplinary research project mainly funded by The Yarborough Foundation and Joanna & Joe B. Thomas.  The research includes Midland College Chemistry, Biology and Engineering programs.  In the past, teams conducted longitudinal studies off the shore of Roatan, Honduras.  This summer, June 19-July 1, 2022, a Midland College research team composed of faculty and students conducted a comparative study at Bonaire, Netherlands.

“Coral reefs are the densest locations of biodiversity on the planet,” explained Sara Anderson who served as the team’s dive instructor and safety officer. “All coral reefs occupy just 0.5 percent of the ocean seafloor, but provide a home for up to 50 percent of all ocean life.  They can be found throughout the world in depths of 20 feet to 150 feet.”

Team members further stated that coral reefs face several challenges including natural threats of oceanic tectonic shifts, underwater volcanic activity and severe weather such as hurricanes.  They also become diseased due to human activity such as pollution and overfishing leading to decreases in underwater species that feed on algae.  This causes an increase in algae blooms on the reefs, which in turn, destroys the coral.

Midland College students participating in this summer’s research included Michael Mangan, Justin McKinney, Jordyn Ricks and Shaquila Sarapao. They were mentored by Midland College faculty Marlana Mertens (Microbiology), Greg Larson (Environmental Biology), Dr. Brian Flowers (Engineering) and Dr. Tom Ready (Chemistry).

Prior to the trip, MC Engineering students fabricated sensor packages that were deployed and submerged at four distinct dive sites off the coast of the Netherlands.  The  sensors collected temperature, pH, salinity and dissolved oxygen measurements.  Students used the data to assess various parameters including coral populations, nutrient concentrations, pathogenic bacteria and planktonic biomass. 

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