Recent News

2019 Warren McLeod Fellowship Winners

By Grace ChuMarch 22nd, 2019

Congratulations to the following students who were chosen to receive the prestigious Warren McLeod Fellowship awards!
Emily Chua – Annual Award Winner
Nicola Kriefall – Summer Award Winner
Tina Barbasch – Summer Award Winner
Robin Francis – Summer Award Winner
James Fifer – Summer Award Winner
Claudia Mazur – Summer Award Winner

Emily Chua – Annual Award Winner
For my Ph.D. research, I am developing an underwater instrument to investigate biogeochemical processes occurring in sandy marine sediments. These sediments are prevalent in coastal areas and are key sites of nutrient recycling and removal, acting as a filter of reactive nitrogen from the coastal ocean. Currently, very little is known about the direction and magnitude of nitrogen fluxes in sandy sediments. Such information is important given that human inputs (e.g., sewage, fertilizers) are perturbing coastal ecosystems, with potentially adverse consequences on the functioning of marine sediments. This knowledge gap is due to the fact that it is notoriously difficult to sample in sandy sediments. Previous sampling methods fail to accurately represent the natural flow of water through sandy beds. This “porewater advection” is important in transporting solutes in sandy sediments and must be accounted for in order to accurately estimate chemical fluxes. My Ph.D. research addresses this pressing research need. Specifically, I am helping to develop a POrewater Sampling System/Underwater Mass Spectrometer (POSSUMS), and using it to conduct some of the first in situ biogeochemical measurements in sandy sediments. This novel instrument is designed to make direct measurements of biogenic gases (e.g., N2, O2, Ar, CO2, CH4) dissolved in the porewater of sands with minimal disturbance to ambient flow fields. So far in the project, I have focused on developing a prototype built by our engineering collaborators at SRI International (St. Petersburg, FL). Over the Warren-McLeod fellowship year, I will carry out the first scientific applications of the POSSUMS through a series of lab experiments and field deployments which are aimed at better constraining biogeochemical cycling in sandy sediments.
Nicola Kriefall – Summer Award Winner

Severe tropical cyclones, among many other climate change stressors, currently threaten reef-building corals in the Caribbean Sea. Storms can damage reefs asymmetrically, with reef zones exposed to distinct degrees of physical damage, turbidity, and storm-water runoff. Mounting evidence suggests that algal & bacterial communities hosted by corals play important roles in coping with environmental stressors and can differ significantly across reef zones. However, almost nothing is known regarding the impact of tropical storms on coral-hosted communities, especially in the context of these divergent reef environments. In my current research, I aim to elucidate whether coral-hosted communities from divergent reef zones in the Florida Keys were differentially impacted by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Tissue samples from two coral species (Siderastrea siderea and S. radians) at three paired inshore-offshore transects were collected prior to, directly after, and in the years following Hurricane Irma. By using 16S & ITS2 metabarcoding to identify the members of the bacterial and algal communities present in each coral sample, I will be able to detect shifts in community compositions and whether these shifts differed across reef zones. This summer, I will conduct my final sampling collection, mentor an undergraduate student in final sequencing library preparation and bioinformatic analyses of the sequencing data, and begin manuscript preparation. This study will reveal whether microorganismal communities underpinning coral health appear altered, resistant, or resilient in the face of severe storm disturbance events projected to intensify over the coming century.

Tina Barbasch – Summer Award Winner

Conflict is a pervasive feature of animal societies. Conflicts arise whenever the interests of interacting individuals are not wholly aligned, yet many social interactions require individuals to reach some compromise. Parental care is a classic example of an interaction that is rife with conflict yet requires cooperation because both parents benefit from shifting the burden of care to the other. The outcome of conflict between parents has been modeled using economic game theory models, which assume that individuals act in their best interest but that their optimal behavior depends on how others behave. Studying how conflict among caring parents is resolved is critical to understanding why animals, including humans, form such alliances.

