Starting off 2013 With The Smell of Algae

Undergrads helping with the algae samping

Undergrads processing algae samples

It’s great to be back in the lab! Starting 2013 off right with the smell of drying algae in the air.

If you’re not familiar with the scent, a few of us in the lab tried to describe it using: salty, spicy, stinky shoe, earthy, brined turkey water,  and wet dog.  We’ve been compiling this list of adjectives while processing a large volume of turf algae (short filamentous algae that carpets parts of the reef in a brown fuzz) removed from a two-year experiment on Maui examining the roles of fish and urchins in coral reef herbivory.

Undergrads Jennie Dinh and Lauren Kitayama have been helping with this sample processing which involves very small pieces of algae.  Despite their size, the data these tiny algae hold will help us better understand how fish and urchins graze on turf algae. This turf algae is an important component of coral reefs because it covers 30-80% of the bottom of the reefs around Maui.

Algae Sampling

A few of our algae samples

This particular experiment occurred on West Maui at the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area, in which herbivorous fish and urchins are protected in hopes of improving reef health through herbivores consuming more algae on the reef.  As a result, this reef is also heavily studied by state managers and researchers in Hawaii and mainland US, including several of us in the Smith Lab.