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COAST Award Program
SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference
Something in the water: environmental DNA profiling of tide pool biodiversity
The harsh environment of the rocky intertidal zone makes it one of the most diverse and unique ecosystems on Earth; its inhabitants rely on a fragile balance of stressors and adaptations which are easily disturbed. As pollution levels and human disturbance steadily increase, reliable monitoring is crucial for conservation efforts of intertidal species, particularly by providing a baseline measurement of the species present in the environment. The analysis of environmental DNA (eDNA), or genetic material left behind by an organism in the form of tissue, excrement, or bodily fluid, has been instrumental to the conservation of other aquatic ecosystems. As no exclusive analysis of intertidal rocky tide pool habitats has been performed to date, we examined the capacity for eDNA extraction and analysis in the rocky tide pools of Southern California as a novel method for biomonitoring. We extracted eDNA from water samples taken from isolated tide pools at two different rocky intertidal sites across a three day period. Using the portable MinION nanopore sequencer (Oxford Nanopore Technologies) we performed polymerase chain reaction amplification and real-time DNA barcoding of our eDNA samples. Our results suggest that nanopore sequencing is a viable method for the barcoding of intertidal organisms despite complicating environmental factors such as the shifts in the tide. Possible changes in current conservation methods to implement nanopore sequencing may ultimately improve the speed of species identification and reduce the need for large teams of scientists to enter the field, thereby helping to limit human disturbance in the intertidal zone.
National Audubon Society Conference
Reading a Birds Mind with GIS: Utilizing Technology as a Conservation Tool
Traditional monitoring methods of Endangered Species has always utilized harass by survey methodology that can be distressing to species of interest. However, with today's advances in technology we can redefine and modernize monitoring methods and techniques. By implementing ArcGIS and ArcPro accompaniments like Survey123 and Collector, we can analyze the role that these GIS applications can play in developing predictive models that can guide habitat management. These applications, as well as the utilization of drone technology, can provide more accurate recovery metrics to study the populations of Endangered Species such as the Western Snowy Plover and California Least Tern.
SACNAS - The National Diversity in STEM conference
Size matters: comparative morphology of Rockfish Urogenital Papilla
Rockfishes are a popular recreational and commercial fishery in California. Rockfish catches account for 20% of the state’s commercial harvest, which contributes $550 million dollars annually to California’s economy. As an economically and ecologically important fishery, regulatory agencies monitor the status of rockfish populations. However, there is no accurate method to identify sex, data that has important implications for fishery management. The objective of our study is to increase our understanding of rockfish reproduction by characterizing the male urogenital papilla of various rockfish species in order to establish a reliable method of externally identifying sex in the field. Rockfishes [starry (Sebastes constellatus), vermilion (Sebastus miniatus), squarespot (Sebastes hopkinsi), blue rockfishes (Sebastes mystinus)] were collected in southern California via hook and line. Gonadal tissues and genital papilla were dissected and preserved, then embedded in paraffin wax. Tissues were sectioned using a rotary microtome, stained, and histologically examined. Additional specimens were borrowed from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County for external measurements. We have determined that the morphology of the urogenital papilla is species-specific and can be used to accurately identify males. Our future work includes describing the morphology of additional rockfish species to develop a comprehensive tool for fishermen and agency biologists.
Behavioral responses of cultured white abalone (Haliotis sorenseni) to predatory sea stars in a laboratory experiment
White abalone (Haliotis sorenseni) was listed as federally endangered in 2001. Current conservation efforts include outplanting cultured abalone to enhance wild populations. However, one challenge to the success of these efforts is the high risk of predation on captive-bred abalone, which are naïve to predators. This study aimed to investigate whether cultured white abalone exhibit defense responses when exposed to a predator, if those defenses allow the abalone to escape, and whether the abalone escape more quickly after multiple encounters. In a laboratory experiment, cultured white abalone were exposed to a predator, the Giant Spined Star (Pisaster giganteus), over three consecutive five-minute trials. The type and duration of abalone behaviors were recorded throughout each trial, and then compared to those observed during a control trial where abalone were touched by a non-biological sponge, as well as a baseline trial with no stimulus applied. The abalone altered their behavior when exposed to P. giganteus relative to control and baseline trials, effectively breaking contact with the sea star by twisting (i.e., successive rotation of the shell) and galloping (i.e., rapid directional movement). They also escaped more quickly after the initial trial. These results indicate that cultured white abalone have an innate ability to recognize and respond to predators, and they can learn to escape more effectively through repeated encounters with predators. Predator exposure in the laboratory prior to outplanting may thus improve their survival in the wild.
