As you may have noticed on my last post, I am now down in UNC Wilmington working as a post-doctoral research associate. I have been here about 2 weeks, but most of my time has been reading and writing. Luckily, yesterday I was able to get outside into the sunshine and get into the water. Well, mostly into the water.
I went out with some of the hatchery crew down at the Center for Marine Science . We were looking for broodstock scallops for spawning in the hatchery. Scallops in North Carolina spawn usually twice a season – once earlier in the summer and then once again in the fall. So we went out to collect some. Now this is different from any of the times I went searching for scallops in New York , where we would do surveys and collect scallops via SCUBA. Down here in North Carolina, we find a spot at low tide and just crawl around on our hands and knees and feel for them. It might not sound efficient, but with all the river input and soft bottoms, you can’t really see anything if you had a mask anyway.
But it was cool and totally refreshing to get out of the office. And we were a little successful, finding almost 100 scallops to bring back to the hatchery. The site was interesting, it consisted of small marsh islands and oyster reefs surrounded by patches of seagrass, which wasHalodule wrightii, also known as shoal grass. It is very short, so it doesn’t seem like the ideal seagrass for bay scallops, which typically use seagrass as a spatial refuge from predators, and yet, in my qualitative assessment, most of the scallops were found in the seagrass. There was lots of life around these islands, most of which we could not see. But here were a few stingrays, and some other assorted fish that we couldn’t get a good look at, hermit crabs, lots of oysters and clams, and lots of tulip shell snails. Of course, I grabbed few specimens for my collection.
When we returned, we had to clean the fouling organisms off the scallop shells, which consisted mostly of Crepidula sp. and oysters, with some tunicates thrown in.
All in all, it was a good day, and nice to be out of the office for a change. Hopefully, we will use some of the larvae and juveniles for a number of flow speed experiments. I can’t wait to get out in the field again and start some experiments.
So I spent the last few weeks attending conferences (and, actually leave Sunday for another one). First, I spent time in Norfolk, Virginia, at the Benthic Ecology Meeting. While there, I saw many good presentations, and learned many new things. First, I learned that my former student Kate Lavelle (well she was an undergrad who worked on my project), who is now completing her Master’s work at the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, gets to do awesome things in submersibles! I went to a bunch of talks regarding trophic ecology – including ones about predation as well as non-consumptive effects, and luckily my talk was on the first day in the Trophic Ecology session. I talked about using back of the envelope calculations to get an idea whether or not we would expect to see scallops on the bottom based on predator density and habitat complexity. I think it went well. But the one thing I took home from that talk was hope you don’t have to talk at the same time as Emmet Duffy, as it is my understanding that about everyone else at the conference was at his presentation. I saw a couple of cool talks about species interactions and their importance in the context of ocean acidification, including one by my labmate, the illustrious Amber Stubler. I also saw a very interesting talk by Paul Gribben from Australia about a species of seagrass which actually leads to enhanced predation on clams. Weird! I also attended plenty of seagrass and restoration talks. And of course, the Film Festival, which you can watch all the videos here.
Then I headed to Seattle for the National Shellfish Association meeting. That was pretty good as well, but between 3 days of talks previous to that and the jet-lag from flying across the country, it was hard to absorb any information. I was able to catch a few interesting plenary talks, including one by Ray Hilborn and another by Bruce Menge. Otherwise, I went to a lot of restoration talks, most of which focused on oyster reefs, which were useful since it seems like I might be doing some of that this summer in Shinnecock Bay. There, I essentially gave the last talk of the conference, about multiple predators and impacts of habitat complexity, which I think went well. I also learned that Seattle is very hilly, more-so than I would have imagined, but it also has a really awesome bar called the Taphouse Grill, which had 160 beers on tap! Overwhelming! But all in all, a good trip.
Now, I have to prepare my presentation for the United States chapter of the International Association of Landscape Ecology meeting in Newport, Rhode Island, which I give next Monday morning! Uggg! Why did I think it was a good idea to give 3 different presentations at 3 different conferences in a 3 week span? I guess it’s kind of my going away party, as I am planning on graduating this summer. July defense!
So we landed in Jamaica this afternoon. When we left New York it was below freezing, and when we arrived in Jamaica it was over 80 Fahrenheit, so that was a nice change. It was about an hour (exciting) bus ride from the Montego Bay Airport to the Discovery Bay Marine Lab, where we will be staying for the next 17 days. We took a little tour of the facility, had excellent dinner, and then met with the class to go over the syllabus. It is intense. We essentially are fitting a 3 credit course into 2 and a half weeks, and the next 4 days are going to be intensive lectures, because the meat of this course is in student run projects and experiments, so we want them to have as much time as they can get to work on data collection. So, I am trying to squeeze a basic intro to ecological thought into 100 slides for my lectures tomorrow (haha try that!), so that the terms we will used throughout won’t be foreign to the students. Then, I am giving lectures on marine algae, coral reef fish ecology, seagrasses, mangroves, and food webs. Within the next 3 days. So yeah, I’ll be as busy as the students.
We’ll be going snorkeling tomorrow, so stay tuned for pictures of that. Well I hope. Internet here is slow and spotty, so most of my pictures will likely have to wait until I make it back home. But I can’t wait to use my home made slurp gun, aka yabbie pump, to try and catch marine critters (you can watch a build your own video here). Yes!
Blogger DNLee, biologists and outreach scientist, has started a Donor’s Choose page to help raise money to get inner city schools supplies and gear they need to teach science lessons in the classroom. You should all check it out, pick the classes/lessons you like and donate what you can! Danielle’s goal is $2000 raised. Let’s give it a shot!
