Research News

[Lab news] Welcome to the team, Julie Pringle!

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 announces funding for our research on sand lance

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.

Chris RV Auk Sediment grab
Chris Murray checking for sand lance caught by the sediment grab. RV Auk (Photo credit: Jacob Snyder)

[Field work] Extended monitoring in Mumford Cove!

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:

  • New Eureka Probe
    The new probe with a copper gauze protector against biofouling is getting deployed

[Talk] Chris & Jake present at the Feng Graduate Research Colloquium

On 12 May 2016, the Department of Marine Science hosted it’s 11th Biennial Feng Graduate Research Colloquium, during which graduate students of the department traditionally present findings of their thesis research and/or give a preview of their future plans.

This year, Chris presented the results of last years study on long-term changes in growth distributions in Atlantic silversides exposed to high CO2 conditions, whereas Jake presented a poster outlining his thesis research on long-term environmental and biological data collected by Project Oceanology.

In addition, Jake took his poster ‘on the road’ already and presented it at the 16th Long Island Sound Research Conference (13 May, Bridgeport, CT), while Chris will give his talk again at the 40th Larval Fish Conference in June 2016 (17-23 June, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, Solomons MD).

Murray et al Feng LFC talk

Jake poster

[New publication] Biology Letters publishes CO2 x Hypoxia review

Gobler & Baumann’s review provides a good overview over the nascent field of multi-stressor acidification and hypoxia work. A first part firmly establishes that virtually all hypoxic zones in the ocean are also acidified, given that metabolic processes (i.e., respiration) consume oxygen and release CO2 into the environment. In a second part, the sparse emerging evidence for multistressor effects of low pH (high CO2) and low oxygen are reviewed, showing that while the majority of effects are additively negative, every study so far has also found synergistically negative effects of combined stressors in at least one trait.

This invited review was published Open Access.

Gobler, C.J. and Baumann, H. (2016)
Hypoxia and acidification in ocean ecosystems: Coupled dynamics and effects on marine life.
Biology Letters 12:20150976

Examples for synergistic negative effects of low DO and low pH (high CO2) on different traits and marine taxa. (a) Synergistic decrease in respiration rate in small and big sea urchins [27]; (b) growth rate of juvenile quahog was unaffected by low DO or low pH individually, but decreased under combined stressor conditions [23]; (c) survival of Atlantic silverside larvae to 10 dph. Survival was robust against low pH and sensitive to low DO, but decreased synergistically under combined stressors (green arrow, [22]); (d) representation of Po ̈rtners [25] ‘Oxygen- and capacity-limited thermal tolerance’ framework, adapted to the multiple stressor scenario of acidification and hypoxia.


There is increasing recognition that low dissolved oxygen (DO) and low pH conditions co-occur in many coastal and open ocean environments. Within temperate ecosystems, these conditions not only develop seasonally as temperatures rise and metabolic rates accelerate, but can also display strong diurnal variability, especially in shallow systems where photosynthetic rates ameliorate hypoxia and acidification by day. Despite the widespread, global co-occurrence of low pH and low DO and the likelihood that these conditions may negatively impact marine life, very few studies have actually assessed the extent to which the combination of both stressors elicits additive, synergistic or antagonistic effects in marine organisms. We review the evidence from published factorial experiments that used static and/or fluctuating pH and DO levels to examine different traits (e.g. survival, growth, metabolism), life stages and species across a broad taxonomic spectrum. Additive negative effects of combined low pH and low DO appear to be most common; however, synergistic negative effects have also been observed. Neither the occurrence nor the strength of these synergistic impacts is currently predictable, and there- fore, the true threat of concurrent acidification and hypoxia to marine food webs and fisheries is still not fully understood. Addressing this knowledge gap will require an expansion of multi-stressor approaches in experimental and field studies, and the development of a predictive framework. In consider- ation of marine policy, we note that DO criteria in coastal waters have been developed without consideration of concurrent pH levels. Given the per- sistence of concurrent low pH–low DO conditions in estuaries and the increased mortality experienced by fish and bivalves under concurrent acidifi- cation and hypoxia compared with hypoxia alone, we conclude that such DO criteria may leave coastal fisheries more vulnerable to population reductions than previously anticipated.

[Funding] New NSF OCE grant: 3 more exciting years of work!