The goal of my research is to test plausible alternative hypotheses for the factors that govern how parents negotiate the amount of care to provide to their offspring, and create a more general framework for understanding conflict resolution. To accomplish this goal, I will build on existing empirical and theoretical work to test alternative hypotheses for how parents negotiate care utilizing a tractable study system: the clown anemonefish. Experiments will be conducted in a natural population of anemonefish (Amphiprion percula) in Papua New Guinea. The anemonefish system allows tests of alternative hypotheses simultaneously, where previous studies have only tested them in isolation. Furthermore, the majority of negotiation studies have been conducted in birds, so developing A. percula will function to test the generality of theoretical predictions. In sum, my research uses a tractable study species together with a rigorous alternative hypothesis testing approach to determine the factors that influence the outcome of negotiations. This research will help to create a more general framework for studying conflict resolution and potentially transform our understanding of negotiations over offspring care.

Robin Francis – Summer Award Winner

My research is concerned with understanding fish population persistence through the framework of marine metapopulation dynamics from the starting point of reproductive output. Metapopulation ecology provides a framework in which to parameterize how populations persist: a population must be able to self-replicate, or be connected to other population to re-populate. These criteria are first and foremost controlled by per capita rate of reproduction. My research focuses on (1) determinants of an individual’s reproductive success, (2) the determinants of interdependence of a population’s total reproductive success, and (3) the informative determinants of reproductive success for many taxa of fishes. I aim to address these objectives by performing empirical studies of two emerging model systems: the line-snout goby Elacatinus lori and the clown anemonefish Amphiprion percula.

Individual reproductive success is often highly variable, due to various influences. Focusing on a single model system, E. lori, I aim to measure various characteristics at multiple levels within the system to determine what best predicts determinants of reproductive success.

Collective reproductive output between populations is also often variable. I aim to determine the spatial and temporal determinants of patch-wise independence (i.e., spatial-autocorrelation) in both a continuous reef system (E. lori) and a fragmented reef system (A. percula). This analysis will demonstrate if fish reproductive output may be correlated in space and/or time and how this determines the total number of independent patches within a metapopulation network.

In summary, the objective of my dissertation is to test assumptions regarding reproductive output of populations, the spatial-temporal independence of populations, and investigate the relationship between multiple determinates of reproductive success and realized reproductive output for fishes in general. It is my goal to produce results that will enhance our understanding of reef fish metapopulation dynamics and inform reserve design.

James Fifer – Summer Award Winner
There is a recent trend of species’ range shifts as a consequence of climate change-related stressors. This includes a consistent poleward shift in response to warming. These expanded populations can create socio-political tensions between states and even across countries as commercially relevant species, and those species that provide habitats for them, modify their ranges without respect for political boundaries. Range expansion also alters the community structure of other species already native to the expansion front and can lead to reduced genetic diversity of the expanding species, in turn potentially limiting the ability for the species to adapt and persist in their new environment. By using population genomic tools we can provide insight into the ecological and evolutionary processes that govern an expanding population.
My goal is to address the consequence of range expansion in coral populations. Given corals are major habitat builders, a range shift for these organisms can have cascading impacts on dependent species, populations and ecosystems. Their sensitivity to temperature and rapid dispersal capabilities mark corals as candidates for range expansion under predicted future warming. Additionally, the survival of coral species under a changing climate might depend on their ability to successfully shift their range. I am studying the important reef-building coral Acropora hyacinthus in Japan, where populations have shown recent northward expansion. I will investigate changes in genetic diversity and putative genes targeted by selection in these expanding coral populations to shed light on the evolutionary processes underlying successful coral expansion.

