Blumenthal, Murphy, Courtney Announce $250,000 Federal Grant to UConn for Study to Aid Future Long Island Sound Cleanup Efforts

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.


gill figure

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.

Students from Marine Sciences Excel at the 13th International Conference on Copepoda

UConn Marine Sciences was well represented at the 13th International Conference on Copepoda (, 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 (

Warm congratulations to Matt, Jimmy and Erika!

Dam lab 13th International Conference on Copepoda

Photo caption:

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.

Insights into the red algae and eukaryotic evolution from the genome of Porphyra umbilicalis (Bangiophyceae, Rhodophyta)

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.

Porphyra umbilicalis
(Yuanyu Cao/University of New Hampshire)

Study will sample water in Long Island Sound this summer

Save the Sound has launched a groundbreaking water testing program that will dramatically increase available data on the health of Long Island Sound. The bi-state non-profit organization already issues a closely watched “report card” on the health of the estuary. Now, the Unified Water Study: Long Island Sound Embayment Research will test water conditions in the Sound’s bays and harbors.

Read more by following the links below!

Jessica Hinckley receives a 2017 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) award

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.

Image credit Julia Kendzierski.

Uconn Student is Outstanding Student Paper Award Recipient

Danielle Boshers, a graduate student with Julie Granger, received an Outstanding Student Paper Award (OSPA) for her talk at the American Geophysical Union 2016 Fall Meeting. OSPAs are awarded to promote, recognize, and reward the top 3-5% of student presenters for quality research in the geophysical sciences. The topic of her presentation was Oxygen Isotope Composition of Nitrate Produced by Freshwater Nitrification.