Unless your last name is Cousteau or James Cameron has taken a personal interest in you, getting funding for marine biology research is tough. Just ask Jose Lopez, a professor at Nova Southeastern University who's on the verge of major research breakthrough. He just needs $4,500 to get over the hump.
In May, local divers raised concern over a number of giant maroon sponges in nearby waters -- from Delray Ledge up to Breakers Reef, to be specific -- disintegrating. Within a few weeks, reports started rolling in that the disease had struck as far south as Key West and destroyed large swathes of the less-than-thrilling but important life form.
Now ask any marine biologist who has worked with sponges what killed the ones off Florida and they'll likely reply "small orange band" disease. Ask them what causes the aptly abbreviated SOB disease and they'll be hard-pressed for an answer.
That's where Lopez and his need for $4,500 enters the picture. This week, Lopez took to the crowd-sourced funding website FundaGeek in an attempt to raise the cash so he can carry out in-depth "genetic and microscopic analyses" of diseased sponges he collected from local waters. By comparing the diseased samples with healthy samples, Lopez is confident he can pinpoint the pathogen or cause behind SOB.
Earlier this year, Lopez tried his luck on the website Kickstarter but failed to hit his $17,000 target. Now he has scaled back his financial ambition in hopes of getting the project started with the measly $4,500, or basically the equivalent of what Kim Kardashian blows on getting ready for a night out.
When SOB struck in May, estimates suggested that it hit 15 to 20 percent of barrel reef sponges. Some died, while others slowly revived.
Lopez warns that the disease could appear in Florida waters again. Actually knowing what causes it would be helpful in stemming the spread and maybe even staving off future outbreaks.
Also, donating to Lopez has some perks.
All the big ballers out there who cough up $1,500 or more will get a personal guided dive tour led by Lopez of a Fort Lauderdale reef (seriously, Palm Beach readers, we know you spend that amount on body waxes, manicures, and other rich people things in any given day, so just hook a scientist up already).