Monday, September 21, 2009

New York Marine Sciences Consortium: Annual Meeting

John Marra, Brooklyn College's representative to the Board, attended the annual meeting of the New York Marine Sciences Consortium, held at SUNY-Maritime up in the Bronx (Throg's Neck). The meeting began with a meeting of the Board, and John Tanacredi was elected to serve on the Executive Committee, taking the place of John Waldman who rotated off. The Board welcomed Chester Zarnoch, from Baruch College, as a new member. After the Board meeting, the general meeting was in McMurray Hall, overlooking the western reaches of Long Island Sound. We heard interesting presentations from Radley Horton (member of the Mayor's Task Force on Climate), Chris Gobler (SUNY Stony Brook) and Jim Gilmore (NYSDEC).

Brooklyn and Biofuels

Juergen Polle and his group of researchers and students have been selecting strains of algae for their potential to produce biofuels. Dr. Polle is on sabbatical in San Diego, and the news is that Brooklyn College has joined a consortium called the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, or SD-CAB. To those 'in the know' biofuels from microscopic algae have a much greater potential than from other sources. For example, algae typically produce substances that are much better fuel sources than is corn-based ethanol. Moreover, unlike corn, algae don't compete with other uses, either as food or for agricultural space. Algae can be grown in areas unsuitable for agriculture. Finally, algae have a much much higher yield of fuels than other crops. Dr. Polle's lab in AREAC is currently involved in selecting strains of algae that have potential for producing biofuels. We now use the micro-organism E. coli to produce insulin and various vitamins on an industrial scale. The same kind of process is now being envisioned for another kind of micro-organism, the kind that photosynthesizes fatty acids that can be used for to fuel our energy dependence in a carbon-neutral way.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Seahorses have arrived!

Thanks to Rich Levy and Rob Dickie, the saltwater facility now has two seahorses!

These are adult females of the local species of Lined seahorse, or Hippocampus erectus. H. erectus occurs in local waters, and has an overall range from Nova Scotia to Argentina. In nature, seahorses feed on copepods, and right now, Rob is feeding them brine shrimp. He would like to shift them to frozen mysids.

Here's an image of the second seahorse. Note that this female H. erectus has longer 'cirri', the filaments on the upper dorsal area. And it is hanging on to the support using its prehensile tail.

Watch this space for more news!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dr. Schreibman educates congress on aquaculture

On Tuesday, our very own Martin Schreibman, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biology and Founder and Director Emeritus of the Aquatic Research and Environmental Assessment Center (AREAC), was invited to the U.S. House of Representatives to participate in briefing congressional aides and staffers on the negative aspects of open ocean aquaculture and introduce them to a more viable alternative; land-based, water-reuse recirculating aquaculture systems. Professor Schreibman is an expert on these systems and has used them in his research at in AREAC for the past decade.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Does a nautilus ever forget?

This month, Associate Professor Jennifer Basil and her team will continue working on the nautilus, ancient sea creatures that are kept and cared for in AREAC's saltwater facility. Last year, Dr. Basil and researcher Robyn Crook published some exciting findings. They demonstrated that nautiluses have both short- and long-term memory even though they lack the dedicated brain regions for learning and memory that other cephalopods have. This work appeared in the Journal of Experimental Biology and was also featured in Nature and American Paleontologist. Robyn Crook completed her Ph.D. at Brooklyn College and has moved on to the University of Texas to continue her research.

Lots of Attention on the Gowanus Canal

The Gowanus Canal is certainly a hot topic of conversation these days. Folks want to get the the place cleaned up, and there is plenty of government attention at the city, state and federal level. As many people already know, the Environmental Protection Agency added the canal to the Superfund National Priorities List last April. But the city is proposing a cleanup plan of its own...
They proposed an alternative approach that the E.P.A. has sometimes used that would allow polluters to voluntarily pay for the cleanup under binding agreements. To help bring them to the table, the officials said, the Army Corps of Engineers could complete a feasibility study it has already begun that calls for the corps’s own environmental restoration project at the canal. Such an effort would be eligible for separate federal funding and could reduce the ultimate price tag for the polluters.

As for that Army Corps of Engineers feasibility study, it looks like some funding for that has been secured. From a July 18th story in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:
On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved $300,000 in federal resources for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study currently underway at the Gowanus Canal and Bay.

In the meantime, the Gowanus Canal Conservancy is spearheading an effort to improve water quality by building a Sponge Park along the banks:
Construction on the Sponge Park is scheduled to begin this fall. Supporters hope it will lead to cleaner and better smelling water along the Gowanus Canal.

It will be interesting to follow the progress of the various stakeholders over the next few years. Everyone wants the same thing...cleaner water and a healthy ecosystem.