Examining past climate conditions using trends in diatom speciation
2019 AGU Annual Meeting
The biogeochemistry of devonian barite and limestone formations in North-Central Nevada
Large, sedimentary barite deposits are found worldwide, yet the biogeochemical processes that formed these unusual beds are not yet fully understood. These beds are important because Earth’s biogeochemical history via barite has the potential to be a model on which to base the analysis of evolving environmental conditions and their impact on biological and chemical processes on extraterrestrial targets. because a model of aberrant rock or mineral formation can be used to consider geochemical reactions occurring on extraterrestrial targets. In addition, the isotopic compositions recorded in barite may be used to elucidate biochemical reactions, specifically bacterial sulfate reduction and anaerobic methane oxidation. This study is focused on large barite depositsbarite that formed on a continental slope along an active tectonic margin during the Antler Orogeny in north-central Nevada. These deformed beds are located at open-pit mines of the Roberts Mountain Allochthon and are found as meter-scale layers interbedded with chert and phosphorite-nodular chert. Sulfur and, carbon , and oxygen isotope data support a model where disseminated barite is remobilized in organic-rich and highly reducing sediments, barium is transported by methane seeps, and barite is precipitated at and below the seafloor. Depleted δ13C values point to a carbon source influenced by subsurface anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM). δ34S values enriched up to by approximately 20‰ above contemporaneous seawater indicate a sulfate source linked to differing rates of bacterial sulfate reduction (BSR). Fossils of Dzieduszyckia—a brachiopod known to have inhabitedseep inhabiting brachiopodseeps—further supports a seep setting. Petrographic analysis reveals various textures within the barite, indicating different stages of diagenetic alternation. The isotopic, petrographic, and stratigraphic Together, the data gathered on Devonian barite and limestone show that methane seeps support a variety o fvarious organisms, serve as a preserved record of different metabolic forcing of sulfate reduction BSR and AOM, link primary large barite deposition with methane flux, impact the diagenetic alteration of barite fabrics, and cause a complex paragenetic sequence of barite mineralization.
The Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
Evaluating the Importance of Reef-Based Resources for Reproduction in a Temperate Reef Fish
California sheephead are among the most ecologically important fish on temperate reefs in California and Mexico, yet little is known about their reproductive ecology. Environmental factors can affect reproductive success in fish populations in a variety of ways, including by affecting diet. The goal of this study was to determine if any differences in reproduction among populations of California sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher) were related to differences in diets among them. We measured the prey availability, diet composition, and batch fecundity of California sheephead on three large reefs within the Southern California Bight. Reproductive output, diet, and prey availability all differed between years, implying that variation in prey availability affected diet, which affected reproductive output. Understanding how changes to kelp forest habitat impact reproductive output can aid in future management efforts of economically and ecologically important species of fish.
Society for Marine Mammalogy
Feeling out your food: a histological analysis of the whisker system in seals
The vibrissal (whisker) system is present in nearly all mammals and is especially important in deep-diving mammals. Pinnipeds have specialized whiskers that are richly endowed with mechanoreceptors and are highly innervated, indicating that they are sensitive sensory structures. Despite the biological importance of the vibrissal system, we have little comparative data across pinniped species. In pinnipeds studied thus far, each vibrissal unit consists of a follicle sinus complex characterized by a three-part blood sinus system: the upper cavernous sinus (UCS), ring sinus (RS), and lower cavernous sinus (LCS). The UCS is unique to pinnipeds and lacks innervation. Based on this lack of innervation, we hypothesize that the UCS plays a thermoregulatory role, insulating temperature-dependent mechanoreceptors. The objectives of this study are (1) to measure and compare the relative lengths of the three sinuses (UCS, RS, and LCS) across pinniped species and (2) to examine the UCS as a thermoregulatory structure. To do this, we are measuring and comparing the relative lengths of the UCS in deep-diving polar Weddell seals ( Leptonychotes weddellii), deep-diving temperate northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris, NES), and shallow-diving temperate harbor seals (Phoca vitulina). Skin tissue samples from the vibrissal pads were collected from Weddell seals (n=6), NES (n=4), and harbor seals (n= 2) that died in the wild or during rehabilitation efforts. Individual vibrissal follicles were removed and histologically processed using standard methodology. We expect that the species faced with the coldest environment at depth will have the longest UCS. This represents the first study to characterize the microstructures of the vibrissal system in Weddell seals and the first study to investigate the UCS as a thermoregulatory structure. Temperature regulation of the mechanoreceptors on the vibrissae directly impacts foraging ability. Therefore, maintaining the functionality of this system under cold conditions is imperative for foraging success.
American Fisheries Society and The Wildlife Society 2019 joint annual conference
Anthropogenic changes to habitat, including increased demand for freshwater and the introduction of non-native predators, has negatively impacted many aquatic species. In the Sacramento River, Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) population declines have prompted the need to better understand the high rates of mortality associated with the early freshwater stages of their life cycle. Altered landscapes may lead to elevated predation by piscivorous species, specifically, the introduced Striped bass (Morone saxatilis) and the native Sacramento pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus grandis) further depressing at-risk juvenile salmon survival. This study examines the location and occurrence of predation in three one-kilometer study sites within a ten-kilometer reach of the upper Sacramento River. Predation Event Recorders (PERs) are utilized to evaluate predator species preying upon juvenile Chinook Salmon and how environmental factors such as river flow, water temperature, and the presence of artificial structures affect these predation rates. Data collected from PERs are used to quantify predation rates and generate a predation hotspot map; highlighting areas of the river that may require remediation. Quantifying juvenile salmon mortality caused by predation can allow for a more accurate understanding of the contribution predators play in continued population declines and provide information necessary for the recovery of this species.
Western Society of Naturalist 100th annual meeting
Habitat specific variation in diet composition and associated life history traits of Garibaldi in California
Within the Southern California Bight (SCB) there are a number of natural and manmade rocky reef habitats both of which provide structure for an array of marine organisms. One of these manmade structures is breakwaters, constructed from quarry stone usually rising 15 to 25m from a sandy sea floor to well above the surface. Although breakwaters are found in similar areas to natural reefs we are still not entirely sure how differences between the two reef types may affect fish diet. One fish commonly found on both breakwaters and natural reefs in the SCB are Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus), a species of protected rocky intertidal damselfish. Adult Garibaldi defend year round territories restricted to a single reef which they depend on for benthic prey such as: bryozoans, hydroids, copepods and anemones. Because Garibaldi are isolated to feeding within a single reef it is a good candidate species to study the possible differences breakwaters and natural reefs may have on diet. To assess how Garibaldi diet differs from natural to breakwater habitats we will sample fish from 3 locations, each one having one breakwater and natural reef site. Collections of 10 male, 10 female, and 10 juvenile fish will be made at two depths (5m, 10m) for each location. We will measure total length, gonad weight, gut and liver weight as well as extract the otoliths for ageing. Using a dissection microscope Garibaldi stomach contents will be separated into prey item classes to discover if habitat specific variations in reef type significantly alters diet and what implications that may have on life history characteristics.
