Moss Landing Marine Labs featured in the New York Times

SJSU/MLML research faculty member and ghost shark expert Dr. David Ebert is featured in a new article from the New York Times about the race to study these mysterious deep-sea fishes before they disappear forever.

Nearly half of the ghost shark species known to science were discovered only during the past two decades. “We’re just now starting to figure out that there are a lot more of these things around than we realized previously,” said Dr. Ebert, whose lab, the Pacific Shark Research Center, has been credited with the discovery of over 20% of the known ghost shark species.

Read the NYT story by Annie Roth here.

New study from SJSU/MLML and NOAA Fisheries scientists finds major decline in West Coast leatherback turtle population

Enormous Pacific leatherback sea turtles are so ancient they lived with the dinosaurs. Now a new study from SJSU/MLML and NOAA Fisheries researchers shows that leatherbacks that forage off the U.S. West Coast are trending towards extinction in as little as a few decades. The study was led by NOAA Fisheries scientist and MLML research affiliate Scott Benson and co-authored by MLML researchers Dr. Karin Forney and Dr. Jim Harvey.

Biologists estimated an annual average of about 128 leatherback turtles foraging off Central California from 1990 to 2003. That number dropped to an average of about 55 per year from 2004 to 2017. “In short order these animals are going to be gone if things don’t turn around,” said SJSU/MLML director and study co-author Jim Harvey. “You can’t just protect them in one location. You have to protect them across half the globe.”

Learn more about this important research in the NOAA Fisheries news article. Read the original peer-reviewed article in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation here.

Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Thesis Defense by Daniel Gossard – December 18th Livestream


"Epiphyte-host dynamics between Pyropia and Nereocystis in central California"
A Thesis Defense by Daniel J. Gossard

The Phycology Lab

MLML Live-Stream | December 18, 2020 at 1 pm

Dan didn't really care for seaweeds until he started working at a seaweed farm in 2016 and everything changed. He realized that the complexity of these (primarily) sessile organisms requires lifetimes of study to even marginally understand, and that they're much more interesting than fish ever could be. His appreciation for the ecology of seaweeds grew as he realized that seaweeds can play an important foundational role for ecosystems. As seaweed biogeographic distributions have been known to rely on ocean temperatures, how will this foundational role change in reaction to a changing climate? What will be the trophic consequences? Can seaweeds potentially mitigate greenhouse (CO2 and methane) emissions? The answer is yes, but can the application be scaled in practical purposes on a global scale? Is seaweed farming a sustainable and scalable US industry that can alleviate the country's import deficit, feed livestock and fertilize fields, and be used as a biological filter to mediate industrial runoff alleviating the effects of eutrophication? (Yes). Despite all these pressing issues related to seaweeds, Dan chose to study an esoteric algal epiphyte for his Master's thesis. After graduating, Dan hopes to continue research in the fields of seaweed ecology and/or aquaculture.

Thesis Abstract:

Epiphytism is widespread in the marine environment across macroalgal taxa. However, despite being geographically ubiquitous, many unique epiphyte-host interactions remain poorly understood. Radiation within the bladed Bangiales (Rhodophyta), presumably brought on by a heteromorphic life history coupled with exceptional tolerance of stressors, led to many subtidal species of Pyropia occupying the epiphytic subtidal niche with their annual gametophyte stage. Pyropia nereocystis is a northeastern Pacific species that has evolved to primarily epiphytize the annual kelp Nereocystis luetkeana, which has a large latitudinal range from central California to the Aleutian Islands. There is a complete lack of tested hypotheses regarding the spatial and temporal dynamics of this epiphyte-host interaction and a lack of understanding of whether environmental heterogeneity drives recruitment and growth of Pyropia. I tested three aspects of Pyropia-Nereocystis epiphyte-host dynamics in the southern extent of the host’s range: (1) spatial and temporal variation in epiphtyte presence as a function host canopy densities at five sites for two cohorts; (2) empirical tests of the effects of depth on growth of gametophyte and sporophyte (conchocelis) life history stages through transplantation experiments; and (3) evaluation of the effects of depth and host characteristics on the recruitment and biomass of the ephiphyte over two seasons.

