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New Species Expected in Census of the Sea

Volunteers Melissa and Elsa Temples collect marine samples as participants in 2019 Texas BioBlitz. Photo Courtesy Kelley Savage

Scientists expect to find new species in the waters of the Texas Gulf Coast as part of a census of the sea being conducted by the University of Texas Marine Science Institute. The marine-life census is the first of its kind on the Coastal Bend.

"The BioBlitz campaign will greatly expand our knowledge of what is living beneath the water and give us a powerful new tool to understand how the bays are changing," said lead scientist Dr. Ed Buskey, UTMSI Professor and Research Coordinator at the Mission-Aransas Reserve.

The goal of the 2019 Texas BioBlitz, which is part of a study by the Smithsonian’s Marine GEO BioBlitz, is to build a data base that can be used to informed management of the wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico. Sampling will take place over two weeks during the summer, concentrating on three separate estuaries: the Upper Laguna Madre, Oso/Corpus Christi Bay, and Aransas Bay.

“A unique aspect of this event, and this study region, is the incredible diversity of habitats that shift along the Texas coastline,” said Chris Patrick, assistant professor of life sciences at TAMUCC. “We have an enormously powerful climate gradient that drives changes in ecosystem structure and function, making this region a natural climate change laboratory in many ways.”

Samples are being collected by a large team of volunteers working with experts. Specimens are taken back to laboratories at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi and UTMSI for identification. A unique DNA barcode is produced and linked to each species detected.

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