Western Society of Naturalists 100th annual meeting
Speciation of circumtropical species, Micromelo undatus
Acteonoidea is a superfamily of shelled sea slugs which includes the families Acteonidae, Aplustridae and Bullinidae. Members of Acteonoidea have been traditionally classified based on morphological features, resulting in their original placement in Cephalaspidea because of the presence of a headshield. However, recent molecular studies have indicated that their morphology may be homoplastic and have reclassified Acteonoidea into a more basal group sister to Nudibranchia. Few detailed taxonomic studies have addressed the relationships between families and genera in this group. This study will build a molecular phylogeny based on a number of specimens from localities around the globe using two mitochondrial genes (16S and CO1) and one nuclear gene (H3). The goal of this analysis is to attempt to reconcile molecular and morphological data and determine the relationships among members of Acteonoidea. Specifically, it will examine whether Bullinidae is a valid family or is a member of Aplustridae. Preliminary data shows Bullina to be nested within Aplustridae and as a sister group to Micromelo. A second goal of this study is to determine whether Micromelo undatus is truly a circumtropical species or if there is undescribed cryptic diversity. Preliminary results indicate a species complex within Micromelo undatus. Molecular data will be supplemented with a morphological examination of radulae, shells, and other anatomical details.
American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting
Ecosystem modeling to facilitate ecosystem-based management of Atlantic Menhaden
Many fisheries management agencies are trying to shift from managing based on single-species reference points to managing based on ecosystem-based reference points. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) manages one of the most abundant forage species on the US East Coast (Atlantic Menhaden Brevoortia tyrannus), and they are working to identify potential ecological reference points (ERPs) which account for Menhaden’s role as an important prey species in the system. To aid in the evaluation and development of ERPs for menhaden, we built and updated an Ecopath with Ecosim ecosystem model of the Northwest Atlantic Continental Shelf. We quantify ecosystem tradeoffs associated with alternative management strategies to better understand direct and indirect impacts of Menhaden fishing on the biomasses and yields of menhaden and other key species in the system. Model simulations suggest that a number of economically important predators are impacted by changes in fishing pressure on Menhaden, including Striped Bass Marone saxatilis. We highlight how Atlantic Menhaden serves as a case study for how ecosystem models and ERPs can facilitate the inclusion of broader ecosystem-based considerations into fisheries management.
American Fisheries Society and The Wildlife Society 2019 Joint Conference
Coho salmon life history variants in Humboldt Bay tributaries: population connectivity in adjacent watersheds
The decline of Coho Salmon in California is the result of various anthropogenic effects across the landscape, affecting all stages of their anadromous life history. Monitoring a subset of the remaining populations, and defining the appropriate scale for this monitoring, is essential to evaluate the success of management actions and develop new restoration projects. As salmon habitat becomes more fragmented through human actions, the need to better understand potential interactions between connected salmonid populations only grows. Coho Salmon life-cycle monitoring projects in California track the abundance of juveniles and adults over time in selected focal watersheds. If individuals frequently leave these watersheds for rearing or spawning, the abundance estimates might not accurately reflect the production and survival of individuals originating from the focal watershed. To address this issue, I will assess movement among watersheds on Humboldt Bay, in cooperation with the ongoing life-cycle monitoring effort at Freshwater Creek. Using PIT tags and mark-recapture multi-state modeling, I will quantify the frequency of juvenile and adult movement among Freshwater Creek and two other Humboldt Bay tributaries. If there is significant movement between these watersheds, effective management and monitoring strategies of Freshwater Creek may need to be expanded to include nearby streams.
Effects of beach structure and sediment characterization on meiofaunal diversity along the California coast
Estimates of diversity and the intricate ways in which communities are shaped by their environment have been of interest to science long before the idea of biodiversity was formally acknowledged. Meiofauna represent the polyphyletic group of infaunal microscopic organisms whose body size allows them to pass through a 500μm mesh net but be retained by a 20μm mesh net (Mare 1942). Due to their small size and taxonomic obscurity, they remain a fundamentally understudied group despite their integral position at the base of the sandy-beach food web and close association with the surrounding environs. To study the distribution of meiofaunal communities with respect to community composition, sediment samples were taken along the length of the California coast and analyzed using high-throughput sequencing techniques. Sediment characteristics and beach morphodynamic profiles were analyzed to link differences in community structure to possible abiotic drivers. Ultimately, the results of this study will provide a detailed and unprecedented description of meiofaunal composition and abundance along a highly variable and biodiverse coastline, and allow for the formation of hypotheses specific to meiofauna, which have been classically lumped in with more easily studied macrofauna despite vast differences in biology, life history, and tolerance to environmental stressors.
