RECOVER Launches New Website

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The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) consortium RECOVER recently launched their new website at It will act as a centralized hub for information regarding the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science led consortium focusing on the effects of crude oil on fish. Visitors to the site can expect to learn about new findings, classroom and virtual learning activities, hatchery tour information, and videos relative to the ongoing work.

Watch an introduction video to the RECOVER project.

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RECOVER (Relationship of Effects of Cardiac Outcomes in fish for Validation of Ecological Risk) is a consortium comprised of seven researchers from four institutions. Led by Professor Martin Grosell, the team is studying the impacts and toxic effects of crude oil on ecologically and commercially important fish from the Gulf of Mexico. Two species that are currently being examined are the pelagic mahi-mahi and the coastal redfish. Studies will range from molecular, cellular, organ level and whole animal physiologic as well as behavior analyses at different life stages. Previous findings by team members have already shown that fish embryos and larvae exposed to crude oil during early development results in malformation of hearts, resulting in mortality or reduced cardiac and swimming performance in surviving individuals.

To learn more about RECOVER and their current findings please visit and follow them on social media.

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Dan DiNicola

RECOVER Outreach Coordinator

What is Aquaponics?

photo-1Aquaponics is an ecosystem approach to food production. In one recirculating system, aquaponics maintains a school of fish, a variety of plants, and a healthy colony of beneficial bacteria. The bacteria are the real heroes here. They rapidly consume toxic ammonia waste produced by the fish and turn it into nitrates on which the plants can thrive.
It all boils down to the nitrogen cycle. The fish feed contains nitrogen in the form of protein, which is the primary source of energy for the fish. As part of their digestion and respiration, the fish excrete nitrogen as ammonia both directly from their gills and indirectly through their solid waste. This waste ammonia will rapidly accumulate in recirculating aquaculture systems, and is quite toxic to fish even at relatively low levels. For aquaculture, ammonia must either be flushed out of the system or consumed in a biofilter.
A biofilter is nothing more than an elaborate bacteria condominium. In the biofilter, there is a lot of substrate surface area for bacteria to call home. Two kinds of bacteria have been identified as the main beneficial actors in a biofilter: Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter. In turn, these bacteria convert ammonia into nitrite and then nitrate. This is good for the fish because nitrate is far less toxic than ammonia. This is great for the plants because nitrate is great plant food.
After the bacteria in the biofilter have eaten up the ammonia and spat out nitrate, the plants uptake these chemicals and prevent them from building up. Thus, the plants effectively purify the water for the fish in the aquaculture system.
The plants get great fertilizer, the fish get pristine water, and the bacteria make it all happen.
Unlike aquaculture, aquaponics allows no effluent to leave the culture system for the environment to break down. Unlike hydroponics, aquaponics systems do not require the entire system’s water to be dumped down the drain every two weeks. With aquaponics, you can produce edible fish and plants, waste little water, and produce no external effluent.

Aquaponics at the University of Miami
At the University of Miami (UM) Experimental Hatchery, the main focus has been on raising marine pelagic finfish in semi-recirculating tank systems.
By leveraging the considerable aquaculture experience available in the faculty, staff and students at the hatchery, a successful aquaponics system has been started at the UM Experimental Hatchery to showcase the technologies relied upon in aquaponics systems. We are raising Tilapia in a completely recirculating aquaponics system, with no wastewater going down the drain.
For the hydroponic component of our aquaponic system, we are using a media bed filled with expanded clay and we are experimenting with a vertical tower system which allows greater production per square foot. We are currently growing two crops: basil and spearmint. If you have eaten the pesto at the restaurant SALT on campus since late in the fall semester of this year, there’s a good chance you’ve enjoyed the basil grown in our aquaponics system.
The Aquaponics program at the UM Experimental Hatchery continues to grow. Aquaponics is a great way to eliminate the waste effluent being produced at aquaculture facilities and hydroponic plant production facilities. We are engaging with a variety of commercial and educational facilities which are interested in developing aquaponics operations.

–Joshua Grubman, UM Rosenstiel School part-time lecturer


Aquaculture, alumni, and more…

The Future of Aquaculture

Juvenile Mahi-Mahi

Juvenile Mahi-Mahi

UM Rosenstiel School Professor of Marine Ecosystems and Society Daniel Benetti published an essay on the future of aquaculture in the current issue of The Journal of Ocean Technology.

