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Marine Biodiversity

Marine Biodiversity

Biodiversity within species (genetic diversity) and between species is critical for maintenance of the health, productivity and resilience of an ecosystem. Marine biodiversity, in particular, has the potential to transform medicine, industry, environmental remediation, and energy production.  However, marine biodiversity is simultaneously under-sampled and threatened by pollution, habitat destruction, fishing, and climate change. SEA’s repeated cruise tracks across remote areas of the ocean offer an excellent opportunity to advance our understanding of global marine biodiversity, while SEA’s concentrated efforts in the Sargasso Sea generate detailed biodiversity data to inform regional management strategies.

Research Themes

Sea Education Association Research

Eel larvae (Leptocephali)

The Sargasso Sea is a spawning and nursery habitat for a number of marine and freshwater eel species of high ecological and economic value. Eel larvae are collected in surface and subsurface plankton net tows to study vertical and geographic patterns of species distribution.

Selected Eel larvae (Leptocephali) papers and publications

Sea Education Association Research

Microbial communities

Microbes including bacteria, Archaea, and eukaryotic protists dominate marine biomass, productivity, and biodiversity, yet are understudied. Moreover, floating substrates and the surfaces of higher organisms may support different microbial communities from the surrounding water and may serve as vectors for transport. Modern molecular methods allow us to examine diversity of these microbial communities.

Selected Microbial communities papers and publications

Sea Education Association Research

Sargassum and the Sargassum community

Patches of Sargassum represent productivity and biodiversity ‘hotspots’ in a nutrient- and substrate-limited open ocean environment. Emphasizing the importance of field-based observations, we use twice daily surface plankton net tows to study Sargassum species distribution on the regional scale, and targeted dip net sampling to study diversity of the associated community of organisms on individual clumps of Sargassum.

Selected Sargassum and the Sargassum community papers and publications

Sea Education Association Research

Spiny lobster larvae (Phyllosoma)

Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus, are a commercially important species whose stocks have been in decline during the last decade throughout the Caribbean and southeastern United States waters. At SEA, research focuses on the planktonic larvae using morphological characteristics to determine larval stage/age, and molecular methods to distinguish between source populations, in order to understand transport and recruitment.

Selected Spiny lobster larvae (Phyllosoma) papers and publications

Papers and Publications

Peer-reviewed publications

Schmidt, V. T., J. Reveillaud, E. Zettler*, T. J. Mincer, L. Murphy and L. A. Amaral-Zettler, 2014. Oligotyping reveals community level habitat selection within the genus Vibrio. Front. Microbiol. 5, 563.

doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00563

Sehein, T.^, A. Siuda*, T. Shank and A. Govindarajan, 2014. Connectivity in the slender Sargassum shrimp (Latreutes fucorum): implications for a Sargasso Sea protected area. J. Plankton Res. 36, 1408-1412.

doi: 10.1093/plankt/fbu081

McCliment, E. A., C. E. Nelson, C. A. Carlson, A. L. Alldredge, J. Witting* and L. A. Amaral-Zettler, 2012. An all-taxon microbial inventory of the Moorea coral reef ecosystem. ISME Journal 6, 309-319.

doi: 10.1038/ismej.2011.108

Selected student research

Daley, A., G. Huston, M. Keefe and C. Schultz, 2015. Community and Population Level Biodiversity in the Sargasso Sea: A Study Investigating Biodiversity of Sargassum-associated Mobile Fauna. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-259, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Botta, W., J. Townsend and R. Plantz, 2015. Investigating Dispersion Dynamics of the Caribbean Spiny Lobster Panulirus argus Phyllosoma. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-259, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Alberini, A., L. Goss, C. Graham and H. McMonagle, 2015. Initial Microbial Colonizers of Microplastics in the Sargasso Sea. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-259, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Romero, M., O. Robson, K. Rolf and S. Stratton, 2015. Eel Biodiversity and Population Connectivity in the Sargasso Sea. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-259, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Walker, K. and A. Work, 2014. Biodiversity of Hydroid Communities Associated with Pelagic Sargassum. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-252, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Bowser, T., M. Camp and B. O'Brien, 2014. Caribbean Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus) Dispersion Dynamics in the Sargasso Sea. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-252, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Dixon, C., C. Pauly and M. Tan, 2014. The Effects of Substrate on Microbial Community Composition and Biofilm Quantity in the Sargasso Sea. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-252, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Gervase, L., C. Bateson and G. Ballou, 2014. Leptocephali Biodiversity in the Sargasso Sea: Spatial and Diel Patterns. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-252, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Dougherty, A., K. Lipp, A. Osborn, L. Romain and G. St. Aubin, 2013. Larval Life Stage Distribution and Genetic Lineage Alignment of Caribbean Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus) in the Sargasso Sea. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-247, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Edson, E., R. Green, S. Houang, B. Kolody and S. Watters, 2013. Colony Morphology and Genetic Diversity of Vibrio on Natural Versus Artificial Substrates Across the Sargasso Sea. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-247, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Couts, T., M. Haberman, L. Nickerson and C. Villar, 2013. Biodiversity and Biogeography of Leptocephali in Surface and Subsurface Waters of the Caribbean and Sargasso Seas. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-247, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Bering, J. and A. Binford-Walsh, 2012. The Distribution and Population Dynamics of Pelagic Sargassum spp. in the Sargasso Sea. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-241, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Mooiweer, E. and T. Sehein, 2012. Documenting Sargassum Shrimp Biodiversity in the Sargasso Sea. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-241, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Daniel, J. and J. Pivor, 2012. Population Genetics and Dynamics of Caribbean Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus) Phyllosoma in the Sargasso Sea. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-241, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Adams, A., C. Cheng, B. Ong and Y. Ye, 2012. A Study of the Biodiversity of Vibrio Bacteria in the Sargasso Sea. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-241, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Jackson, M. and L. Spiers, 2012. Analysis of the Biodiversity and Abundance of Leptocephali in the Sargasso Sea. Unpublished student research paper, Class C-241, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA.

