Blinks - NSF REU - BEACON Internship Program
Research Experiences for Undergraduates
Integrative Biology and Ecology of Marine Organisms
Application deadline: March 1, 2015
Program dates: June 15 to August 8, 2015
Friday Harbor Laboratories' Blinks - NSF REU - BEACON Summer Internship Program seeks to link undergraduate students with scientist-mentors as collaborators in marine science research projects. The program takes advantage of the pristine environment, remarkable biodiversity, and the scientific and technical resources at University of Washington's marine science research facility. We have combined the NSF REU program with the Blinks Research Fellowship program, which targets groups who are historically underrepresented in the marine sciences, with the NSF-funded BEACON Program. With additional support from the United Negro College Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Anne Hof Blinks Memorial Fellowship, the Blinks-REU Program offers a full immersion research experience for motivated undergraduates, post-baccalaureates and graduate students. In keeping with the University of Washington's policy of encouraging diversity in its student body including underrepresented groups, the program seeks 10-15 students of diverse backgrounds and interests to participate in a eight week summer research project in the marine sciences. By linking fellows with marine scientists in a 1:1 research experience, fellows learn both the process and the substance of scientific research. As the research progresses, fellows will be encouraged to become semi-independent collaborators. The experience will expose fellows to the life and work of a marine science research laboratory. The program will incorporate workshops, seminars and training sessions in addition to hands-on research.
The mentors and projects vary from year to year according to the developing research interests of faculty and students. Research projects are designed by the scientists to be achievable projects which dovetail with their research plans. Project descriptions are posted below. Fellows will work semi-independently with mentor supervision for approximately 40 hours per week.
For summer 2015, the BEACON Program funding will augment the REU funding.
As participants in the FHL community, students will participate actively in FHL community activities, e.g. attend the weekly seminars, eat in the Dining Hall and live in the student dormitory. Early in the summer session, there will be a meeting of student participants with graduate students and mentors to share perspectives on graduate programs and participation in academic life, with a brief description of ongoing projects, and a question/answer session. At the end of their internship, fellows will present their research in a short powerpoint talk. Fellows will also write a scientific paper describing their work, and revise it based upon feedback from the mentor.
Friday Harbor Labs is University of Washington's marine science field research station. Located north of Puget Sound in the San Juan Islands, FHL takes advantage of a remarkable diversity of marine habitats and organisms. FHL hosts 15-20 courses per year and approximately 100 independent researchers during the year. The 484 acre campus is the site for thirteen lab buildings, a dining hall, 3 dorms and other housing units.
Research at FHL emphasizes marine invertebrate zoology, phycology, fisheries science, conservation biology, cell and molecular biology, biomedical sciences, oceanography and other scientific disciplines. Investigators and students use diversified field resources as well as modern analytical technologies such as a nucleotide sequencer, scanning laser confocal microscopes, scintillation counter, centrifuges, HPLC, TEM, SEM and other equipment. Friday Harbor Labs is equipped with a 58' research vessel, numerous smaller boats, cold rooms, and an extensive seawater system serving numerous lab buildings. The facility includes a computer lab, networked research labs, wi-fi connectivity, a well equipped stockroom, a 17,000 volume library, and SCUBA facilities.
Participants will be provided with financial support to meet costs of room, board, round trip travel. Additionally, there will be a $4000 stipend.
The NSF REU Site grant supports U.S. citizens or permanent residents during their undergraduate careers. The Blinks Endowment supports students who bring diversity to the FHL student body in any phase of their undergraduate or graduate career.
1. Fill out the FHL REU Application form to apply for participation in a specific research project. In the ethnicity field, please be sure to indicate if you're from an underrepresented group.
2. Apply to work with a specific mentor by writing a one-page application statement which describes your background, your interest in this project, and how this specific project will help you achieve your career goals. Please submit up to three application statements, one for each project to which you'd like to apply, and send them to email@example.com. The statements should be sent as separate files in .doc, .docx or .pdf format.
