RIOS Mentors and Research Interests – 2017
Ken Able Studies of fishes range from the early life history to habitat use, fidelity and quality for juveniles and adults, particularly for estuarine fishes. Approaches include traditional sampling techniques that provide for long-term monitoring to state-of-the-art techniques such as acoustic telemetry and in situ video. These ongoing studies provide multiple opportunities for projects in the relatively unaltered Mullica River/Great Bay/ Little Egg Harbor estuary and along the urbanization gradient in Barnegat Bay. During the coming summer, there will be opportunities for projects on larval fishes, life history studies of economically and ecologically important species, and juvenile and adult fish habitats. Other studies may involve some of the same approaches, as well as otolith analysis, as part of a study of oil spill effects in the Gulf of Mexico.
Diane Adams Although corals are considered threatened by climate change, pathways for their persistence are coming to light. The release of symbionts during bleaching may allow corals to acquire more heat tolerant symbionts. Parental resilience may be passed on their offspring that are released into the water column to float away to new reefs. Increased genetic diversity through fusion of multiple individuals may provide additional capacity to respond to environmental variation. This project will focus on identifying genetic and/or epigenetic mechanisms that contribute to coral resilience to climate change.
Bob Chant My research focuses on estuarine and coastal processes. In recent years I have conducted numerous field efforts in our local estuaries and along the New Jersey inner shelf to characterize their dynamics and the role that these dynamics play in forming coastal and estuarine ecosystems and its morphology. Data sets collected as part of these projects together with realistic and idealized numerical models provide excellent research opportunities for focused projects for students with experience with MATLAB and an interest in coastal and estuarine processes. During the summer there will be opportunities to participate in field operations in the New York/New Jersey region that will study aspects of the physical and biogeochemical processes in this highly impacted estuarine system.
Heidi Fuchs My research focuses on how marine invertebrate larvae interact with their smallscale physical environment and how those interactions affect large-scale dispersal and settlement patterns. Larvae of coastal snails and bivalves have particularly interesting responses to flow characteristics such as turbulence. Currently we are studying whether larvae can detect and respond to the differences between turbulence and waves. A related project focuses on how larval morphologies affect the energetic costs and benefits of swimming and feeding in turbulence. Undergraduate interns will have opportunities to learn culturing methods, do behavior experiments in small flow tanks, and do analyses in Matlab. Students will also participate in field excursions and gain exposure to flow measurement and image analysis techniques.
Samantha Gilbert The bay scallop is an ecologically and economically important bivalve found along the Atlantic coast of the United States. Bay scallops were once an important component of the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor (BB-LEH) ecosystem but are in decline, possibly due to the presence of brown tide, the decline of seagrass meadows, and over-harvesting. Recruitment limitation likely prevents populations from recovering. Gelatinous zooplankton, including jellyfish and ctenophores, prey on bivalve larvae. This study aims to evaluate the feeding behavior of sea nettle jellyfish and ctenophores on planktonic bay scallop larvae. This project will consist of a series of mesocosm experiments aimed at quantifying and comparing predation on bay scallop larvae by sea nettles and ctenophores.
Olaf Jensen Trap survey of black sea bass, tautog, and lobster on artificial reefs. Trawl surveys are the traditional tool used by fishery managers to monitor bottom fish populations. However, trawls often fail to adequately assess structure associated species like black sea bass, tautog, and lobster which primarily occupy habitats (such as wrecks and rocky reefs) which cannot safely be trawled. Work in my lab in summer 2016 will focus on a trap survey of artificial reef habitats in New Jersey. The goal is to determine whether fish traps can serve as a more effective alternative to trawls for monitoring structure associated species. Field work will include assisting with trap deployments and retrieval on small vessels in the open ocean, including pre and post trip gear prep and cleanup. Lab work will include dissection, aging using scales and otoliths, and lab maintenance. Data analysis tasks will include data entry and fitting a von Bertalanffy growth model to age and length data.
