How do species evolve in response to disease and environmental pressure?
What are the consequences of changing environmental conditions to important marine commercial species?
How do marine industries like fisheries and farming change the way that populations are connected?
We participate annually in oyster sampling and stock assessment in Delaware Bay. Here is a bushel of oysters on the FV Stockwell, tagged and ready for measurements
These are some of the questions that are addressed by Daphne Munroe's research program. At the heart of these questions is learning how larval dynamics operate within the context of larger temporal and spatial scale processes. She examines these questions using a combination of computer modeling, field-based research and laboratory experiments.
Over the past two years at the Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory, I have participated in stock assessment surveys of oyster fisheries in Delaware Bay and surfclams and ocean quahogs along the mid-Atlantic. The Haskin Lab, a Rutgers Agricultural Experiment Station located on the Delaware Bay in Bivalve N.J., has a long tradition of working cooperatively with invertebrate fisheries in New Jersey – an important partnership in a state where invertebrate fisheries were worth over 85% of all commercial fishery revenue in 2011. Data collected on these surveys contribute to management of these important fisheries. For me, these data also provide valuable metapopulation time series that can be used to study how these populations are connected, how they change over time, and how they respond to pressures like climate change and disease.
Hypothetical surfclam population connectivity pattern. Patterns of larval connectivity are important to our understanding of stock structure and population response to environmental changes
One of those long-term time series is the oyster fishery data collected at the Haskin Lab over the past century. It is being used to tune a metapopulation model of oysters that I have been using to study the mechanisms by which oysters are able to evolve genetically in response to disease pressure. Oyster diseases in many areas, including Delaware Bay, cause high annual mortality, which in turn leads to lost harvest from the wild oyster fishery. A greater understanding of the ways that oyster populations can respond to these diseases will help to create a more stable and sustainable fishery.
I also study another major New Jersey shellfishery; the Atlantic surfclam fishery is a high-value commercial fishery and changes in the species' range have important economic and social implications for the fishery and associated industries. To understand the climate-driven range shifts in the Atlantic surfclam fishery, I am studying physiological responses of clams to changing bottom water temperatures and working with physical oceanographers to determine patterns of larval connectivity in the fished stock.
Fisheries and aquaculture are important marine activities that provide marine-derived food resources and jobs in coastal communities. Responsible management of these industries requires understanding how fishery and farm practices interact with coastal ecosystem processes. Research ongoing at the Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory and Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences is contributing important advances that will help progress sustainability in these industries.
Action on deck during a cooperative clam survey. The science crew sorts clams and collects data on board the FV Pursuit, photo credit: Roger Mann