3. Request unofficial copies of your transcript to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Transcripts can be either official or unofficial, and either electronic or on paper. Electronic transcripts are preferred. If your school prepares only paper transcripts, please send them to Scott Schwinge at the address below.
4. Request two letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Letters should be emailed from faculty directly to email@example.com.
Questions may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Students who are selected will be notified in late March.
REU Research Projects for 2015
- Dr. Beth Brainerd. VROMM and suction feeding in fish.
- Dr. Andrew Clark, Dr. Ted Uyeno. Biomechanics of hard biting in soft, elongate and jawless fishes.
- Dr. Sophie George. The effects of phytoplankton patches and fluctuating salinity on protein expression and the behavior of echinoderm larvae in haloclines.
- Dr. Alice Gibb. Intertidal sculpins: Everybody out of the pool?
- Dr. Nick Gidmark. The hard and fast of biting biomechanics.
- Dr. Erika Iyengar. Shared food and habitat preference as indicators of potential competition between the native banana slug and the invading terrestrial black slug.
- Dr. Erika Iyengar. Epibiosis in marine intertidal snails: factors promoting the interactions and the impacts on participants.
- Dr. Vikram Iyengar. Sexual selection on the seashore: Mating systems of marine arthropods.
- Dr. Rebecca Lyons. Pesticide effects on eelgrass decline in the San Juan Islands.
- Dr. Jim Murray. Neuroethology: How brains control behavior.
- Dr. Dianna Padilla. Predators, prey and plasticity.
- Dr. Tony Pires. Impacts of ocean acidification on metamorphosis.
- Dr. Marianne Porter. Stressing, straining, and relaxing: exploring shark skeletons.
- Dr. Billie Swalla. BEACON Program internships.
Figure: Fish head schematic (Ariel Camp)
At FHL this summer, we plan to develop a new 3D motion analysis technology and apply it to study suction feeding in fishes. The new method is based on a technology we have developed at Brown over the past eight years: X-ray Reconstruction of Moving Morphology (XROMM). We propose to develop Video Reconstruction of Moving Morphology (VROMM). This method will combine high-speed video to track motion with CT scans of bone shape to reconstruct 3D bones moving in 3D space. Suction feeding in fish is a great system for testing VROMM because many of the interesting bones in the head are visible without X-ray. The fish diversity available at FHL is needed to test this new VROMM method and demonstrate its utility for comparing species. The VROMM data we collect will provide a new perspective on the functional morphology of suction feeding in fishes.
Figure: Knotted feeding behavior in hagfish.
Introduction: Elongate animals normally possess limbless bodies and small mouths, which present important functional constraints when attempting to consume large or tough food items. Some species of elongate animals overcome these limitations by employing rotational (spinning) or knotting movements while food is grasped with dentition. Hagfishes (Myxini) use the latter feeding strategy, knotting, for dismembering portions of flesh from large marine carcasses. While driving their tooth plates into large or tough food, a knot is formed at the tail, and then slid towards the head so that it can be pressed against the food surface. Knotting involves a complex series of axial bending and torsion powered by complex arrangement of axial musculature encased within loose-fitting skin.
Objectives: This summer, we will be investigating the form and function of body knotting movements in Eptatretus stoutii, the Pacific hagfish. Research activities will include measuring the external and internal anatomical structures that support and control knotting by using gross dissection and histological approaches. We will also measure in vivo biting forces of living specimens biting onto food items tethered to a custom force platform while recording three-dimensional head and body movements with high-speed video cameras. Knotting and rotational feeding is known to occur other species of elongate fishes. Therefore, for comparative purposes, we will gather similar data sets from select species of intertidal Pholid and Stichaeid fishes readily available at Friday Harbor, among other locations on San Juan Island. These teleost species are of particular interest because, like hagfishes, they employ forceful and rapid rotational body movements to render consumable portions of food from large food items.
