Aquarium Coral Diseases is a new website dedicated to the identification and potential cures for the pathogens and predators that attack corals in public and home aquariums. In the same spirit as Advanced Aquarist, disseminates information with a scientific approach. One glance at their staff is all the confirmation we need.
To find out more about Aquarium Coral Diseases, we interview Dr. Michael Sweet. Advanced Aquarist recommends our readers visit and bookmark this reference website. See how you can help at the end of the interview.
Advanced Aquarist: Can you tell us a little about yourself and specifically your interests with coral diseases in aquariums?
Dr Michael Sweet: I am the lead researcher in the Coral Health and Disease Laboratory at Newcastle University. I completed my doctorate in microbial communities associated with coral reefs and now my principal interest is in coral disease, characterising the microbial pathogens associated with them and ultimately trying to find a cure. We work mostly with wild corals on reef systems around the world, but to do this we often use aquariums as a way of controlling environmental variables. It was a natural step to liaise with public aquariums in our home country, such as the Horniman Museum and Gardens aquarium and the Zoological Society of London, to further our work and increase our knowledge on coral disease.
Advanced Aquarist: Can you tell us about the history and goals for the new Aquarium Coral Diseases website?
Dr Michael Sweet: The Aquarium Coral Disease website was only launched in May as part of the impact from our research. It has already received over 1000 unique visits and many of these repeatedly return to the site. Although people have accessed the site from all around the world on every continent including countries such as Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, New Caledonia and Malawi, the main countries utilising this website to date are the UK, United States and Portugal. We are funded by a Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) grant and one of their main aims is for researchers to disseminate their knowledge to the wider public. We hope that this website helps in this context. It is aimed at everyone, from researchers, hobbyists and public aquarium curators alike.
Advanced Aquarist: The website has assembled an impressive team of researchers and writers. How did you all come together on this new endeavour?
Dr Michael Sweet: The team was assembled through friends and colleagues, John Bythell has had over 20 years of research experience with corals and John and I have worked together for over five years. In the last couple of those years, we started a productive collaboration with Jamie Craggs and James Robson from the Horniman Museum and Gardens aquarium and Rachel Jones from ZSL. We have produced a few peer reviewed papers with many more on the way. Kate Rawlinson read one of my papers and contacted me about it, as she is an expert in flatworms associated with many organisms and specifically the recently described the Acropora (coral) Eating Flatworm she was a logical choice to have on board the editing team. Andrew Westford is a keen hobbyist and we meet at the Coral Aquarist Research Networks (CARN) Big UK Experiment earlier this year. CARN is a knowledge exchange forum organised by NERC fellow Philippa Mansell at Essex University. As one of our goals for this website is to make sure it’s useful for anyone interested in this aspect of corals we want as many people who are keen to be involved in the editing and updating. William Wildgoose is the latest member of the team and is a Veterinary surgeon who has until recently specialised in ornamental fish but is now beginning to take an interest in coral disease. Collaboration with William is ongoing and promises to be very successful.
Advanced Aquarist: Is the website a “living document?” In other words, are there plans to continually add and update content?
Dr Michael Sweet: Yes, the website will be living, hopefully for a long time! Research into the field is continually ongoing and advancing at a rapid rate, with new work published each week. We aim to keep this site updated particularly in the ‘Review of New Literature’ section along with the individual pages on specific diseases/syndromes or coral predators. So watch this space. New sections will also be added for example a ‘Behind the Scenes’ tab, explaining what we do at our main institutes such as the Coral Molecular Laboratory and the various aquariums and zoos.
Advanced Aquarist: Do you accept aquarists’ contribution (experiences, information, photos, etc.)? If so, how can aquarists help?
Dr Michael Sweet: We would welcome help from anyone and everyone; ideally I would like some more hobbyists to be involved in the editing of the site from their view, as I currently don’t have time to keep abreast of the blog sites and aquarium magazines which all hold a wealth of very important information. If anyone would like to help with the website, or simply send me photos to publish on here, comments on treatments that they have used successfully or otherwise, I would be extremely grateful for their help. I can’t promise to post all entries, as we don’t want to suggest remedies etc until they have been tried and tested or at least repeated by others, but we certainly welcome contributions and we can always ask for others to test and verify proposed treatments before we propose their wider use. My email is Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel; 0191 246 4824