In July, the NCCOS Deep Coral Ecology Laboratory (DCEL) held a two-day workshop on the taxonomy and morphological identification of deep-sea corals. The workshop was held in conjunction with the Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems (CCME) annual meeting in Charleston, SC, and attended by graduate students from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), the second-largest Hispanic serving institution in the nation. Because species identification of deep-sea corals is difficult and requires very specialized tools and training, DCEL wanted to share their expertise, particularly in identifying black and gorgonian corals, with colleagues and graduate students around the US.
During the workshop, students obtained classroom instruction on the diagnostic characters that distinguish various species of black and gorgonian corals. Furthermore, the students obtained hands-on experience in processing deep-sea coral specimens for light and scanning electron microscopy with their own samples.
In addition to providing valuable training for students, the workshop also helped expand the research partnership between DCEL and UTRGV. DCEL is developing new partnerships to combine morphological and genetic techniques to understand the diversity and ecology of deep-sea corals as essential fish habitat.