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Click below to go to the Cruise Logs - (photo credit: Lophelia Coral - Open-File Report 2008-1148 & OCS Study MMS 2008-015)

Deep-sea Cruises 2010 - Cruise 1

Cruise Log: 9/21/2010    

In science, sometimes the coolest things you find are not what you were originally looking for!

Julie Galkiewicz

Julie is spreading smashed coral onto special hot pink nutrient source to try to grow fungi from deep-sea corals. - click to enlarge
My part in the DISCOVRE cruises is to identify and characterize the microbes associated with Lophelia corals and some of the animals that hang out on the reefs. The microbes on Lophelia may play an important role in breaking down food sources, cycling nutrients, and keeping disease-causing bacteria in check. One way of figuring out which microbes are present on Lophelia is to try to grow them up in the lab. To do this, we bring up living coral pieces and smash the branches to bits with a hammer. Then I smear the smashed coral on different nutrient sources.

Different nutrient sources allow different types of microbes to grow. So the trick is figuring out which nutrient sources will help bacteria found on Lophelia to grow! We have some standard nutrients we use, but it's always good to try things we haven't used before. Last year we brought some extremely different nutrient sources to see if we could get brand new organisms to grow. And lucky us, they did! However, instead of just the bacteria we had gotten previously, we also grew up two different species of fungi!

These fungi have been found associated with deep-sea sediments, so they aren't brand new to science. But this is the first time any fungi have been recovered from Lophelia! The coral colonies that the fungi were cultured from were healthy and found on two different sampling sites in the Atlantic Ocean. This suggests that the fungi weren't just randomly associated with a single coral. So the fungi may be performing an important function for the coral host.

Because of this exciting new finding from last year, we've tailored our microbiology experiments this year to focus on finding these fungi in Gulf of Mexico Lophelia. This would tell us whether the corals in the Atlantic have a unique association with fungi or whether it's common in Lophelia from both the Gulf and the Atlantic.

And of course, we're still trying to find new and exciting organisms with diverse nutrient sources! Who knows what we'll find on this cruise?

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