We are happy to announce the continued support of the National Science Foundation, Division of Biological Oceanography, which just started to fund our project about multi-stressor effects on the early life stages of fish. This is collaborative work with Prof. Janet Nye’s lab at Stony Brook University, NY, which will strengthen ties between UConn and Stony Brook Marine Sciences. The work has already started and we’re looking forward to new discoveries!

Baumann, H. and Nye, J. 2015. Collaborative research: Understanding the effects of acidification and hypoxia within and across generations in a coastal marine fish. NSF Project# 1536336 (3 years)

Learn more by accessing the NSF-OCE non-technical proposal abstract

[Lab news] Sand lance spawning

For the last 6 weeks, we housed about 100 adult sand lance (Ammodytes dubius) in our lab that Chris and Jake brought from a research cruise on Stellwagen Bank (Massachusetts Bay). We watched them visibly ripen in our tanks, and today managed to strip-spawn 10 males and 10 females, obtaining several thousands of eggs and having them develop under different CO2 conditions now.
Thumbs up, and fingers crossed for the next steps!

Sand lance embryos 1h post-fertilization
Sand lance embryos 1h post-fertilization
Sand lance embryos 1h post-fertilization
Sand lance embryos 1h post-fertilization
Squeezing milt from a running ripe male sand lance
Squeezing milt from a running ripe male sand lance

Squeezing eggs from a running ripe female sand lance
Squeezing eggs from a running ripe female sand lance

[Field work] Catching spawning sand lance on Stellwagen Bank | 11-3-15

Chris RV Auk Sediment grab
Chris Murray checking for sand lance caught by the sediment grab. RV Auk (Photo credit: Jacob Snyder)

By Jacob Snyder:
Chris and I meet up, grab the supplies we need (buckets, bags, coolers, aerators, etcetera), and start making our way to Scituate, Mass. Today we are going out on the NOAA vessel “Auk,” with a few members from NOAA and the USGS. Our goal? To collect approx. 200 Northern Sand Lance, Ammodytes dubius.

We boarded the ship …

Read the whole post and see all the pictures on Jake’s blog @ Red Skies Photography

Check out the footage from the day, thanks to Jake and his GoPro. Check-out the video from the second sampling trip about one month later, too!

[Publication] Growth and mortality in coastal populations of Winter Flounder: implications for recovery of a depleted population

This study by Yencho et al. examined growth, mortality, and settlement distributions of juvenile Winter Flounder Pseudopleuronectes americanus in two bays of Long Island, New York, to better understand localized population dynamics of a species experiencing a protracted population decline. They found that settlement distributions had multiple peaks (cohorts) occurring between March and late July in 2007 and between February and May in 2008. Otolith-based growth rate was significantly higher for Port Jefferson Harbor during 2007 than for all other year × location combinations. Together with previous research the finding of multiple spawning cohorts in Long Island Winter Flounder suggests a degree of isolation, and local management will be needed to support healthy populations.
Winter flounder

Yencho, M.A, Jordaan, A., Cerrato, R.M., Baumann, H., and Frisk, M.G. (2015) Growth and mortality in coastal populations of Winter Flounder: implications for recovery of a depleted population.
Marine and Coastal Fisheries 7: 246-259.

[New Publication] Combining otolith microstructure and trace element analyses in Pacific bluefin tuna

A new study published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science suggests that analyzing the trace elements incorporated into the otoliths of bluefin tuna may allow inferring the arrival of juvenile fish in the California Current Ecosystem

Juvenile Pacific bluefin tuna (PBT, Thunnus orientalis) are known to migrate from western Pacific spawning grounds to their eastern Pacific nursery grounds in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem, but the timing, durations, and fraction of the population that makes these migrations need to be better understood for improved management. This new study published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science suggests that analyzing the trace elemental composition of bluefin tuna otoliths may divulge the time of arrival of the juvenile fish on the Californian Shelf. Scientists from the University of Connecticut, Stony Brook University, Texas A&M, as well as from NOAA collaborated in this effort, hoping to further develop this method to better inform managers in the future.

Baumann, H., Wells, R.J.D., Rooker, J.R., Baumann, Z.A., Madigan, D.J., Dewar, H., Snodgrass, O.E., and Fisher, N.S. (2015) Combining otolith microstructure and trace elemental analyses to infer the arrival of Pacific bluefin tuna juveniles in the California Current Ecosystem. ICES Journal of Marine Science 72:2128-2138.
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