For our May 2019 bracelet, we had the chance to showcase an animal that generally doesn't get a lot of attention when it comes to ocean conservation. This creature is a master of disguise and deception and it may just have the potential to help us to protect some of the most threatened ecosystems in the world. It's none other than the incredible octopus.
While conducting research on octopuses, we came across someone who has dedicated her life to these cephalopods by studying them in unique ways and raising awareness about how important they are to the marine ecosystems they live in –– she is someone that we consider to be a real octopus superhero! Dubbed "Octo Girl" by friends and colleagues alike, Chelsea Bennice, Ph.D., from Florida Atlantic University®, is on the cutting-edge of octopus research and her latest study design is one that could have far-reaching implications for the future of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems.
It turns out that the health of coral reefs around the world is declining and many of the animals that depend on them are suffering as well. One problem, in particular, is the overgrowth of bad bacteria infecting corals and other animals and it is having a significant negative effect on the state of the reefs. In a healthy system, good bacteria also colonize the coral reef and its animals, creating a scenario where these bad bacteria are thought to be kept in check. This microbiome, as it's called, is one that is high on the list of priorities to be studied by "Octo Girl."
Octopuses don't get sick like many corals and reef creatures. And, they occupy a very special niche on the coral reefs, acting as both predator and prey, which means they are a highly important species to a healthy reef. The theory is that there may be something special about the microbiome of an octopus that keeps it safe from these harmful bacteria. Finding out if this is the case is what her first-of-its-kind research project is about. Click here to read more about it and to donate to this important research.
The reason this type of research is so important is that if she can identify the beneficial bacteria that are keeping the octopuses from getting sick, then in the future, scientists may be able to use this same type of bacteria microbiome to save other reef-dwelling animals –– potentially even the corals themselves.
We encourage you to visit her fundraising page and help to support this next chapter in octopus research. Our coral reefs thank you in advance!
Photos courtesy of Chelsea Bennice, Ph.D.