Thesis Defense by Evan Mattiasen – June 6th, 2018

Effects Of Hypoxia on the behavior and physiology of juvenile state temperate reef fishes (genus: Sebastes)

A Thesis Defense by Evan Mattiasen

Ichthyology Lab

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018 at 4pm

MLML Seminar Room

Thesis Abstract:

The progression of climate change is predicted to cause large-scale changes to ocean chemistry (i.e., shifts in temperatures, salinity, ocean acidification, etc.) within the California Current. Forecasts from climate models and oceanographic observations indicate an increase in the frequency and duration of hypoxic events in the coastal zone, which have the potential to affect marine biodiversity and fisheries. Many studies have shown that exposure to extreme low dissolved oxygen (pO2) conditions can have deleterious effects on fish in early life stages, such as inhibition to growth and reproduction. Rockfish (Sebastes spp.) are a diverse group of species composed of fishes with varying life history characteristics. This study aims to determine how exposure of two species of young-of-the-year (YOY) juvenile rockfishes will perform under chronic exposure to varying dissolved oxygen levels. Copper rockfish (Sebastes caurinus) and Blue rockfish (Sebastes mystinus) are two closely related species that differ in early life history traits. Copper rockfish have a short pelagic duration that begins with parturition in the spring and ends with recruitment to the kelp forest canopy after 1-2 months. Blue rockfish have a longer pelagic duration that begins in the winter and ends with recruitment to the benthic kelp forest habitat after 3-6 months. I compared how behavior and physiology were affected under chronic exposure to low pO2 at four treatment levels (ambient = 9.0 mg O2 L-1, moderate = 6.0 mg O2 L-1, low = 4.0 mg O2 L-1, hypoxic = 2.0 mg O2 L-1). Behavioral tests were aimed at identifying changes in exploratory behavior (i.e., escape response trial), predator detection through olfactory perception (i.e., olfactory choice test), and changes in turning preference (i.e., behavioral lateralization). Physiological tests focused on determining changes in hypoxia tolerance (critical oxygen tension, pCrit), the capacity for aerobic activity (i.e., aerobic scope), and ventilation rates. Changes in growth rates of both species were also measured. The findings of this study indicate that both species express sensitivity to low pO2; however, the strength of the response differed between species. Copper rockfish exhibited decreased growth rates and reduced absolute lateralization following chronic exposure to the lowest oxygen levels. Behavioral tests did not differ with treatment for blue rockfish. Additionally, growth rates for Blue rockfish followed the opposite trend of Copper rockfish where individuals in the lowest oxygen treatment grew more than those in the control treatment. Both species exhibited decreases in aerobic scope and increases in ventilation rates with decreasing oxygen levels. Copper rockfish had a lower tolerance of hypoxia and weaker acclimation response compared to Blue rockfish as measured by critical oxygen tension threshold (pCrit). A lower pCrit for fish exposed to low oxygen conditions indicates the potential for acclimation to those conditions. Despite the physiological changes that occurred for both species in low oxygen conditions, these results provide evidence of acclimation to chronic hypoxia. Species with a greater capacity for acclimatization are potentially those with life history characteristics where larvae/juveniles have a higher probability of exposure to low oxygen conditions, leading to either acclimatization in the field or pre-adaptation to hypoxia over multiple generations. The differences expressed by each species suggest that acclimatization to changing ocean conditions may vary across closely related species, leading to winners and losers under future ocean conditions. Overall, increases in strength and frequency of coastal hypoxia events may have severe impacts on juvenile stage rockfishes that reside in kelp forests. While this study highlights adaptations to low oxygen, extended exposure to hypoxia decreased fitness of individuals through metabolic and aerobic depression, and changes to behavior. The information gathered in this study is critical for advancing the understanding of how these economically valuable species will fair in the future, and the information presented here will help inform policy makers to protect populations at risk.

Watch Evan Mattiasen’s Thesis Defense below:

Thesis Defense By Cody Dawson – May 7th, 2018

Phenology and the Response to Disturbance of the fucoid, Stephanocystis osmundacea

A Thesis Defense by Cody Dawson

Phycology Lab

Monday, May 7th, 2018 at 4pm

MLML Seminar Room

Cody Dawson is a Master's student in the Phycology Lab under the expert tutelage of Mike Graham. He received his BS in Biology from Humboldt State University where he was mainly working with invertebrates and predator-prey dynamics. Upon joining MLML in 2014, he discovered a love for seaweed which led him to a project surrounding their physiology that would become his life for the next 3 years. With the completion of his MS, he will be moving onto to study the trophic ecology of nearshore ecosystems in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea at the University of Texas at Austin as a part of his PhD.

Thesis Abstract:

Nearshore rocky ecosystems along exposed shorelines experience frequent disturbances due to turbulent swells and wave action. These disturbances directly affect subtidal algal communities that provide biogenic habitat along the coast. This habitat shapes faunal communities by providing refuge through structural complexity. In central California, kelps are the most notable providers of biogenic habitat, but, seasonally, a prolific fucoid, Stephanocystis osmundacea, adds a considerable amount of habitat into the environment. While diminutive and bushy during the winter, this alga produces canopy-forming reproductive fronds during the spring and summer months that add to the biogenic refuge. The purpose behind this study was to understand how the frequency and timing of disturbances affect the physiology of Stephanocystis. This was accomplished by performing manipulations on the reproductive and vegetative tissues of the alga, including: full reproductive removal (-R), haphazard vegetative blade damage (-V), no removal (C), and damage of both reproductive and vegetative structures (-All). Using measurements of changes in total length (cm) as a proxy for biomass allowed for an in situ assessment of the response by the alga. This external response measurement was coupled with stable isotope analysis of internal response using carbon and nitrogen as a bioindication of fitness. Removal of reproductive fronds during spring elicited a dormancy response, while damage to the vegetative tissue reduced growth, possibly by limiting overall photosynthetic capacity. These results suggest that spring frond growth is important to reproductive fitness and removal can stimulate a life history trade-off between reproduction and survival. Winter manipulations elicited no response due to the dormancy period of this species. Enrichment values for ∂C and ∂N were consistent with reported values for other brown algal species but, because of the timing of extraction, the internal chemistry of the individuals rebounded and the ability to detect a response was lost. Both the natural and manipulated populations had similar ∂C and ∂N when separated by tissue and time of year, which indicates that while the alga may be impacted from an external perspective, it will recover internally and stay as a viable part of the reproductive population. Understanding how these seaweeds respond to biomass loss provides a better perspective of disturbance effects on this species and the ecosystem it helps support.