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AUT-a know better

May 14, 2009

Today’s institution was ‘over the fence’ when I was doing my undergraduate degree.  It resides in the ‘City of Sails’ and has a proud history.  It started life as a technical college but in this millenium made the change to recognition as a university.  It lays claim to being New Zealand’s newest university.  It is:

Auckland University of Technology

Now I must admit back when I was a University of Auckland undergraduate I had the opportunity to take a workshop course at AUT (it was a course completion thing so I could actually become an engineer).  I had a lot of fun there – being a girl I’d never had many chances to weld or mill or lathe things that much (other than in workshop classes at school) so I loved it.  That being said AUT became a bit more ‘scholarly’ as well as practical over the years and started doing hardcore academic ‘stuff’.

Today’s research paper is:

Alfaro, A.C., Zemke-White, W.L., Nainoca, W., (2009), Faunal composition within algal mats and adjacent habitats on Likuri Island, Fiji Islands,  Journal of The Marine Biological Association of The United Kingdom, 89(2), 295-302

My first thought is “Oh bugger, not biology”.  Now I used to love all sciences, but I am not the type of person who is good at remembering people’s names let alone longwinded latin names for biological species, so I am ill-suited for that field.  This paper does not disappoint with a long list of different marine species.  BUT I will try my best…

First of all the title of the paper is extremely self-explanatory.  The authors or researchers within the group of authors travelled to Likuri Island and studied the fauna within algal mats there.  What a life!  I once knew someone doing their PhD at the same time I was looking at toxicity levels within oysters in one of the local bays, looking at using them as biomarkers for water quality in an ecosystem – some of their experimental work involved rowing around the bay dropping and picking up oysters – I was completely envious!!

The researchers in this work first identified the dominant algal species within the environment which was Gracilaria maramae.  They then recognised two morphologies of the species which were based on what the algae were doing in the environment, the two options were – attached (i.e. stuck to something) and loose-lying (i.e. floating around doing its thing). 

What the researchers found overall is that the floating loose algae supported a larger biodiversity of organisms (as shown by the long lists of organisms present) as opposed to algae attached to soft surfaces (seagrass) and hard surfaces (rocks). 

Cool algae and loner algae

Cool algae and loner algae

The work highlighted the importance of the loose algae in supporting the ecosystems present and the authors suggest that this needs to be taken into consideration for future management of coastal ecosystems within the Fiji Islands. 

I was mostly interested in forces required to remove these things from substrates; apparently they stick nicely to rock but are easier to remove from seagrass – I am sure a true materials engineer would find this fascinating.

The moral of the story – hang loose and live, be uptight and insufferable!

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