Claudia Mazur – Summer Award Winner
I use biogeochemistry and ecology to examine critical coastal problems and to evaluate how our actions impact the sustainability and resiliency of these environments. Specifically, I study nitrogen cycling in coastal marine sediments because N is an essential nutrient for primary productivity. However, excess N loading from human activities like fertilizer runoff, and wastewater treatment discharge can lead to a series of negative consequences. These consequences include harmful algal blooms, low oxygen conditions and decreased biodiversity. To reduce these impacts, I want to understand the environmental conditions that drive the pathways of N retention (dissimilatory nitrate (NO3- reduction to ammonium (DNRA)) and removal (denitrification) in coastal systems. One such environmental condition influencing these processes may be the presence of iron (Fe). The purpose of my research is to determine how Fe2+ oxidation rates alter the sediment microbial community composition and rates of N retention and removal costal sediments.
This summer I will conduct my field work in an Fe rich, shallow, temperate, estuary (Waquoit Bay, MA) to explore these questions further. I will collect sediment samples along a gradient of high to low concentrations of Fe. I will use these samples to (1) quantify seasonal rates of sediment Fe2+ oxidation, denitrification and DNRA, (2) determine how concentrations of Fe2+ and NO3- alter rates of denitrification and DNRA and (3) characterize the potentially active sediment microbial community. Research regarding the coupling of Fe and N cycling is critical to assessing coastal N budgets in similar coastal environments experiencing hypoxic/anoxic conditions. Furthermore, by understanding the factors that influence processes such as denitrification and DNRA, we can better predict the fate of nutrients and productivity in coastal sediments. Ultimately, my research will contribute to our understanding of coastal marine nutrient cycling while protecting our dynamic coasts.

We’re hiring!

By Julia HammerFebruary 28th, 2019

We are looking for instructors for two courses to be taught in the 2019 Marine Semester.

Lecturer for Tropical Marine Fisheries

The Marine Program at Boston University invites applications for a part-time Lecturer beginning October 1, 2019 to teach a Tropical Marine Fisheries course. We seek a colleague with a strong commitment to undergraduate education and a track record of excellence in teaching. Responsibilities include revising the existing course to reflect current fisheries issues, correspondence with other Marine Semester instructors to help in planning travel logistics, and teaching a research-based course in Boston and Belize. See full details here

Lecturer for Marine Megafaunal Ecology

The Marine Program at Boston University invites applications for a part-time Lecturer beginning September 1, 2019 to teach a Marine Megafaunal Ecology course as part of the Marine Semester. The Marine Semester is an intensive research-based semester offered to Marine Science majors, minors, and graduate students. We seek a colleague with a strong commitment to undergraduate education and a track record of excellence in teaching. Responsibilities include correspondence with partners to plan course logistics and teaching a research-based course. See full details here

Microplastics discovery made by BUMP Seniors

By Julia HammerFebruary 27th, 2019

Hayley Goss and Jacob Jaskiel, both seniors majoring in Marine Science, made the discovery that microplastics have made their way to the very base of the food chain.

“Originally, Goss and Jaskiel were collecting seagrass blades with the intention that, back at Rotjan’s laboratory in Boston, they would count up the number and different kinds of epibionts—the “salad dressing”—on each blade.

“We brought back 16 different blades from different seagrass beds, and we thought all we were going to do was taxonomically characterize the organisms we found on them,” Jaskiel says. “In addition, the number of parrotfish bite marks on each blade would help us quantify which blades were most appetizing.”

But that’s not what happened. Instead, Goss had a sample under the microscope when she caught sight of something alien.

“I had the scope open and I saw a very thin, bright red fiber,” Goss says. “I said to Jacob, ‘Hey, take a look at this.’”

Jaskiel peered into the microscope and did a double take of his own. “Right away, I saw it.” It was undeniably a fiber. A microfiber, made of plastic, by the looks of it. But…how?”

Microplastic Pollution Found in Seagrasses

3rd Annual Night at the BU Aquarium

By Julia HammerFebruary 11th, 2019

Join us for touch tanks, lab tours, prizes, and more!

Currently looking for artists to participate in our marine-inspired popup gallery. All mediums welcome! Please contact Julia Hammer Mendez at hammer@bu.edu for more information.

Chris Reyes wins the first Lara Vincent Research Assistance Award

By Julia HammerFebruary 8th, 2019

Congratulations to Chris Reyes (BUMP ’19) for winning the Lara Vincent Research Assistance Award!

