See also "Florida Sponges Rebounding; What Killed Them Remains a Mystery" and "Mystery Sponge-Killing Disease Now Seen From Palm Beach to Florida Keys"
Earlier this year, giant red barrel sponges off the coast of Florida started dying. Scientists became concerned as reports of the disintegrating marine life rolled in from Palm Beach to the Keys.
What killed them remains a mystery. But now Nova Southeastern University marine biologist Jose Lopez is hoping to pinpoint the culprit. Doing so isn't going to be cheap, though, and Lopez has taken to the crowd-sourced funding site Kickstarter in hopes of raising $17,600.
Lopez plans on using the funds to examine "a marine epidemic called 'small orange band (SOB) disease.'" Although it's believed that small orange band killed the sponges, nobody knows the cause or pathogen behind the disease.
As Lopez previously told New Times, he was able to get samples of infected sponges from nearby waters and freeze them. If the Kickstarter project hits its goal, he'll do a bunch of sophisticated DNA and RNA tests on the samples to get a better understanding of what that small orange band actually is.
To hit his goal, Lopez will need to raise the $17,000 by Friday, October 12. Those who donate $1,900 or more can go on a dive to a Fort Lauderdale reef with Lopez, and they'll get a shoutout in whatever peer-reviewed journal article he publishes from the study.
Of course, Lopez isn't expecting everyone to cough up $1,900, so he's got a whole bunch of ways to compensate people who make donations as small as $10.
Here's a video overview of the project: