UConn DMS at Ocean Sciences 2020

The Department of Marine Sciences is excited to be well represented at Ocean Sciences 2020 in San Diego next week. With 22 presentations by faculty, students, and researchers and an exhibition booth, there are lots of ways to find out more about our research and opportunities in our department. See the full list of presentations below.

Former Marine Sciences graduate student, Dr. Maria Rosa, named as an Emerging Scholar by Diverse: Issues In Higher Education magazine

Former Marine Sciences graduate student, Dr. Maria Rosa, named as an Emerging Scholar by Diverse: Issues In Higher Education magazine (https://diverseeducation.com/2020-emerging-scholars/). For the past 19 years, Diverse: Issues In Higher Education has recognized an interdisciplinary group of minority scholars who represent the very best of the U.S. academy. Emerging Scholars are selected from hundreds of nominations, and those professors selected have distinguished themselves in their various academic disciplines and are actively working to make our society more equitable and just. This year, former Marine Sciences graduate student, Maria Rosa was one of fifteen professors nation-wide selected for the honor. Maria completed her PhD degree in 2016 (major advisor: Dr. J. Evan Ward), spent two years as a NSF-funded postdoctoral scholar at Stony Brook University (mentor: Dr. Dianna Padilla), and is currently the George and Carol Milne Assistant Professor of Biology at Connecticut College.

IUCN releases comprehensive report on ocean deoxygenation

9 December 2019. During the COP25 summit in Madrid, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) released its latest comprehensive report titled “Ocean deoxygenation: everyone’s problem” that compiles the current evidence for the ongoing, man-made decline in the oceans oxygen levels. The 588 page, 11 chapter wake-up call to these detrimental changes was produced by leading experts in the field. UConn DMS faculty Baumann is one of the co-authors in chapter 6 “Multiple stressors – forces that combine to worsen deoxygenation and its effects”.

From the executive summary:
“The equilibrium state of the ocean-atmosphere system has been perturbed these last few decades with the ocean becoming a source of oxygen for the atmosphere even though its oxygen inventory is only ~0.6% of that of the atmosphere. Different analyses conclude that the global ocean oxygen content has decreased by 1-2% since the middle of the 20th century. Global warming is expected to have contributed to this decrease, directly because the solubility of oxygen in warmer waters decreases, and indirectly through changes in the physical and biogeochemical dynamics.”

Access to the full report:

Chapter 6. Multiple stressors – forces that combine to worsen deoxygenation and its effects (5.86 MB) https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/06%20DEOX.pdf

Conservation Physiology publishes DMS study on early life CO2 sensitivity of Northern sand lance

21 November 2019. Members of the Evolutionary Fish Ecology lab (befel.marinesciences.uconn.edu) are excited to announce that Conservation Physiology has just published our ground-breaking research on the unusual, high sensitivity of Northern sand lance embryos to acidification and warming. Dr. Chris Murray, who recently graduated from UConn with his Ph.D. and now pursues his post-doctoral research at the University of Washington, is the lead author of this study, which was funded by a Northeast Regional SeaGrant project and conducted in collaboration with NOAA colleagues from Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Our study suggests that organisms that develop slowly in offshore, temperate/subpolar habitats are likely most vulnerable to the combined effects of increasing temperature and acidification in the ocean.

Murray, C.S.*, Wiley, D., and Baumann, H. (2019) High sensitivity of a keystone forage fish to elevated CO2 and temperature. Conservation Physiology 7:1-12
DOI: 10.1093/conphys/coz084

Honoring the achievements of emeritus faculty Dr. Edward C. Monahan

Edward C. Monahan Symposium

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

Monahan Symposium
Colleagues, family, and friends celebrated Dr. Monahan.

In the old-world tradition of a Festschrift, i.e., a celebration and book honoring the life and achievements of outstanding academics, the Department of Marine Sciences celebrated Dr. Edward C. Monahan in a full day symposium. Colleagues from Ed’s many years at UConn and Connecticut Sea Grant recounted entertaining anecdotes and his many accolades. Outside of academia, friends shared stories about his intense love for rowing crew and his involvement in local politics. One of the shining moments of the day included a photo montage of Ed’s facial hair throughout the years. Two beautiful quilts, crafted by Ed’s wife Elizabeth, were displayed throughout the festivities. One quilt captured rolling waves, the pattern being different shapes for different words for white caps. The other quilt displayed every institutional emblem in chronological order at which Dr. Monahan worked.

Dr. Monahan studied at Cornell University as an undergraduate in Engineering Physics, and continued onto his Ph.D. in Oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he focused on the correlation between sea spray, whitecap coverage, and wind speed. His career brought him across the world to Ireland, where he completed another Doctorate of Science at the National University of Ireland. For two decades, he led the Connecticut Sea Grant program at UConn as its Director and initiated international marine sciences exchanges. In his retirement, Ed has not slowed down his scholarly productivity. He continues to publish scientific journal articles, remains active in the department, and stays abreast of all things oceanography by attending weekly seminars and brown bag presentations.

