It’s the beginning of June, and in the Baumann lab that means: high time for experimental research on the Atlantic Silverside, the famous forage fish and important model species! This year, we have several major objectives; our NSF-sponsored research examines the sensitivity of offspring to the individual and combined effects of high CO2 and low oxygen (Chris Murray), while in collaboration with our colleagues from Cornell University we rear several families for genetic and transcriptomic studies. Elle Parks, our REU student just started her work on the effects of CO2 and temperature on the starvation resistance of silverside larvae. As always, the days when new experiments start are a group effort, where everybody including many volunteers help. Thanks to Peter Morenus (UConn) for the coming down for documenting the activities!
The Baumann lab, June 2017: from left to right; Isaiah Mayo, Julie Pringle, Chris Murray, Elle Parks, Hannes Baumann, Jacob Snyder, James Harrington + "Bear". (Photo: Peter Morenus, UConn)
Chris Murray inspects a screen with newly fertilized Atlantic Silverside embryos, prior to starting a new set of experiments. (Photo: Peter Morenus, UConn)
Screens with enumerated embryos are suspended in each rearing container using fishing line. (Photo: Peter Morenus, UConn)
Hannes shows Elle Parks (REU 2017), how individual screen with enumerated embryos are suspended into the replicate rearing containers. (Photo: Peter Morenus, UConn)
All adult silversides used to produce new offspring are getting measured and preserved. (Photo: Peter Morenus, UConn)
On 9 June, Elle and Julie strip-spawn Atlantic silverside females into spawning dishes covered in window screen for eggs to attach. (Photo: Peter Morenus, UConn)
Hydrated, ready to be fertilized eggs extrude from a running ripe female Atlantic silverside when putting gentle pressure on the abdomen. (Photo: Peter Morenus, UConn)
Chris and Jake strip-spawning. (Photo: Peter Morenus, UConn)
On 9 June 2017, members of the Baumann lab all help to start a new set of experiments in the Rankin Lab at UConn Avery Point. From left to right: Julie Pringle, Hannes Baumann, Elle Parks, Jacob Snyder, James Harrington, Isaiah Mayo, Chris Murray). (Photo: Peter Morenus, UConn)
Somewhere after Richmond, VA, the sun sets and traffic on the I-95 begins moving better. At long last. The four people in the burgundy Dogde Challenger have all already cycled through their driving shifts once and dare an impatient glance at the time left. Still more than 8 hours. More than 8 hours to reach this very special location at the Atlantic coast – Jekyll Island, Georgia. In the trunk of the car a jumble of coolers and a beach seine, buckets, air pumps, and hoses topped with the crumpled witnesses of roadside dining. This is no ordinary road trip.
We, that are Aryn and Nicholas from the Therkildsen lab of Conservation Genetics lab at Cornell University and James and Hannes from the Fish Ecology Lab here at UConn; we went on this road trip to catch live, spawning ripe Atlantic silversides from the southern edge of the species distribution. We then intended to bring these fish back to UConn alive, sample another population from the south shore of Long Island (Patchogue, NY) and produce genetic crosses of these populations.
The broad goal of our expanding collaborative efforts with our geneticist friends from Cornell is the creation of an annotated genome of this species, which will be an important milestone in deepening or understanding of the molecular and genetic responses of organisms to local selection regimes and marine climate change. Given the Atlantic silverside’s ecological importance as an abundant forage fish along the American east coast and it’s rich history as a model organism in evolutionary and ecological studies, the annotated genome is the next logical step.
Even at hindsight, the plan still seems a little insane. But it worked. We indeed managed to catch spawning silversides at the Georgia site and then transported them immediately back to our Rankin Lab, which involved another 17 hours of driving back. After securing samples from Patchogue, we indeed managed to cross single parents from each site to produce full-sib crosses that will later be used to produce what geneticist call a linkage map. Other across and within-population crosses will be used to study gene expression at two different temperatures or raise adults for producing an F2 generation.
The silverside larvae are currently well, feeding, and growing up nicely. We all cross fingers for this enterprise to end in good samples and a step forward for genetic studies on a marine fish.
On the morning of 11 May 2017, our old beach seine is drying on the beach park of Jekyll Island, GA. After its last successful trip, the 9 year old gear has now been retired.