SACNAS Diversity in STEM Conference
Physiological and reproductive responses of an intertidal rockweed to conditions associated with sea level rise: assessing the potential for local adaptation to a changing world
Organisms in the intertidal zone experience terrestrial conditions during low tide emersion and are submersed in seawater during high tide. These organisms are threatened by sea level rise (SLR) which could reduce emersion time by over 50% over the next 100 years. Using a manipulative field experiment, we are assessing the impacts of SLR conditions on the canopy-forming seaweed Pelvetiopsis californica. We hypothesized that individuals would perform more poorly under SLR conditions than normal conditions. At two southern California sites, we established three treatments: marked in place individuals (transplant controls: MP) were not moved; middle-zone transplant individuals (MZ) were relocated at the same tidal elevation; and below-zone transplant individuals (BZ) were moved to a lower tidal elevation, exposing them to shorter emersion times (= SLR conditions). We assessed health through monthly measurements of length, branch number, cover of epiphytic seaweeds (which grow on the host and block it from gaining light and nutrients) and Maximum Quantum Yield, a measure of photosynthetic potential. After four months, we saw reduced performance in the SLR condition treatment relative to the non-SLR treatments. The proportion of individuals infected with epiphytic seaweeds in the BZ treatment was over three times the proportion in the MZ or MP treatments, and individuals in the BZ treatment were reduced, on average, to 75% of their original length: 8.75% greater loss than in the MZ treatment. These data indicate substantial risk of SLR to seaweed populations and may help managers develop mitigation efforts for this important intertidal producer.
Western Society of Naturalists Annual Meeting
Exploring novel food webs prior to top predator recovery
National American Fisheries Society Conference Annual Meeting 2019
Comparing environmental DNA and traditional monitoring approaches to assess the outmigration of Coho Salmon in California coastal streams
Environmental DNA has the potential to dramatically increase the information available to managers regarding species distribution and abundance. Populations of Coho Salmon in Northern California are listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened and are a ecological and cultural resource that comprise a fundamental component of riverine ecosystems. Collection of reliable and timely survey information on fish abundance is essential to monitor population trends and the effectiveness of restoration efforts. We examined the feasibility of implementing an environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling program in California streams by concurrently estimating eDNA concentration and abundances ofoutmigrating salmon using traditional monitoring approaches. Water samples, water-quality, and flow information were collected during the Coho Salmon smolt season on two coastal creeks in Humboldt County, CA. Over two spring migration seasons (March-June) in conjunction with downstream migrant trapping, water samples were collected and filtered through multiple filter types to test differences in DNA yield. Extracted DNA were amplified using qPCR and a species specific assay. Preliminary results indicate high variability of DNA concentration both within sites and between sites for each creek, which resulted in low correlations between eDNA concentrations and traditional abundance estimates. This presentation will focus on the methods, analysis, and results of the study and make recommendations to managers regarding the utility of eDNA monitoring for abundance assessments. Our results contribute to a growing body of evidence on the dynamics and understanding of eDNA in aquatic habitats.
The 7th International Symposium on Deep-Sea Corals
Deep Sea Coral and Sponge Species Distribution Models for Southern California
Deep-sea coral and sponge species (DSCS) are some of the longest-lived marine species and their complex, three-dimensional structure provides habitat for demersal fish and invertebrates. Until recently, the relationship between DSCS and fish species in the Southern California Bight was not fully understood; however, recent work on benthic assemblages in Southern California revealed relationships between several DSCS and demersal fishes. Habitat suitability maps, which predict where these DSCS species may occur, are needed to understand what areas of suitable habitat are currently protected and what areas are still exposed to potential destruction. In this study, we used Generalized Additive Models (GAMs) to identify environmental factors that are the best proxies for predicting DSCS occurrence. We explored seven main categories of environmental variables which have been hypothesized or demonstrated to affect the distribution of DSCS species of interest. These variables include (1) bottom currents using Regional Oceanographic Modeling System, (2) temperature, (4) depth, (5) seafloor slope, (6) surface primary productivity, and (7) dissolved oxygen. All variables were chosen due to their influence on DSCS physical and/or metabolic needs. We then used these models to develop habitat suitability maps for several species of DSCS that were associated with increased occupancy of 26 species of demersal fishes. These maps expand the current knowledge of DSCS distributions in southern California and provide a tool to inform management decisions, such as where to draw boundaries for new areas of conservation and protection.
Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
Developmental ontogeny of Giant Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
The Giant Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas, is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN, and is the largest bony fish of the coast of Southern California. After fertilization Giant Sea Bass, larvae develop in the plankton, but little is known about their early life history stages or what mechanisms drive their recruitment. This study aims to examine, in detail the first critical stages of this species including the egg, yolk sac, pre-flexion, flexion, post-flexion, and the transformation stages. I will be imaging the eggs and larvae using Zen software. Once this is completed the fixed larvae will be dehydrated and cartilage will be stained with Alcian Blue. Following the staining of the cartilage the bone will be stained using Alizarin Red. After the staining is complete and skeletal data collected, some specimens will be destained and then preserved. These will be used to analyze neurological development in the future. Knowledge of these developmental stages will give us a better understanding of what is driving Giant Sea Bass larval recruitment, thus allowing better protection of nursery areas and rational fisheries management.
