[Coral-List] About time?: No its not

Michael Risk riskmj at univmail.cis.mcmaster.ca
Fri Oct 13 15:54:15 EDT 2006


As one who has in the past been guilty of intemperate language, it is
perhaps appropriate that I bring to your attention that your post goes
beyond the norms of professional discourse. 

Calling James Cervino a scientific prostitute guilty of unacceptable
behaviour was offensive, and seemingly incorrect. As far as I can make
out, he simply conflated algal growth with high nutrients, which is not
a sin. Many would consider it as given.

As far as the scientific body of your message goes-I am not sure what
point is being made by saying "while some of the differences between
treatments were statistically significant the differences were not
biologically/ecologically significant". Most of us base our
experimental work on statistical significance. Your post has the
finger-in-the-dike sound that scientists make when some of their
deeply-held beliefs are being assaulted by mountains of data...

But James brings up a point alluded to several times on the -list, that
science can be diverted/perverted/converted to noxious ends by large
sums of money. I will now make full financial disclosure, so that my
biases may be evaluated by all readers. This is a policy I commend to
my colleagues.

I receive no money from any US government agency. I have never accepted
a penny from developers or their agents. I am presently working with
Brian Lapointe on reefs of the east coast of Florida. I also serve as
an advisor to the government of Florida, for which I receive crappy
accommodation in Dania, as well as $28/day for meals-none of which I
plan to spend eating ever again in Jo-Jo's Italian Restaurant.


On Wed, 11 Oct 2006 17:33:02 -0400
 "Szmant, Alina" <szmanta at uncw.edu> wrote:
> Hi Jamie et al:
> I do not understand your comment about the Kuffner et al 2006 paper.
> For one there is no mention of any nutrient effects of any kind.
>  Thus
> the patterns of algal distribution and biomass that these authors
> report
> are what are found out there but there are no data to show that they
> have anything to do with nutrient (or grazing) levels.  The areas
> they
> surveyed are directly offshore of where Florida Bay water exits onto
> the
> Florida reef tract and are best characterized as hard bottom.  There
> has
> been little coral and lots of sediment on those hard bottom over
> Holocene time frames (reviewed by Ginsburg, Shinn and others)
> Secondly, if you read the paper carefully and study the figures,
> their
> results show that some (not all) algae have a small but variable
> effect
> on coral settlement.  In some cases there was more settlement in
> treatments with the algae, in some not, thus not a strong indictment
> of
> algal inhibition of coral settlement. Furthermore, while some of the
> differences between treatments were statistically significant the
> differences were not biologically/ecologically significant given
> natural
> variability in coral settlement patterns.  My work has shown a strong
> preference of several species of coral larvae for the undersides of
> field conditioned substrates (Szmant and Miller 2006, 10th Coral Reef
> Proc) regardless of presence of macroalgae. In fact, larvae avoid
> surfaces covered by algae, encrusting inverts, and some types of
> crustose corallines too.  They mostly settle on microfilm and there
> is
> plenty of that available at the scale of a coral larva, even when
> macroalgal cover is high.  
> The likely negative effect of macroalgal cover on coral recruits
> likely
> shows up later when the corals grow out of their cryptic settlement
> microhabitats.  
> I know that excess nutrient enrichment, as well as too little
> grazing,
> as well as too much grazing, can all damage small corals, affect reef
> substrate composition etc etc etc.  But I hate to see the literature
> misquoted for any reason, and your post is a perfect example of how
> easy
> it is for scientists to prostitute the literature.  This is not
> acceptable scientific behavior and should be avoided even if the
> intention is laudable (e.g. to deter people from polluting coastal
> waters).
> Sincerely,
> Alina
> *******************************************************************
> Dr. Alina M. Szmant
> Coral Reef Research Group
> UNCW-Center for Marine Science 
> 5600 Marvin K. Moss Ln
> Wilmington NC 28409
> Tel: (910)962-2362 & Fax:  (910)962-2410
> Cell:  (910)200-3913
> email:  szmanta at uncw.edu
> Web Page:  http://people.uncw.edu/szmanta
> ******************************************************************
> -----Original Message-----
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Dr.
> James M
> Cervino
> Sent: Tuesday, October 10, 2006 2:40 PM
> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Subject: [Coral-List] About time!
> Dear Ilsa & Devon,
> Congrats on a thorough well put together manuscript! It is about time
> that these data are beginning to get published, I will use this for 
> my class this next semester.
> The sad point is that the people that think urchin grazing and other 
> dwindling herbivores/landscapers swimming on reef system control the 
> algal lawns that smother corals.  This says to the developers that 
> claim  "hey our point source" that is spewing secondary treated 
> sewage out into a reef is not the reason for the reefs to become 
> algal dominated, its because the spiny urchin died off that used to 
> be a proficient landscaper and kept the corals "macro-algae free".
> Devon what I am not saying that top down controls are not 
> significant, they are. However, what I am trying to say is that the 
> levels of nutrients that induce algal blooms cannot be controlled 
> with more grazers.
> Cheers, James
> --
> **************************************************
> Dr. James M. Cervino, MS, Ph.D.
> Marine Pathology
> Department of Biological & Health Sciences
> Pace University New York NYC
> Phone: (917) 620-5287
> Web site: http://www.globalcoral.org
> ***************************************************
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list

Mike Risk
Marine Ecologist
PO Box 1195
Durham Ontario
N0G 1R0

More information about the Coral-List mailing list