Author: Schuler, Debra

Marine Sciences selected to partner with AGU Bridge Program

The Department of Marine Sciences (DMS) was recently selected to participate in AGU Bridge Program (, which matches under-represented minority students with graduate Earth Science programs in the U.S.  As a Bridge Partner, DMS will work to increase the diversity of the marine sciences and create a more welcoming environment for people from a variety of backgrounds.

The official announcement is available on the AGU website:

DMS professor George McManus chairs new SCOR working group

The Department of Marine Sciences is proud to announce that Prof. George McManus will co-chair a new SCOR working group titled

Mixotrophy in the Oceans – Novel Experimental designs and Tools for a new trophic paradigm (MixONET) [link to:]

The new working group has 4 broad objectives:

1. Biological oceanography databases and the mixoplankton paradigm: Advocate for the realignment of existing plankton-facing databases in light of the mixoplankton paradigm. Identify connections between mixoplankton communities and essential ocean variables.

2. Biological oceanography research methods under the mixoplankton paradigm: Re-evaluate extant standard biological oceanographic research methods and practices for application under the mixoplankton paradigm. For example, conventional fixatives often destroy the delicate mixoplankton, while more gentle ones obscure the presence of chloroplasts. Also, pico- and nano-planktonic organisms are routinely counted using flow cytometry or epifluorescence microscopy; while standard protocols can discriminate between pigmented and colourless plankton, they are not geared for identification and quantification of mixoplankton.

3. Development of new biological oceanography methods accounting for primary and secondary productions by mixoplankton: Evaluate development of (a) routine new methods and simple protocols that could be incorporated routinely in ongoing monitoring programmes to better quantify mixoplankton and interpret their activities; and (b) new experimental and observing methods (including autonomous technologies) for quantifying and monitoring mixoplanktonic abundance and activity.

4. Ocean literacy: Development of multi-lingual training material for Early Career Researchers (ECRs), ecosystem managers, teachers and students, to enhance ocean literacy. The mixoplankton paradigm needs to be brought to the attention of students through to policy makers. A Decision Support Tool (DST) will be developed to aid configuration of mixoplankton-centric experiments to determine contributions to primary versus secondary production by these organisms.

The other co-Chair is Dr. Aditee Mitra of Cardiff University in Wales.

SCOR (Scientific Committee on Ocean Research) is an international non-governmental non-profit organization. It’s activities focus on promoting international cooperation in planning and conducting oceanographic research, and solving methodological and conceptual problems that hinder research. SCOR covers all areas of ocean science and cooperates with other organizations with common interests to conduct many SCOR activities. SCOR also conducts several different activities to build the capacity for ocean science in developing countries and every SCOR activity includes members from developing countries. Scientists from thirty-three nations have formed national SCOR committees as a foundation for international SCOR. Approximately 550 scientists from 57 countries currently participate in SCOR activities.

Ann Bucklin organizes special issue in the ICES Journal of Marine Science

Patterns of Biodiversity of Marine Zooplankton Based on Molecular Analysis is the latest themed set of articles from​ ICES Journal of Marine Science. (See ). This collection showcases the ongoing refinement of molecular approaches for analysis of zooplankton diversity.

ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) commissioned a cartoon by Bas Köhler and announced the publication (see:

The motivators for the special issue are members of the SCOR WG157 MetaZooGene (see: ), chaired by Ann Bucklin, who also authored the introductory paper, New insights into biodiversity, biogeography, ecology, and evolution of marine zooplankton based on molecular approaches (see with co-authors, Katja T.C.A. Peijnenburg (NL), Ksenia Kosobokova (RU), and Ryuji J. Machida (TW).

Celebrate Black in Marine Science week (Nov. 28-Dec.4)

Black in Marine Science (BIMS) is a premier organization aimed to celebrate Black marine scientists, spread environmental awareness and inspire the next generation of scientific thought leaders.  Please join us in celebrating and amplifying the work of Black marine scientists by tuning into their many panels, workshops, or keynotes during the week. All of the events are free and will be streamed to the BIMTV YouTube channel (YouTube channel). More information about BIMS can be found here:

Eos highlights DMS graduate student research

Graduate student Halle Berger’s recent publication in AGU Advances has been selected for an Editor’s Highlight in Eos (fewer than 2% of papers are selected for this).