Western Society of Naturalist 100th annual meeting
Habitat use patterns of Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus) on natural and artificial reefs in Southern California and potential implications on reproductive success
In southern California there is a need to understand the ecological variation between natural reefs and artificial reefs, and how this relates to their physical structural differences. The Los Angeles Harbor breakwall is an artificial reef that provides a high relief rocky reef structure which has relatively consistent habitat features across a depth gradient from the surface typically down to 15 or 20 meters where the quarry rock meets a sandy bottom. Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus) is a protected marine damselfish found in southern California from 0-25m in depth. Territorial males prepare and defend a nest consisting of different red algae to attract females. Previous studies have indicated that females prefer nests with higher area of dense turf algae. Here we examine depth specific patters of Garibaldi habitat use and nest characteristics, as an initial part of an investigation of habitat quality of natural and artificial rocky reefs. We used a scuba diver operated stereo-video system to collect data on fish size structure, density, nest, and habitat characteristics across a depth gradient, and to determine if there is a correlation between male body size and nest area. We alsoused more traditional scuba-based survey methods to sample nest algal composition, and other nest and general habitat characteristics to compare techniques to quantify reef characteristics. Data from Los Angeles Harbor breakwall indicates that Garibaldi size structure varies with depths, and that these differences are correlated with multiple nest characteristics.
National AFS Conference
Recolonization potential for Coho Salmon in California tributaries to the Klamath River above Iron Gate Dam
Four major dams on the Klamath River are slated for removal in 2021, restoring access to hundreds of miles of potential habitat for anadromous fishes. The coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) in the Klamath River are classified under the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast evolutionarily significant unit as a threatened species. We are using physical habitat and biological features of three major tributaries to the Klamath River above the dams to assess available habitat and its fundamental capacity to support coho salmon post dam removal. The intrinsic potential (IP) modeling approach developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the habitat limiting factors model (HLFM) developed by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) will be utilized to assess habitat. In addition, we are developing an occupancy model using a Bayesian approach and data from reference sites below the dam and from other watersheds to estimate the potential distribution and abundance of juvenile coho salmon at the sites. Results from this analysis can be used to make management decisions for habitat restoration efforts and future coho salmon population goals.
Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists: American Elasmobranch Society
Habitat characteristics of catshark oviposition sites and potential nursery grounds off central California
Catsharks (Scyliorhinidae) are the most speciose family of extant sharks; however, there is a paucity of information known about their life histories. Three deepsea scyliorhinids occur in the waters off central California; brown (Apristurus brunneus), longnose (Apristurus kampae), and filetail (Parmaturus xaniurus) catsharks. It is necessary to determine essential fish habitat of these scyliorhinid species and their nursery grounds for improved fisheries management as free-living catsharks and catshark egg cases are often incidentally caught as bycatch in commercial fisheries. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to determine and compare spatial and habitat associations of these catsharks’ oviposition locations. Subsequently we can infer locations of nurseries where certain habitat types are used consistently and where egg cases occur in high densities. Archived video of the seafloor collected primarily in Monterey Bay by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and the National Marine Fisheries Service, Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s Fishery Ecology Division (NMFS-SWFSC-FED) were used to collect spatial and habitat information and to identify eggcases to species. Video from MBARI and SWFSC showed eggcases were commonly observed at depths between 101-524 m. Video footage has revealed that A. brunneus and P. xaniurus preferentially deposit their eggs within the Monterey Submarine Canyon specifically by wrapping egg case tendrils on sessile invertebrates, rocky outcrops, or derelict fishing gear. Apristurus kampae eggs do not have tendrils and have not yet been observed. Preliminary results indicate that sponges are used preferentially as oviposition sites for both A. brunneus and P. xaniurus.
SETAC North America 40th Annual Meeting
Estuarine ecosystems have historically faced severe degradation, and traditional restoration techniques that use man-made structures have been scrutinized for their ecological damage. Living shorelines, using objects such as oyster beds, reduce shoreline erosion and are a supplement to man-made structures while also restoring ecological communities. Living shorelines were established in Upper Newport Bay (UNB, CA.) in 2016 to restore native Olympia oysters, Ostrea lurida. One goal was to understand potentially important factors for optimal restoration conditions for O. lurida, including effects of plot design and sublethal concentrations of existing pollutants. Current methods used to evaluate oyster health include recruitment and size; however, these metrics cannot anticipate sublethal stress effects prior to impacts on survival or fitness. Instead, high-throughput transcriptomic techniques are powerful tools for assessing organismal health. This study will use whole transcriptome analysis and modeling to examine oyster health. Specifically, it will describe differential gene expression observed between (Aim 1) oysters recruited to beds in the presence or absence of neighboring eelgrass and (Aim 2) oysters with varying organic or inorganic pollutant burdens. I have already sampled gill tissue from oysters recruited to UNB shorelines and from oysters maintained under clean conditions for three months to act as contaminant free controls for Aim 2. I have also gained preliminary results on pollutant burdens that may be present in UNB oyster tissue. This research will provide deeper understanding into the dynamic relationship between estuaries such as UNB and pollutants, and their influence on O. lurida conservation. Additionally, it will help inform future restoration strategies and support genomic analysis as a formidable tool for evaluating the health status of wild populations.
Western Society of Naturalists Annual Meeting
Testing the effects of recovering sea otters on seagrass ecosystems in Southeast Alaska
Over time, the loss of a top predator can alter communities, ecosystem function and resilience. The purpose of this study is to investigate how the recovery of sea otters (Enhydra lutris), as top predators, effect their invertebrate prey within a seagrass (Zostera marina) ecosystem in southeast Alaska. Previous work in southeast Alaska has determined that sea otters and seagrass are positively associated, but what is unknown are the trophic mechanisms underlying this relationship. We conducted a reciprocal transplant experiment to test for the effects of sea otters on eelgrass communities. By moving seagrass in areas with l9w sea otter abundance to high sea otter abundance, and vice versa, we aim to determine the drivers of associations between sea otters and eelgrass. This experimental design allowed for a cagefree design in order to minimize cage artefacts. We also conducted benthic invertebrate surveys of crab and clams in eelgrass communities within our transplant experiments.and adjacent seagrass beds to quantify trophic interactions. Here we present our preliminary results testing for the trophic effects of sea otters in eelgrass communities. Future efforts will aim to synthesize sea otter impacts to seagrass systems across their entire range.