Presentations

Camp, M.^, B. O'Brien^, T. Bowser^, L. Amaral-Zettler, E. Zettler* and A. Siuda*, 2015. Caribbean Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus) Dispersion Dynamics in the Sargasso Sea. Association of Southeastern Biologists meeting, Chattanooga, TN.

Nieves, M. A.^ and A. N. S. Siuda*, 2015. Factors that Influence the Composition of the Resident Macrofauna Community of Free-floating Sargassum. ASLO Aquatic Sciences meeting, Granada, Spain.

Gervase, L.^, C. Bateson^, G. Ballou^, A. Siuda*, L. Amaral-Zettler and A. Bucklin, 2015. Leptocephali Biodiversity in the Sargasso Sea: Spatial and Diel Patterns. NY American Fisheries Society meeting, Lake Placid, NY.

Sehein, T.^, A. Siuda*, T. Shank and A. Govindarajan, 2013. Slender Sargassum Shrimp (Latreutes fucorum) Population Genetic Structure in the Sargasso Sea. BioNES meeting, Bristol, RI.

Pivor, J.^, J. Daniel, A. Siuda*, A. Bucklin, L. Blanco-Bercial, L. Amaral-Zettler and E. Zettler*, 2013. Sweepstakes Reproductive Success of the Caribbean Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus) in the Sargasso Sea. ASLO Aquatic Sciences meeting, New Orleans, LA.

Edson, E.^, E. Zettler*, L. Amaral-Zettler, A. Siuda*, R. Green^, S. Houang^, B. Kolody^ and S. Watters^, 2013. Genetic Diversity of Vibrio on Natural versus Artificial Substrates across the Sargasso Sea. BioNES meeting, Bristol, RI.

Other

Farmer*, M. W., 1982. Large-scale dispersal and recruitment of phyllosoma larvae. Eos 63, 975.


* SEA faculty and staff
^ SEA Semester alumnus

News

Off to a great start!

Posted on: April 19, 2017
By: Laura Cooney , Chief Scientist
SEA Semester

Hello friends and family,

Today was an exciting day on board the SSV Corwith Cramer!

The day started bright and early with 6 am wake-ups for A watch and 6:40 am wake-ups for B and C watches, and it’s been a steady stream of new experiences and important training for the students-turned-crew of class C-273 ever since.

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SEA Semester alumna’s marine biological research continues at Amherst

Posted on: September 22, 2016
SEA Semester

SEA Semester in the News

We’re always interested to hear about the continuing research conducted by recent SEA Semester alumni, so we thought we’d share this report about Taylor Hallowell from The Amherst Student.  Taylor sailed with C-266, Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, last spring.

Thoughts on Theses: Taylor Hallowell ‘17
By Jacob Gendelman ‘20; Staff Writer, The Amherst Student

Taylor Hallowell ’17 majors in biology. Her thesis examines the sensory drive hypothesis in cichlid fish that express different retinal genes while living under different colors of light. Professor of Biology Ethan Clotfelter is her advisor.

Q: Can you describe your thesis?

A: The sensory drive hypothesis is essentially that there’s a difference in the environment, [which] leads to sensory divergences, like divergences in animals’ sensory systems. That leads to reproductive isolation, and that leads to speciation. There isn’t a ton of evidence for it right now, but there’s an increasing amount. People are starting to take more of an interest in it. I’m trying to get more data for it. I’m working with cichlid fish, which are really common fish to work with because they’re so easy to breed. I have hundreds of little babies already. I’m making them grow up in extreme light environments. A third of them are only getting red light, a third are only getting blue light, and a third are getting just white light. I’m trying to show that differences in light environment cause differences in the expression of the genes in the retina. That would contribute to the sensory drive hypothesis.

Read the full story.


Saratoga newspaper profiles hometown SEA Semester student

Posted on: July 17, 2015
SEA Semester

SEA Semester® in the News: “So Much To Sea: Freeman ’17 and Schuldt ’18 Embark on Tall Ship Adventures”
Norra Reyes, Saratoga TODAY | July 17, 2015

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Elizabeth “Liz” Olson, 19, returned home to Saratoga Springs earlier this month after a transformative experience sailing the high seas as part of a Marine Biodiversity and Conservation SEA semester through the Sea Education Association (SEA) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Read the full story here.


C252 Web Blog - 01 May 2014

Posted on: May 01, 2014
By: Brandon O’Brien, Cornell University
pic

Our arrival in Bermuda has not halted the steady march of science on board the Corwith Cramer! In between exciting field trips and some much-needed rest, students have been fighting the good fight to finish up molecular work for their projects. DNA extractions and PCR amplifications must be finished by Friday morning so that samples can be flown back to Woods Hole with MBLscientist Linda Amaral-Zettler for sequencing at the facilities there.

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C252 Web Blog - 18 April 2014

Posted on: April 18, 2014
By: Luke Gervase, B-watch, SUNY E.S.F.
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Things have been going swimmingly thus far aboard Mama Cramer with my amazing shipmates. After 3 days I already feel the ship is our home… wait, has it been five? It is so easy to lose track of days and time on our watch schedule. I think we are all finally getting into a sleeping schedule and getting adjusted to life on the high seas. The seas have gotten stronger and are making the boat rock quite violently at times. Last night in particular, I was woken up a few times as I was being thrashed into the side of my bunk. The sea sickness has dropped drastically despite the rising swells; we all just needed that adjustment time, myself included.

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Resources

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