Students. During this summer's program, students will develop skill sets used in the fields of animal husbandry, comparative morphology and biomechanics. Upon completion of the program, students will be encouraged to further develop their data sets, present their work at professional meetings, and produce a manuscript of the research for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Through these experiences and training, students will transform into very strong, marketable candidates for graduate programs.
The effects of phytoplankton patches and fluctuating salinity on protein expression and the behavior of echinoderm larvae in haloclines
A regular occurring event in the coastal waters of the Pacific Northwest is a decrease in salinity to less than 15‰ in some areas, as a result of increased precipitation and ice melts during the spring and summer months. George and Walker (2007) and Pia, Johnson, and George (2012) observed salinity-induced morphological changes for Dendraster excentricus (top right) and Pisaster ochraceus larvae (bottom left). For example, Pisaster larvae reared at 20‰ were shorter and wider while those reared at 32‰ were longer and slender.
The development to metamorphosis and the production of juveniles by larvae exposed to 20‰ (bottom right, juvenile P. ochraceus) in of itself is intriguing given that these species cannot regulate the osmolarity and ion content of their internal fluids. These studies indicate that the timing, magnitude and duration of ice melts and rainfall in the Pacific Northwest could alter larval morphology, larval feeding and swimming, and possibly the quality of new P. ochraceus recruits into the intertidal zone. During the summer of 2015, research will continue looking at larval behavior of P. ochraceus in haloclines with and without food. Students will also investigate the effect of intense salinity fluctuations on protein expression in P. ocraceus larvae.
Knowledge on the physiological mechanisms behind observed morphological changes and behavioral differences in haloclines would enhance our understanding of how echinoderm larvae will respond to intense fluctuations in surface salinity as our climate changes.
The participating student would learn to prepare algal cultures; rear larvae to metamorphic competency, observe larvae in haloclines, prepare samples for protein determination and gel electrophoresis, and photograph larvae from the various treatments.
Past students have presented their research at regional (GAS) and international meetings (SICB), and are coauthors on 3 recent articles from research at FHL with two in preparation:
George, Sophie B. & Walker, Devoc. 2007 Short-term fluctuation in salinity promotes rapid development and metamorphosis of Dendraster excentricus larvae Journal of experimental marine Biology and Ecology. 348:113-130.
George, Sophie B., Fox, Colleen & Wakeham, Stuart 2008. Fatty acid composition of larvae of the sand dollar Dendraster excentricus (Echinodermata) might reflect FA composition of the diets Aquaculture 285: 167-173.
Tanya Pia; Johnson, Tiffany and George, Sophie 2012. Single and multiple fluctuations in salinity affect growth, development and metamorphosis of the sea star Pisaster ochraceus. Journal of plankton research 34:590-601.
Sam Bashevkin, Daniel Lee, Paul Driver and Sophie George. Vertical distribution of brachiolariae larvae in haloclines is influenced by prior exposure to low salinity. In prep. (past Blinks-REU scholars or grad students in bold).
Figure: Sculpin in tidepool.
Artedius harringtoni, photo provided by NOAA.gov through Wikimedia Commons
Questions: Sculpins are common fishes of the intertidal zone that can tolerate extreme changes in water temperature and salinity. In addition, some sculpin species can breathe air and tolerate long periods of time out of the water. Because all organisms that live in the intertidal zone can potentially become stranded when the tide recedes, we use sculpins as a model system to investigate fundamental questions about how species are able to live and thrive under the unique physical demands of the air:water interface. Within this context, we will design experiments to answer the following questions. How do intertidal sculpins use their bodies and fins to move across land to successfully return to the water? Does terrestrial locomotor ability vary among sculpin species that live in different intertidal zones? How do sculpins cope with heterogenous (non-uniform) surfaces? Which environmental cues do sculpins use to determine their body position, relative to the location of the water?
Techniques and Outcomes: Students working on this project will combine the biological disciplines of behavior, physiology, and functional morphology in a series of laboratory-based studies that will employ techniques such as 3D reconstruction of anatomy, high-speed imaging, and classical behavioral studies. Our goal for the summer of 2015 will be to obtain enough data for at least one presentation at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biologists (to be held in January 2016) and a paper to be published in a peer-reviewed journal following the meeting.