Eastern Pacific Ocean Conference, Mt. Hood, OR
Benthic microplastic distribution in Humboldt Bay, northern California: a comparative study of surface sediments based on proximity from the shore
Plastic production and use has increased steadily over the last century primarily because of plastic’s resistance to corrosion and low production costs. Plastics enter the marine environment from non-point sources such as rivers, wind, and fishing activities, and point-sources like sewage treatment plants, dumping, and landfills. This research focuses on microplastics (MPs), specifically those within the size range of 0.335 to 5 mm, because of the uptake potential by detrital and filter feeding organisms. Quantifying the amount of MPs in the marine environment is crucial because bioaccumulation of plastics in marine life can affect humans who consume marine organisms. This study compares the concentration of MPs in sediments between the intertidal and subtidal environments of Humboldt Bay, California. We hypothesized that the intertidal samples would have higher MP concentrations due to their proximity to shore and increased anthropogenic activity. Sediment samples were collected using hand corers in the intertidal region and a Smith McIntyre grab in the subtidal region. Organic material in the samples was oxidized using 30% hydrogen peroxide, then a density differentiation technique was used to separate plastics for further microscope identification. Preliminary results show that about 95% of MPs found in sediment are microfibers and the remaining 5% of MPs are degraded hard plastic. To date, more MPs have been found in the subtidal region than the intertidal region, with 980 MP particles recovered in the subtidal region and 340 MP particles recovered in the intertidal region. This study confirms the presence of microplastics within Humboldt Bay, and defines their distribution with proximity to shoreline. These results can be used by the community to update recycling practices, wastewater treatment procedures to mitigate microfibers, and raise awareness about marine life ingestion of plastics.
American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC
Vascularization of male blue rockfish (Sebastes mystinus) urinary bladders
Rockfish support one of the largest fisheries in California. Due to overharvesting, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife began closing the fishery from January to February in 2002 to protect females giving birth. Many male species of rockfish including blue rockfish (Sebastes mystinus) display courtship behavior prior to copulation. It has been hypothesized that pheromones may be released in the urine during courtship, thus playing a role in mate selection. In another scorpaeniform, pheromone release from the urinary bladder is associated with arterial vascularization. We hypothesized that male blue rockfish urinary bladders would be larger and have more vascularization than females. Male blue rockfish (21.23 ± 0.89 cm SL; mean ± SEM; n = 6) had urinary bladders that were 1.87 ± 0.53 cm in length, whereas females (24.33 ± 1.41 cm SL; n = 6) had urinary bladders that were 1.87 ± 0.53 cm in length. Male urinary bladder somatic index (urinary bladder weight/body weight; UBI) was significantly (p = 0.004) greater than female UBI (male 0.162 ± 0.019%, female of 0.022 ± 0.005%). Additionally, erythrocyte clusters (i.e., blood cells within arteries) were counted within the urinary bladder lumen. Males had significantly (p < 0.0001) greater vascularization within the urinary bladder (males 109.33 ± 4.72 clusters in cross section of the bladder, females 25.17 ± 1.66 clusters). This study increases our understanding of rockfish reproduction and provides a novel approach in investigating pheromone release in teleost fish.
Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Indianapolis, IN
The implementation and use of next generation science standards-based tactile models in the K-12 educational system
In recent years, there has been a lack of Earth and Space Science (ESS) education in the K-12 system, furthermore the vast majority science education classes have centered on passive learning through lecture and textbook assignments. Scientific lab classes are often taught with well laid out science experiments that give little room for deviation from the expected outcome. This ultimately leads to a deficient understanding of how science is conducted in the real world and a high failure rate of STEM fields at the college and university level. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) intends to correct the shortfall of science education by encouraging active participation and collaboration in the classroom. Within these new standards, ESS is given the same amount of content as the typical core sciences of Chemistry, Biology, and Physics. The development and usage of models to represent Earth’s processes are another benefit of the NGSS which helps students become an active participant in the classroom. This project focuses on the construction of three Earth science models for use in the K-12 classroom: an ocean garbage patch model, a glacier model, and a sinkhole model. Models are an important way for students to connect to processes that are too large, too slow, or too far away for students to observe on their own. Therefore this project also includes the design of NGSS-aligned lesson plans to accompany these models that aim to engage students in the scientific method; observation, testing, and proving a hypothesis.
American Geophysical Union, Washington D.C.
