Virtual Seminar – How the devil ray got its horns: the genetic basis of body plan remodeling in manta rays and their relatives – September 2


Karen Crow-Sanchez, Moss Landing Marine Labs and San Francisco State University

Hosted by the Ichthyology Lab

Presenting: "How the devil ray got its horns: the genetic basis of body plan remodeling in manta rays and their relatives"

MLML Virtual Seminar | September 2nd, 2021 at 4pm

Watch the Live Stream here or here

About the speaker:

Karen Crow is a Professor of Biology at San Francisco State University, and will be the MLML Visiting Scientist for the 2021/22 academic year. She earned a B.S. in Environmental Biology from the CSU Northridge, a M.S. in Marine Science from MLML/SFSU, a Ph.D. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and was a Postdoctoral Scholar at Yale University. 

While her training and background is squarely based in evolutionary biology, her interests and research are primarily centered on EvoDevo (Evolutionary Developmental Biology). She studies the evolution of vertebrate diversity by investigating the genetic basis of variation in body plans. She has investigated the evolution of the paddlefish rostrum, barbels in fishes, novel sphincters in gobies, fin and limb modifications in batoids and other fishes, and the role of genome duplication on body plan evolution and diversity of teleosts. Because reproduction is the currency of fitness, she also investigates alternative reproductive strategies in derived vertebrates including surfperches (the only vertebrate that gives birth to "teenagers"), pipefishes (the only vertebrate that exhibits male pregnancy) , and bidirectional sex change in gobies (the ultimate in gender flexibility).

Karen Crow Presents: How the devil ray got its horns: the genetic basis of body plan remodeling in manta rays and their relatives

Thesis Defense by Kristin Saksa – August 20th


"Effects of climate change induced ocean acidification and hypoxia on larval gopher rockfish"
A Thesis Defense by Kristin Saksa

The Ichthyology Lab

MLML Live-Stream | August 20, 2021 at 1 pm

I am an ocean lover- swimmer, surfer, SCUBA diver, kayaker, sailor, snorkeler, and marine scientist. I’ve spent the last ~10 years doing research on the effects of climate change on marine species and intend to continue on this path!

I majored in Environmental Studies and Philosophy at Santa Clara University (undergraduate) and post graduation returned to Bainbridge Island, WA to get involved with the aquaculture world on the Olympic Peninsula. I began working for Taylor Shellfish as part of the research department and became very engaged with the negative effect ocean acidification is having on local shellfish.  I worked for the UW School of Aquatic and Fisheries Science to look at multi-generational effect of ocean acidification on Pacific oysters. I assisted with a study on a Purple Hinge Rock Scallop growth for commercial development of the scallop industry. I spent my off seasons getting my SCUBA DiveMaster, working as a kayak guide, and interning in Auckland, NZ for a common dolphin population dynamics study.

I am currently in the Ichthyology lab at During graduate school I worked at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) Ecology Division (NOAA) in Santa Cruz on climate change studies focused on rockfish reproduction.  My thesis research is specifically focused on how changing ocean chemistry (pH and dissolved oxygen) affect larval rockfish survival, deformity and metabolism.  I spent most of my Spring time at the NOAA lab waiting for rockfish to give birth, always on call, a rockfish midwife if you will.  Throughout the rest of the year I have been assisted with another project on the effect of climate change on juvenile rockfish. I helped collect juvenile rockfish at Stillwater Cove and ran behavioral and physiological trials at the NOAA lab in Santa Cruz.

I am moving to Vermont (eek far from the ocean!) for the fall to finish up with thesis edits before moving back to Washington state where I hope to get a job as a fish biologist or marine scientist.


Thesis Abstract:

The California Current ecosystem is experiencing dramatic changes in ocean chemistry resulting in ocean acidification (i.e., decreasing pH) and hypoxia (i.e., lower dissolved oxygen [DO] levels). These changes are exacerbated by increases in upwelling intensity and shoaling of the oxygen minimum zone. Gopher rockfish (Sebastes carnatus) are an ecologically and economically valuable rockfish species, whose habitat is becoming increasingly inundated with low pH and low DO water. To test how ocean acidification and hypoxia may interact to influence the reproductive process in Gopher rockfish, we exposed gravid females of both species to 4 treatments throughout the gestation period: 1) low pH (pH 7.5); 2) low DO (DO 4.0 mg/L); 3) a combined stressor (pH 7.5 x DO 4.0 mg/L); and 4) control (pH 8.0 x DO 8.0). Post-parturition, larvae from each brood were seeded into each of the 4 treatments to evaluate survivorship, metabolism, and hypoxia tolerance as a function of the prior maternal treatment conditions and the subsequent larval treatment. The remainder of the brood was collected and preserved to later quantify the percent deformity of the brood and total fecundity. Our research indicates that Gopher rockfish larvae are resilient to low pH (pH 7.5) and low DO (DO 4.0mg/L) based on both maternal and larval exposures to these stressors. Gopher rockfish may be adapted to gestating in these conditions because their reproductive season overlaps with Spring upwelling on the central California coast. There are some indications of sensitivity to these stressors shown by non-significant trends toward higher percent deformity and lower fecundity in low oxygen stressors. It is unknown how Gopher rockfish will respond as ocean acidification and hypoxia progress due to climate change.


Dr. Sarah Smith joins SJSU/MLML faculty as new biological oceanographer

We are thrilled to announce that Dr. Sarah Smith has joined the faculty at SJSU/MLML as our new biological oceanographer! 

Dr. Smith received her MS in Marine Science from SJSU/MLML in 2009 and her PhD in Marine Biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 2014. Before joining the faculty at MLML, Dr. Smith served as a post-doc, staff scientist, and assistant professor at the J. Craig Venter Institute. Her current research uses a combination of comparative and functional genomics approaches to explore the evolution and molecular mechanisms of physiological regulation in diatoms. Insights from these studies will be used to inform our understanding of the evolution of diatoms and to guide efforts to bioengineer algae as a feedstock for aquaculture and for the cultivation of renewable bioproducts, such as sustainable biofuels.

Dr. Smith will be taking over the MLML Biological Oceanography Lab from her former graduate advisor Dr. Nick Welschmeyer who retired in 2020. Welcome, Sarah!