The past three days we have been busy collecting sponge specimens. The collections were conducted on the reefs just west of Carmabi at Snake Bay and Buoy 1. Some of the sponges, particularly the pink H. caerulea and orange spikey (S. ruetzleri) are very abundant and easy to find, but the blue H. implexiformis and purple C. caribensis are not so easy to spot and require a bit of underwater searching. However, after 3 days of collecting, we now have enough sponge specimens for the incubations, but first the sponges have to recover from the collection process and adjust to the conditions in the wet lab aquaria. The sponges will be acclimated for one week before the experiments can begin and during this time the health of the sponges will be closely monitored. In the meantime there is no shortage of work to be done and we will be busy setting up the lab and preparing for the incubation experiments.
I arrived safely in Curaçao where it is currently a balmy 32 °C and was met by Dr. Jasper de Goeij from the University of Amsterdam who I’m teaming up with in here in Curaçao. Jasper has been working in Curaçao for over 10 years studying coral cavities, and particularly cavity sponges, and their role in nutrient cycling on coral reefs. I’m here for two weeks to help Jasper during this short field expedition and learn some methods for working with sponges that I can apply to my own PhD work on sponges in the Red Sea. We will be working at Carmabi Reseach Station located at the opening of Piscadera Bay. With easy access to the house reefs and a beautiful beach to watch the sunset this is an ideal place to be working.
The morning of the first day at Carmabi was spent in the wet lab preparing 8 aquaria to house the four species of sponges that we will be collecting. Proper set up is critical as sponges require specific conditions to keep them healthy and even something like too many tiny air bubbles in the aquaria system can seriously harm the sponges. During the afternoon we conducted our first survey at Holiday Beach. Sponges are a dominant and colourful presence on the reefs here in Curaçao ranging from giant barrel sponges that can be over 100 years old to the thin encrusting sponges that we are searching for that are only a few mm thick. I was quickly introduced to the four species of sponges we will be studying: Halisarca caerulea, Haliclona implexiformis, Chondrilla caribensis, and Scopalina ruetzleri, also affectionately known as “orange spikey”. The next few days the team will be busy collecting sponge specimens that we will later use for incubations to examine glucose uptake.
Laura Rix, WG Coral Reef Ecology