Throwing back the big ones saves a fishery from hot water

Courtesy of Pinsky Lab

american lobster

Just out last week, Malin has a Commentary in PNAS, “Throwing back the big ones saves a fishery from hot water.” In it, he explains why a recent paper by Arnault Le Bris on the Maine lobster fishery provides important insight into efforts to create climate-ready fisheries management. Practices like conserving the female lobsters and not catching the large lobsters have allowed the fishery to flourish as temperatures have warmed, and will likely continue helping the fishery into the future. Despite the overall good news for lobster and the way it has been managed in Maine, many of the stakeholders in Maine have not been as happy with the news (see Portland Press Herald articles here and here).

Glider-Based Ecosystem Study

Photo: Corie Charpentier

On January 9, 2018, a post-doctoral researcher and undergraduate student of Dr. Grace Saba (Assistant Professor, Rutgers University, Center for Ocean Observing Leadership) deployed a Teledyne Webb Slocum Glider with an integrated ASL Environmental Sciences Inc. Acoustic Zooplankton Fish Profiler (AZFP) 38, 125 and 200 kHz instrument in the Terra Nova Bay (Ross Sea, Antarctica). The deployment lasted 3 weeks and the glider was recovered on January 31, 2018.

The purpose of this deployment was to obtain mesoscale and sub-mesoscale measurements of hydrographic processes and simultaneous biological distributions and abundance. From the resulting data, the researchers will examine the interactions between multiple trophic levels (phytoplankton, zooplankton and fish) and their relationships to the physical hydrographic driving forces such as sea ice and currents.

A key component to this investigation is the AZFP's ability to differentiate key species within this important Antarctic food web. Species of specific interest include various copepods, crystal krill (Euphausia crystallorophias), and Antarctic silverfish (Pleuragramma antarcticum). The glider was also instrumented with a CTD, a WET Labs BB2FL ECO puck to measure phytoplankton biomass and an Aandera Optode dissolved oxygen sensor.

To validate glider acoustic-based species, size and abundance data, a coordinated ship-based acoustic and net sampling program was conducted in close proximity to the autonomous glider.

Open accessible, automated hydrographic data produced during this project is available through RUCOOL (Rutgers University Center for Ocean Observing Leadership) and THREDDS (Thematic Real-time Environmental Data Distribution Services). The production of consistent, vertically-resolved, high resolution glider-based acoustic measurements will define a successful outcome of this project that will pave the way for cost-effective, automated examination of entire food webs and ecosystems in regions all over the global ocean and serve a wide range of users including academic and government scientists, ecosystem-based fisheries managers, and monitoring programs.


The Legos of Life

legos of life

Credit: Vikas Nanda/Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Rutgers scientists have found the "Legos of life" -- four core chemical structures that can be stacked together to build the myriad proteins inside every organism -- after smashing and dissecting nearly 10,000 proteins to understand their component parts.

The four building blocks make energy available for humans and all other living organisms, according to a study published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study’s findings could lead to applications of these stackable, organic building blocks for biomedical engineering and therapeutic proteins and the development of safer, more efficient industrial and energy catalysts – proteins and enzymes that, like tireless robots, can repeatedly carry out chemical reactions and transfer energy to perform tasks.

“Understanding these parts and how they are connected to each other within the existing proteins could help us understand how to design new catalysts that could potentially split water, fix nitrogen or do other things that are really important for society,” said Paul G. Falkowski, study co-author and a distinguished professor who leads the Environmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology Laboratory at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

The scientists’ research was done on computers, using data on the 3D atomic structures of 9,500 proteins in the RCSB Protein Data Bank based at Rutgers, a rich source of information about how proteins work and evolve.

“We don’t have a fossil record of what proteins looked like 4 billion years ago, so we have to take what we have today and start walking backwards, trying to imagine what these proteins looked like,” said Vikas Nanda, senior author of the study and an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Rutgers’ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, within Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. “The study is the first time we’ve been able to take something with thousands of amino acids and break it down into reasonable chunks that could have had primordial origins.”

The identification of four fundamental building blocks for all proteins is just a beginning. Nanda said future research may discover five or 10 more building blocks that serve as biological Legos.

“Now we need to understand how to put these parts together to make more interesting functional molecules,” he said. “That’s the next grand challenge.”

The study’s lead author is Hagai Raanana, a post-doctoral associate in the Environmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology Program. Co-authors include Douglas H. Pike, a doctoral student at the Rutgers Institute for Quantitative Biomedicine, and Eli K. Moore, a post-doctoral associate in the Environmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology Program.

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