[Coral-List] Postdoctoral Research Opportunity Exploring Reef Accretion with the US Geological Survey

Dennis Hubbard dennis.hubbard at oberlin.edu
Thu Jul 25 09:25:13 EDT 2013


This is an intriguing topic and I wish you luck in finding the right
person. As you have stated quite nicely, the relationship between reef
building (aka "accretion") and coral abundance and growth is a complex one.
In my opinion, many of our problems with understanding these relationships
is a conflation of coral growth with reef building. A previous posting
looking for a post-doc discussed the relationship between "accretion" and
bioerosion. I think that this innocent slip of the tongue highlights our
tendency to think of reef building as a largely biological process.

While I am obviously biased in this regard, several studies have shown
that, while corals provide the majority of the initial building blocks
through calcification, the accumulated process of reef accretion involves a
great number of physical processes as well as significant biological
contributions by organisms other than corals. None of this is to say that
corals are insignificant players, but if we are going to consider the
relationship between reef building (i.e., the physical elevation of the
reef top) and rising sea level, we need to consider not only the numbers
related to production and destruction of solid substrate but also the fates
of the carbonate over time. Is dissolution a major player now and in the
future? What happens to the sediment created by bioerosion? If it is
reincorporated in the reef, then it is not "lost"; with increasing
storminess, perhaps we will see increased physical export - and this may be
a major factor. What is the role of bionts as contributors to the reef
fabric? Syn-sedimentary cementation? And, perhaps the "gorilla in the room"
is the role of reef-surface topography at a host of scales? Starting with
Caroline Rogers' excellent work many years back, we learned that the reef
is not a flat surface onto which we can just toss a quadrat. At the recent
ISRS meeting I heard a conservation biology talk in which the author stated
(and I paraphrase), 'while I hate to admit it, reef rugosity may play a far
greater role than coral abundance or diversity in providing ecological
services to the reef'.

In the 70s, my group had a lot of time on our hands so we took Lynton
Land's challenge to try and look at all elements of the carbonate budget in
a way that provided checks and balances on the numbers we used (i.e., did
it "balance"?). This required measuring the physical cycling of sediment
within and out of the reef (using tracers and sediment traps). It also
required coring to get a look at recent reef building. What I learned from
that exercise is that it is easy to balance a carbonate budget when you
make it overly simple and leave out the things that are difficult to
measure in a single survey. We just completed a study in St. John that
compares coral abundance (past and present) and bioerosion. We (Liz
Whitcher) came up with a bioerosion rate by using the excellent NPS
video-survey data (Jeff Miller) to determine the time of death for ca. 100
individual coral colonies. We, therefore, have a starting time for
bioerosion an can honestly calculate a rate without having to stick blocks
of Iceland spar in the reef. There are many interesting findings from this
study, but the biggest one is that the "budget" based on just coral cover
(and growth rates) versus bioerosion is way out of whack with what we can
observe geologically. In short, the reef is MUCH too thin for the net
production rates we calculated on the back of an envelope. So.... we have a
lot of thinking to do. That's the bane an the fun of science.

So, good luck. I think you have a leg-up inasmuch as you recognize the
complexity of this issue and the fact that the commonly used metrics
produce more enigmas than answers. So, as was the case when we finished our
decade-long carbonate budget study on St. Croix - and the budget didn't
balance - you are primed to ask the all important question.... "What are we
missing?" Counting corals and holes in the reef will probably not get us
where we want to be in the end. Good luck in figuring out what you don't
know; then you'll have a much better roadmap that might lead to the answer.


On Wed, Jul 24, 2013 at 1:12 PM, Kuffner, Ilsa <ikuffner at usgs.gov> wrote:

> Dear List Members:
> I am happy to post the following USGS Mendenhall Research Fellowship
> research opportunity. U.S. citizenship is not required for applying for a
> Mendenhall postdoc position; however those with U.S. citizenship are given
> priority. More information is available through the Mendenhall Program
> website at http://geology.usgs.gov/postdoc/.
> *Direct link to Research Opportunity: *
> http://geology.usgs.gov/postdoc/opps/2014/14-38%20Kuffner.htm
> *14-38. Exploring Holocene coral reef accretion rates in the Florida Keys:
> what drives biogenic calcification, reef accretion, and erosion in an
> ever-changing ocean?*
> We seek a postdoctoral fellow who can help unravel the mystery as to why
> some coral reefs in the Florida Keys continue to accrete calcium-carbonate
> structure while many others stopped growing sometime during the late
> Holocene. While it is known that coral reefs and other carbonate
> environments are sensitive to changes in climate, ocean chemistry, and sea
> level (Hubbard 1997), the thickness of Holocene reef accumulation varies
> considerably throughout the Caribbean region. For instance, many areas of
> the Florida Keys have only minimal (< 2 m) accretion above the
> Pleistocene-Holocene boundary, while in the Dry Tortugas it is >15 m thick
> (Shinn et al. 1977; Gischler and Hudson 2004). Distance from large tidal
> passes that allow flow through the Florida Keys from the West Florida Shelf
> and Florida Bay, along with antecedent topography, seems to predict well
> where the thickest Holocene reefs have accumulated (Shinn et al. 1977;
> Aronson and Precht 2006). This idea is sometimes referred to as the
> “inimical waters hypothesis,” as it is generally thought that the dynamic
> waters of these shallow water bodies are not conducive to supporting coral
> reef growth.  Somewhat paradoxically however, Florida Keys patch reefs
> inside of the turbid Hawk Channel in closer proximity to near-shore
> influences continue to be abundantly populated by large reef-building
> corals, whereas reefs on the outer reef tract have suffered high rates of
> coral mortality over the past few decades resulting from diseases and
> bleaching, and have not recovered since (Porter et al. 2002).
> Recent USGS research has shown that calcification rate of a major
> reef-building species of coral calcifies faster in the Dry Tortugas
> compared to three sites in the main Keys (Kuffner et al. 2013). While the
> correlation between coral calcification rate of one species and reef
> accretion rates is intriguing, the patterns cannot be explained given
> current knowledge of the processes controlling reef-building, biogenic
> calcification, and bioerosion of reef materials. Reef-building processes
> are complex and span the geologic and biologic disciplines. Better
> understanding of relationships between depositional environment, seawater
> chemistry, and reef accumulation are needed to predict change in reef
> building and biogenic calcification processes in response to changing
> climate and ocean chemistry.  Predicting the behavior of carbonate systems
> during this century is of critical importance to national interests.
> Examining the factors that have influenced reef accretion throughout the
> Holocene should increase our understanding of present-day change in coral
> reef trajectories as the oceans continue to warm, acidify, and are
> subjected to land-use change.
> The Mendenhall Fellow will have the opportunity to conduct original studies
> investigating the patterns and processes controlling the development of
> fossil and/or extant coral reefs in the Florida-Caribbean region, with
> special focus on Dry Tortugas NP, Biscayne NP, and the Florida Keys
> National Marine Sanctuary.  We would welcome proposals within a broad area
> that might encompass Holocene - Pleistocene coring and interpretation, the
> use of recent Holocene environmental recorders (e.g., corals), or any other
> retrospective geologic techniques involving paleoreconstruction of climate
> and/or seawater chemistry and reef-building conditions. As a potential
> resource, the Fellow would have access to the USGS core archives, which
> include several hundred modern coral and fossil Quaternary cores from the
> Florida-Caribbean region and elsewhere (
> http://olga.er.usgs.gov/coreviewer/
> ).
> The Mendenhall Fellow will have the unique opportunity to be a part of a
> multidisciplinary team with a variety of expertise in coral reef biology,
> carbonate geology, paleoclimate reconstruction, and ocean chemistry (see
> the
>  Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST) <http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/crest/>..
> website for details). As part of the CREST project team, the Mendenhall
> Fellow may participate in multi-investigator field missions throughout the
> Florida Keys and possibly the Virgin Islands. Late Holocene paleoclimate
> research is also being conducted at the USGS. In addition to researchers at
> the USGS, the Mendenhall Fellow will have an opportunity to interact with
> researchers at the College of Marine Science at the University of South
> Florida (USF), NOAA National Marine Fisheries, the Florida Fish and
> Wildlife Commission, and the Florida Institute of Oceanography.
> *Literature cited:*
> Aronson RB, Precht WF (2006) Conservation, precaution, and Caribbean reefs.
> Coral Reefs 25: 441-450.
> Gischler E, Hudson JH (2004) Holocene development of the Belize barrier
