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Keeping Coral Communication Open

Keeping Coral Communication Open

Sea life talks and what they’re saying could save their lives.

Keeping Coral Communication Open

Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 17:00

Marsha Lewis, Contributing Producer

(Inside Science TV) -- You’ve seen it in The Little Mermaid…but did you know sea creatures really do talk to each other?
Most people think of the underwater oceans as a quiet place, but there are all kinds of sounds happening deep in the sea – some vital for survival.
“There’s a whole world of animal sound in the ocean that people really don’t know about,” said Erica Staaterman, a PhD student at the University of Miami.  
Staaterman is studying how baby fish – or larvae – find their way to a reef to survive. She believes it’s the sound the reef gives off that attracts the small fish to the safety of the reef. She measures the sounds to determine if there are changes over periods of time.
“For example, it tends to be louder during the new moon and quieter during the full moon,” stated Staaterman.
If the larvae do use sound as a cue to find the reef background noise from ships or gas and oil exploration could be interfering with that process and potentially put the larvae in danger. 
“I think it’s just such an untold issue, and it’s a conservation problem that nobody’s really thinking about,” said Staaterman.
The loud noises - along with overfishing, plastic pollution and climate change, could be having a serious impact.    
Staaterman is performing behavioral tests on fish larvae where she will play back sounds of the reef and see how the larvae respond. She hopes the research will help these animals communicate better…and survive.

Get Inside the Science

Graduate Student’s ‘Sonic Reef’ Video Wins NSF Award

Erica Staaterman’s Sonic Reef (video)

Erica Staaterman, University of Miami - Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences

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Author Bio & Story Archive

Marsha Lewis is a freelance producer based in California.  She has won 11 National Telly Awards and nine Regional Emmy Awards for her work in local and national syndicated news.

I’ve dedicated my time to reporting and producing stories focused on medical, science and technology. I created a nationally award winning series dedicated to promoting women and their great accomplishments.  Now I’ve taken that expertise outside the traditional TV news format and broadened the viewership to people around the world.