Thursday, October 28, 2010

2011 TME Trip Dates Selected

Dates for the TME 2011 trip to the Roatan Institute of Marine Science (RIMS) will be July 30 to August 6. Check out the TME 2011 BLOG for more details.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Teachers come eye-to-eye with invasive lionfish

COSEE Great Lakes takes great pride in offering educators research opportunities on and under the waters of the Great Lakes and the oceans. Teachers who took part in the Tropical Marine Ecology [TME] workshop in Roatan, Honduras, in August experienced the impact of invasive lionfish research first hand.
Read this article by Helen Domske....

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fantastic Friday in the Sun

Friday began with discussion about the Thursday night dive, which included seeing a tiny reddish-orange crab on a sea fan, and a slipper lobster.  We listened to Jen at a morning sea turtle lecture with current information about conservation techniques being utilized in Central America.  We found out that all sea turtles are either endangered or threatened, and were encouraged to educate our students about choices they could make that could have a positive impact on ocean life.  

The morning divers went to see the shipwreck Aguila, where a spiny oyster was observed.  Snorkelers saw fishes and creatures at the nearby reef crest.  After lunch, a trip into town was helpful for souvenir shopping, and an island tour included a stop at the iguana farm.  If you are ever in West End, be sure to stop at Earth Mamas for a fruit smoothie!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thallasia Thursday in the Sun

The day started with a lesson on mangroves, which make up an important ecosystem in the tropics. These specialized trees, the red, black, white and gray mangroves, help to protect the islands, stabilize sediment and serve as nurseries for the coral reef. Our snorkel along the red mangroves delivered a snapshot at this amazing, but often unprotected area. Seen by some as nuisance plants that are bulldozed to make sandy beaches, the mangrove community that we experienced showed us oysters, colorful worms, small fishes and even a problematic invasive…the lionfish! These fish have made their way from its native Pacific to home aquaria where they have been released to the wild. Roatan saw its first lionfish last year and already we have seen this venomous invader on several of our dives/snorkels. Fortunately, our dedicated dive-master, Alson, was prepared to capture and eliminate the 3 lionfish that the group spotted on our snorkel. Shouts of “lionfish” sent Alson over to rid the area of this dangerous fish. More than just a threat to unknowing snorkelers or divers, this Pacific invader has a huge mouth and a voracious appetite for small reef fish. Some biologists believe they can eats dozens of small fishes each day, which has the potential to impact fish communities on the reef.

After lunch, Helen gave a lecture that compared/contrasted the fishes of the Great Lakes with marine fish. COSEE Great Lakes teaches about ocean literacy through this course, but since the teachers call the Great Lakes home, it is important for them to realize there can be a connection between fish species. Body-shapes, fin structure, coloration and reproductive strategies can be compared/contrasted between the two distinctive environments.

The evening ended with a night dive for part of the group. These dives offer a unique experience to be on the reef during an important transition time from daylight to night, when the reef comes alive with creatures not seen during the day.

Posting Comments

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Wonderful Wednesday in the Sun

Helen with Marguerita

 We woke up after dreams of a night snorkel that the group took the night before. Seeing reef creatures at night adds a special dimension to reef ecology. As Kathy Dole said, “Put your PJ’s on!” describes how some fish change their daytime or diurnal coloration to the coloration they show for the nocturnal period. A juvenile butterflyfish can show a brown splotch where a white body side had been. Others, like parrotfish, completely darken their coloration; or, a surgeonfish adds bars to its “PJ’s” at night. Night snorkels also bring sightings of crabs, lobsters, and the octopus!

Wednesday morning started with an algae lecture and then came the highlight of the week: an encounter with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins that call AKR home. Our dolphin, Marguerita, proved to be a young, enthusiastic female, who put on a real show for us. We all got to hug her and get a dolphin smooch from this sweet little cetacean. After our encounter with her, we got to spend 30 minutes snorkeling with the entire pod of 28 dolphins, but Marguerita, seemed to stand out. She eagerly squeaked and squealed as we played with her, using seagrass and shells. Garry occupied her attention for over 10 minutes by playing “catch” with her using a pencil sea urchin. She would gently grasp the urchin, carry it away, and then drop it for him to “fetch” it back for her. Hmmm..who’s training whom? We all left the seaside enclosure with big smiles and warm memories of the little dolphin who showed off her gentle ways.  
The day also included 2 snorkel/dives where we picked samples of algae to observe up-close, providing some experiential learning. The dives/snorkels also let the group get some more practice identifying the reef fishes and invertebrates we have been learning about.