Over at the UnderwaterTimes and Discovery News, I came across this interesting piece. Researcher Giacomo Bernardi from the University of California, Santa Cruz recently documented and published a paper describing video evidence of wrasses apparent forward thinking and tool use. The researchers describe a species of wrasse, and orange-dotted tuskfish, Choreodon anchorago, that finds clams by digging in the sand and then swimming with the clam until they find a rock large enough to crack the clam shell. Tool use by this group of fishes has been described since the early 1990s, and as recently as a few months ago, photo evidence of a different species of tuskfish using rocks to crack clam shells surfaced (hat tip to Animal Wise for that link). It is a pretty exciting find, requiring some forward thinking.
My apologies for not being posting the last few weeks. Things have been pretty hectic. As you might remember from my last post, I attended the Benthic Ecology Meetings a few weeks back, where I ran into Southern Fried Scientist and Why Sharks Matter. The Benthics were full of great talks on a variety of topics. I gave a talk in a special brevity session in which you were only allowed 5 minutes and 5 slides to work with, and 10 minutes were left for questions/discussion. It was a little intimidating, but I figured that I would give it a shot. I talked about the “Cochlodinium Conundrum” I posted about a few weeks ago, and I received some real positive feedback. So the meeting was very good, and I learned a lot. But it was also exhausting. Three days of talks and poster sessions takes a lot out of me. Then, I danced so much at the banquet my legs were sore the next 2 days. Between the talks, dancing, and flying, I had to take off work the next day and just recover. The rest of that week, I had some things to get done, but also 4 fantasy baseball drafts, which required both time and effort.
This past Monday I caught the earliest flight down to Baltimore for the National Shellfish Association annual meeting. That was quite a treat. The way this meeting is set up, they have plenary speakers every morning. While I missed Dr Rita Colwell, I was able to attend each of the remaining plenary addresses, including one on ocean acidification by Dr Michael Lesser, one on variability by Dr Donal Manahan, and on the last day, a very good talk by Dr Brian Rothschild about overfishing. In addition to the plenary talks, there were a couple of special sessions that I was particularly interested in – one on blue crabs and one on ocean acidification. The blue crab session was informative, as one last thing I want to investigate before I leave Stony Brook is issues of blue crab recruitment and survival, as their populations are increasing in abundance in New York waters. And OA is interesting as it has serious implications for many marine fauna. I also gave a talk at Shellfish, this one about scallop recruitment to artificial seagrass and specifically about edge effects. It was well received, and I am hoping to have the manuscript submitted by the end of this week (stay tuned). So all in all, I was very pleased with these two meetings, but now its time to get back to the grind.
Craig over at Neuromancy is a neuroscience PhD student and blogs about his field and just science topics in general he wants to talk about. Good site, go check it out.
The group of ladies over at The Birds, the bees and feeding the world blog about science that is related to survival on the planet, and how to use science “to tackle the world’s problems.” Another excellent blog, so definitely check it out.
That sounds and looks scary! Squidworm. It’s almost like something Tim Burton would conjure up. Discovered by a team of scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the squidworm is an annelid worm – similar to earthworms. However, this creature is from the deep. And it has up to 10 squid like tentacles, which gives this creature both its unique look and its name. This organism hails from the depths of the Celebes Sea, between the Philippines and Indonesia. It swims using a series of paddles along its sides and its tentacles are specialized for touching and smelling. They feed on a rain of detritus (one of my favorite marine bio terms, and wouldn’t that make for an awesome heavy metal band name?), aka, marine snow – a rain of particles consisting of (but not limited to) sinking plankton, fecal matter, mucus, dead stuff, etc. You can read all about this discovery here.
Those are two characters from a series of books by Suzanne Tate. They are pretty good, and geared toward children. I have read one of her books, Skippy the Scallop, to kindergarten classes the last two years. Its one of those things I try to do from time to time.
But I digress. Crabby and Nabby are blue crabs. And that relates to my research how? Well I decided a logical step in the progression of my research was investigating blue crabs as scallop predators. This isn’t new. What is new, however, is that blue crab abundance has exploded on Long Island. Now, NY is certainly within the range, but toward the northern limits of their range. With warming temperatures, the blue crab populations are growing here on Long Island. This can create a problem with the scallop restoration efforts here. Why? Well, blue crabs are voracious bivalve predators, and they recruit to submerged aquatic vegetation, and especially seagrasses like Zostera marina. These are the very same habitats to which scallops recruit. So it is entirely likely that the increase in blue crabs in NY will have a significant impact on bay scallops, based on the available literature. That being said, no one has investigated blue crabs in Long Island. So one step of my research is now investigating where the blue crabs are recruiting in a south shore lagoon estuary, Shinnecock Bay. I have been doing this for the last two weeks, but will continue to monitor 3 times a week through October. At these same sites, I am monitoring bivalve recruitment to see if indeed scallops and blue crabs are recruiting to the same areas. Then I will do some mesocosm predation experiments with varying complexities and investigating the canopy of vegetation as above bottom refuges for scallops from the swimming crabs. All in a days work!
I am a marine biologist that is currently attending graduate school at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Marine Sciences Research Center, of Stony Brook University, New York. I am very interested in marine ecology and have been focusing my studies on bay scallop interactions with their habitats. I plan to investigate various anthropogenic impacts on bay scallop populations for my PhD dissertation. This blog will highlight the details of my graduate research, from bay scallop-eelgrass interactions as previously mentioned, to alternative habitats for scallops, such as Codium, to trophic cascades, and more. Enjoy!
Is a useful experimental tool to mimic natural seagrass while controlling many factors, such as density, canopy height, leaf number, which are usually confounding in natural eelgrass meadows.
Scallops seem to love this stuff!