You can read more about it and hear from Halle in UConn Today’s highlight of the paper here:

Berger, H.M., S.A. Siedlecki, C.M. Matassa, S.R. Alin, I.C. Kaplan, E.E. Hodgson, D. Pilcher, E.L. Norton, and J.A. Newton (2021): Seasonality and life history complexity determine vulnerability of Dungeness crab to multiple climate stressors. AGU Advances, 2(4), e2021AV000456, doi: 10.1029/2021AV000456, Published online (open access).

The interaction of exposure and the degree of negative response (consequence) to reduced pH, low oxygen and warming temperature on the vulnerability of Dungeness crab eggs, larvae, juvenile and adult life stages assessed from life stage distribution simulations (distribution map) and Lagrangian particle tracking simulations (transport model). Credit: Berger et al., 2021, Figure 3

Jim O’Donnell Attends COP26

UConn Professor of Marine Sciences and CIRCA’s Executive Director Jim O’Donnell traveled across the Atlantic this week to attend the COP 26 conference, where leaders from around the globe are meeting in Glasgow, Scotland to confront the climate crisis. So in addition to resources and news articles we’re collecting about the conference, we are fortunate to have someone on the inside! Read on for Jim’s daily perspective along with photos, helpful links, and other insights he shares from what we hope will be an earth-changing climate conference:

See the UConn Today article:

Temperature-dependent CO2 effects on silverside fecundity

2 November 2021. We are happy report that the ICES Journal of Marine Science just published the last major experimental paper on Atlantic silverside CO2-sensitivity. We report on two complementary, long-term rearing trials in 2015/16 and 2018/19, where silverside juvenile or newly fertilized embryos were reared under contrasting temperature and CO2 conditions to maturity. The paper demonstrated that negative effects of high CO2 conditions on female fecundity occurred, but only at the warm, not the cold temperature treatments (Fig. below). Our study and its data are novel, because it constitutes the first whole-life rearing experiment on a fish, and the first test for fecundity effects in a broadcast-spawning fish species.

The paper is also special to us, because its publication marks the erstwhile conclusion of our yearlong, NSF-funded efforts (OCE#1536165) to understand the CO2 sensitivity and its mechanisms in this important forage fish and long-standing model in fish ecology and evolution. The project ran from 2015 – 2020, produced 15 publications, 2 book chapters, and over 40 presentations, while furthering the careers of a post-doc, a PhD student, 5 Master students and over 10 undergraduates.

Irish Drift-Bottle found near Murmansk, Russia

Two articles appeared last week in Irish newspapers about a drift bottle from a study that Dr. Edward Monahan established when teaching in what is now the National University of Ireland, Galway, from 1976 to 1986. Links to these articles are appended below. We will not know the particulars of this ballasted bottle’s drift until the unique number on the card in this bottle is distinguished – a hard job to do. But the working hypothesis is that this drift-bottle, found recently on the sea-floor near Murmansk, Russia, was released off the west coast of Ireland during the 1980s!

A Monumental Day

President Biden restored protections from commercial fishing to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in a ceremony at the White House today. The Monument, originally designated by President Obama in 2016, is home to a tremendous diversity of marine wildlife, from the surface waters with whales and seabirds, into the deep sea with otherworldly fish and deep sea corals. Located 130 miles southeast of Cape Cod, the area includes a spectacular subsea landscape with three submarine canyons and four seamounts. The area was protected from all commercial extraction until President Trump reversed the protections from commercial scale fishing. Research Professor Emeritus Peter Auster, who also holds an appointment as a Senior Research Scientist at Mystic Aquarium, along with colleagues at New England Aquarium, conducted the research demonstrating the conservation value of the area that led to the initial designation as well as a subsequent study of the threats inherent to marine wildlife from fishing. The action by the President restores the only fully protected area in the US waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Marine Sciences researchers publish long-term zooplankton adaptation experiment

Reposted from UConn Today –
By Elaina Hancock – UConn Communications | August 26, 2021

The world’s oceans are becoming increasingly stressful places for marine life, and experts are working to understand what this means for the future. From rising temperatures; to acidification as more carbon enters the waters; to changes in the currents; the challenges are multifaceted, making experiments and projections difficult.