“In the field of aquaculture, technology has evolved at an enormous pace during the last two decades. Advances in technology are allowing all of us involved in the field, from scientists to operators, to address and tackle most, if not all, contentious issues in aquaculture.”

“Modern aquaculture relies on advanced technologies to produce wholesome seafood for human consumption. Indeed, aquaculture has become as important as farming and agriculture, currently contributing over 50% of wholesome seafood for human consumption worldwide. Aquaculture production continues to increase exponentially and is the fastest growing food production sector, having surpassed beef production in 2012-13 (66 million metric tons vs. 63 million metric tons). “

Read Dr. Benetti’s article in the JOT issue titled “Changing Tides in Ocean Technology,” (Volume 9 Number 2 (Jul. – Oct. 2014), An electronic subscription is required for full access to the issue.

Award-winning Student

MPO student Jie He

Jie He

UM Rosenstiel School Ph.D student Jie He was recently awarded “Outstanding Presentation for Students and Early Career Scientists” at the 7th International Scientific Conference on the Global Water and Energy Cycle, which took place in the Hague, Netherlands in July 2014. He is a Meteorology and Physical Oceanography  student studying the role of sea surface temperature pattern change in a warming climate in  Professor Brian Soden’s lab.


Alumnus Appoint President of Penn State University

Eric  J. Barron

Eric J. Barron

UM Rosenstiel School alumnus Eric Barron recently took the helm as president of Penn State University. Barron received his Master of Science (’76) and Ph.D (’80) in oceanography from the UM Rosenstiel School. In addition, he spent one year as an associate professor at UM before taking up a new post at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

Barron has a distinguished resume, as the former President of Florida State University he lead the university’s rise to a U.S. News & World Report ranking as the most efficiently operated university in the nation. His expertise in the areas of climate, environmental change and oceanography, among other earth science topics, have led to extensive service for the federal government and the international community. Read more on about Penn State’s new president here.



Waterlust’s ‘Wetlab’ Video Highlights UM’s Masters of Professional Science (MPS) Program


Been wondering what our Masters of Professional Science (MPS) students are up to? The University of Miami’s student-run Waterlust Project decided to show you!  The team created a GoPro film that highlights a few of the amazing research and internship opportunities available.

The new ‘Wetlab’ video was GoPro’s ‘Video of the Week’ last week! 

Launched in 2012, The Waterlust Project has reached more than half a million people with its 11 short films on a variety of ocean-related topics that focus on what water means to us. Their films offer a juxtaposition of academic achievement and artistic creativity that embodies the University as a whole.

Over at Waterlust we decided to produce a short film that captured some of the unique perspectives that graduate students get to experience here at RSMAS. We especially wanted to highlight the Master of Professional Science program in hopes of inspiring up-and-coming students to study the ocean. We searched around campus for things to film and were met with enthusiasm and smiles wherever we went. We lurked on lab groups, loaned cameras to field teams, brought cameras into classrooms, and went into the field ourselves. Passion, dedication, and a desire to find answers was everywhere we turned. We want to thank everybody who helped to make this film. Thank you for making RSMAS the coolest place to go to school.

– Patrick + The Waterlust Project Crew


Aquaculture Class Trip to Panama: Pacific Side Complete

The RSMAS Aquaculture crew departed from Panama City, leaving the sounds of honking horns, smell of exhaust fumes, and the view of towering sky liners way behind us as we made our way to the Azuero Peninsula to the Province of Los Santos, Panama.

As the bus made its final stop after the 7-hour journey I anxiously peered out the window to take in what was to be our home for the next two weeks. I had seen pictures of the Achotines Laboratory online and was already excited about the stay, but as I looked around I realized it was exceeding my expectations. There were large open areas of green framed by jungle foliage and mango trees galore. Farther off I can see the bay leading to the open ocean – our backyard for the next two weeks. Two dogs greeted us, an old boxer who had more spirit about her than a child at Disney World, and a big smiling black labrador, who by the looks of it would definitely be putting her charms at work for table scraps later on. Geese and guineas (think chickens from another galaxy) roamed the place. I was to find out later they all served the purpose of controlling the scorpion population – whereby I quickly discarded any thoughts I may have had of making them dinner.

