WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (CT-2) announced on Tuesday that the University of Connecticut (UConn) was awarded a Marine Debris Research Grant totaling $257,531 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program. The Marine Debris Program is a competitive grant process. UConn will conduct research on the effect of marine debris, like plastic, on oysters from August 2017 through October 2019.
“Our state depends on a clean Long Island Sound, and UConn has been on the forefront of protecting it and supporting marine businesses. This federal grant will help UConn students and professors do even more. It will support invaluable research on the effects of ocean plastic on shellfish,” said Blumenthal, Murphy, and Courtney. “Connecticut’s oyster fisheries are an important part of the Southeastern Connecticut economy, and they depend on clean oceans. We look forward to reviewing the research over the coming years as we continue to fight for policies in Washington that protect the Sound.”
“We are proud to receive this grant. Plastic debris can have profound impacts on marine life. Microplastics, produced by the weathering of debris, can be taken up by shellfish. Our research will examine what types of plastic particles are ingested by oysters in Long Island Sound, might cause them harm, and might be passed up the food chain to humans. The study connects the health of Long Island Sound to safe and sustainable seafood,” said Dr. J. Evan Ward, Professor at UConn’s Department of Marine Sciences in Groton.
Micrograph of the gill of a living, actively feeding oyster delivered microplastic fibers (red Nylon, red arrows) and spheres (yellow polystyrene, yellow arrows). Fibers and spheres have been captured by the gill and are being transported to the mouth (magnification about 150 x). Credit: J.E. Ward.
UConn Marine Sciences was well represented at the 13th International Conference on Copepoda (http://13icoc.org/), July 16-21, Los Angeles, USA. The conference was attended by scientists from 30 countries and dealt with all aspects of copepods (tiny crustaceans that are the most abundant animals on the planet).
PhD student Matthew Sasaki received the very first prestigious Kabata award for best student oral presentation for his talk, The remarkable thermal generalist performance curve of Acartia tonsa: Implications for survival in a warming climate. PhD student James deMayo received an award for outstanding poster for his presentation, Combined effects of warming and acidification on life-history traits of Acartia tonsa, and visiting PhD student Érika Pinho Correia (Federal University of Pernambuco, Brazil) also received an award for outstanding oral presentation for her talk, Is there any pattern of diel vertical migration of microzooplankton in the equatorial Atlantic?. All three students are members of Professor Hans Dam’s research group ( http://marinesciences.uconn.edu/faculty/dam/).
Warm congratulations to Matt, Jimmy and Erika!
From left to right: Prof. Hans Dam, James deMayo, Erika Pinho Correia, and Matthew Sasaki at the Student Award Ceremony (Museum of Natural History of Los Angeles) of the 13th International Conference on Copepoda.
Dr. Senjie Lin and his current and former Ph. D. graduate students, Brittany Sprecher and Yunyun Zhuang, engaged in an international collaboration to sequence Porphyra umbilicalis’ nuclear genome. Their efforts revealed how the red algae has been able to thrive in the harsh intertidal zone under exposure to high UV radiation, changing temperatures, and severe osmotic stress and desiccation for more than a billion years. Porphyra umbilicalis belongs to an ancient group of red algae, Bangiophyceae, and is a valuable human food source.
The team’s analysis found that P. umbilicalis has a small set of cytoskeleton motor proteins (explaining why red algae are smaller in size when compared to most multicellular lineages), several cellular mechanisms to cope with the stressful environment, and a high capacity for nutrient uptake and utilization.
Major support for the genome sequencing was through a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute, sequencing analysis was supported by a National Science Foundations Research Collaboration Network grant, and the project was led by Dr. Susan Brawley at the University of Maine. The findings are published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Sophomore marine sciences student Jessica Hinckley is the recipient of a summer undergraduate research fellowship (SURF) where she will be working on a pioneering carbon dioxide time series in Long Island Sound with Prof Penny Vlahos. Jessica will be investigating trends and responses of dissolved carbon dioxide and oxygen under various temperature and wind conditions.
Prof. Dam was elected a 2016 Sustaining Fellow of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLSO), the premier world association for aquatic scientists. ASLO Sustaining Fellows are recognized as having sustained excellence in their contributions to ASLO and the aquatic sciences.
With a record number of students in attendance at the 28th Conference on Severe Local Storms in Portland, OR, Tristan Kading was awarded second place for the Top Student Poster Presentation at the conference. Congratulations Tristan!
The Ocean & Atmospheric Research program (OAR) of NOAA and Sea Grant just announced the winners of its most recent round of research funding to better understand the consequences of ocean warming and acidification on key marine resources in U.S. Northeast coastal waters. Hannes Baumann and collaborators were happy and proud to learn that their proposed work on the climate sensitivity of Northern sand lance (Ammodytes dubius) was one of the four projects selected for funding. This is particularly good news for Chris Murray, who for his PhD can now expand his experimental rearing expertise to this important species.
This project will be conducted collaboratively with colleagues from NOAA (David Wiley), USGS (Page Valentine), Boston University (Les Kaufman), and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (Scott Gallager).
You can read the official announcement as it appeared on 6 September 2016 on NOAA’s News site
Vena Haynes was recently awarded the EPA STAR Fellowship for her environmental toxicology research with Dr. J. Evan Ward. Vena is a PhD student in the UConn Marine Sciences program, where her research is focused on the effects of environmental pollutants on marine food webs. Manufactured nanomaterials are entering aquatic environments from product usage, industrial waste, and wastewater treatment plant effluents. Specifically, titanium dioxide nanoparticles found in consumer products, such as sunscreen and personal care products, can be toxic to organisms and its toxicity can increase with exposure to light. Very little research has been done on the effects of these nanoparticles in the marine environment with exposure to natural light. The objective of this project is to examine the effects of titanium dioxide nanoparticles on ecologically important food web grazers that inhabit coastal waters, using environmentally relevant experimental conditions. This work will aid in the development of safer nanomaterials and help predict impacts on grazer populations and organisms that rely on grazers for food (primarily fish).