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Marine Biodiversity

Marine Biodiversity

Biodiversity within species (genetic diversity) and between species is critical for maintaining 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 ecosystems, while SEA Semester students’ concentrated research efforts in the Sargasso Sea generate detailed data to inform management of high seas biodiversity.

Research Themes

Sea Education Association Research

Eel larvae (Leptocephali)

The Sargasso Sea provides 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. Genetic tools are used to elucidate eel population structure and connectivity. 

SEA faculty and collaborators: Kerry Whittaker (SEA), Amy Siuda (Eckerd College)

Selected Eel larvae (Leptocephali) papers and publications

Sea Education Association Research

Microbial communities

Microbes including bacteria, Archaea, and eukaryotic protists are understudied despite their important role in regulating Earth’s climate and driving ocean productivity. Marine microbes are enormously diverse, and exhibit specialized functions in the ocean over geographic space, depth and time. Moreover, floating substrates and the surfaces of higher organisms may support different microbial communities from the surrounding water and serve as vectors for transport. Modern molecular methods, including whole-community fingerprinting, allow SEA Semester students to examine the diversity and connectivity of these small but mighty marine microbes.

SEA faculty and collaborators: Kerry Whittaker (SEA)

Selected Microbial communities papers and publications

Sea Education Association Research

The Sargassum community

Patches of Sargassum represent productivity and biodiversity ‘hotspots’ in a nutrient- and substrate-limited open ocean environment. Floating Sargassum harbors a diverse rafting assemblage of associated sessile and mobile organisms, including many species found nowhere else in the world. Using field sampling plus morphological and molecular identification techniques, SEA Semester students and faculty scientists examine the diversity and connectivity of Sargassum-associated species and communities including endemic hydroids (coral relatives), shrimp, crabs, and fish. 

SEA faculty and collaborators: Jeff Schell (SEA), Deb Goodwin (SEA), Kerry Whittaker (SEA), Amy Siuda (Eckerd College), Annette Govindarajan (WHOI)

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 throughout the Caribbean and coastal southeastern United States whose stocks have declined during the last decade. In past SEA Semesters, student research focused on the planktonic juveniles 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

SEA Semester

A study in Seaweed… Research in the Sargasso Sea

Posted on: June 27, 2018
By: Carly Carter, Alex Merkle-Raymond, and Kendra Ouellette

SEA Semester students of the Marine Biodiversity & Conservation program (Class C-279) recently completed their research voyage from Nassau, Bahamas to New York, with a stop in Bermuda. The program culminated with several weeks on the Woods Hole campus, and presentation of student research at the Ned Cabot Marine Biodiversity & Conservation Symposium.  As part of their curriculum, students prepared press releases describing their research. These releases will be published here, on the SEA Currents blog, over the course of the next two weeks.

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SEA Semester

Sailing for Seaweed in the Sargasso Sea…

Posted on: June 21, 2018
By: Dani Hanelin, Alena Anderson, and Jenny Renee

SEA Semester students of the Marine Biodiversity & Conservation program (Class C-279) recently completed their research voyage from Nassau, Bahamas to New York, with a stop in Bermuda. The program culminated with several weeks on the Woods Hole campus, and presentation of student research at the Ned Cabot Marine Biodiversity & Conservation Symposium.  As part of their curriculum, students prepared press releases describing their research. These releases will be published here, on the SEA Currents blog, over the course of the next two weeks.

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Last Day with Cramer & Co.

Posted on: May 23, 2018
By: Scott Waller, Middlebury College

We all knew this moment was coming. As the sun set over the East River, those of us leaving tomorrow began packing our belongings and cleaning our bunks. I can hardly believe that we’ve concluded our voyage already; the Cramer became our home, and it’s hard to leave such a familiar place behind and to readjust to the rhythms of life on land.

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Hanging on the headrig

Posted on: May 06, 2018
By: Kelsey Lane, A Watch, 1st Assistant Scientist

The siren call of a port stop is upon us.  We’re all looking forward to talking to loved ones and friends, eating some ice cream, and stretching our legs, but there’s something bittersweet about losing the simplicity of a life underway.  Land represents connectivity,  turning on the phone and the alarm clock and the laptop, replugging after all this time.

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Words from a Sailing Intern

Posted on: May 04, 2018
By: Tucker Cunningham, B Watch, Sailing Intern

Take the helm, they say. Hands to braces to brace square, they say. Haul away your halyards, they say. These are a few of many commands that a sailor will never forget, especially aboard the Cramer. Hello! My name is Tucker Cunningham, a sailing intern aboard the Corwith Cramer. I have been with the Cramer since April 2nd starting from Key West and now just a few days south of Bermuda

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Resources

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