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CMBC Researchers Share Ocean Protection Council Award

Four researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego were awarded a collective $1 million in funding to study topics ranging from saltwater bass populations to coastal cliff erosion.
The awards from the Ocean Protection Council (OPC) are part of a larger grant to fund coastal and ocean management research projects in California. OPC was created in 2004 to help protect, conserve, and maintain healthy coastal and ocean ecosystems and the economies they support. The OPC works with diverse interests and provides the leadership needed to meet the accelerating and complex challenges of our time as set forth in the California Ocean Protection Act.

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Knowlton/Jackson Distinguished Speaker: Dr. Rashid Sumaila

January 11, 2019

Title:  Interdisciplinary collaborative ocean economics research with examples from the ‘ocean trenches’.
Abstract
Dr. Rashid Sumaila is Professor and Director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries & School for Policy and Global Studies, University of British Columbia. He specializes in bioeconomics, marine ecosystem valuation and the analysis of global issues such as fisheries subsidies, illegal fishing, climate change and oil spills. Sumaila is widely published, with over 230 articles in peer-reviewed journals, including in Science, Nature and the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management. Sumaila has won a number of awards such as the 2017 Volvo Environment Prize; the 2017 Benchley Oceans Award in Science, the 2016 UBC Killam Research Prize, and the 2013 American Fisheries Society Excellence in Public Outreach Award, the Stanford Leopold Leadership Fellowship and the Pew Marine Fellowship. Sumaila was named a Hokkaido University Ambassador in 2016.

Alumni Speaker: Sheila Reddy, Ph.D. is Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives, Chief Strategy Office, The Nature Conservancy. Sheila is leading an initiative to transform how we measure conservation impact using remote sensing and artificial intelligence. She also supports strategy development by ensuring strategy teams have the science they need, especially sciences newer to conservation such as economics and other behavioral sciences.
Title: New Science and Technology for Conservation Solutions

3:00 – 5:00 P.M.
Robert Paine Scripps Seaside Forum Auditorium
More details here:  https://scripps.ucsd.edu/centers/cmbc/about/events/

Registration is required:  https://cmbc-2019-sumaila.eventbrite.com

 


 

Fighting for the Ocean

How can we use the ocean without using it up? This is the primary question that Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is addressing through her work in the realm of ocean science and policy.

CMBC alumna Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. Photo: Erika Johnson/UC San Diego

Johnson is a woman of many talents: she’s a marine biologist, policy expert, conservation strategist, and graduate of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego (MS ’09, PhD ’11), where she studied marine biology through the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (CMBC). She’s also the founder and CEO of Ocean Collectiv, a strategy consulting firm for ocean sustainability grounded in social justice.

The impressive alumna and Triton 40 Under 40 recipient returned to campus on Sept. 26 to serve as keynote speaker at the Scripps Student Symposium (S3), an annual research conference organized by Scripps students. Now in its sixth year, the symposium features presentations and poster sessions designed to showcase the breadth of Scripps research to the new class of students.

Groupers on the Comeback in the Caymans

(From Reef Environmental Education Foundation eNews) REEF’s Grouper Moon Project, ongoing since 2001, was recently featured in Scientific American as a model for natural resource science. The project is a powerful collaboration between scientists at REEF, Cayman Islands Department of Environment, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Oregon State University, with input from Caymanian fishermen and support by local businesses. The work has connected cutting-edge science with the real-world need for understanding and protecting Nassau Grouper and their spawning aggregations. The full story, “Groupers on the Comeback in the Cayman Islands”, is available on the Scientific American Blog here.

Expedition to Unlock Secrets of Deep Dutch Caribbean

Explorer on the shore of uninhabited Klein Curaçao with R/V Chapman in the distance. Credit: Uncharted Blue

On August 27 a team of scientists and explorers will travel aboard the R/V Chapman to the uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao as part of a series of oceanographic expeditions designed to document the health and biodiversity of shallow and deep reef ecosystems. The expedition will explore the mesophotic zone — the furthest the sun can penetrate the ocean. “These areas are at the cutting edge of coral reef science as they are very poorly studied and are often made up of species of corals, fish and invertebrates that are totally new to science. It is becoming increasingly clear that mesophotic reefs are diverse and serve many critical ecosystem functions yet they are threatened by many of the same stressors as shallow coral reefs including coral bleaching, ocean acidification and sedimentation. It is essential that we better understand how deep mesophotic reefs function so that we can develop strategies to protect them before it is too late,” says Dr. David Kline, a lead scientist on the expedition and Research Biologist at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

This will be the inaugural expedition in a series led by Uncharted Blue, a new organization, founded by CMBC Alumni.  Uncharted Blue connects adventure seekers with world renowned scientists and marine technology to fuel exploration of uncharted ocean destinations.

Read more: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/uncharted-blue-expedition-to-unlock-secrets-of-deep-dutch-caribbean-300701594.html

Benthic Ecology Class Blogs

As an assignment for this year’s benthic ecology class,  Lisa Levin asked the students to create a science blog.  The topics cover changing coral reefs and their ecosystems services, climate change and the toxic relationship in corals, the loss of Mexico’s mangrove forests, jellyfish as a cuisine,  “marine vomit” and more.

These are now posted on the CMBC Blog: A View from the PIER.
We hope you find these entertaining and educational.

 

Congratulations to MAS-MBC students

Nineteen Master of Advanced Studies in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation successfully presented their capstone research at a the annual symposium earlier this week.