Using physical and chemical sediment characteristics to distinguish fluvial and oceanic event deposits within mid-shelf depocenters
Continental shelf stratigraphy can preserve a high-resolution record of episodic events driven by terrestrial, oceanographic and/or climate processes. Along river dominated margins, episodic events often result from fluvial floods, which produce distinct deposits on the shelf. However, for the small mountainous river systems along the US Pacific coast, storms also drive energetic ocean conditions that can increase sediment remobilization from waves and currents. Presumably, deposits from fluvial floods and wave-supported remobilization events would impact seabed processes differently, and these differences may inform our understanding of the role event deposits play in biogeochemical processes and stratigraphy. In this study we demonstrate a means by which these different types of episodic event deposits may be distinguished based on physical and chemical sediment characteristics. We collected and analyzed cores from the Monterey Bay shelf along the central California coast, focusing on areas proximal to the Salinas and Pajaro Rivers. Sediment analyses included bulk density, sedimentary fabric (CT imagery), grain size, X-ray diffraction (XRD), and X-ray fluorescence (XRF). Age control was provided through 210Pb/137Cs and 14C geochronology. We identified two-types of event deposits: Type 1, identified in upper sections of both cores, is characterized by uniform 210Pb activity with depth, increases in coarse silt and fine sand, yet lacks discernable sedimentary fabric such as bedding or laminations. Type 2 was defined primarily by sedimentary fabric (sharp contacts and internal laminations), alternating high and low bulk density layers, and increases in sand. Both types display a change in element concentrations from non-event deposition, however the changes in elemental composition are different between the cores reflecting a unique watershed signal. The Type 1 deposits we interpret to represent the combined effect of fluvial floods and shelf remobilization in wave-supported gravity flows that occurred from oceanic floods during the strong El Niño winters in the 1980s and 1990s. Type 2 deposits represent rapid settling out of terrestrially derived plumes from extreme fluvial floods such as those in 1861-1862. This study demonstrates the possibility of distinguishing between fluvial flood and wave remobilized event-deposits along the mid shelf. This distinction may provide insight into event frequency, as well as a basis to understand how these different types of episodic events may impact biogeochemical cycles.
Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Tampa, FL
Stayin’ alive? Assessing the ability of an intertidal seaweed to recover from repeated exposure to desiccation and high temperatures during low tide
Silvetia compressa, a canopy-forming alga, plays a vital role in rocky intertidal ecosystems as a primary producer and habitat for animals. Intertidal organisms are under seawater at high tide and exposed to terrestrial conditions at low tide. Stressors such as wind and heat during low tide can negatively affect algal physiology and subsequently biomass and canopy cover. We manipulated hydration level (values down to 17% wet mass) and body temperature (low mean = 22.79°C, high mean = 30.49°C) over two simulated low light low tides, and monitored the effect on biomass and maximum quantum yield (MQY: a measure of photosynthetic potential) over three days of recovery in simulated high tide conditions. At the end of the second low tide, hydration status was positively correlated with MQY in both low (r = 0.92) and high (r = 0.94) temperature treatments. Following 84 hours of recovery, biomass loss was minimal and not strongly associated with low tide temperature or desiccation and negative effects of desiccation on MQY disappeared, but on average, MQY in high temperature treatments was only 91.6% of that in low temperature treatments. Temporary MQY decreases following low tide desiccation indicate a reduced ability to produce sugar which could affect growth. Repeated exposure to warm low tides could slowly lower an individual’s maximum attainable photosynthetic potential. The combination of dry and warm days could ultimately lead to a decrease in canopy cover, exposing understory organisms to harsh low tide conditions with long term effects on community structure and function.
Filtration along a reticulated mesh, anatomy predicts feeding ecology in neonatal whale sharks, Rhincodon typus
The largest fish in the ocean, Rhincodon typus (Whale Shark), is one of three filter-feeding sharks. While a few studies have predicted the filtration mechanism used by R. typus, none of these studies have successfully verified this mechanism in either a live or model animal. In addition, no studies have predicted the prey selectivity in a neonatal whale shark. The objective of this study was to explore how the morphology of the filter pad separates food particles from the water. We documented the filter anatomy in neonatal whale shark specimens and calculated the freestream and transverse flow through the buccal cavity and filter pores respectively. We then created anatomically correct, scaled 3D physical models of the filter pad reticulated mesh and inserted the printed filters into a physical model of a whale shark buccal cavity. We ran a series of filtration experiments using microspheres (60 μm - 340 μm) that represent the full size range of potential zooplankton prey. Modeling the neonatal specimen allows us the rare opportunity to study feeding mechanisms in an animal that is CITES protected and rare in aquaria. Understanding the mechanism of filtration and prey selectivity in neonatal whale sharks helps to predict their ecology and likely habitat usage in the wild.
National Conference on Undergraduate Research, Kennesaw, GA
Say cheese: utilization of trail cameras brings new monitoring techniques to endangered shorebird recovery on Ormond Beach
The Pacific coast population of the western snowy plover (WSP) (Charadrius nivosus nivosus) is a small shorebird that nests and winters on the west coast beaches of North America. Although the species has evolved to survive in a dynamic beach environment, it was listed as federally threatened in 1993 because of low population numbers due to loss of habitat, human disturbance, and predation. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recovery plan requires nesting outcome to be tracked to monitor progress towards species recovery goals. Standard methods rely on human-orientated monitoring instead of utilizing available technology to remotely track nesting outcome.
Trail cameras were used concurrently with traditional techniques for the 2018 nesting season on Ormond Beach in Oxnard, California. Nearly 4,000 hours were logged with over 100 predator sightings. Twelve out of 35 nests had cameras for the entire brood cycle (28 days) and one had a camera for part of the time. Out of these nests, cameras captured a definitive outcome for 67% of them (8 nests) including exact time of hatch (4 nests). Depredation of chicks was documented for 2 nests after hatching. Monitors directly witnessed only 32% of outcomes (7 nests). Two were observed actively hatching, four were seen with chicks in or near the nest, and one was spotted depredated. The remaining nest outcomes were established using deduction (68%).