Figure: Simple biomechanical model of bite force in a salmon head
Dr. Nick Gidmark
University of Washington - Friday Harbor Laboratories
When obtaining food, an animal can either bite hard or fast. Any organism has to deal with the fundamental tradeoff between strength and speed. This summer, we will be using dissection, computer models, and muscle physiology to investigate how different species of salmon balance the force-speed tradeoff. Using simple biomechanical models (e.g., Figure), we will compare maximum biting force and maximum biting velocity between salmon species of the San Juan Islands.
What you'll need: I can teach you everything you need to know for this project, so the only necessary qualifications are the ability to work hard and absolute dedication to having fun. If you have any experience with animal husbandry, dissection, photography/videography, animal surgery, or excel, that's a plus. In short, all you need is a good attitude and we'll figure the rest out.
What we'll do: To study salmon jaw muscles, we will begin with detailed dissection of salmon heads, focusing on two species: king salmon and pink salmon. These two species are plentiful in waters around FHL in the summers. Using previously-gathered x-ray video data, we will model skeletal movements involved in jaw opening and closing (see www.xromm.org for a detailed description of this technique) and calculate muscle length changes. Finally, we will collect wild specimens to conduct muscle physiology testing, measuring muscular force and speed in living muscle tissue.
What you'll get: The goal of this research will be a scientific publication, so our endeavors will be geared to that end. Co-authoring a publication is a great resume or CV builder, not to mention a great tool to improve your writing skill. Experience with animal surgery will improve your skill as an anatomist, and give you experimental tools that very few people have. Most importantly, you'll gain an appreciation for vertebrate muscle-skeletal anatomy that can be related back to any organism you choose – including your own body!
Shared food and habitat preference as indicators of potential competition between the native banana slug and the invading terrestrial black slug
Native banana slug gliding across moss/dried grass.
While iconic animal species are generally large mammals and typically carnivores, the Pacific Northwest has an unusual icon in Ariolimax columbiana, the second-largest terrestrial slug in the world. In addition to its surprisingly large size, the slug has a wide range of colorations and patterns, from a bright yellow to a mottled drab olive green, giving rise to its common name: the banana slug (colors range from pre-ripe to ready for composting!) This species can be very important in nutrient cycling and spore dispersal (of mosses, fungi) in the various local forest ecosystems. Because no other native slug species even comes close to the banana slug in terms of size, this species likely has evolved without competition from close relatives for the ecological niches favored by adults. However, as humans are increasingly mobile around the planet, invasive species are becoming commonplace. In the Pacific Northwest, Arion rufus (although there is controversy as to its exact species, as there are three possibilities and they likely intermate and hybridize) is an invasive slug that was introduced within the past century, has become common on San Juan Island, and approaches A. limax in size. While banana slugs have a widely varied diet, so does A. rufus. Since the two species often co-occur, are investigating to what extent they might compete with each other. Is this native icon threatened by this recent invader?
Two color morphs of Arion rufus (the invasive species).
Last summer, we conducted our first summer of field work with these species, looking at their various habitat choices and feeding preferences. While we gained some important insights, there are many questions remaining. Arion rufus is also known as the black slug or the European slug, but it has many morphs as well: licorice black, milk chocolate brown and even burnt orange. The various color morphs seem to partition themselves among various microhabitats, with none of the black morphs found in the grasslands. The sheer density of the invaders in the seemingly dry grasslands can be staggering, and they are extremely effective at rapidly disappearing once the sun arises. Work this summer will involve further investigations of the feeding preferences and habitat tolerances of the two species, size classes and color morphs in an attempt to determine the basic ecology of both and thus gain an estimate of the likelihood that they might be in competition and a gauge of the ecosystem impact this invasive species may have on San Juan Island microhabitats. Researchers on this project will need to be willing to work in the very early hours at least for animal collection (the slugs often disappear once the sun is fully up), some nighttime experiments/setting up overnight video time lapse is anticipated, and of course, slugs are wonderfully slimy animals (don’t worry, we have gloves!). However, while they may seem at first to be lethargic blobs, it is amazing how fascinating, intriguing, and even (I think!) charismatic these shell-less molluscs are upon close examination. In addition, my lab works collaboratively on projects as researcher-power is needed, so any student working on this project will likely also be working on intertidal marine snail epibiosis project I outlined in another description.