If you missed any part of the day long event, it has been recorded and is available here: http://blink.ucsd.edu/technology/media/services/webcast/scripps/scripps-2018.html

For a list of this year’s capstones and order of presentation, please visit: https://scripps.ucsd.edu/centers/cmbc/about/events/

How “Marine Vomit” is Slowly Destroying this New England Fishery

Benthic Ecology blog post by Christina Jayne

It’s easy to see why this sea squirt is called “Marine Vomit” (Columbia.edu)

Ithaca, NEW YORK – What is slimy, squishy, less than an inch long, and grows by forming a carpet of individuals on the sea floor off New England? It’s an invasive sea squirt — called “Marine Vomit”, of course. And one species in particular has taken over 140 square miles of sea floor on Georges Bank, an important scallop fishery for all of New England.

 

What in the world is a sea squirt?

Sea squirts, also known as tunicates, are sac-like filter-feeding animals that attach themselves to the sea floor or any hard surface. Tunicates are colonial organisms, growing in clusters that can expand to form large mats, covering the bottom

Tunicates come in all colors (britannica.com)

A group of scientists lead by Katherine Kaplan and Patrick Sullivan at Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources have recently published two papers which have studied the invasion and spread of “marine vomit”, also known as the carpet sea squirt (Didemnum vexillum) throughout Georges Bank, an area important for supporting the lucrative scallop fishery. What they’ve found so far may dishearten local fishermen whose livelihoods depend on the Georges Bank.

What makes it invasive?

You may have heard the term “invasive” before, but what does that mean for an ecosystem? Scientists use the word invasive to describe a species that is living in an area outside its native range, and in many cases, may be found overgrowing or out-competing the native species. Many invasive species were brought to new regions by humans, both intentionally and  unintentionally. Invasive species have been known to wreak havoc on native ecosystems, and in case of the carpet sea squirt, Kaplan’s team has discovered it has altered animal community structure and created an additional headache for humans by growing on boat hulls and aquaculture equipment.

Where did it come from?

Researchers believe the carpet sea squirt is native to Japanese waters, and most likely came to the Atlantic on boats or on the shells of oysters brought to the Gulf of Maine for aquaculture. This species has been transported to many coastlines and has become a nuisance around the world.

The invading sea squirt was first observed at Georges Bank in 2000, and now covers an estimated 140 square miles of sea floor. Georges Bank is a large elevated portion of the seafloor, spanning an area larger than the state of Massachusetts. For over 400 years, Georges Bank supported one of the most productive fisheries for Atlantic cod and halibut, but as new bottom trawling methods were employed, these fishes were quickly wiped out, along with deep water corals and sponges that created habitat structure for other species. Now, portions of Georges Bank are federally protected and closed to fishing, but fish stocks have not recovered and the only viable fishery is for the Atlantic sea scallop (Placopecten magellanicus). Kaplan, on the hunt for the invaders, wanted to analyze a region that encompassed both closed and open areas on the bank, to understand the effect of bottom fishing on the scallops and the invasive tunicates.

Her team surveyed the target area using a unique image mapping system in which a camera is towed behind a boat and all the images taken are stitched together using computer software to create a visualization of the area. Kaplan hypothesized that bottom-fishing would have a negative impact on the scallops, and that the invaders would have a negative impact on the scallops. She was right in both cases.

With the invasive tunicate covering the bottom, juvenile sea scallops can no longer attach to the sea floor, and those that find a clear patch are often quickly covered by the invader, which smother the scallops and weigh them down, preventing their escape from predators (yes, scallops can swim) and inhibit their feeding. Kaplan’s team also found that areas open to fishing had lower densities of sea scallops.

Kaplan wanted to find if the presence of the carpet sea squirt altered the community structure and abundance of other organisms on the bank. She found the invader’s presence was negatively correlated with the Atlantic scallop, barnacles, sea urchins, and a tube anemone.

However, the invader encouraged an increased abundance of crabs, burrowing worms, and sea stars. Overall, Kaplan found that the presence of the invader sea squirt reduced biodiversity, and concluded the invader may be even worse for the region than bottom fishing, as in areas where the invader coated the sea floor, no other species were found. She found this result across the study area, as fishing protection did not make a difference.

Abundance of the sea squirt (red) and sea scallop (blue), with closed fishing area in grey. (Katherine Kaplan).

Researchers and fishermen alike are concerned for the Atlantic scallop fishery. Dockside values of North Atlantic fisheries are estimated at $800 million, with much of the production coming from the Georges Bank region. Not only does the carpet sea squirt reproduce and grow rapidly, it has no predators and continues to spread in the North Atlantic. New Zealand has had limited success trying to eradicate their own invasive population, and while covering the sea floor with various tarps or other methods may inhibit the invader, it also negatively impacts the native organisms. It seems the best approach is to educate those who might accidentally transport it elsewhere, to prevent its spread to other regions. Researchers like Kaplan and Sullivan will continue to track the presence of invaders, and hopefully international effort will help prevent the spread of other invasive species around the globe.

References

Kaplan, K.A., D.R. Hart, K. Hopkins, S. Gallager, A. York, R. Taylor, P.J. Sullivan (2018). Invasive tunicate restructures invertebrate community on fishing grounds and a large protected area on Georges Bank. Biological Invasions 20: 87.
Kaplan, K.A., D.R. Hart, K. Hopkins, S. Gallager, A. York, R. Taylor, P.J. Sullivan (2017). Evaluating the interaction of the invasive tunicate Didemnum vexillum with the Atlantic sea scallop Placopecten magellanicus on open and closed fishing grounds of Georges Bank. ICES Journal of Marine Science 74(9).
“Atlantic:  Georges  Bank” Marine-Conservation.org
https://marine-conservation.org/media/shining_sea/place_atlantic_georges.htm
“Geology and the Fishery of Georges Bank” USGS Fact Sheet https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/georges-bank/

scripps oceanography uc san diego