Eastern Pacific Ocean Conference, Mt. Hood, OR
Distribution of microplastics at the surface and within the water column in Humboldt Bay, northern California
Plastic is a commonly used, man-made material that is highly durable, easy to produce, and used widely throughout society. The persistence of plastics results in their introduction to the oceans via river runoff from urban and industrial areas, intentional dumping, and fishing practices. This study investigates microplastics (MPs) in the size range of 0.335 to 5 mm. MPs directly affect marine ecosystems, as they are mistaken for food by marine organisms and are then transferred to humans when we consume seafood. MP concentration in the water column can vary due to river input, tidal flux, and source proximity. We hypothesized that the highest concentration of MPs within Humboldt Bay (HB) in northern California would be found in the harbor entrance (Entrance Bay), which is adjacent to a sewage treatment plant and near a solid waste transfer station. We surveyed MP concentrations within the water column and surface layer in the three sub-basins of HB. Surface and water column samples were obtained using 0.335-mm mesh neuston and ring nets, respectively. Organic material in the samples was removed via oxidation with 30% hydrogen peroxide. Density separation techniques were then used to separate plastics for microscope analysis. Preliminary results do not support our hypothesis, as air-sea interface MP concentrations are highest in North Bay (6.25x10-5 ± 4.03x10-5 plastic particles per liter (ppL)), followed by South Bay (3.48x10-5 ± 1.04x10-5 ppL), and lowest within Entrance Bay (2.23x10-5 ± 0.87x10-5 ppL). Within the water column, the highest average concentration of MPs was found in South Bay (5.81x10-5 ± 11.89x10-5 ppL), with lower concentrations in Entrance Bay (1.46x10-5 ± 0.84x10-5 ppL) and North Bay (1.21x10-5 ± 0.87x10-5 ppL). This study can help the public understand the quantity of plastic contained within HB, where it is most concentrated, and possible mitigation practices.
Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography Aquatic Science Meeting, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Characterization of ocean conditions in Monterey Bay, CA to support fisheries ecosystem research
Prevailing ocean conditions were characterized as part of NOAAs National Marine Fisheries Service 2018 Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment survey conducted along the California coast. Seventeen stations within Monterey Bay and the adjacent coast were sampled 7-9 June. It was expected that nekton abundance would be related to the underlying ocean conditions and chlorophyll-a (chl) concentrations. At each station, a sampling rosette equipped with a conductivity, temperature and depth (CTD) package was deployed to a maximum depth of 500 meters. Discrete water samples were collected for analysis of in vitro chl. At three locations, epipelagic micronekton were sampled by midwater trawl. Patterns of relatively cold water (11C) and elevated salinity (>33.8), indicative of upwelling, were observed in northern Monterey Bay. A north–south gradient of increasing chl from <5mg/m3 to >10 mg/m3 was observed. Greater than 80% of chl was found in cells >5-um diameter in the northern bay while in the south, only half were found in in cells >5-um. North-south declining abundance trends of the squid Doryteuthis opalescens and euphausid Thysanoessa spinifera were observed across the three trawl stations. High abundances of two jellyfish species, Chrysaora fuscescens and Aurelia spp. were encountered within Monterey Bay and interfered with trawl operations. At the three trawl stations that were sampled the highest abundances of jellyfish were found in the north. These results suggest that nekton and jellyfish abundances were not positively associated with elevated chl.
Benthic Ecology Meeting, St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada
Evaluating the Labrisomus xanti populations on Santa Catalina Island by determining age, size ranges, densities, and habitat preference
In 2015 a strong El Niño Southern Oscillation event began affecting the NE Pacific Ocean. With increasing water temperatures, new marine species were able to expand north of native ranges and settle in new habitats. Santa Catalina Island, specifically, became home to many new species of fishes. The first sighting of the species Labrisomus xanti, or largemouth blenny, on Catalina was October 2015 and since that time these blennies have been sighted around the island. To investigate whether this species has established on Catalina, largemouth blennies were counted, sized and their sex was reported at three sites along the island. At each site, transects were placed at depths ranging from 1.5 to 6meters. Substrate type (sand, gravel, cobble, boulders 10-100cm, bench) was recorded along each transect. Observations showed that there are multiple size ranges among sites, depths and sexes of largemouth blennies. Individuals were then collected and aged based on otolith extractions. We found a significant difference in densities among sites and habitat preference was significant based on substrate. These densities, ages and habitat preferences are important observations because if largemouth blennies are established and settling permanently on Catalina they may begin competing with native species for territory and resources.
The political ecology of Richardson Bay
Collaborative effort: designing and building wave-following structures to study wave-driven turbulence in the San Francisco Bay area and Delta
Heat sock proteins in Tigriopus californicus
Do Tegula react to different predators based on their history of exposure to those predators
Knowing your customers: observing variation between fish assemblages and clientele of the Hawaiian cleaner wrasse
The impact of ocean acidification and increased temperature on eelgrass (Zostera marina) and associated fauna
Ecomorphology of sympatric penguins
In situ pH measurements using self-calibrating IrOx electrodes
Exploring human perceptions and conflict surrounding human-seal use of beaches in La Jolla
Moray eel neuroanatomy and spatial cognition: cross species examination of Rhinomuraena quaesita and Anguilla anguilla
Something in the water: environmental DNA profiling of tide pool biodiversity
Affects of deuteration on deep eutectic solvents
Testing for microplastics and glyphosate contamination levels throughout the conventional and organic brewing processes
Monitoring water quality in Ballona Creek Lagoon: nitrate level fluctuation in low and high tide conditions
Particulate phase extraction of chemicals of emerging concern from human waste in water