The evening brought the island barbeque that offers a taste of island food, hermit crab races, limbo dancing contest and breath-taking fire dances from a troupe of native entertainers. It was a nice ending to a memorable day at AKR.

Octopus from night snorkel


Arrow Crab

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Terrific Tuesday in the Sun

Group at western tip of Roatan
Nurse Shark with Sharksucker
Lettuce Sea Slug
Nassau Grouper
Val and his hydroponic facilit
The day started out with a trip to Blue Harbor hydroponic farm, where we met with Dr. Val Eylands, an agronomist who left his faculty position in the US to start a new venture in Roatan. Val provided an inspiring tour of his operation, comparing the hydroponic operation to traditional farming. As he pointed out, he can produce a similar crop of lettuce using 10% of the land, water and pesticides of traditional farms. Although hydroponics can be labor intensive, he has empowered local women by providing them jobs and a chance to improve their standards of living. The teachers were thrilled to find out that the lettuce they have been enjoying in their daily salads comes from Val’s farm….fresh to the kitchen at AKR.

After the farm trip, the group headed to the intertidal area where they got to see snails, anemones, algae and small fishes that make their home in the tidepools and under the coral rubble. The teachers walked along a wall at a newly built resort and were able to see that the construction material was huge chunks of dead corals that had washed up on shore. They were actually able to pick out brain, star and staghorn coral formations from the wall. In many of the islands of the Caribbean, coral rubble is used for road and building construction. The calcium carbonate skeletons provide a concrete-like building material that provides strength and support.

The afternoon dive/snorkel really made it a “terrific Tuesday” as the divers encountered an 8’ nurse shark resting between two coral outcroppings. As the nurse shark rested on the bottom, it was easy to see its gill flaps as the cartilaginous fish pumped water over its gills. Although many sharks need to keep swimming in order to force water over their gills, bottom-dwelling nurse sharks can breathe as they remain in one place. The nurse shark gets its name from the suckling or nursing sound that they make as they suck up bottom dwelling prey like crabs and mollusks. The nurse shark is pictured with a remora, or shark-sucker that scrapes off parasites from the shark’s body and gills. This symbiotic relationship provides a cleaning service for the shark and a free meal for the remora. The dive and snorkel also provided views of a Nassau grouper with its brown body bands and an odd-looking trunkfish with it triangular shaped box-like body. The delicate lettuce sea slug proved to be the most beautiful sighting of the dive, with its frilly gills and colorful markings. These nudibranchs are often overlooked by divers who may not keep a watchful eye out for the colorful invertebrates.

Marvelous Monday in the Sun

The day started with a lecture on coral formation and the teachers learned about the corals of Roatan, including massive brain corals, stately pillar corals and fragile lettuce corals, to name a few.

The second half of the lecture featured research that has been conducted in Roatan that shows that hurricanes, global warming, and human impacts have taken a toll on the coral cover along the island.  After the lecture, the group headed to a dive/snorkel to actually see these fascinating reef builders.

 Unfortunately, the group was able to see some of the damage on the reef as well.  Divers have been known to "love the reef to death" and some of this damage is visible on the reef.  Although the group is instructed on proper treatment of the reef, uneducated divers often touch, kick, or stand on the coral doing damage that will take years to recover from.  We headed to Maya Key, where we enjoyed an island lunch and a tour of their animal refuge, that included monkeys, toucans, macaws, and cats, such as a margay and a jaguar.

As we headed back to AKR, we stopped for the final dive/snorkel of the day.  Several hawksbill sea turtles swam along with our group, probidig an exciting end to a busy day on the reef. 

As we go on to educate the next generation of stakeholders, we need to make students realize the vital role that coral reefs play in the health of the world's oceans.  That is another reason why COSEE Great Lakes teaches educators about Ocean Literacy principles. Without our oceans, our world would not be as healthy or as beautiful as it is.  Here's to the coral reefs of the world...a small veneer that adds beauty and color, and feed the engine of the marine feed webs!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Super Sunday in the Sun!

So, our first full day in Roatan got off to a great start with a lecture on fish identification.  We learned that angelfish have a specialized spine on its gill cover that it uses to protect itself and that a blue tang is actually yellow when it is a juvenile.

