www.whyville.net May 31, 2009 Weekly Issue

Guest Writer

The Super Sucker - A New Way to Save Reefs

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Hello to all the divers and young marine biologists in Whyville! Many of your questions in my BBS have been about how to save reefs, and I am writing this article to tell you about an exciting conference I was at last week. It's called the International Marine Conservation Congress, or IMCC for short.

At IMCC hundreds of marine scientists, educators, and managers from all over the world met, talked and planned. There were talks about safe ways to fish, the latest technology to watch and clean up the oceans, and how governments and local people can protect the oceans. Many of the talks were about coral reefs, and one very interesting talk was about a reef clean up project in Hawaii.

The talk was about an underwater vacuum that removed alien algae from coral reefs. In Hawaii, there is a big problem with alien algae overgrowing reefs. This kills the coral, and without coral there isn't a place for the many reef fish and invertebrates to live. Some of the most beautiful reefs in Hawaii were becoming wastelands. A team of scientists from The Nature Conservancy, NOAA, and the University of Hawaii came up with the idea of an underwater vacuum. They called it the "Super Sucker" and used it on some of the sick reefs. It removed the alien algae and made the reefs healthy and beautiful once again.

I had a chat with one of the inventors of the "Super Sucker", Eric Conklin of the Nature Conservancy, and asked him a few questions about the project.

MarkEOL: What was your inspiration for the "Super Sucker"?

Eric Conklin: We saw these reefs being destroyed by the alien algae and it broke our hearts. We couldn't just sit by and do nothing. So we started with student and community events to clean up the reefs. People would go into shallow reefs and remove the algae from the coral. This worked really well! But this wouldn't work for deeper reefs, so we came up with the idea of an underwater vacuum. It seemed really funny to us at first, but then we thought it could really work!

MarkEOL: How long did it take you to develop the "Super Sucker"?

Eric Conklin: I have been studying Hawaiian reefs for over 10 years. It is important to know what is in the reefs and really understand what the problem is. After we discovered the cause of the problem and came up with the "Super Sucker" idea it took us one year to develop. It was important for us to test our underwater vacuum to make sure it wasn't causing any damage or removing any species other than the algae.

MarkEOL: What are some ways that our readers can help coral reefs?

Eric Conklin: One way is to know the species that live in a reef! The alien algae came to Hawaii in the 1970's, but no one really paid any attention to it. It wasn't until it started to get out of hand in the 1990's that people started to do something. If someone noticed it in the 70's it would have been much easier to remove! Another simple way is to be involved and ask questions. It may seem unimportant to tell people about the importance of reefs, but this can make people care about reefs. Once people care they will start to act!

MarkEOL: What got you into science, and what advice can you give to our readers that want to be marine biologists?

Eric Conklin: I just really liked science in school. I found the topics very interesting and I was hooked! If you want to be a marine biologist try and spend as much time in the water as you can. Really get to know your marine environment. This will make you love your topic!

This is just one example of how scientist and local communities take action to save coral reefs. Who knows what our Whyville marine biologists will invent to save reefs in the future! It's important to know that no action is too small. Everything you do, even if it's just talking to your friends, will help preserve the beautiful reef ecosystems!


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