Dr. Penny Vlahos, chair of the symposium organizing committee, commented, “Ed and I have collaborated since I started as junior faculty. I thought it was appropriate to honor him and recognize his achievements and contributions. His work is still being cited today, especially by climate scientists in IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] reports.”

Some wonderful words come from Peg Van Patten, retired communications director for Connecticut Sea Grant, “Ed Monahan was my supervisor as Director of Connecticut Sea Grant for two decades, but he was really more than that.  Ed became my mentor, and friend, and sometimes my co-author. I learned so much from his experience that I was delighted when Professor Vlahos asked me to help organize a symposium in his honor.  The day was a perfect tribute to Ed’s remarkable career and many accomplishments.”

Throughout the symposium, selected guests gave scientific talks on topics related to Ed’s research interests: sea spray, white caps, and air-sea interaction. Other speakers included grant recipients from Connecticut Sea Grant, collaborators, rowing partners, and students. In his retirement, Ed helped organize Coastsweek Regatta, a local rowing competition in Mystic, with 2019 marking the 28th consecutive year. At the closing of the day, attendees, family and friends enjoyed celebratory beverages and birthday cake appropriately decorated with a large wave. Allison Staniec, a current Ph.D. student who works directly with Ed, summarized the day quite well: “The Monahan Symposium (Twixt Wind and Waves) was an enjoyable celebration of Ed’s past and ongoing career with plenty of time for ground breaking science and entertaining anecdotes. And cake!”

The Festschrift book, “Recent Advances in the Study of Oceanic Whitecaps,” edited by P. Vlahos and E. C. Monahan (Honorary Editor) will be published by Springer Nature shortly.

Summer ’19 Synopsis

Although the academic year is over by mid-May, the Department of Marine Sciences does not take a summer vacation. Outreach, research trips, summer interns, and more activities keep Marine Sciences bustling during the summertime. Included here are just a few of the programs from summer 2019.


Marine Sciences and Mystic Aquarium REU program

This year marked the last class in the inaugural cycle of our new NSF funded Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) program with the Mystic Aquarium. Our REU students came from all corners of the country: California, Florida, Iowa, and Maine. Eight REU students were paired with Marine Sciences Faculty or Mystic Aquarium researchers on projects that spanned all levels of the marine food web. The program provides students with housing, a stipend for working full-time in a lab and for food, and all transportation. The students just focus on conducting science! This year featured new collaborative projects between DMS and the Aquarium, such as the first ever documentation of ciliate diversity and population dynamics of Beluga Whale blowhole spit. The Marine Sciences Graduate Student Organization also integrated itself into the REU program by providing invaluable peer support for oral and poster presentation experience. After a laudatory site visit by the NSF program manager, we were encouraged to apply for another four years of funding and to increase the number of students to 10. Our fingers are crossed we can continue this exciting and rewarding program.


STEM Success and Student Support Services

STEM Success, the undergraduate retention program for incoming Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) students, returned this summer! Fourteen in-coming undergraduate students enrolled, who are either first-generation college students, from low-income households, part of underrepresented populations within UConn, or in need of some extra academic support.

For four weeks, students participated in eight workshops, twice-a-week, that were designed to promote discussion amongst peers and with graduate students on STEM subjects and life at Avery Point. Activities ranged from performing titrations, carrying out plankton tows, introducing programming, and learning how to use a microscope. This enabled the incoming undergraduates to become familiar with basic scientific concepts and laboratory etiquette, readying them for their science classes this Fall. The primary goal was to add another layer of support for these students by fostering connections with their peers and their future teaching assistants.

For the second year in a row, the STEM Success program occurred alongside the intensive five-week Student Support Services summer program directed by Aaron Collins. Twice as many marine sciences graduate students got involved this year to lead the workshops. STEM Success has been designed and coordinated by Dr. Emma Cross the previous two years and she is now handing over the reins to Dr. Lisa Nigro. Our graduate students were super enthusiastic and all the incoming first-years enjoyed and found the program useful!


Pre-college at Avery Point

The Department of Marine Sciences participated in UConn’s pre-college summer program for the second time. The program, titled “marine biology and oceanography” enrolled 17 students from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Saudi Arabia (by way of New Hampshire). The students stayed in Storrs and were transported to Avery Point during the week. Students’ favorite activities included taking water quality measurements around Pine Island off the R/V Lowell Weicker, exploring invertebrate ecology from settling plates, going on a behind the scenes tour of the Aquarium, and dissecting dogfish. Instructors were Claudia Koerting and John Hamilton. The program ran the last full week of July.


