Ocean research flows, benefits industry May 21, 2015

Discoveries and findings from ongoing projects at South Florida’s ocean research institutions are both interesting and have benefits for the boating industry and participants in water-based activities. Recent studies and findings have provided perspective and recommended actions on the spread of invasives, impact of hurricanes to better prepare for their fury, ways to spur coral reef growth, a five-year look back at the Gulf oil spill, plus programs to engage the public to recognize environmental issues.

MIASF has formed relationships with several of the region’s research programs, including Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center, Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution and the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences – where the tie-in to oceanographic programs supports environmental initiatives such as coral reef protection and eradicating lionfish. Beyond ocean research, the universities are also engaged in stem cell regeneration, wind and hydropower research and many other on-land issues. NSU presents the annual Fort Lauderdale Billfish Tournament in affiliation with MIASF with a mission to showcase a commitment to preserving the seas; event proceeds fund scholarships for students at NSU’s Oceanographic Center for studies on fisheries, coral reefs, and the marine ecosystems at local, national, and international levels.

NSU Oceanographic Center researchers recently discovered that hurricanes don’t only have a dramatic impact on land; they have an equally dramatic effect on ocean currents, which accelerates the spread of marine invasive species. They looked at the distribution of lionfish in the Florida Straits and found hurricane-altered ocean currents boost the invasion of non-native marine species of any kind. The implications: First, the need to make a concerted effort to prevent marine introductions; and second, the need for vigorous, early-detection programs to remove invasive species before they become a problem. (Additional details at

Hurricane research is also ongoing at UM. Business Insider reported on what’s described as the world’s largest hurricane simulator expected to improve forecasters’ ability to predict how strong a storm will get, which has been a key weak spot for science. The $15 million wind and wave machine at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science resembles a giant aquarium tank. Lead scientist Brian Haus noted, “Our track forecasts have been getting better and better. But the thing that hasn’t gotten any better over the past 20 years is hurricane intensity forecasts.” He said the best example of a storm that outwitted seasoned forecasters was Hurricane Wilma in 2005, which rose from Category 2 to 5 in a matter of hours. (Read more at

At FAU an ongoing study of the Gulf Oil Spill after five years continues providing details about the disaster’s environmental impact. The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig caused a release of 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf before the well was capped on July 15, 2010. More than 1,000 total linear miles of coastlines in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida were affected. A number of methods were used to prevent the oil from reaching the shoreline, including an estimated 1.9 million gallons of dispersant. Dispersants are said to be one of the controversial methods typically used when other methods are not adequate.

FAU researchers conducted several studies to determine the impacts of the spill and dispersant use on marine organisms such as oysters, conch, shrimp, corals as well as marine plankton (microalgae or phytoplankton, rotifers or zooplankton), which provide the basis of coastal and oceanic food webs. They found that chemical dispersants don’t remove oil from water, but do accelerate natural dispersion, the population of oysters in the affected area have not come back to pre-spill levels, and the dispersant and dispersed oil affected the growth and motility of algae, which may have had negative impacts on the food chain. (For details, see

A sampling of other research projects recently reported by the schools of interest to the marine community or simply “cool” projects include:

– Living Oceans Strategic Plan, 2012 – 2017,

– Coral reefs benefit from taking supplements,

– Dolphins have social networks – 6-year study findings published,

– Winning photos from underwater photo contest,

– NSU names oceanographic center for Guy Harvey,

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Marine Industries Association of South Florida. 221 SW 3rd Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312. Phone: 954.524.2733