Epibiosis in marine intertidal snails: factors promoting the interactions and the impacts on participants
Hunting snails in the rocky intertidal zone. Good leg and knee workouts. Watch those barnacles!
Symbiotic interactions between marine gastropods (snails) and other organisms fascinate me. In rocky marine communities, competition for space is typically intense, leading many species to partner with others to increase the amount of real estate. This habit, when one species lives on another, is termed epibiosis, and can either be facilitated, actively discouraged, or neutrally tolerated by the basibiont, or host organism. For many summers, I focused on the extreme host restriction of an epibiotic suspension feeding marine snail (Crepidula adunca; a slipper limpet) that largely lives attached only to the shell of one host species. I attempted to determine why it ignores other potential host snails and even hermit crabs in the shell of the preferred host (Calliostoma ligatum; a topsnail), and the impact of this association to both players. Many have noted that Calliostoma ligatum is unusual in that it has a relatively clean shell, typically only fouled by this epibiotic snail and an encrusting non-calcified green alga. However, I was not sure how common fouling was on intertidal snails on San Juan Island.
Multiple individuals of Calliostoma ligatum clustered in a tide pool. Notice the green patches of algae on the shells and the one brown epibiotic shell of Crepidula adunca on the body whorl of the middle lower host individual.
This past summer, my lab conducted intertidal transect studies to examine this question. What we found surprised us, as many of the snails and chitons that we thought would host epibionts did not. Most surprising was the fact that for one particular species of limpet, individuals with very clean shells would often be located right next to individuals with shells so fouled by enormous tufts of Ulva spp. (a green alga) that it was difficult to initially realize that there was a shell underneath that mound. Also intriguing to us were the factors preventing epibosis in most potential hosts: is it due to a lack of larval settlement based on the shape of the basibiont’s shell, behavioral characteristics of the basibiont as it ventures out of the ecological tolerance range of the epibionts, do various other snails graze the backs of the hosts and thus clean the shells, or are there other factors at play? This upcoming summer we will build on the enticing preliminary results from last summer. There are a number of directions this future work can take, all of which will revolve around questions of ecological interactions and likely involve hours of field work that will be driven by tidal schedules: investigating epibiosis in the limpets, setting out settlement plates with various parameters of “host shells”, continuing work on the Crepidula adunca-Calliostoma ligatum system. In addition, my lab works collaboratively on projects as researcher-power is needed, so any student working on this project will likely also be working on the terrestrial slug project I outlined in another description.
Arthropods are the most abundant and diverse group in the animal kingdom – they occupy nearly every ecological niche in marine, freshwater and terrestrial habitats. Their extraordinary evolutionary success can be partly attributed to the remarkable diversity of mating systems found in arthropods. I am primarily interested in sexual selection, particularly within species that are sexually dimorphic – that is, where strong competition for mates has ultimately lead to divergence in the appearance of males and females. Exaggerated male traits can be the result of female choice, where females mate preferentially based on the male's expression of these traits, male competition, where males use armaments in intrasexual battles for access to females, or a combination of both. In such mating systems, males usually compete with each other for females in contests usually determined by differences in body size or weaponry which dictate fighting ability. Males may compete directly for access to females or may instead control resources essential for female survival and reproduction.
Earwigs are a model system for studying competition and reproductive behavior because they are distinguished by their possession of weapons (“forceps”), their high degree of maternal care (females aggressively guarding eggs and juveniles), and high densities that promote frequent interaction. In most earwigs, both sexes use their forceps to capture prey, and female earwigs are usually larger than males, presumably due to a fecundity advantage seen in many arthropods.