UConn Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) Awards

Each summer, UConn awards close to 50 undergraduates with financial support to explore a research project of their own device through the Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF). Over the last few years, Marine Sciences undergraduate students have consistently received recognition. This year, seniors Mackenzie Blanusa and Annalee Mears were fully funded for summer research. Mackenzie combined atmospheric science and chemical analysis in her project entitled, “The Effect of Storm Type and Source Region on the Chemical Composition of Precipitation along the Long Island Sound Coastline.” Dr. Kelly Lombardo and Dr. Zofia Baumann mentored and guided her research. Annalee worked with Dr. Catherine Matassa on a project about predator-prey interactions called, “Stoichiometry of Fear: Do Predators Affect the Balance of Carbon and Nitrogen in their Prey?” Previous SURF recipients include Clare Schlink (2018), Sarah McCart (2017) and Jessica Hinckley (2019). We are proud of our undergraduates for their great contributions!

Departmental Achievements

Since the last newsletter edition, many members of the Department of Marine Sciences were awarded grants, published articles, and received fellowships and awards. Congratulations to everyone on their remarkable achievements! All are presented in alphabetical order by last name.


Hannes Baumann Contrasting genomic shifts underlie parallel phenotypic evolution in response to fishing.


Zofia Baumann Chapter 5: Ocean Transport of Radioactive Materials. Section 10: “Radioactive caesium in marine migratory animals.”


Ann Bucklin and Heidi Yeh Time-series metabarcoding analysis of zooplankton diversity of the NW Atlantic continental shelf.


Heidi Dierssen Evaluating the seasonal and decadal performance of red band difference algorithms for chlorophyll in an optically complex estuary with winter and summer blooms.


Water column optical properties of Pacific coral reefs across geomorphic zones and in comparison to offshore waters.


Pushing the limits of seagrass remote sensing in the turbid waters of Elkhorn Slough, California.


Modeling atmosphere-ocean radiative transfer: a PACE Mission perspective.


Atmospheric correction of satellite ocean-color imagery during the PACE Era


Retrieving aerosol characteristics from the PACE Mission, Part 1: ocean color instrument.


Retrieving aerosol characteristics from the PACE Mission, Part 2: multi-angle and polarimetry.


Felipe Porto Long Non-Coding RNA Expression Levels Modulate Cell-Type-Specific Splicing Patterns by Altering Their Interaction Landscape with RNA-Binding Proteins.


Matthew Sasaki and Hans Dam Integrating patterns of thermal tolerance and phenotypic plasticity with population genetics to improve understanding of vulnerability to warming in a widespread copepod.


Emily Seelen and Rob Mason The interaction of mercury and methylmercury with chalcogenide nanoparticles.


Samantha Siedlecki Observational needs supporting marine ecosystems modeling and forecasting. (accepted)


Cloud and radiative effects of a Northeast Pacific marine heat wave. (accepted)


An enhanced ocean acidification observing network: from people to technology to data synthesis and information exchange.


Better regional ocean observing through cross-national cooperation: a case study from the Northeast Pacific.


Samantha Siedlecki and Penny Vlahos Carbon cycling in the North American coastal ocean: a synthesis.


Pieter Visscher Carbonate precipitation in freshwater cyanobacterial biofilms forming microbial tufa.


J. Evan Ward Selective ingestion and egestion of plastic particles by the blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) and eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica): implications for using bivalves as bioindicators of microplastic pollution.



Mackenzie Blanusa and Annalee Mears UConn Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF)


Elisabeth (Lissa) Giacalone Dominion Energy student internship, working in environmental compliance at Millstone Power Station, Waterford, CT


Vena Haynes Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from the UConn Graduate School


Gunnar Hansen Doctoral Student Travel Fellowship from the UConn Graduate School


Abigail Kwiat NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates through University of Chicago Marine Biological Laboratory at the Plum Island Ecosystem Long Term Ecological Research site


Kayla Mladinich Doctoral Student Travel Fellowship from the UConn Graduate School



Julie Granger and Samantha Siedlecki Investigation of mechanisms leading to seasonal hypoxia in the Southern Benguela Upwelling System.


Rob Mason Collaborative Research: Constraining the role of chemical transformations in the cycling of mercury in the Arctic Ocean air-sea interface.


Samantha Siedlecki Assessment of the observing network to identify processes relevant to the predictability of the coastal ocean of the Northeast on centennial time scales, NOAA OAP.


Pieter Visscher 2019-2020 Synchrotron Soleil/CNRS-CEA: Spatial distribution of metals in microbialites as biosignatures: Linking the modern to the fossil record and search for life on Mars. Visscher (PI), Bouton (Co-PI); Fifteen shifts of beamtime in the Nanoscopium, Synchrotron Soleil, Paris, France.



Ann Bucklin Outstanding Achievement Award at ICES Annual Science Conference.

Ann Bucklin receiving award