Climate Change Sponges, Jamaica: Collection

Monday afternoon I arrived in Jamaica to study the effects of climate change (warmer, more acidic waters) on coral reef sponges. Similar to the study examining climate change effects on a boring sponge (see previous blog), this study will be done in tanks on land. But this time we’ll be using heaters to warm the water and CO2 regulators and controllers to control the water’s pH. I had to buy all the necessary equipment in the USA and bring it with me on the plane. Arriving in Jamaica, the custom officers were very interested in my two bags full of aquarium supplies and I spent some time explaining why I needed 15 aquarium heaters and other assortments, but thankfully they let me through. After my colleague Marah Hardt arrived a few hours later, we got a taxi to the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory. The following day was spent setting up some of the experimental equipment (which I will describe in a later blog), and today we collected sponges.


ready to dive


The coral reefs around Jamaica and throughout much of the Caribbean are dominated by sponges. Displaying all the colors of the rainbow, and ranging up to 5 ft long, sponges are both conspicuous and impressive. This study will focus on sponge species that are common throughout the Caribbean region like the yellow tube sponge, Aplysina fistularis, and the octopus sponge, Ectoploysia ferox. Aplysina fistularis and fish

Aplysina fistularis and fish (in tube)

Sponges have remarkable regenerative abilities, allowing us to remove a small piece, leaving the rest behind. This will heal within a few days and grow back the cut portion in a few weeks or months.


cutting sponges underwater


cut sponge

This cut portion is taken back to the lab and cut into smaller pieces or explants. After the explants are fully healed (in a few days) we will use them to examine the effects of climate change.


cutting the sponges into smaller pieces (explants)

This study will run for about 1 month and is generously funded by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund.

3 Comments on “Climate Change Sponges, Jamaica: Collection

  1. I have never seen your work in mainstream media. The hurdle climate adaptation strategies confront is that the general public does not recieve any information about studies like these. Did you involve any environmental/climate change community activist in your work?

    • Climate change studies, like this one, are getting more media coverage than before but often the hurdle is misinformation from some that downplay the results. This study involved Blue Ocean Institute scientists only, and will be published soon. First I need to chemically analyze the sponge samples to determine what effects, if any, warm water and low pH has on a sponge’s production of biologically active metabolites (which they use in defense, competitive interactions etc.)

  2. is ther enough sponges to set up a small commercial business??

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