After the lecture, we went out to the reef to put our new-found knowledge to the test.  The snorkeling group headed inshore, while the diving group went down to 80' to see a bright yellow seahorse that was securely fastened to a flexible coral.  

The photo to the left shows a Cubera snapper with a remora attached to its side.  The little hitch-hiker is getting a ride on the side of this predator.

As Jeff Hoyer got back on the boat after the snorkel he said, "It's like being in an aquarium!"  The bright colorful fishes that the teachers learned about were all around them as they went on the snorkel or dive.

After lunch and a lecture on marine invertebrates like crustaceans, sponges, mollusks and worms.  We learned that sponges are not boring, but there are boring sponges that actually bore into reef substrate.  A non-boring, bright yellow boring sponge is pictured on today's blog.


Sunday, August 8

Hi everyone, We all arrived safely except for Dave. His flight was canceled in the middle of the night before travel day! He should be here later today....

Hope to have some photos for you later today.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dark Nights for the Perseids (From SKY & TELESCOPE)

The last time the annual Perseid meteor shower happened during a run of good moonless nights was in 2007. It turns out that every three years, the same phase of the Moon returns to roughly the same date each month (2.2 days earlier, on average). So in 2010 we're on for moonless Perseids again!
The shower lasts for many days, but according to the International Meteor Organization this year's peak should occur during a half-day-long window. For North Americans, the best viewing will probably be late Thursday night and early Friday morning, August 12-13, or possibly the night before.

Visit the SKY & TELESCOPE site for more info.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Roatan Marine Park

The Roatan Marine Park (RMP) is a grass roots, community-based, non-profit organization located on the island of Roatan, 50 kilometers off the mainland coast of Honduras. 

The organization was formed in January 2005 when a group of concerned dive operators and local businesses united in an effort to protect Roatan’s fragile coral reefs. Initially, it was our goal to run a patrol program within the Sandy Bay-West End Marine Reserve (SBWEMR), to prevent over exploitation through unsustainable fishing practices. Over time, we expanded the scope of our environmental efforts through the addition of other programs encompassing the entire island.

Click here to visit the Roatan Marine Park web site.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Recommended Reading and ID Books

Reef Fish Behavior has become a classic reference and overview of what is presently know about the behavior and ecology of reef fishes inhabiting the waters of Florida, Caribbean and Bahamas. 
By far, the most popular identification books for the area we will be visiting are these by Humann & DeLoach. This three volume set may be purchased in the boxed version pictured or as individual volumes: Reef Fish, Reef Creature and Reef Coral.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Smithsonian Unveils New Webby Award-Winning Website

Washington, D.C. – June 7, 2010 – In celebration of World Oceans Day, the Smithsonian Institution announces a pioneering new website designed to inspire awareness, understanding and stewardship of the world’s ocean.  Led by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and in collaboration with more than 20 organizations, The Smithsonian Ocean Portal utilizes state-of-the-art, interactive Web technologies to create an online community where visitors can deepen their personal connection to the ocean and continually build upon their knowledge of and concern for the ocean with others.  The Portal was recently named the People’s Voice Winner for “Best Cultural Institution Website” in the 2010 Webby Awards competition.
Here is the link to Coral Reefs....
Or, Check out the Mangroves....

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sea Turtles

Sea turtles are among the largest reptiles in the world and inhabit almost every ocean. Fossil evidence indicates sea turtles shared the Earth with dinosaurs over 210 million years ago. Sea turtles are cold-blooded, air breathing, egg laying reptiles that deposit their eggs on dry, sandy beaches. Sea turtles differ from freshwater turtles because they have flippers instead of feet, cannot retract their heads and spend all of their life in salt water, except when females come ashore to lay eggs. There are seven species of sea turtles in the world. Click here to read more or download a brochure from the South Carolina Marine Resources Division.

Snorkeling Site at AKR

Bailey’s Key (From the RIMS Instructors Guide)

Bailey’s Key, located in the western part of AKR’s property, houses one of RIMS's dolphin enclosures. This key also serves as a wildlife sanctuary for parrots, agoutis, iguanas, and at one time some resident sea turtles. A nature trail encompasses the island and provides access to the west side of the key where you can explore the rocky intertidal zone or snorkel the shallow back reef. The rocky shores on Bailey’s Key are typically vertical with an undercut of approximately 1.5 ft height and a depth of 2 ft. The weathered coral rock is sharp and jagged and must be traversed with care.