Paola López-Duarte My research interests focus on the behavior and ecology of marine and estuarine invertebrates and fish, in particular the factors controlling larval dispersal and recruitment to adult habitats. We have two ongoing projects at the Rutgers University Marine Field Station that offer opportunities for RIOS internships. The objective of the first project is to understand the factors that influence the success of horseshoe crab juveniles in New Jersey. Accurate estimates of horseshoe crab populations are not available, yet reports of their decline are widespread. Improved knowledge of early life history stages, including identifying juvenile settlement areas, are critical to future conservation and stock enhancement efforts. A student working on this project would be involved in plankton sampling, larval rearing, and tagging juvenile crabs to track their movements. The objective of the second project is to evaluate the long-term effects of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill on marsh fishes in Louisiana. Our approaches include comparing fish assemblages and food webs in oiled vs. unoiled marshes and analyzing the chemical composition of otoliths (ear bones) to identify trace elements that serve as oil and/or environmental indicators. We combine the chemical approach with a physical examination of otolith bands (similar to tree rings) to measure and compare growth rates in fish exposed to oil. Student involvement in this project would include fish identification and otolith analysis, as well as fatty acid and isotope analysis for the food web studies.
Daphne Munroe In general, my laboratory focuses on the ecology of New Jersey shellfish fishery and aquaculture industries. Blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) are an ecologically and economically important estuarine species throughout the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Though the species has been extensively studied, the factors that influence larval dispersal and recruitment are not fully understood. During the summer of 2017 we will conduct experiments to see how maternal condition and environmental factors can influence larval development. Understanding the dynamics of these early life stages may help us predict fluctuations in recruitment and better manage commercial fisheries. Likewise, surf clam (Spisula solidissima) farming has the potential to expand, diversify, and build crop redundancy for the NJ aquaculture sector. However, the optimal techniques for rearing surf clams in NJ’s unique coastal environment have not been thoroughly tried or tested. A second project in my lab this summer will focus on testing how different nursery gear types and the varying water quality parameters that characterize culturing locations influence surf clam growth and survival.
Silke Severmann The mud on the seafloor is the link between the present and the past. The upper layer of the sediments is where paleoproxies are recorded and preserved. The interpretation of any paleoproxy in the rock record rests on our understanding of the early diagenetic processes occurring in this upper layer. In my lab we are studying how the chemical compositions of sediments is related to the conditions and processes in the water column. We focus on transition metals and their isotopes, which have proven to be particularly well suited to learn about past anoxic events and periods of high biological productivity. A RIOS student joining my lab this summer will be working with recently collected sediments and water samples from the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea – two of the largest modern anoxic basins. The student will be exposed to a range of analytical techniques, including familiarization with mass spectrometers to measure trace metals and their isotopes.
Liz Sikes I am interested in the carbon cycle and climate change. We are trying to understand how the exchange of carbon (and carbon dioxide) between different reservoirs on the earth can affect climate. Very simply put, if the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, is sequestered from the air in the deep ocean or the sediments, it can draw down the atmospheric levels changing greenhouse effects. We have several projects that would make an excellent summer project. A student working in our lab could do one of several things: trace sources of carbon delivered to the Delaware estuary to examine terrestrial-marine transfer of organic carbon; examine changes in organic carbon sources in coastal sediments to examine humane influences of these transfers; create a record of sea surface temperature for in the Southwest Pacific for the last 20,000 years to help understand long term climate change; work with microfossils to estimate past amounts carbon dioxide in the deep ocean in the past.
Kim Thamatrakoln Diatoms are an important group of marine phytoplankton, responsible for up to 20% of global primary productivity. While viral infection has been established as a major driver of mortality in some phytoplankton, the role of viruses in mediating diatom populations is completely unknown. Once thought to be immune to infection, the discovery of diatominfecting viruses ~10 years ago has opened the door for understanding how these enigmatic entities may drive global biogeochemical cycles. Using a model laboratory-based diatom host and its respective virus, this project seeks to characterize host-virus dynamics under different environmental conditions, such as temperature, light, or nutrient availability.