One of the most challenging parts of the field work was the collection of shallow specimens of Ceratoporella nicholsoni. They are tucked away in cryptic spaces of the reef so collecting them involved quite a lot of squeezing into small, awkward spaces.
Either getting close to some sea turtles at our shallow site or just getting to dive the mesophotic reefs in Grand Cayman. They take the form of steep slopes or walls and are covered with a diverse array of sponges and octocorals. After 60 m we often found massive Xestospongia muta and of course, plenty of sclerosponges!
This study worked along a continuous shallow to mesophotic depth gradient off of Grand Cayman. The site was located next to the USS Kittiwake (ASR-13) artificial reef, so we could do a portion of our deco stops at the wreck, which had plenty of sponges, coral and reef fish to check out.
In Depth Watersports in Grand Cayman. They provided the gases, boat and support for this work and were incredibly helpful throughout the time we were in the field. Always fun to be on the boat with them! Our DSO at UNH, Liz Kintzing, also deserves a lot of credit as she keeps us all safe and is ready for any rebreather problem that crops up in the field.
Always download data and results from your server to your computer. Some of my molecular analyses had finished running but our server went down for an extended period. As a result, I was unable to access any of my files for subsequent analysis which delayed finishing this project.
I hope so, but for now I am focusing on open reef sponges on mesophotic reefs. In particular, I am assessing any changes in their microbial community structure and function along a shallow to mesophotic depth gradient in Grand Cayman, and how any potential changes could affect their trophic strategies.
Trophodynamics of the sclerosponge Ceratoporella nicholsoni along a shallow to mesophotic depth gradient | article
Macartney KJ, Pankey MS, Slattery M, Lesser MP (2020)