> reef. Sedimentary Geology 164: 223-236.
> Hubbard DK (1997) Reef as dynamic systems. In: Birkeland CE (ed) Life and
> Death of Coral Reefs. Chapman and Hall, New York, pp 43-67.
> Kuffner IB, Hickey TD, Morrison JM (2013) Calcification rates of the
> massive coral *Siderastrea siderea* and crustose coralline algae along the
> Florida Keys (USA) outer-reef tract. Coral Reefs (open access
> http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00338-013-1047-8). Also see
> recent press release:
> http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=3636#.UfAAvkGsh8E.
> Porter JW, Kosmynin V, Patterson KL, Porter KG, Jaap WC, Wheaton JL,
> Hackett K, Lybolt M, Tsokos CP, Yanev G, Marcinek DM, Dotten J, Eaken D,
> Patterson M, Meier OW, Brill M, Dustan P (2002) Detection of coral reef
> change by the Florida Keys Coral Reef Monitoring Project. In: Porter JW,
> Porter KG (eds) The Everglades, Florida Bay, and Coral Reefs of the Florida
> Keys: An Ecosystem Sourcebook. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp 749-769.
> Shinn EA, Hudson JH, Halley RB, Lidz B (1977) Topographic control and
> accumulation rate of some Holocene coral reefs: South Florida and Dry
> Tortugas Proc 3rd Int Coral Reef Symp, Miami, pp 1-7.
> *Proposed Duty Station*: St. Petersburg, FL
> *Areas of Ph.D.: *Marine geology, carbonate geology, paleoclimatology,
> oceanography, or related fields (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other
> disciplines, but with extensive knowledge and skills relevant to the
> Research Opportunity may be considered).
> *Qualifications: *Applicants must meet one of the following qualifications
> -
>  Research Geologist<
> http://geology.usgs.gov/postdoc/opps/qualifications.html#res_geol>
> , Research Oceanographer<
> http://geology.usgs.gov/postdoc/opps/qualifications.html#res_ocean>
> , Research Physical
> Scientist<
> http://geology.usgs.gov/postdoc/opps/qualifications.html#res_phys>
> ..
> (This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the
> occupations stated above.  However, other titles may be applicable
> depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal..
> The final classification of the position will be made by the Human
> Resources specialist).
> *Research Advisor: *Ilsa Kuffner, 727-803-8747,
> ikuffner at usgs.gov<
> https://mail.google.com/mail/?view=cm&fs=1&tf=1&to=ikuffner@usgs.gov>
> ..
> *Human Resources Office Contact:* Junell Norris, (303) 236-9557,
> jlnorris at usgs.gov<
> https://mail.google.com/mail/?view=cm&fs=1&tf=1&to=jlnorris@usgs.gov>
> ..
> *All the information you will need to apply can be found on the Mendenhall
> Program website at the following URL:* *http://geology.usgs.gov/postdoc*.
> *Selected information on the USGS Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program:*
> Mendenhall Fellowships are 2-year appointments with competitive salary and
> benefits. Mendenhall Fellows are typically granted project expense funds
> appropriate to the scope of research to be conducted. Postdoctoral research
> projects under this program have spanned a wide range of scientific topics
> of interest and relevance to the mission of the USGS. For additional
> information, please consult the *Project Profiles *section of the
> Mendenhall Program web site at the following URL: *
> http://geology.usgs.gov/postdoc*. There are 47 new Research Opportunities
> presently being advertised, and all have an application closing date of
> September 20, 2013.
> *What is it like to be a USGS Mendenhall Fellow? *Check out the FAQ section
> of the program web site for some informative quotes from previous
> Mendenhall Fellows. Another way is to find out directly from a Fellow --
> Project Profiles contain their contact information.
> Mendenhall postdoctoral research opportunities are advertised through the
> Program web site. The current set of opportunities will be open for
> application through September 20, 2013. We anticipate being in a position
> to make offers (pending availability of funds) late this year.
> *Program contacts:*
> *Overall Program and Science - Dr. Rama K. Kotra, 703-648-6271,
> rkotra at usgs.gov,*
> *Human Resources - Ms. Susan Fong-Young, 916-278-9402, sfyoung at usgs.gov*
> *Program Web Site: http://geology.usgs.gov/postdoc *U.S. Department of the
> Interior July 2013 U.S. Geological Survey
> Applicants must submit their applications through USAJOBS, and this is the
> only way to apply. The entry point for the USAJOBS site is through the
> Research Opportunity table. Please do not send application materials via
> email to any of the email contacts listed here.
> Thank you and good luck to those interested!
> Sincerely,
> Ilsa Kuffner
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
> Ilsa B. Kuffner, Ph.D.
> St. Petersburg Coastal & Marine Science Center
> 600 4th Street South
> St. Petersburg, FL 33701
> Email: ikuffner at usgs.gov
> Tel: (727) 803-8747 ext. 3048
> Fax: (727) 803-2030
> http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/crest/
> https://profile.usgs.gov/ikuffner
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
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Dennis Hubbard
Chair, Dept of Geology-Oberlin College Oberlin OH 44074
(440) 775-8346

* "When you get on the wrong train.... every stop is the wrong stop"*
 Benjamin Stein: "*Ludes, A Ballad of the Drug and the Dream*"

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