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.
Seasonal dynamics in Atlantic Silverside abundance, spawning, and offspring sensitivity to low pH and oxygen
The Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) offers a summer stipend of up to $3,500 + $500 research. The Evolutionary Fish Ecology Lab offers a variety of suitable topics for undergraduates to work on.
Deadline for applications is January, 20th 2017.
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!
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
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
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 19-20 July, our lab temporarily transformed into a genetics laboratory, as Nina Therkildsen and her post-doc Aryn Pierce Wilder visited us from Cornell University (Therkildsen Lab). Their lab also shares the fascination for the Atlantic silverside as a model organism and has set out to eventually assemble the fully annotated genome of this species.
During their visit, they could accompany us for our bi-weekly beach seining in Mumford Cove, where we collected juveniles born this year as well as the last few spawning ripe adults at the end of the season. It was a great summer morning and fun for everyone.
In the lab, Nina and Aryn went on dissecting different types of tissue (muscle, liver, spleen, gills, fins) from a few specimens destined for genetic analyses. In the Rankin lab, we tried a novel procedure on this species, i.e., making haploid embryos by fertilizing strip-spawned eggs with sperm that was UV-radiated before.
Thank you for visiting, Nina and Aryn, and we will see you back in fall, when Nina will give a Friday seminar on 11 November 2016. We’re looking forward to what she will have to report!
A careful squeeze of a silversides belly reveals whether a male or female is in spawning condition
Juvenile and adult silverside captured by beach seine in Mumford Cove on 19 July 2016
Aryn has clearly fun beach seining
On 19 July 2016, Nina and Hannes pull the first of two seines in Mumford Cove
Chris and Aryn prepare to take the beach seine to the water
On 19 July 2016, Nina dissects different tissues from adult silvesides for genetic analyses
Atlantic silversides from Mumford Cover swimming in a bucket
On 20 July 2016, Aryn prepares samples of silverside tissues for genetic analyses
On 19 July 2016, our lab took Nina and Aryn beach seining (left to right: Chris, Aryn, Wes, Hannes)
On 19 July 2016, Chris and Aryn pull the beach seine ashore, while Wes and Hannes prepare for retrieving the bag
Some eggs could be fertilized with sperm that was UV-radiated before in order to make haploid embryos
Hannes placing a bucket with water to collect silversides live
On a balmy July 1st the lab returned to Mumford Cove excited at the prospect of seining without dawning waders for the first time this year! Chris and Rafeed conducted the first seine while Jake remained on the beach and photographed the experience. On the second seine, Hannes accompanied Rafeed while Chris weighed the first sample. As expected the species richness and diversity of the seines were less than that of previous excursions. The abundance of silversides was down, while their sex ratio was skewed towards females. Despite a decline in mature silversides, several juveniles were caught, indicating a budding cohort. Perhaps more young silversides will find their way into the lab’s net in the future. Only time will tell!
This small conference brought together approximately 150 international scientists to talk about larval fish growth, survival, maternal effects, dispersal, systematics to name just a few. It was held in special honor of Edward Houde, who over his long career has inspired generations of marine scientists.
While Chris was presenting last years data about growth consequences of high CO2 exposure across life stages in our model species, the Atlantic Silverside, Hannes participated in the Early Career workshop and gave a talk about how to approach the writing of a scientific manuscript (PDF).