Funded by the NOAA Educational Partnership Program with Minority-Serving Institutions Cooperative Agreement Award #NA16SEC4810009

NOAA CCME Scholar Benjamin Johnson Researches Rate of Consumption of Squid in Indian River Lagoon

It is well-studied that predators have a significant effect on their prey both on the land and in the sea, termed top-down control. However, characterizing the geographic variation in the strength of predation, scaling from different habitats to different latitudes, has been difficult to do, particularly in the ocean.

MarineGEO has pioneered a well-vetted, simple assay to assist in building a map of feeding intensity around the world using the “squidpop”. A squidpop is a piece of dried squid tethered to a stake, deployed in a large array, and sampled for presence/absence after 24 hours to quantify the rate of consumption at a site.

In Florida, led by Dean Janiak and with the help of two summer interns, Madison Wheeler (Stetson University) and Ben Johnson (Florida A&M), we are trying to advance this simple technique by asking a variety of new questions that focus on the particular prey being used. Tunicates, commonly called sea squirts, are a marine fouling species found throughout the ocean attaching themselves to a variety of different structures. Tunicates also form a large majority of the non-native species, found aggregating on mostly on artificial structures (e.g. docks, seawalls, pilings).

Within the Indian River Lagoon, Florida, we are starting to see a well-established, non-native tunicate, Styela plicata, in relatively high densities in seagrass beds. This summer we are running several trials using what we call “tuni-pops” in conjunction with squidpops to test prey preference of fish in seagrass beds. Tuni-pops utilize the same technique as a squidpop assay and the morphology of a tunicate is quite comparable to dried squid.

Within the Indian River Lagoon, we have over 30 species of tunicates, many being non-native, and consequently have an endless supply of prey to utilize. Many of these species have a cosmopolitan distribution and therefore simple experiments deployed in different habitats or even throughout world can easily be done to test how particular fish species or diversity of fish can provide a means of biotic resistance (i.e. the ability of a native community to prevent non-natives from becoming established). For example, non-native species are more prevalent on artificial structures but is this because in general, fewer fish are found under docks? Non-native species are a major threat to ecosystems around the world and it is important to not only study their effects on native communities but also what, in particular, makes them such good invaders.

Results from our preliminary trials are indicative that at least for Stylea plicata, fish appear to have no interest in consuming this species compared to squid, potentially leading to its high densities in the seagrass beds in Florida.


NOAA CCME Master's Scholar Nigel Lascelles Aboard E/V Nautilus as Seafloor Mapping Intern

NOAA CCME Master's Scholar Nigel Lascelles has joined the team for Nautilus Live on the E/V Nautilus as a Seafloor Mapping Intern.

Nigel will be aboard for the Pacific Seamounts Expedition.

This mapping expedition will focus on unmapped areas of the Pacific between San Francisco and Honolulu as E/V Nautilus operations move out into the Pacific Ocean between the Hawaiian Islands and Samoa. The transit route will utilize the multibeam echosounder and sub-bottom profiler to fill in gaps in seabed mapping coverage across the Pacific, plus targeted mapping of a number of seamounts in the vicinity of the Murray Fracture zone. One targeted region is a series of linear seamounts known as the Moonless Mountains, and mapping will support the analysis of the geological structure and processes of the relationship of these seamounts to the adjacent fracture zone.

Systematic mapping of the seafloor by echosounder commenced nearly a century ago, however, more than 80% of the world’s seafloor is still not mapped, even at a resolution of 1km, and the eastern Pacific Ocean is no exception. The seafloor mapping by Nautilus plays an integral part with planning and successful execution of future ROV dives and other ocean observations. In addition to the direct value gained supporting ​Nautilus​ cruises, the seabed mapping data and products on this expedition directly contribute to international mapping efforts including the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project.

Sponsored by: NOAA Office of Exploration and Research

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The CWCC on-site component was an intensive, hands-on course that included field and laboratory activities, lecture and discussion sessions, and completion of a problem-based learning activity.

On-site field and laboratory activities included processing data and samples collected in the field, carrying out GIS mapping and modeling exercises, and participating in simulations that explore policymaking paradigms and the application of socio-economic analysis.

For the problem-based learning activity, students worked in teams to complete a site-specific case study project that integrates learning activities and concepts from all CCME focus areas Coastal Resilience, Coastal Intelligence, Placed Based Conservation, and Social Science (Human Dimensions).