The maritime earwig Anisolabis maritima is unusual among the order Dermaptera, and this insect is particularly well-suited for studies of sexual selection because males differ markedly from females in both body size (males are more variable in size, and often substantially larger, than females) and weaponry (males possess asymmetrical, curved forceps whereas females have straight forceps; see photo). Furthermore, while females often kill conspecifics by using their forceps like scissors, males usually resolve their disputes non-lethally by squeezing each other’s abdomens, perhaps a means to assess strength and fighting ability (see diagram from Muñoz & Zink 2012).
This summer we will continue lab and field investigations of the mating system of A. maritima by determining the roles of sex, size and weaponry on intrasexual competition and intersexual mating preferences, and by examining the spatial distribution within larger groups to determine how same-sex and mixed-sex interactions affect distribution patterns observed in the field.
Neuroethology: How Tritonia brains control behavior. A study of the orange brain of a toxic sea slug
This internship will focus on learning techniques in neuroethological research such as behavioral recording and analysis, recording electrical signals from brain and nerve, cell injection, and confocal fluorescent microscopy of neural structures. Research will focus on the nudibranch sea slug Tritonia diomedea because it is most amenable to neuroethological analysis, but will also extend to related species of opisthobranch as part of the comparative approach.
The Tritonia sea slug has served as a model system in neuroethology, i.e. relating the activities of multiple nerve cells to behavior in a natural context. In particular, we will investigate the neural basis of navigation using Tritonia to tidal flow, odors of food, mates, and predators, as well as the geomagnetic field. Because the nervous system is easily accessible and composed of relatively large cells, we will identify brain cells that are involved in sensing stimuli, and effecting crawling and turning.
One of the major advantages of teaching with the Tritonia model is that its large, orange neurons make learning to record from the central nervous system relatively easier compared to other species. The intern will also learn how to control magnetic fields, track animal movement using cameras, how to analyze video of body movement on a computer, and how to correlate movement with neural activity. This sea slug specializes in eating coral prey that are toxic to most other animals, so we are also investigating its chemical ecology and how it protects itself from toxins.http://impulse.appstate.edu/articles/2012/structure-and-function-pedal-neurons-controlling-muscle-contractions-tritonia-diomedea
Seagrass populations, including eelgrass (Zostera marina), are in decline worldwide, and rates of loss are accelerating. Eelgrass habitats are diverse, productive, and economically and ecologically important. The beds provide critical habitat for a diverse range of sea life including birds, and serves as a nursery areas for juvenile species. Eelgrass stands structure loose sediment, preventing erosion. They serve as a substrate for algae and diatoms, or epiphytes, which are a food source for small invertebrates. Loss of this habitat has the potential to threaten the health of entire regional ecosystems and economies.
Nutrients may be introduced to nearshore eelgrass habitat via surface water run-off or submarine groundwater discharge. These can be significant mechanisms of transport for a variety of materials into coastal zones, including nutrients and organic pollutants such as herbicides and pesticides. This study proposes to investigate a suite of trace organic contaminants that may have negative effects on eelgrass health using a variety of analytical chemistry techniques. Inland influences on coastal ecology will be mapped using GIS programs and connected with elevated concentrations of trace organic pollutants.
In eelgrass and macroalgal beds snails in the genus Lacuna are the dominant grazers on the Pacific coast of North America. Lacuna vincta and Lacuna variegata are common throughout the Salish Sea and can occur at densities as high as 3,000 / m2. However, their abundances vary wildly among years.
These snails have been the focus of studies on phenotypic plasticity and plant herbivore interactions. Both species change their feeding morphology (radula) in response to changes in their diet. When feeding on macroalgae they make pointed teeth, while when feeding on diatoms on eelgrass they make blunt-shaped teeth. More recently we have been working on food-web based models to understand the dynamics of these important species and their traits. An important part of the system that is little understood is the role of predators on these snails, in particular their two major invertebrate predators, the seastar Leptasterias and the crab Pugettia grascilis. Previous work has shown that Lacuna is a major prey item for the seastar, but with the recent loss of seastars due to wasting disease, the dynamics of predator-prey interactions in this system may shift.