Pyropia epiphytism exhibited a shift in presence on Nereocystis that was attributed to an increase in the proportion of hosts that were epiphytized over the first two sampling periods. These dynamics differed interannually as a function of Nereocystis density. Additionally, testing the coefficient of variation of densities of epiphytized versus non-epiphytized Nereocystis over time (for sampling periods where Pyropia was present) indicated greater clumping of unepiphytized Nereocystis and more regularly arranged epiphytized Nereocystis. Pyropia gametophyte transplants showed no significant differences in growth when transplanted below their primary habitat (on the upper portions of Nereocystis stipes), but Pyropia conchocelis transplants showed a significant positive correlation between growth (change in area occupied) and depth. Intraregional environmental heterogeneity was reflected in significant intraregional differences among Nereocystis host characteristics that affected Pyropia recruitment. Additionally, significant associations between Nereocystis stipe characteristics and Pyropia's lower limit and abundance (biomass) were present for epiphytized Pyropia and their Nereocystis hosts. Nereocystis holdfast depth did not set the lower limit of Pyropia recruitment, but the PC (principal component) associated with longer host apophyses were correlated with a deeper Pyropia recruitment lower limit. Pyropia abundance in the upper meter was a strong predictor of Pyropia biomass on the whole Nereocystis stipe, but only during the peak period of Pyropia abundance. Furthermore, Pyropia abundance was positively correlated with the surface area of Nereocystis, hosts with longer stipes and more cylindrical apophyses, and thresholded by hosts characterized by greater SL:HD (stipe length:holdfast depth). These results suggest that the distribution of epiphytism of Nereocystis is more regular than it is clumped, gametophyte growth is not limited by depth, and that conchocelis can grow successfully depths at least up to 20 m. Additionally, in the presence of environmental heterogeneity, Pyropia may be regulated by Nereocystis stipe characteristics relating to host apophyses, stipe surface area, and ecological effects experienced by individual Nereocystis. The epiphyte-host interaction between the macroscopic stages of these heteromorphic algae highlights: (1) Nereocystis mediates Pyropia's persistence on a cohort sub-population scale, (2) Nereocystis likely influences Pyropia's abundance and lower limit by interactions on an individual host scale, and (3) Pyropia persists in the face of interannual hetereogeneity of host Nereocystis persistence.

Daniel Gossard Presents: Epiphyte-host dynamics between Pyropia and Nereocystis in central California

Research faculty member Dr. David Ebert publishes new shark field guide with Princeton University Press

Congratulations to SJSU/MLML research faculty member Dr. David Ebert of the Pacific Shark Research Center on the publication of his latest book, titled “Field Guide to Sharks, Rays & Chimaeras of Europe and the Mediterranean”.

The book was published this week by Princeton University Press and features comprehensive descriptions and illustrations of all 146 species of sharks, rays, and chimaeras found in the northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. Learn more and purchase the book here.

Thesis Defense by Jacoby Baker – December 4th Livestream


"Maternal environment drives larval rockfish gene expression (Sebastes spp.)"
A Thesis Defense by Jacoby Baker

The Ichthyology Lab

MLML Live-Stream | December 4, 2020 at 4 pm

Jacoby has always had an affinity for the water. Even so, he tried to escape the calling of the water and started his undergrad career first in mathematics then moved into biochemistry. Eventually, he couldn't fight it anymore and received his B.S in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Marine Biology from San Jose State University. In his final year of undergrad he found himself interning at NOAA NMFS in Santa Cruz working on a large collaborative ocean acidification and hypoxia project that Dr. Scott Hamilton and Dr. Cheryl Logan were PIs on. Here, he cultivated his interest in researching the effects of climate change stressors on marine organisms, which led to his thesis project. Jacoby is now a Research Assistant at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and is applying his molecular background on a project using environmental DNA (eDNA) to help identify organisms residing within Monterey Bay.