Andrew's Beach on Jekyll Island, GA, on 11 May 2017.
A newly hatched silverside larvae with a twist. It's a haploid specimen, produced by fertilizing eggs with UV-treated sperm.
James Harrington carefully replacing water in the transport coolers for the fish. All fish survived the transport.
The Jekyll crew Hannes, James, Nicholas, and Aryn (from left to right)
The daunting view of the road trip on 10 - 12 May 2017. 34h of driving and way too little sleep in just two days.
Adult silversides from Jekyll Island, GA, swimming in our holding tanks in the Rankin Lab at UConn
NOAA sanctuaries just published a little blurb online, introducing sand lance and it’s importance to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, including a small section on the current research efforts funded by NOAA Regional SeaGrant.
“To that end, the team is collaborating with scientists from the University of Connecticut (UConn). UConn study members transport live-caught sanctuary sand lance to their lab, where further generations of sand lance are raised. The resulting larval sand lance are raised in high-tech rearing facilities that can be adjusted to mimic future ocean conditions.”
4th time’s the charm: sampling spawning ripe sand lance on Stellwagen Bank
Early morning on 2 December 2016, we left Scituate, MA, for the forth time this year, heading towards Stellwagen Bank in search of spawning ripe Northern sand lance (Ammodytes dubius), a winter spawning forage fish of great importance to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the object of latest research efforts. While during the last three cruises in late October and November, we saw a progression of ripening in the specimens, up to now we didn’t actually find spawning ripe individuals. Today, though, things are different, and when the first sand lance appear in our beam trawl, we immediately know that today we’ve been at the right time and at the right place.
It seemed an ambitious dream not too long ago, but now we’re happy report that we’ve started an experiment on sand lance embryos in our lab. Thanks to Chris Murray, David Wiley, Mike Thompson, captain Steve and his deckhand Matt for the successful trip!
Check out some footage of the trip and the beam trawl operation on board of captain Steve’s fishing vessel
On 27 October 2016, Hannes, Chris and Julie joined researchers from the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (David Wiley, Anne-Marie Runfola, Brad Cabe, Michael Thompson), the USGS (Page Valentine, Dann Blackwood) and the crew of the R/V Auk (Dave Slocum, James Stasinos) to embark on our first of five total sampling missions in this enigmatic marine habitat. Our goal, catching live Northern sand lance, Ammodytes dubius, the so critical forage fish species that is referred to as the “backbone of the sanctuary”, because all kinds of marine predators from whales to tuna to seabirds gather on the bank to feast on them.
Our renewed efforts are part of our recently funded NOAA Regional SeaGrant Project to investigate the effects of ocean warming, acidification and low oxygen on sand lance early life stages.
As before, we first started by deploying a Seaboss sediment grab, which allows our colleagues from the USGS to characterize sediment types in association with the occurrence of sand lance. In addition, however, we brought a small beam trawl along for the first time to find out, whether we could more effectively catch sand lance and then transport them live to our seawater facility at UConn Avery Point. We are happy report that the efforts by all have paid off and that there are now ~ 180 adult ripening sand lance swimming in our tanks. Thanks all, see you again for the second survey in a few weeks!
Check out the video below, made from clips of no less than five different GoPro’s (if you listen carefully, around 2:40 into the clip you’ll hear the singing of some nearby humpback whales):
October 10th 2016 was a special day for our still young lab here at the University of Connecticut, Today, the ICES Journal of Marine Science published the paper of Chris Murray et al., which is the first of hopefully many publications of our experimental findings originating out of our new laboratory facility here at UConn Avery Point.
Chris and his co-authors report on a large-scale, quantitative rearing experiment on Atlantic silversides eggs, larvae and juveniles under contrasting CO2 conditions that took place between May – September 2015. This novel experiment was designed to address three critical issues lacking in previous ocean acidification research on fish. First, the study spanned several ontogenetic stages. Second, it used very large numbers of individuals to robustly characterize not just potential shifts in mean responses, but also changes in the distribution of length, weight, and condition factor. Third, it provided food at standardized, non-excess levels to prevent that potential metabolic costs of high CO2 exposure could be compensated by survivors simply by eating more food.
Overall the study demonstrated seemingly small but significant growth reductions due to high CO2 and identified a small number of fatty acids that were of significantly different concentrations in high vs. control juveniles.
