Hardy Plumbing
July 26, 2017

Not Your Typical Class Pets



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When a longtime marine science teacher from Southampton High School was asked to design his dream classroom in 2008, he never believed it would actually come true. Nine years later, marine scientist Greg Metzger teaches in the facility he designed.

Known as the Marine Science Wet Lab, the artificial aquatic environment is home to many species of animals, some of which were captured by Metzger and his team in the local waters off Long Island specifically for research purposes.

The lab is home to fish tanks of various sizes that contain everything from coral reefs to shoreline-based pools with beach sand. One in particular is an ocean tidal pool with live mango trees beginning to take root in the shallows. The lab requires a great deal of maintenance and to combat these challenges, Metzger is joined by fellow marine scientist, Dan Elefante.

Elefante oversees nearly all aspects of the facility. A normal day at work for Elefante would include everything from monitoring freshly hatched eggs of different aquatic species, to maintaining highly specialized tidal pools with advanced filtration systems, and even contacting local pet stores.

The marine lab has become successful enough to sell a variety of fish species, algae, and zooplankton. The microorganisms they sell are used to support saltwater fish tanks, especially for tanks that contain live coral.

While the lab contains numerous species of aquatic life, three species in particular have become the focus of the marine science lab: the Rusty Angelfish (Centropyge ferrugata), the Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus), and the Goosefish (Lophius piscatorius).

The Rusty Angelfish is red and amber-colored with dark spots across its body and has bright blue-tipped fins. The Longnose Hawkfish is a grayish white color with stripes of red across its entire body and a long beak-like jaw. The Goosefish is an angler fish that is sand colored with lures above its eyes and mouth of large teeth. This fish is known to local fisherman as Monkfish, and is just as efficient and terrifying as its deep-water cousins. The Goosefish or Monkfish is an ambush predator that lies in wait under the sand to draw in unsuspecting prey with its bioluminescent lure.

Although these animals are very different from one another, they share one similarity that has more than piqued the interest of Metzger and Elefante. The Rusty Angelfish, the Longnose Hawkfish, and the Goosefish have never been raised in captivity and Southampton High School marine lab aims to be the first to succeed.

Metzger and Elefante, however, have been facing some significant challenges with maintaining and growing the larvae for the Rusty Angelfish and the Longnose Hawkfish. Elefante is working on isolating the factors responsible for the larvae's survival and suspects that the larvae's health may be related to nutrition factors or even water-quality issues. Luckily, the Goosefish larvae seem to developing at a consistent and healthy rate.

Metzger and Elefante believe that once they have completely stabilized the environments of all three species, they will attain the title of the first lab to have successfully raised these animals in captivity. An accomplishment like this would mean world-renowned recognition in the world of marine science for both the research team and Southampton High School.

The Marine Science Wet Lab is located on the second floor of Southampton High School in a new addition created as part of a $53.5-million renovation project approved by the district in 2007. Though Metzger had submitted plans for the marine lab in 2008, the lab was not constructed until 2010 and it wasn't until 2012 that it became available for students.

Since the marine lab's official opening in January 2012, Metzger and Elefante have been tenacious in their efforts to replicate the oceans' ecosystems and especially those which surround Long Island. Their success has given students a living, breathing classroom in which to study the ocean and its extensive marine life.

Metzger has furthered his concept of the aquatic classroom by even bringing students on shark-tagging expeditions through the Long Island Shark Collaboration. Formed by Metzger and a group of former Southampton College marine science students, the Long Island Shark Collaboration is an independent research group which is credited with being the first to tag a young great white shark, just a few miles off the coast in Hampton Bays. He has also taken students on Stony Brook's research vessel to collect starfish, crabs, and snails for the school's lab. All of these programs provide real, hands-on experience for the fascinating world of marine science.

For more information on this program, contact Southampton High School at 631-591-4600.

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