Cool technology for bioerosion!

After learning all about bioerosion and keeping up with our bioerosion block deployments, you all must be thinking, “How is she going to get bioerosion rates from that little block of dead coral that she is attaching to the reef?”. Well I am so glad that you asked! I am giving each of my corals a CT scan, but this is no ordinary CT scan, it is a microCT that can detect fractures as small as 50 micrometers (about the diameter of a human hair). I have made collaborations with the microCT scanning facility at Cornell University (if you want to use microCT for any experiment I highly recommend using this lab; they are such a pleasure to work with) to scan each bioerosion block before deployment and then again after I recover them (hopefully!) about a year later. Historically, bioerosion studies have used a difference in skeletal density via buoyant weight to determine how much coral has been eroded in a given time. With this new technology, I will be able to see inside the dead coral block and accurately calculate how much calcium carbonate was removed from each block after a year.  Using microCT to determine bioerosion rates is quite quick and could possibly be used as a tool to monitor bioerosion on reefs all over the world.

Unfortunately, I do not have enough bandwidth on this ship to post a movie of one of my blocks.  In the meantime though check out this site for what microCT scans look like.

Picture from a microCT scan of dead P. compressa. All the little holes are from bioeroders. Notice the longer holes that were caused by worms.  Scan by Mark Riccio at Cornell University.

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