Copepods are small marine animals that are abundant, widely dispersed, and serve as major structural components of the ocean’s food web. A team of scientists from the University of Connecticut, Jinan University in China, and the University of Vermont have found that a species of copepod called Acartia tonsa can cope with climate change, but at a price. Their research was published in Nature Climate Change (

“We have this problem of climate change and in the ocean, it is a multi-dimensional problem because it’s not just the warming, the ocean is becoming more acidic where pH is going down as we pump more CO2, into the atmosphere. Organisms need to cope, they are under more stress, and things are happening very fast,” says Hans Dam, UConn professor of marine sciences.

Dam explains that previous studies suggest some animals will be more sensitive than others to changes like shifts in pH. Prior studies with copepods showed they are not particularly sensitive to pH changes, but Dam points out those studies were only done with a single generation, or few generations, to a single stressor and shows the ability to acclimate rather than adapt. This new study not only looks at adaptation across 25 generations, it also considered both ocean warming and acidification (OWA), something that few studies have done until now.

“If you want to study the long-term effects, you must consider the fact that animals will adapt to changes or stress in the environment, but to do that you have to do the right experiments. Most people do not do those experiments with animals because it takes a long time to study in multiple generations.”

The researchers looked at fitness, or the ability of a population to reproduce itself in one generation, and how fitness would change through generations in increased OWA conditions. The first generation exposed to new OWA conditions suffered extreme reductions of over 50% of population, says Dam. It was as if OWA was a big hammer that greatly reduced the population fitness. By the third generation, the population seemed to have mostly recovered. However, by the 12th generation, the researchers began to see declines once again.

Though the copepods were able to adapt, the adaptation was limited because fitness was never fully recovered, and the researchers suspect there are some antagonistic interactions at play, leading to a tug of war situation between adaptation to warming and to acidification. These antagonistic interactions complicate predicting what responses can be expected.

James deMayo, co-author and UConn Ph.D. student adds, “Perhaps what’s important to emphasize with this project is that the effects of warming combined with acidification are not the same for every generation or organism that is adapting to that environment. That’s suggested by the data and why the adaptation is limited. While within intermediate generations, organisms might be very well adapted, in later generations, the effects of warming and acidification start to behave differently on the population. That’s one of the exciting parts about the research. It’s not a static, expected result for how organisms or their populations are going to continue to grow or decay.”

For example, deMayo explains, if you took individuals in later generations that had adapted to the experimental OWA conditions and placed them into the conditions of today’s ocean, they would not fare as well.

“That’s one negative consequence, that ability to not tolerate environmental shifts is a cost and an unpredicted consequence for evolutionary adaptation in a lot of systems, not just in copepods,” says deMayo.

The researchers point out that studies looking at single stressors run the risk of making overly simplified inferences about an organism’s ability to adapt, an especially risky proposition when making conclusions about such an integral component of the food web as copepods.

“Particularly when you involve living organisms, there are complexities that you can’t predict,” says Dam. “A priori, you might make the predictions, but you have no certainty that they’re going to unfold that way. In biology these are referred to as ‘emergent properties’ or things that you cannot predict from what you know in advance and this research is a good example.”

In thinking back to the hammer comparison, Dam says impacts in the copepod population have ripple effects through the whole food web and beyond.

“If fitness decreases by say, 10%, down the road we will have a 10% decrease in population size and since these animals are the main food source for fish, a 10% decrease in the world fishery is pretty significant,” says Dam. “And this is really the best-case scenario since in the lab, they’re essentially living in hotel-like conditions so that 10% isn’t taking into consideration other factors like predation or disease. In the real world we could see fitness recovery is actually much worse.”

Additionally, Dam points out another implication is that copepods sequester CO2 and reductions in their numbers reduce the ocean’s carbon sequestration capabilities, bad news at a time when more carbon sequestration is needed.

While the research offers promise for rapid adaptation, it is a reminder that as with many things in nature there’s a catch.

“There is some welcoming news, that yes, there is a recovery of fitness but there is also sobering news that the evolutionary rescue is not complete. There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” says Dam.