We quickly settled in and made our way to the heart of the lab, the Yellowfin Tuna broodstock and larval rearing areas. Unfortunately, the tuna had not spawned for our arrival which is highly uncommon. Yet the larval tanks were full of 5 to 9 day old bouncing baby tunas just begging the RSMAS Aquaculture team to get their hands on them. If you would have taken someone off the streets to ask them what they were looking at in those larval tanks, their guesses would have been very far from anything that resembles a fish. In the larval tanks what one saw was hundreds and hundreds of little black dots arranged in groups of three, two little dots for the eyes, and 1 little dot representative of the stomach. First thing I learned… Yellowfin tuna larvae are all eyes and stomach (and a large mouth invisible to the naked eye)… I liked them already. The broodstock tank, where they keep the parents, was of an impressive size and function. The tank is 17 meters in diameter and 6 meters deep. Tuna are ram ventilators and must continuously swim to get the oxygen they need. This tank had a strong vortex in the middle showing that these tuna were enjoying a nice consistent current of water. I personally know of an orca whale that would scoff at the size of the tank these yellowfin tuna call home. It is worth the time and investment in keeping any type of farm animal (land and water) in healthy and happy environments. A happy tuna is a tasty tuna!

A few days had gone by and to our dismay there was still no spawn. We kept ourselves busy with the larvae that had welcomed us there. Fellow aquaculturists from Hawaii’s Blue Ocean Mariculture had joined us, one of them a past RSMAS student of Dr. Benetti. Together we did some passive transfers whereby dropping the water level of a larval tank and using a large tubing, a suction is created from the tank where the larvae currently reside into a brand new, bacteria free, clean tank. The larvae simply cruise into the new tank just like “Crush” the turtle and “Squirt” from Finding Nemo cruised the East Australian current. There was also a trial done on the live feeds, specifically artemia (baby brine shrimp) to test the effectiveness of a product whose purpose is to control for bacteria, specifically vibrio, in the hatching and enriching of the artemia fed to larvae and post larvae. We plated samples of both the control artemia and the treated artemia. The results were outstanding as there was a clear distinction between the treated versus the untreated artemia on the plates, yellow gunk growing wild all over the control plate versus little to no specks of yellow dots on the experimental plate, the results were conclusive to say the least. Other areas we experimented with was 24-hour lighting in an attempt to keep the fish active and eating versus lights off throughout the night, and also feeding continuously versus scheduled feeding times where large amounts are fed at once.

The mornings at the Achotines Laboratory, as in most hatcheries, were the busiest. Our afternoons allowed for leisure time to explore the beaches and rocks off both sides of the pier. The team enjoyed a brisk hike through what I considered “the jungle,” I decided it qualified as a jungle the moment the sound of howler monkeys and other creatures first began to bounce off the trees. One morning as we were enjoying breakfast we received the pleasant surprise visit of white capuchin monkeys in the trees steps away from us. My roommate and I soon realized there are also disadvantages to having wild monkeys in the vicinity. We received ear-splitting courtesy wakeup calls outside our window at 4 and 5 in the morning, but later I would step out of the room to the scene of them playing and leaping from branch to branch and would easily forget that I ever wanted to thrust large heavy objects into the trees.

The Achotines Laboratory staff were eager to make this a great experience for all of us, from the women who prepared our meals, to the hatchery guys, all the way to Vern who manages the lab. At all times they were generous in accommodating the RSMAS group and making sure everything was running smooth. They took us on detailed tours of the broodstock system from the intake, to the pumps, through the filters, all the way into the tank. Vern took his time to give presentations on the lab and the Yellowfin Tuna. But the highlight of the trip was when we were having a bad day fishing and from afar the boat driver spotted a pair of Humpback whales. He went out of his way to trail down the whales for a good hour giving us some great photo opps and an experience of a lifetime. It was my first time ever seeing whales in the wild and it could not have been more incredible! With that inspiring token from the sea, the first week of our Aquaculture class trip to Panama came to a close.

Melissa Pelaez
Master of Professional Science: Aquaculture
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