MIDLAND, Texas (KMID/KPEJ) -This summer, Midland College research teams had the opportunity to conduct coral reef research off the shores of the Netherlands mainly funded by the Yarborough Foundation and Joanna & Joe B. Thomas.

According to a recent news release, for several years MC students and faculty have participated in interdisciplinary research projects. This includes research being done by Midland College Chemistry, Biology, and Engineering programs.

From June 19th to July 1st, 2022, MC research teams made up of staff and students were sent to Bonaire, Netherlands to conduct a comparative study on the coral reef.

“Coral reefs are the densest locations of biodiversity on the planet,” explained Sara Anderson who served as the team’s dive instructor and safety officer.

“All coral reefs occupy just 0.5 percent of the ocean seafloor but provide a home for up to 50 percent of all ocean life.  They can be found throughout the world in depths of 20 feet to 150 feet,” said Anderson.

The news release says that team members found that coral reefs face several challenges including natural threats of oceanic tectonic shifts, underwater volcanic activity, and severe weather such as hurricanes.

Research teams also discovered that coral reefs become diseased because of human activity such as pollution and overfishing, which leads to a decrease in underwater species that feed on algae, further causing an increase in algae blooms on the reefs – destroying the coral.

Midland College students participating in this summer’s research included Michael Mangan, Justin McKinney, Jordyn Ricks, and Shaquila Sarapao.

The research team from this summer was mentored by Marlana Mertens (Microbiology), Greg Larson (Environmental Biology), Dr. Brian Flowers (Engineering), and Dr. Tom Ready (Chemistry). 

Before the trip, MC Engineering students created sensor packages that were sent out and submerged at four specific dive sites off the coast of the Netherlands. 

Students on the research team used the data to assess various parameters including coral populations, nutrient concentrations, pathogenic bacteria, and planktonic biomass.