During the 2019 Center-Wide Core Competency (CWCC) Course, CCME Scholars covered the following Focus Area Goals:

Coastal Intelligence

  1. The elements of sea-level rise observation networks and their relationship to sea-level rise projections.
  2. The leading stressors on ecosystem processes and their relationship to ecosystem health.
  3. Archived, existing, and new data streams that support ecosystems dynamics and research.
  4. Widely-used databases and decision- support tools that address coastal hazards.
  5. Best practices for ecosystem assessment and restoration.
  6. Demonstrate the use of communication approaches to deliver more effective warnings about coastal resources and coastal hazards.
  7. Evaluate a select suite of products and services to confirm the integration and effective use of social science into coastal intelligence research.

Coastal Resilience

  1. The natural and nature-based infrastructure that address the impact of extreme weather on coastal ecosystems and communities.
  2. The community-based approaches for the preservation, fortification, and enhancement of natural and nature-based coastal infrastructure.
  3. The models for community-based approaches for assessing the vulnerabilities and value of proposed solutions relating to the impact of extreme weather and sea-level rise on coastal ecosystems and communities.
  4. The tools used to study natural and nature-based infrastructure that mitigate the impact of extreme weather and sea- level rise on coastal communities and ecosystems.
  5. Integrating models and practices and other decision-making tools for ecosystem-based management.
  6. Advocating for the accountability of social science in planning and budgeting to enhance coastal community projects.

Place-Based Conservation

  1. The policies and commonly-used decision-making tools that support place- based conservation.
  2. The relationship between natural, applied, and social sciences and the policies as it pertains to capacity management.
  3. Best practices for engaging community stakeholders in addressing specific site- based concerns.
  4. Broadly-used ecosystems valuation tools and their use in place-based conservation efforts.
  5. The tools used to balance conservation with demand for coastal resource utilization and economic development.
  6. Understand socio-economic data needs.
  7. Engage community stakeholders.


NOAA CCME Participates in Florida State University Schools (FSUS) STEAM Night

CST Biology undergraduate student Linda Mbiza (left), NOAA CCME Researcher Dr. Richard Long (middle), and SoE and NOAA CCME graduate student Ariana Uwaibi participated in Florida State University Schools (FSUS) STEAM night where they helped students and parents swab cell phones and cultivate bacteria on agar plates.

Images of the plates were posted on Flickr so that participants could see their actual plate. There are also plates from the FAMU STEM Day on Flickr. In addition there were activities on learning bacterial shape and infographics on the human microbiome.

NOAA CCME holds 2019 Annual Meeting at NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC)

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The NOAA Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems (CCME) held its 2019 Annual Meeting at the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) on the campus of the University of California – San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography on April 11-12, 2019.  The theme of the meeting was “Expanding Partnerships for Student Training and Workforce Placement”.  The main goals of the meeting were to: introduce CCME more broadly to the NOAA scientific community, educate CCME faculty and students about different research opportunities and interests at a variety of NOAA entities, and foster new and expanded collaborations, particularly those leading to student engagement, between CCME and NOAA. 

Approximately 22 CCME faculty and staff, seven graduate students, thirteen NOAA personnel, three representatives of the Stakeholder Advisory Board, and the External Evaluator attended in person.  Four NOAA personnel attended virtually (via the Zoom web conferencing service), as did other CCME faculty and students.

A pre-meeting informal gathering for introductions and networking was held the evening of April 10 in the Hotel La Jolla.  The meeting kicked off with the presentation of posters highlighting research by select CCME graduate students with concurrent networking opportunities.  Following the welcome by CCME Director Dr. Larry Robinson and the SWFSC Acting Deputy Science and Research Director Dr. Toby Garfield, the program moved to presentations summarizing CCME and the NOAA Educational Partnership Program (EPP) to familiarize the attendees with the program.  Following a networking lunch and tour of the SWFSC, the afternoon of the first day featured talks from representatives of eleven NOAA laboratories, centers and offices.  The speakers were selected to represent a mix of those with exiting collaborations with CCME, those with some familiarity but not yet engaged with CCME, and those with no pre-existing relationship with CCME.  The second day began with a discussion of collaborative opportunities based on what was learned during the first day.  Following the open session, an internal CCME programmatic meeting was held.