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MC research team returns from Netherlands with data on coral reefs

Midland College research team returns from Netherlands with data on coral reefs

A Midland College (MC) research team aimed to get to the bottom of things while studying coral reefs off the coast of Netherlands this summer, according to the college.

MC faculty and students have participated in the interdisciplinary research project for several years. Last year, teams conducted longitudinal studies off the shore of Roatan, Honduras.

This summer, from July 19 to July 1, the team conducted a comparative study at Bonaire, Netherlands. The summer research team included students Michael Mangan, Justin McKinney, Jordyn Ricks and Shaquila Sarapao and MC faculty members Marlana Mertens (Microbiology), Greg Larson (Environmental Biology), Dr. Brian Flowers (Engineering) and Dr. Tom Ready (Chemistry).

Before the trip, MC Engineering students made sensor packages to deploy at four dive sites that measured temperature, pH, salinity and dissolved oxygen material. Students used the collected data to assess coral populations, nutrient concentrations, pathogenic bacteria and planktonic biomass, according to the college.

Sara Anderson, who served as the team’s dive instructor and safety officer, noted that coral reefs are the densest locations of biodiversity on the planet, occupying just .5 percent of the ocean seafloor but providing home for up to half of all ocean life. Coral reefs are currently challenged by threats of oceanic tectonic shifts, underwater volcanic activity, severe weather and human activity, such as pollution and overfishing, the researchers said. Decreases in underwater species that feed on algae causes an increase in algae blooms on the reefs, which in turn destroys the coral.

The research project is funded mainly by The Yarborough Foundation and Joanna & Joe B. Thomas, according to MC.  Midland College Chemistry, Biology and Engineering programs participate in the research.