Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Richard Camilli

» Project PHAEDRA

» Aquarius saturation mission

Enlarge image
Aquanauts Karl Castillo, Rich Camilli and Patrick Gibson setting up in-situ instrumentation to investigate metabolic pathways in marine sponges (Image courtesy of: Niels Lindquist)

Aquarius saturation mission 2008

Role of sponges in Nitrogen cycling and total respiration in coral–reef ecosystems

Our 2008 studies will combine the expertise and talents of marine ecologists and chemists and physical oceanographers to examine nutrient element and chemical cycling for a greater number of coral reef sponges that differ in basic biological characteristics, such as the presence or absence of large, internally hosted populations of diverse microorganism that greatly expand the breadth of potential chemical transformations occurring within sponges. Using the exceptionally long underwater excursion times provided by the Aquarius Reef Base Observatory, we will deploy newly developed underwater systems for (i) continuously monitoring sponge pumping rates and changes in the concentrations of ecologically important chemicals in the seawater they filter, and (ii) tracking chemicals expelled by sponges as the chemicals mix and travel toward neighboring organisms. Field assays will also be conducted to examine how chemicals in seawater exhaled by sponges affect the growth, health and survival of neighboring corals and seaweeds. Because sponges are a major component of benthic communities in diverse tropical, temperate and polar marine habitats, a quantitative understanding of important chemical processes occurring within sponges and chemical fluxes between sponges and their surrounding communities are crucial for defining their roles in regulating the quality of critical marine habitats, such as coral reefs.

NOAA Aquarius saturation mission

Oceanus interview

© Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
All rights reserved