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Marine Ecosystems Exhibit Update Upgrades and Enhancements Abound at SMEE

Cristin Ryan, Marine Biology Educator

Above: The top section of the coral reef was dominated by an en- crusting soft coral that needed to be removed.

Far Right: By disman- tling the structure piece by piece, husbandry staff rebuilt the reef crest with a more diverse array of speci- ments.

Transformations of our public space continue at the Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit (SMEE). Earlier this year, the classroom activities area underwent a family-friendly facelift with the addition of puzzles, coloring stations, animal models and more. ๎’is space now has freshly painted walls and new flooring to create an even more welcoming feel for visitors. ๎’e Pacific Coral Reef display, home to “Nemo” and “Dory,” was recently upgraded to a larger tank to allow more

space for multiple species of corals that have grown so much they had become overcrowded in their old home.

SMEE closed to the public for a week in November so that staff could complete some long awaited work on the Caribbean Coral Reef Model Ecosystem. Exhibit Manager Bill Hoffman and Ecosystems Technician Bryan Olson, along with a dedicated staff of volunteers, took on the arduous task of dismantling the top section of the reef, carefully pulling out each individual rock and coral colony and placing them gently in refuge tanks and troughs of seawater so as not to disturb the fragile organisms. “Dismantling and rebuilding this structure was essential to reestablishing diversity on

the top section of the reef,” said Bill. “When the tank was established almost 10 years ago, an encrusting gorgonian was added to act as living cement and hold the reef together by forming a crust over individual rocks. ๎’is organism has been a little too successful over the years and started to outcompete several other corals in the tank, leading to decreased diversity. By removing the rocks covered with the gorgonian, we are acting as a ‘human hurricane’ to disrupt the system and prevent one organism from dominating the area.”

SMEE also continues to expand the volunteer program, setting a new record of hours contributed with more than 3,500 volunteer hours logged

in 2010.

Volunteers

provide

essential

support

to

education

and

husbandry

staff

and

also

assist

with

behind-the-scenes

projects

from

photography to office duties.

For more information, please

contact Cristin Ryan at 772-465-3271 or ryanc@si.edu.

SMS

Smithsonian Marine Station 701 Seaway Drive Ft. Pierce, FL 34949 772-462-6220 www.sms.si.edu

Smithsonian

T h e S m i t h s o n i a n M a r i n e S t a t i o n a t F o r t P i e r c e N e w s S M S

Fall 2010

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