The water depth on the west side of the key is shallow becoming 3 to 4 feet deep about 100 ft from shore. It may be necessary to wade out a short distance before snorkeling. Be careful to avoid the aggregations of Rock Boring Urchins (Echinometra lucunter). As you snorkel west of the key you travel over an extensive bed of Turtle Grass (Thallasia testudinum). Scattered through the bed are small boulders of Mustard Hill Coral (Porites asteroides). As you continue further west you will encounter larger boulders of coral and patches of reef and rubble. Take your time and slowly navigate your way around and through the narrow openings. If you reach a dead end, back up and try again. Attempting to snorkel over the boulder heads may result in damage to the fragile coral and other organisms and cuts and abrasions on you.

Lettuce Coral (Agaricia tenuifolia) is the most dominant coral in this area. Finger Coral (Porites porites), Mustard Hill Coral (Porites asteroides), Smooth Brain Coral (Diploria strigosa) and Lobed Star Coral (Montastrea annularis.) are also common. Starlet corals (Siderastrea spp.) are also present along with an occasional Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis). Black Sea Rods (Plexaura homomalla), Corky Sea Fingers (Briareum asbestinum) and sea fans (Gorgonia spp.) are among the more common octocorals observed.

There is also a prevalence of algae at this site likely due to the closer proximity to shore and nutrient rich runoff. Turbinaria spp., Dictyota spp., Halimeda spp. and Stypopodium zonale are algae species found in this area as well as Rhipocephalus phoenix on the sandy bottom. If you carefully lift pieces of the rubble you may find the Spiny Brittle Star (Ophiocoma paucigranulata) or some of the many other brittle star species that thrive in these low light environments. Reef Urchins (Echinometra viridis) can be seen in the cracks and holes between coral and rubble. Variegated Urchins (Lytechinus variegatus), West Indian Sea Eggs (Tripneustes ventricosus) and Donkey Dung Sea Cucumbers (Holothuria mexicana) are among the many other echinoderms encountered in the sandy bottom and sea grass beds.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Rarest Place on Earth

"It was complicated, all right, but I finally saw that the whole mess could be reduced to a narrative. The reef, the greater ecosystem, is suffering from four distinct stresses. The four big problems are the virtual extinction of the spiny sea urchin, Diadema; over fishing of major predators, like snapper and grouper, and of herbivorous fish, like the parrotfish; ocean warming; and El NiƱo. And of course, the four crises aggravate one another, yielding a cascade of difficulties for life on the reef."

Click here to download the whole narrative by Archie Carr III (Chuck), Senior Conservationist, Wildlife Conservation Society. A worthwhile read! As the crow flies, only some 85 miles to our location on Roatan.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An Overview of Modelling Climate Change Impacts in the Caribbean Region with contribution from the Pacific Islands

The nations of CARICOM in the Caribbean together with Pacific island countries contribute less than 1% to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (0.33%17 and 0.03%18 respectively), yet these countries are expected to be among the earliest and most impacted by climate change in the coming decades and are least able to adapt to climate change impacts. These nations’ relative isolation, small land masses, their concentrations of population and infrastructure in coastal areas, limited economic base and dependency on natural resources, combined with limited financial, technical and institutional capacity all exacerbates their vulnerability to extreme events and climate
change impacts. Click here for a link to the report and posters.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Coral and Coral Reefs

Thomas F. Goreau, Nora I. Goreau, Thomas J. Goreau
Scientific American, August, 1979

This paper, still the classic introduction to the field, was written around 1970, but its publication was delayed by nearly 10 years because the publishers did not think coral reefs were of sufficient interest to the public.

It was written at a time when large scale coral bleaching, coral diseases, and coral reef eutrophication were unknown, or confined to tiny areas with extreme local stresses. All of that changed in the decades after this paper was published, as coral reefs began dying on a large scale and the reefs described in this paper virtually vanished.

Read more from Thomas J. Goreau and download the paper here

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Computer model helps biologists understand how coral dies in warming waters

Cornell researchers have developed a new tool to help marine biologists better grasp the processes under the sea: mathematical models that unveil the dynamics of bacterial communities behind afflictions that bleach and kill coral.

