Sea Aquarium Curacao

Research & projects

Research & projects

The Curaçao Sea Aquarium is very active in research projects that involve the oceans and coral reef ecosystems. The Sea Aquarium has the facilities, labs, and water system to conduct marine-related research. There is also a research submersible and a thriving coral reef all on the same premesis.  The Curaçao Sea Aquarium cooperates with different institutes and research foundations around the world by facilitating research programs and sharing knowledge. 

 

The Smithsonian Institution

is the world's largest museum and research complex, with 19 museums, 9 research centers and more than 140 affiliate museums around the world. Among other things, the SI is a biodiversity research center that studies different aspects of community and ecosystem health. The researchers from the SI attempt to collect, identify, and classify new and different species in order to help understand the biodiversity of the marine ecosystem. There are a wide array of studies focusing on individual species or groups, communities, and entire ecosystems. The Curaçao Sea Aquarium facilitates research projects initiated by the Smithsonian Institution, like DROP and ARMS.

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Deep Reef Observation Program (DROP).

The aim of DROP is to study the ecology and interactions of the deep reef with the rest of the environment. Much is known about reef ecology down to about a 100 feet but pretty much everything below that is still a bit of a mystery as to what lives there and why it is important. For example, Red Snappers (a commercially important food fish) live from 400 to 800 feet deep. Very little is known about these species because their reproduction and ecology is tied to the deep reef ecosystem. Due to the immense pressures and dangers of technical deep diving it is difficult to monitor these ecosystems.

Researchers from the Smithsonian Institution come to Curaçao to use the Curasub at Substation Curaçao. This allows them to descend to 1000 feet for collecting fish and other organisms from different depths around the reef. They  use the lab facilities of the Sea Aquarium to document,  classify and identify the proper species. Samples are being sent to the Smithsonian Institution in the U.S.for  DNA-tests and to do further research.  Because of this program over two dozen new species of fishes and more than 50 new species of invertebrates have been collected, identified, and classified using the Curasub and Curaçao Sea Aquarium lab facilities.

Another research program initiated by the Smithsonian Institution that the Sea Aquarium facilitates is  the Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structure (ARMS) project. A small complex structure is put on the bottom of the reef at different depths. All of the different organisms that are floating around in the water such as larvae or that are associated with the sea-bottom and that need a place to live will settle in and on these wrecks. It gives researchers a very good idea of what kind organisms are floating around in the water and what kind of animals are nearby that will use this structure as shelter. (read more http://ocean.si.edu/blog/uncovering-biodiversity-arms-and-submarine-claw

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Sea Turtle Conservation Program

The Curaçao Sea Aquarium cooperates with Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (www.bonaireturtles.com) and WIDECAST in order to collect data about these beautiful animals. Sea turtles are reef inhabitants, everyone loves to encounter them during a dive or snorkel. The Sea turtle conservation project collects data about sea turtles from along the reefs of Curaçao and Bonaire. The turtles are tagged and identified in an attempt to track their movements and better understand their populations.

There are also many rescue sea turtles that were harmed and brought to the Curaçao Sea Aquarium and have been nursed and cared for in the outside pools until they are ready to go back into the ocean. Before being released these turtles are identified, tagged, and have their data recorded for future monitoring efforts.

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Sexual Coral Reef Reproduction (SECORE)

SECORE is a research project that stands for Sexual Coral Reproduction. Together with the CARMABI Foundation and the Curaçao Sea Aquarium, research projects were initiated to better understand sexual reproduction of endangered coral species and to apply the gained knowledge to reef restoration. These endangered corals spawn only once or twice a year, creating a unique opportunity to observe their spawning behavior and collect the reproductive packets. These packets are brought into the lab facilities at the Curaçao Sea Aquarium where scientists mix the spawn in order to fertilize the coral eggs and breed a new generation of larvae. The larvae are settled onto small tiles, where they can be monitored and measured and are then placed in the flowing natural seawater system. The corals are monitored and placed on the reef at different intervals (5 days, 6 months ,1 year, 18 months, and two years) to test the survival rates in an attempt to find the most productive method. This project is innovative because it is the first to incorporate a combination of non-invasive coral growth coupled with a natural setting.

In the Curaçao Sea Aquarium the SECORE project is displayed in the middle of the Aquarium hall.   For more information visit the SECORE website.  http://www.secore.org/site/home.html

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National Cancer Research Institution

In the quest for finding ways to fight cancer, researchers linked to the American National Cancer Institute in recent years have started visiting the Curaçao Sea Aquarium to make use of facilities for research sampling. Their work is directed at exploring the oceans in search of compounds that may hold the key to fighting cancer. The researchers study different sponges, soft corals, algae, and other marine invertebrates that may produce bioactive compounds, as many of these compounds have properties that make them potential candidates for bio-medical and pharmaceutical research. Also these organisms harbor bacteria that produce all sorts of compounds, some of which are actually toxic in their raw forms but after being refined can have beneficial medical uses.

The RV Chapman, Substation Curaçao, and the facilities at the Curaçao Sea Aquarium allow the researchers from the National Cancer Institute to do their research all over the island and down to a depth of 1000 feet. This expands the chance of identifying new potential medicinal products which could give the National Cancer Institute an opportunity to diversify their capabilities. The findings of the scientists are then being shared with research laboratories and medical universities across the United States. This makes the Sea Aquarium, Substation, and RV Chapman part of a critical link in helping find a cure for cancer.

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UNCW

The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) is an American university with an excellent marine biology and marine science program. Each year students and professors come to the Curaçao Sea Aquarium for a field course in which the participants conduct research projects on coral biology and fish ecology using the nearby reef as study area. The reef and lab facilities at the Curaçao Sea Aquarium provide an excellent backdrop for these unique educational opportunities.

Other teams of UNCW researchers have been using the reef and Curaçao Sea Aquarium labs to test an experimental coral monitoring system. It is an instrument that allows scientists to study the health of corals and conduct experiments underwater and in natural settings. This is revolutionary in the ability to study corals at very detailed scale in the wild without disturbing or removing them.

 

 

Substation Curaçao

Substation Curaçao is home to the Curasub, a specialized manned submersible that allows researchers, film makers, and tourists to explore the unknown depths in a safe environment. The Curasub was constructed by Nuytco in Canada and has been pressured tested to operate safely at 1000 feet.  The Curasub can carry 4 passengers and 1 pilot for up to 8 hours of continuous underwater operations. The sub also boasts a unique set of arms and suction hoses for collecting fishes, invertebrates, sediments, and other samples for scientific research. The Curasub is a critical link in conducting oceanographic and deep reef research by all the visiting institutions. 

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IMARES

IMARES is the marine research wing of the Netherlands University at Wageningen dedicated to all aspects of marine science research. Researchers from IMARES visit the Curaçao Sea Aquarium to make use of lab facilities and the Curasub for their biodiversity research. There are several research projects committed to studying the biodiversity to Curaçao’s deep reefs. Specialists in deep sea sponges and invertebrates use the Curasub to collect specimens that are sent back to IMARES for processing.

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