We will conduct field studies and laboratory mesocosm studies to examine the densities and feeding rates of each of these predators in the two different habitat types, macroalgal beds and eelgrass beds.
Field Studies: We will sample the density of the two species of Lacuna in two different macroalgal habitats and two eelgrass bed environments where my lab has collected data for the past 15 years. We will also determine local diversity of invertebrates, algae and seagrasses at each site. We will determine predator feeding on these species in the field by examining crab fecal pellets and seastar stomachs and arms as they hold onto snails they are going to each.
Mescocosm studies: We will run experiments with eelgrass and macroalgae and each of the two predators. We will test for feeding rates, feeding efficiency and preference of each predator in each habitat type. We will also test different sizes of predators and prey to determine if there are size escapes (either too small to handle effectively or too large for predators) from predation.
These data will be used to parameterize models of dispersal and the effects of predators we are developing to look at the adaptive value of behavioral and morphological plasticity in these snails.
Rising atmospheric levels of CO2 are expected to lead to substantial lowering of ocean pH within the next century. Impacts of ocean acidification (OA) are being intensively studied at FHL and at other laboratories around the world, particularly with respect to organisms that make calcareous skeletons that become more difficult to grow and maintain in acidified conditions. Many studies have focused on veliger larvae of molluscs, because of the ecological and economic importance of these animals. Although many studies have documented OA effects on larval growth and survival, few have focused attention on the critical life history transition of metamorphosis, when pelagic larvae become benthic juveniles. This is a pressing area for research, in two respects. First, it is clear that larval experience may have profound “carryover” effects on juveniles (1). Second, settlement to the substrate and subsequent metamorphosis are mediated by larval sensory physiology, which may itself be affected by OA (2).
In the summer of 2015 we will study metamorphosis of the gastropod, Crepidula fornicata, in the context of OA. How does acidification affect the acquisition of competence for metamorphosis, the neurobehavioral responses to environmental cues that induce settlement and metamorphosis, and post-metamorphic juvenile performance? C. fornicata is an ideal animal for this research. Much baseline information is already known about its development, metamorphosis, and life history. The veligers are large (up to 1.5 mm), easily cultured, and amenable to ecologically-relevant behavioral and neurophysiological experiments (3). Furthermore, C. fornicata is native to the eastern U.S. but has become established as a non-native species in many parts of the world (including Washington), and is of great interest as an invasive species in changing ecosystems (4). In this project students will learn elements of experimental design, as well as methods of larval culture, carbonate chemistry, metamorphosis assays, and video and electrophysiological techniques for behavior analysis.
(1) Pechenik JA (2006) Integr Comp Biol 46: 323-333.
(2) Munday PL et al. (2009) PNAS 106: 1848–1852.
(3) Penniman JA et al. (2013) Invertebr Biol 132: 14-26.
(4) Bohn K, Richardson C (2012) Mar Biol 159: 2091-2103.
Dr. Marianne E. Porter
Florida Atlantic University
Background: My previous work suggests that the cartilage found in the vertebral columns and jaws of sharks and rays can be as stiff and strong as some bone. These past studies have taken a comparative approach and we examined skeletal elements from many different species. However, we have not been able to make comparisons among skeletal elements from the same individuals or species.
Goals: To examine the mechanical properties from multiple skeletal elements in the same species. We will also compare skeletal elements among local elasmobranch species including Squalus acanthias, Raja spp., Hexanchus griseus.
Skill acquisition: Students working on this project will gain experience in experimental design, dissection, specimen preparation, material testing, and data analysis. Our goal is to obtain a data set that can be presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology held in Portland, OR (January 2016).
The BEACON Program will fund up to four students. They will work under the supervision of Dr. Billie Swalla.