The corals shown here are partially bleached. Bleached areas appear lighter in color.

Read more about coral bleaching...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The National Marine Educators Association Special Report on Ocean Literacy Scope and Sequence

NMEA Special Report

This NMEA Special Edition, the Ocean Literacy Campaign Special Report #3, features the work of dozens of agencies and hundreds of individuals to bring ocean sciences into the mainstream of both formal and informal education.

The ocean is the defining feature of our planet. It allows for all life to exist on Earth. We all depend on a healthy ocean.
Ocean Literacy is the understanding of the ocean’s influence on you and your influence on the ocean.

Download a copy by clicking here.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Deposit Deadline Extended

It's not too late to join this summer's workshop in Roatan! The deposit deadline has been extended to March 19, 2010. Have questions? We have answers! Feel free to call or e-mail...


Helen Domske, Sea Grant Resource Agent, (716)645-3610;
Garry Dole, Science Resources Coordinator, Erie 2 BOCES, (716) 679-3419;

Monday, February 15, 2010

Check out "Treasures in the Sea"

Treasures in the Sea is a resource book that provides teachers with scientific information and engaging, hands-on activities that encourage students to discover, cherish, and protect the sea and all of its treasures. Designed especially for educators in The Bahamas, the book complements curriculum guidelines for grades three to six, though many of the activities may be adapted for younger or older students in formal and nonformal settings. Treasures in the Sea introduces marine conservation concepts by focusing on some of The Bahamas’ most important marine species, and helps students understand life cycles, critical habitats, cultural and economic connections, and also the urgency of conservation and management.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2010 Summer Trip Information

DATES: August 7-14, 2010 (8 days) Travel arrangements from Buffalo, NY Airport.

ACCOMMODATIONS: The Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences and Anthony's Key Resort; oceanfront facility, double occupancy cabanas with private bath, air conditioned classroom, dolphin encounter, dive shop and more.

Costs: $2013.00* for COSEE Scholars* (See funding possibilities below.) Cost includes Key Standard room and meals, round trip airfare from Buffalo, NY, bus and boat fees, transfers, admissions, hotel and departure taxes, and all tips and gratuities. Tuition and souvenirs extra. School districts may financially support their teachers; see note below. Significant others welcome at the regular cost of $2513. (A limited number of air conditioned rooms are available as well as private rooms and trip insurance, for an addition fee. Please call for more information.)

Graduate CREDIT: OPTIONAL: Three hours of graduate credit are available from SUNY at Buffalo. Tuition costs are extra and must be paid directly to the University. Please call if interested.

EQUIPMENT: You will need snorkeling gear: mask, snorkel and fins. If you need to purchase equipment we will make recommendations and provide any necessary training before the trip.

Content areas: Topics to be covered with presentations and field visits: the coral reef, including reef formation and ecology; reef fish; reef invertebrates; animal relationships; sandy beaches; tide pools; zonation at a rocky shore; mangroves; and turtle grass beds.

ADDITIONAL INFO: An informational meeting will be presented Thursday, March 4, 2010 at the Science Resources Center, 10001 Route 60, Fredonia, NY at 7:00 PM. For directions or additional information please call Helen Domske, Sea Grant Resource Agent at (716) 645-3610 or Garry Dole, Science Resources Coordinator, Erie 2 BOCES at (716) 679-3419 or 800-344-9611 ext. 2598 (from 716 area code).

Funding Possibilities to explore....
• * COSEE-GL will provide $500 scholarships for the first 10 eligible educators. (Trip cost of $2013 reflects the total cost after the scholarship is applied.) Please attach a copy of your COSEE application to the enrollment form below. A link to the COSEE application will be available soon at the links on the left. Please call for more information.

• This is a Professional Development activity and may qualify for both local district funding and inservice course credit as required by the NYS Commissioner of Education.

Sponsors of this workshop reserve the right to limit group size and cancel due to insufficient numbers of participants. Cost is based on a minimum of twelve participants and current air fare prices. Participants must be able to demonstrate PADI snorkeling skills or be willing to wear a snorkel vest when in the water. Participants must complete a standard liability waiver.

If you are interested in participating please download the application (see APPLICATIONS TO DOWNLOAD at left) and return with a deposit by March 4, 2010. Please e-mail me at if you are unable to secure the applications.

Thanks, Garry