Carbon dioxide emissions, responsible for keeping the Earth warm, have increased considerably since the 1700s and are negatively affecting organisms all over the world. These emissions are not only causing global ocean temperatures to rise, but also resulting in reductions in seawater pH, termed ocean acidification (OA). We conducted a controlled 16-day laboratory experiment to investigate the effect of pH stress on the common slipper shell snail Crepidula fornicata, an abundant and resilient species native to Eastern North America. We aimed to determine how the physiology and gene expression of these snails is affected by OA and how these responses differ between larvae and juveniles. To assess the effects of OA on the physiology of the snails, we measured shell and tissue growth rates and assessed ability of larva to transition to juvenile under three different pH treatments (7.5, 7.6, 8.0). I am currently analyzing gene expression results in order to profile genome-wide gene expression and correlate it with the physiological data across treatments and life stages. I hope to show how transcriptomic plasticity, the ability for genes to express differently as a function of the environment, can allow highly resilient organisms like C. fornicata to acclimate to drastically altered environmental conditions in the face of climate change.

Chris will use the award to offset publication costs for an upcoming submission to Frontiers in Marine Science.

Fall 2019 Marine Semester Applications now online

By Julia HammerFebruary 4th, 2019

To enroll in our highly acclaimed Marine Semester, click here now!

Marine Semester courses are field and lab-intensive experiences – each lasting for one month. Students are able to choose between 3-4 courses each month to do cutting edge research, get hands on experience, and learn from experts in the field.

 

Warren McLeod Fellowship Winners

By Grace ChuMarch 21st, 2018

Congratulations to the following students who were chosen to receive the prestigious Warren McLeod Fellowship awards!

 

Tina Barbasch – Annual Award Winner

Fieldphoto2

“Conflict is a pervasive feature of animal societies. Conflicts arise whenever the interests of interacting individuals are not wholly aligned, yet many social interactions require individuals to reach some compromise. Parental care is a classic example of an interaction that is rife with conflict yet requires cooperation because both parents benefit from shifting the burden of care to the other. The outcome of conflict between parents has been modeled using economic game theory models, which assume that individuals act in their best interest but that their optimal behavior depends on how others behave. Studying how conflict among caring parents is resolved is critical to understanding why animals, including humans, form such alliances.

The goal of my research is to test plausible alternative hypotheses for the factors that govern how parents negotiate the amount of care to provide to their offspring, and create a more general framework for understanding conflict resolution. To accomplish this goal, I will build on existing empirical and theoretical work to test alternative hypotheses for how parents negotiate care utilizing a tractable study system: the clown anemonefish. Experiments will be conducted in a natural population of anemonefish (Amphiprion percula) in Papua New Guinea. The anemonefish system allows tests of alternative hypotheses simultaneously, where previous studies have only tested them in isolation. Furthermore, the majority of negotiation studies have been conducted in birds, so developing A. percula will function to test the generality of theoretical predictions. In sum, my research uses a tractable study species together with a rigorous alternative hypothesis testing approach to determine the factors that influence the outcome of negotiations. This research will help to create a more general framework for studying conflict resolution and potentially transform our understanding of negotiations over offspring care.”

 

Karina Scavo – Summer Award Winner

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Mangrove habitats have recently been proposed as climate refuges after reef coral species survived a bleaching event on nearby reefs. For this mangrove-refuge hypothesis to be true, mangroves must act as ecological sources, which would entail that they can support viable and self-sustaining coral populations, and that individuals within mangrove and reef habitats can acclimate to each habitat. This work seeks to shed light on this mangrove-refuge hypothesis by determining the long-term growth, survival, and self-recruitment capacity of a mangrove population of the thin finger coral,Porites divaricata in Calabash Caye, Belize. It also seeks to explore how these demographic processes are affected by spatial variation in the mangrove environment. This work will also explore the degree to which mangrove and reef colonies P. divaricata individuals can acclimate to a different habitat both at the morphological and molecular level, by evaluating how/if colony form and gene expression are altered after being transplanted to different environments. While evidence for the mangrove-refuge hypothesis is growing, the capacity for mangroves to act as a source has yet been studied. This work will help test the validity of the mangrove-refuge hypothesis and may be critical to the design of marine protected areas by revealing the significance of protecting and preserving the connectivity between mangrove and coral reef habitats which could have profound implications for future reef recovery.”

