Virtual Seminar – Integrating physiology and ocean weather to predict climate change responses of fishes- September 3rd


Murray Duncan, Stanford/Hopkins Marine Station

Hosted by The Ichthyology Lab

Presenting: "Integrating physiology and ocean weather to predict climate change responses of fishes"

MLML Virtual Seminar | September 3rd, 2020 at 4pm


Dr. Murray Duncan is a fisheries eco-physiologist currently doing a postdoc at the Department of Geological Sciences and Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University. Before moving to California, Murray obtained his PhD from Rhodes University in South Africa and completed a one-year postdoc at the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity. He has worked extensively throughout the coastal zone of southern Africa, from Namibia to Mozambique, where he has developed and led field and lab eco-physiology research. His overarching focus is using physiological mechanisms to elucidate responses of marine organisms to the environmental stress caused by climate change. In his current position he is testing the efficacy of physiological models which incorporate temperature and oxygen availability at explaining climate effects on purple urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) and red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) in the California Current System.

Virtual Seminar – Devil’s in the details: Adaptability in habitat use of Western gulls – August 27th


Scott Shaffer, SJSU (MLML Visiting Scientist)

Hosted by The Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Presenting: "Devil's in the details: Adaptability in habitat use of Western gulls"

MLML Virtual Seminar | August 27th, 2020 at 4pm


Plasticity in foraging behavior among individuals, or across populations may reduce competition and likely enhances the adaptability to buffer changes in food resources.  Western gulls (Larus occidentalis) consume a wide range of marine and terrestrial foods but foraging patterns are not well understood, especially across multiple populations.  My colleagues and I have been using GPS loggers to compare foraging behavior of western gulls breeding at seven colonies from Oregon to southern California.  Detailed behavior of the gulls has revealed some interesting and surprising results at the population, individual, and when combined with additional sampling, the microbiome level.

Professor Gitte McDonald receives prestigious NSF CAREER Award

MLML is excited to announce that Dr. Birgitte (Gitte) McDonald, faculty member of San José State University, has been awarded a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation for $935,931. The Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) supports promising young scientists, providing funds to allow them to greatly expand their research capability in the early stages of their career. Dr. McDonald will be using the funds to support graduate students and postdocs, develop a new biologging course, and contribute data to an NSF-funded afterschool program. Dr. McDonald’s research program is described below.

As ice-dependent top predators, Emperor Penguins are indicators of both drastic and subtle changes occurring throughout the food web and the state of the sea ice. Like other predators, they are vulnerable to environmental change: these changes permeate through the food web, modifying foraging behavior, and ultimately survival and reproduction. Despite their importance in the Southern Ocean ecosystem, relatively little is known about the mechanisms Emperor Penguins use to find and acquire food. This study combines a suite of technological and analytical tools to gain essential knowledge on Emperor Penguin foraging energetics, ecology, and habitat use during critical periods in their life history.

Specifically, this project (1) investigates the foraging energetics, ecology, and habitat use of Emperor Penguins at Cape Crozier, the 2nd most southern colony, during late chick-rearing. Energy management is particularly crucial during late chick-rearing as parents need to feed both themselves and their rapidly growing offspring, while being constrained to regions near the colony. And (2) study the ecology and habitat preference of Ross Sea Emperor Penguins after the molt and through early reproduction. The post-molt foraging trip may be the most dangerous time for Emperor Penguins as they recover from a 50% loss in protein, while doubling their body mass for the reproduction fast ahead of them. This study fills important knowledge gaps on the energy balance, diet, and habitat use of Emperor Penguins during these critical periods, while also addressing fundamental questions in ecology.

Research faculty member Dr. Iliana Ruiz-Cooley studies movement of harmful algal bloom toxins through food web

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) occur when colonies of toxin-producing algae grow out of control. Along the California coast, some of those most severe blooms are caused by the algae Pseudo-nitzschia (pictured here), which produces a neurotoxin called domoic acid. This toxin accumulates in small fish, like sardines and anchovies, which are then eaten by marine mammals and humans, leading to neurological disorders and ultimately death if not treated.

SJSU/MLML research faculty member Dr. Iliana Ruiz-Cooley uses stable isotopes to study how domoic acid moves through marine food webs in Monterey Bay. This California Sea Grant-funded research will advance our understanding of HAB dynamics and improve both fisheries management strategies and marine mammal conservation efforts.

Read more about Dr. Ruiz-Cooley’s HAB research in the California Sea Grant story.

California sea lion exhibiting effects of domoic acid toxicity. Photo credit: Iliana Ruiz-Cooley