Raising awareness about marine ecology

By Uriel Gonzalez

Sitting on medicine balls, lounging on pool floaties, while surrounded by the smell of rubber, cookies and workout equipment, students gathered to hear marine conservation ecologist, Assistant Professor Jayson Smith speak about his research.

Seeking refuge from cool weather, dark clouds and potential rain, these environmentally conscious students met for an enlightening, yet relaxing, evening regarding the state our oceans at the Bronco Recreation and Intramural Complex.

“One of our goals is to be environmentally sensitive,” said BRIC Aquatics Coordinator Dan McCarthy.

“The BRIC was built as lead architecture, meaning that it meets certain standards, how it’s built, using recycled materials, energy consumption, so as part of that our goal is to continue environmental education.”

Friday night the BRIC hosted Flick-N-Float, an event designed to shed light on the state of our oceans’ health, by having Cal Poly Pomona’s own Smith deliver a presentation regarding threats to our marine ecology followed by a screening of Chasing Coral.

Smith presented data regarding invasive algae and seaweed species and their effects on our coastlines.

According to Smith, these invaders often disrupt and affect our oceans’ ecosystems in negative ways.

Smith went on to explain how these invasive species spread around the world as an inadvertent byproduct of international shipping; he also mentioned that these species spread quickly, but can be eradicated if caught early.

Smith himself has been involved in finding ways to dispose of these harmful species, even going as far as blowtorching them, which he said was ineffective.

Following his PowerPoint presentation, Smith opened up the floor for a Q&A.

In answering questions, he explained that even seemingly harmless things like international shipping and oyster farming are a main contributor to introducing these invasive species.

Smith went on to mention ways students themselves could get involved in conservation, by taking BIO 304 Environment and Society and visiting marineinvasives.org, a website where anyone who is interested in marine habitat conservation can learn and help the cause.

The Netflix documentary Chasing Coral served as a fitting complement to Smith’s lecture.

The film highlighted the alarming rate at which giant coral reefs are dying, and the environmental effects that come with it.

The film presented alarming statistics and striking before and after images of once thriving coral reefs.

According to the film, 80 percent of coral in the Florida Keys died in the last 50-years, and 50 percent of the world’s coral has died in the last 30-years.

The film also highlighted why this is particularly disturbing.

Coral are actually animals that can have up to millions of mouths with tentacles called polyps; many other marine animals rely on coral, whether it be as a source of food or shelter.

According to the film, starting in the early 1980s climate change, or global warming, of about two-degrees Celsius in the water has caused much of the coral to bleach and die.

Bleaching is when coral begin to turn white because of starvation; it is a key indicator of sickly coral; the whiteness is actually the coral’s skeleton becoming more visible as it dies.

Chasing Coral focuses on various scientists and activists who are trying to present this data to the general public in an easy to convey and sticking way.

The film also presented several interesting facts about coral, like that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was the world’s largest natural structure, measuring the length of the US East Coast, and that parrot fish eat coral and their excrement is actually what makes up a lot of our sand.

The aquatics department at the BRIC has vested interest in being environmentally conscious, according McCarthy to they participate in beach clean-ups.

The BRIC’s Aquatics has a certified scuba diving program, so these beach clean-ups and hosting events like Flick-N-Float helps make the oceans better places to dive.

Despite unpredictable weather conditions Flick-N-Float, which was supposed to be poolside, was moved inside the BRIC.

The BRIC

Uriel Gonzalez / The Poly Post

The BRIC’s Aquatics Program is hosting events throughout the quarter including movie nights, karaoke and a Superbowl watch party

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