 

 

 

Emily Chua – Summer Award Winner

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“For my Ph.D. research, I am helping to develop an underwater instrument to investigate biogeochemical processes occurring in marine sediments.  The sediments are key sites of nutrient recycling and removal and act as a filter of reactive nitrogen from the coastal ocean. Human perturbations (e.g., sewage discharge, warming water temperatures) are affecting coastal ecosystems with potentially adverse consequences on the functioning of marine sediments.  Currently, very little is known about the direction and magnitude of nitrogen fluxes in the sandy sediments which are prevalent in coastal marine ecosystems. This knowledge gap is due to the fact that it is notoriously difficult to sample in sandy sediments.  Previous sampling methods fail to accurately represent the natural flow field of the interstitial water. This “porewater advection” is important in transporting solutes and reaction end-products in sandy sediments and must be accounted for in order to accurately estimate chemical fluxes.  In collaboration with SRI International (St. Petersburg, FL) and Skidaway Institute of Oceanography (SkIO), I am working on a porewater sampler coupled to an underwater mass spectrometer – the POSUMS – which measures the concentrations of biologically-important dissolved gases (e.g., N2, N2O, O2, CO2, CH4) in the interstitial water of sandy sediments in situ.  My role in this project is to guide the development of the POSUMS, from benchtop prototype to fully field-deployable instrument, and to use this instrument to better constrain nitrogen cycling in a local, anthropogenically-impacted estuary, Narragansett Bay (RI).  Our ultimate vision is that the POSUMS will be deployed on the continental shelf and provide biogeochemical data which can improve global climate models.”

 

Nicholas Ray – Summer Award Winner

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“My dissertation research is focused on how oysters and different oyster habitats change biogeochemical cycling in a temperate estuary (Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island). Oyster populations are increasing along the East Coast of the US primarily because of growing oyster aquaculture and to a lesser extent because of restoration efforts. Oysters can be described as ecosystem engineers – altering the environment they live in by the way they filter the water column and metabolize food. Because of their amazing filtering capacity (around 170 L per day!), they have the power to transform and recycle carbon and nutrients with profound impacts on water quality and sediment characteristics, with implications for coastal biogeochemistry. I am specifically interested in the influence of oysters on biogeochemical cycling of nitrogen, silica, and greenhouse gases. In my research, I have recorded how different oyster habits and the length of time oyster aquaculture gear has been in place influences these cycles. I hope that my work can be used to better understand the important role oysters play in coastal systems, and potential impacts of restoring oyster populations.”

 

Dive into Climate Change – Special Seminar

By Julia HammerMarch 21st, 2018

Please join the BU Marine Program for our annual Lang Lecture. This year, Stephen Palumbi will be speaking on climate change adaptations among marine organisms.

“Climate change adaptations of wild populations from corals to fish: the power of deep genomics”

April 19, 6:00 PM

BU Law Auditorium, 765 Commonwealth Ave. 

Can’t make it to the talk? See the livestream here.

Steve Palumbi is the Director of Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, Professor in Marine Sciences and Senior Fellow at theSteve and AcroporaStanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Steve has long been fascinated by how quickly the world around us changes. Work on the genomics of marine organisms tries to focus on basic evolutionary questions but also on practical solutions to questions about how to preserve and protect the diverse life in the sea. Steve has lectured extensively on human-induced evolutionary change, has used genetic detective work to identify whales, seahorses, rockfish and sharks for sale in retail markets, and is developing genomic methods to help find ocean species resistant to climate change. Work on corals in American Samoa has identified populations more resilient to heat stress. Work at the Hopkins Marine Station focuses on how sea urchins, abalone and mussels respond to short term environmental changes and to environmental shifts over small spatial scales.

Dr. Suchi Gopal is Panelist for “The Journey to Confidence” session.

By Julia HammerOctober 30th, 2017
Dr. Suchi Gopal is Panelist for “The Journey to Confidence” session.
Society for Women in Marine Science (SWMS) Fall 2017: The 4th Annual SWMS Symposium, Friday, November 3, 2017, 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. Woods Hole, MA.
For full details on the symposium, visit http://swmsmarinescience.com/events/2017-symposium/