Early mornings, long days, lots of sorting and measuring, short breaks for food, and almost no time to sit for much of the day. That’s science, and that’s exactly what it was like aboard the R/V Gloria Michelle during my four-day stint. Our original hope was to sample Cape Cod Bay and the backside of the Cape, but due to weather concerns we ended up in Cape Cod bay for two days, and then the third was in Buzzards Bay and the Fourth in Outer Vineyard Sound. Why was I aboard this research vessel? Twice each year the State of Massachusetts sends out surveyors and volunteers to sample the benthic fish and invertebrate population. They sample multiple depth strata, and the entirety of Massachusetts coastal waters (by way of a sampling grid). Our lab was particularly hopeful of getting Sandlance (Ammodytes dubius), which I would have sampled for GSI and histology. Sadly, since we didn’t make it out to the backside of the Cape we saw no Sandlance, but we did see plenty of cool fish! Some highlights? A spiny dogfish (my first on this coast), a 4.5’ smooth dogfish, a 48cm Striped Sea Robin (the largest I’ve ever seen!), a few Red Cornetfish, a handful of Atlantic Moonfish, and a few dwarf goat fish. I got a crash course in otolith removal from Haddock, Winter Flounder, Fluke, and Kingfish, as well as learned how to ID many fish I’ve never seen before. It was a wonderful trip, and something I highly recommend every Biological Oceanographer (or fish biologist) volunteer for!
On 15 September 2016, the bottom trawl net is emptied onto the R/V Gloria Michelle for the crew to sort, weigh and measure the catch
The R/V Gloria Michelle before leaving port on 14 September for the 2nd leg of the fall 2016 Massachusetts Bottom Trawl survey
On 16 September 2016, Jake measures skates on board the R/V Gloria Michelle
In August 2016, Julie Pringle became the latest member of our lab by pursuing a Masters degree in Marine Science. Prior to coming to Avery Point, Julie graduated from Tufts University in 2014 and was a technician in the larval fish ecology lab of Joel Llopiz at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. At WHOI, she studied the trophodynamics of small pelagic fishes in the Western Atlantic. She will continue to work with forage fishes as a graduate student, investigating the growth and selective survival in Atlantic silversides (Menidia menidia), using otolith microstructure analysis in combination with oceanographic data of our field site in Mumford Cove, CT.
Welcome to team the Julie, it’s great to have you.
NOAA and Sea Grant fund $800,000 in research to understand effects of ocean changes on iconic Northeast marine life
The Ocean & Atmospheric Research program (OAR) of NOAA and Sea Grant just announced the winners of its most recent round of research funding to better understand the consequences of ocean warming and acidification on key marine resources in U.S. Northeast coastal waters. We are happy and proud that our proposed work on the climate sensitivity of Northern sand lance (Ammodytes dubius) was one of the four projects selected for funding. This is particularly good news for Chris Murray, who for his PhD can now expand his experimental rearing expertise to this important species.
This work will be conducted collaboratively with colleagues from NOAA (David Wiley), USGS (Page Valentine), Boston University (Les Kaufman), and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (Scott Gallager).
You can read the official announcement as it appeared on 6 September 2016 on NOAA’s News site.
On 6 June 2016, Charlie, Jake and Hannes set course again to the nearby Mumford Cove to retrieve our pH/oxygen/temperature probe (Eureka Manta Sub2) after over six weeks of deployment. Thanks to a newly purchased larger battery-pack that extend the probe-life to more than twice its previous time, the probe continuously recorded conditions every 30 minutes, thereby extending our time series to now over 14 months.
Plus, it was a great, balmy day on the water, and working in the field beats the desk hands down 😉
Check out a selection of the great pics Jake took during the trip below:
The new probe with a copper gauze protector against biofouling is getting deployed
Hannes preparing a small bongo net to sample copepods and fish larvae on 6 June 2016 in Mumford Cove, CT
The new battery pack allows the probe to continuously record data every 30 minutes for over six weeks
A panorama of Mumford Cove from the South on 6 June 2016. To left, the cove is part of the Bluff Point State Park.
Charlie Woods helps Hannes retrieving the pH/DO/temp probe beneath the subsurface float after being deployed for six weeks