Thesis Abstract:

Global climate change is driving shifts in ocean chemistry, which combined with intensification of coastal upwelling, reduces ocean pH and dissolved oxygen (DO) content in the nearshore habitats of the California Current System. Physiological plasticity, within and across generations, might be especially important for long-lived, late-to-mature species, like rockfishes (genus Sebastes), that may be unable to keep pace with climate change via genetic adaptation. Rockfishes exhibit matrotrophic viviparity and may be able to buffer their offspring from environmental stress through early developmental exposure or transgenerational plasticity (non-genetic inheritance of phenotypes). I pre-exposed mother gopher (S. carnatus) and blue (S. mystinus) rockfish to one of four treatments; 1) ambient conditions, 2) low pH, 3) low DO, or 4) combined low pH/DO stressor during fertilization and gestation, followed by a 5-day larval exposure after birth in either the same or different treatment. I used RNA sequencing to determine how the maternal environment affected larval rockfish gene expression (GE). I found that the maternal exposure drove larval GE patterns regardless of sampling time point or treatment. Furthermore, the maternal environment continued to strongly influence larval GE for at least the first five days after birth. These data suggest that rockfish may not be able to buffer their offspring from environmental stressors, highlighting the important role of the maternal environment during gestation.

Jacoby Baker Presents: Maternal environment drives larval rockfish gene expression (Sebastes spp.)

Thesis Defense by Lindsay Cooper – December 1st Livestream


"Compartmentalization & seasonal variability in storage compounds of Pterygophora californica"
A Thesis Defense by Lindsay Cooper

The Phycology Lab

MLML Live-Stream | December 1, 2020 at 12 pm

While other children told their parents they wanted to be ballerinas or firemen, from the get go, Lindsay claimed she would become a marine biologist. That was the only profession she ever wanted to pursue in life. Every year, her birthday request was to visit Sea World and the San Diego Wild Animal Park for the weekend. However, feeling discouraged by counselors who told her there were few career paths in marine science, she pursued a business degree as an undergrad. After enduring several unfulfilling years on this path, she threw all caution to the wind and started over in order to pursue her lifelong passion of marine science. Lindsay received her SCUBA certification and was able to spend a fall semester doing research with the Wrigley Institute of Environmental Science on Santa Catalina Island. This was her first real immersion into the field and opportunity to do independent research. During this program she developed a love for seaweeds and the drive to pursue a graduate degree.

Lindsay joined the MLML Phycology lab in 2013, where she took an active role in hosting the annual Open House and volunteering to help other students with their research. While at Moss Landing, Lindsay has acquired her scientific dive certification, gone on two research trips to Baja California Sur studying rhodolith beds as a living substrate, and conducted a subtidal study of Pterygophora californica population demographics and aging in Stillwater Cove, Carmel Bay. Her thesis research focuses on the effects of biomass loss on the seasonal variability in storage compounds of Pterygophora californica, an important local kelp species.

Thesis Description:

This study investigates the existence of nutrient compartmentalization within the thallus of Pterygophora, whether there were any seasonal effects, and how biomass loss impacted the compartmentalization of nutrients. The results of this subtidal experiment have been a long time coming; it's the second iteration. The first time Lindsay set up the experiment, she was six months into the experiment when two big winter storms hit in a row and ripped almost all of the tags off of her Pterygophora, and dislodged some of the plants. Lindsay had to redesign the tags, and move the experiment to a slightly more protected location in Stillwater Cove. The experiment began in July 2017 and ran for 15 months.

Lindsay Cooper Presents: Compartmentalization & seasonal variability in storage compounds of Pterygophora californica