FISH AT NIGHT
The Bulletin of Marine Science hosted an international symposium aimed at shedding light on all things, fish at night. The conference drew scientists, as well as delegates, from around the world to share their findings and discuss what fish do in the dark. The conference was held in Miami from November 17-20, 2015. Talks were, appropriately, given at night!
As a Pisces myself and a student in marine science, how could I not be intrigued by the Fish at Night logo and the conference? This was my first time attending a scientific conference as “Media.” I even got the badge to prove it!
SOUNDS OF LARVAL FISH
The first session I attended was about larval fish at night. Erica Staaterman, a Rosenstiel School alumna, made an accidental discovery during her Ph.D. research. She was trying to listen to the reef at night, but heard “knocks” and “growls” within her instrument. It turns out that the Gray snapper larva was making sounds. The sounds are similar to what the adults make, but interestingly, are only heard at night. Could it be the group trying to stick together in the dark? It certainly opens up for a lot more research in the future.
A recording of Gray Snapper “knocks” and “growls” looks something like this:
THE DEEPER WE GO, THE LESS WE KNOW
The other ballroom had talks all focused on Deep and Polar Sea Fish and Fisheries. These regions have “Perpetual Night,” if you will. Tiffany Sih studies fish communities on deep reefs by installing “security cameras” on the reef. These cameras are called Baited Remote Underwater Video Stations (BRUVS). Her feeling is, “If we don’t know how much we have, how do we know how much we have to lose?” That is why she is monitoring these deep reefs on the Great Barrier Reef. Sih watches the videos, creates new records of fish, and sometimes even identifies new species.
After a short break, it was back to the ballroom to hear about nocturnal fish behavior and ecology.
SMALLEST GOLIATH GROUPER EVER CAUGHT
Christopher Koenig talked about the spawning behavior of Goliath Grouper. (I think the name “Goliath” is fitting for these massive fish, don’t you?)
Spawning requires perfect conditions for the Grouper, with the peaks being at new moon in August, September, and October. Koenig collected embryos to examine in the lab, and joked with us that these 1mm embryos are “the smallest Goliath Grouper ever caught!”
I noticed throughout the talks that some fish prefer new moon phases, while others are most active or spawn during full moon phases. There are lots of interesting components to the night.
TAKE A JOURNEY
Did you know that Nassau Grouper can migrate hundreds of miles to spawn on a specific coral head? The predictability of Nassau Grouper aggregations for spawning makes them very susceptible to fishing. Kristine Stump studies their movement and behavior throughout the Bahamas in order to better understand, where they might go to spawn and how to then protect them.
A recurrent theme throughout the talks is conservation. Many of the scientists’ goals are to better understand their respective locations and species to better conserve and mitigate the area.
Have you ever tried performing surgery underwater? Did I mention that it is surgery on a lionfish? Most would steer clear of such a task, but Michael McCallister is familiar with this kind of surgery.
Lionfish are collected and tagged with acoustic tags, underwater. This makes it possible to track their movement throughout the Florida Keys. Michael has been interested in what these lionfish are doing at night, since so little is known about the invasive species. This behavior information could be useful for lionfish management.
EYES IN THE WATER
The evening was an exciting first day of the Fish at Night Symposium! I realized the importance of having eyes in the water to understand what happens beneath the surface. Studying fish at night requires special technology and unique field practices. It also requires passion and patience.
The scientists who presented today have made great advances in their field, but there is still a lot more to do. NOAA estimates that as much as 95% of the world’s ocean is unexplored. Time to get wet and get exploring!
BULLETIN OF MARINE SCIENCE
Back in 1951, FG Walton Smith, the founder of RSMAS, founded of the Bulletin of Marine Science, with the goal of furthering scientific knowledge of the world’s oceans. The Bulletin publishes high-quality, peer-reviewed science research from around the world. Next year, the Bulletin will publish a special issue for the “Proceedings of the 2015 International Fish at Night Symposium.”
Viki Knapp is pursuing her Masters of Professional Science at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Weather, Climate, and Society in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences.