Hiring Data Scientist for project modeling coral reefs and the potential for evolutionary rescue!

The Pinsky Lab in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources is searching for an organized, enthusiastic, and skilled individual to work as a data scientist on a 4-month project modeling the future of coral reefs and the potential for evolutionary rescue. 

This is a temporary, hourly position starting in March 2020 at an hourly rate of $32-$60 (depending on qualifications).

The scientist will assist the PI, a postdoc, and our collaborators by performing statistical analyses and developing visualizations of outputs from a regional model of coral adaptation in the Caribbean. These analyses will contribute to our understanding of coral adaptation and the potential for conservation over the coming centuries across a realistically complex landscape. We seek to test a set strategies for expanding existing marine protected area networks in the region with the goal of facilitating coral adaptive potential. The scientist will also synthesize existing region-specific data on coral reefs and format model data for conservation applications. The work will support scientific publications, other reports, and on-the-ground conservation planning efforts.

The scientist will be part of a dynamic research team with opportunities for professional development, presentations, co-authorship on scientific manuscripts, and collaboration with colleagues at Rutgers, U. Washington, the Coral Reef Alliance, The Nature Conservancy, and beyond. Rutgers offers many opportunities to interact with biologists, oceanographers, climate scientists, and other scholars in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, the

Rutgers Climate Institute, the Institute for Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, and the many other institutions in the New York region.

Minimum Qualifications

  • A master’s degree in ecology & evolution, marine biology, oceanography, climate, or a related scientific field, or an equivalent combination of education and relevant experience
  • Exceptional skill with a scientific computing language (e.g., R, MATLAB, or Python) and with data science applications
  • Strong data visualization skills
  • Experience with GIS
  • Strong ability to accomplish tasks independently
  • Excellent communication skills with professional colleagues

Preferred Qualifications

  • Knowledge of coral reef biology, ecology, or oceanography
  • Start date in March 2020

To apply, please follow the instructions listed in the Rutgers employment portal post by submitting a cover letter that describes your interest in the position, a curriculum vitae, and the contact information for three references, as well as answering the “posting-specific questions”. Review of applications will begin immediately after February 2, 2020 and continue until the position is filled.

Please contact Malin Pinsky (malin.pinsky@rutgers.edu) if you have any questions.

Katrina Catalano wins the Rosemary Grant Advanced Award!

Katrina Catalano, PhD candidate

Pinsky lab PhD candidate, Katrina Catalano, won the 2019 Graduate Research Excellence Grant (GREG) – Rosemary Grant Advanced Award for her proposal, titled “An Investigation of the Effects of Genes on Larval Swimming Speed and Dispersal Distance”. This funding will allow Katrina and colleagues to perform a genome wide association study looking for associations between clownfish (Amphiprion percula) swimming endurance and genotypes. Congrats, Katrina!

Thermal affinities and temperature gradients explain how warming changes ocean community composition: Burrows et al. 2019, Nature Climate Change

Figure 1, c-f (Burrows et al. 2019) Thermal characteristics in simulated pools of species varying in thermal diversity (high: c and d; low: e and f) and species’ thermal ranges [STR] (narrow: c and e; wide: d and f), showing subsets forming communities at a mean annual sea temperature of 15 °C.

A new paper published in Nature Climate Change by Dr. Michael Burrows et al., with contributions from Dr. Ryan Batt (former Pinsky Lab postdoc) and Dr. Malin Pinsky, used 29 years of fish and plankton survey data to assess how warming is changing marine communities’ composition and structure. They found that “warm-water species are rapidly increasing and cold-water species are decreasing” as ocean waters warm. Informed by species’ incidence, and changes in sea surface temperature (SST), the team created measures of species’ thermal affinities, community composition, and other summary metrics. They used these to measure community-level change in thermal affinity and composition.

Regions with relatively stable temperatures (e.g. the Northeast Pacific and Gulf of Mexico) showed little change in structure, while areas that warmed (e.g. the North Atlantic) shifted strongly towards warm-water species dominance. They also found that communities whose species pools had diverse thermal affinities and a narrower range of thermal tolerance showed greater sensitivity to change.

Next, they found that communities in regions with strong temperature depth gradients changed less than expected. In these regions, rather than moving horizontally through the water, species can instead move deeper to maintain their preferred temperature.

They concluded that this evidence strongly supports temperature as a fundamental driver of change in marine systems, and that metrics based on species’ thermal affinities are useful tools to predict and provide prognoses for community dominance shifts.

Check out press coverage of the article below:

Changes in both size and distribution of fish stocks on the US West Coast drive variation in availability to fisheries: Selden et al. article in ICES JoMS

Block seine fishing. Image courtesy of WDFW.
Commercial fishing boat hauling up a block-seine trawl. Image from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Changes in the total catch of a species do not always correspond to changes in total biomass or changes in the species’ distribution alone. This discrepancy drove Dr. Rebecca Selden, former Pinsky lab post-doc and current Assistant Professor at Wesleyan College, and colleagues to seek a greater understanding of the forces driving both fish stock availability and catch at US West Coast ports in their recently published article.

The team first sought to couple changes in a species’ biomass with the species’ distribution to explain the heterogeneity in stock availability experienced by fisheries across different latitudes. They measured the change in distribution and biomass of five commercial target species (dover sole, thornyheads, sablefish, lingcod, and petrale sole), and found that the timing and magnitude of stock declines and recoveries are not experienced uniformly along the coast when they coincide with shifts in species distributions.

Second, they integrated information on distances travelled by fishers with estimates of availability along the coast to generate port-specific indices of availability. They found that additional factors, like greater vessel mobility and larger areal extent of fish habitat, affect availability, and may work to counteract or augment the effects of changing fish biomass and distribution.

Lastly, they found that higher stock availability was not consistently associated with higher catch per ticket. Because fish landings were not consistently related to stock availability, Selden et al. suggest that social, economic, and regulatory factors likely constrain or facilitate the capacity for fishers to adapt to changes in fish availability.

Postdoc available in population genomics and global change

A three-year postdoctoral position is available in the Global Change Ecology & Evolution Lab at Rutgers University. The postdoc will join a NSF PIRE-funded project to study micro-evolutionary responses to a century of habitat degradation and intensive exploitation in Southeast Asia. The project is using DNA sequencing from a unique historical collection of coastal marine fishes in the Philippines from the R/V Albatross expedition (1907-1909), complemented with modern re-collections of the same species and locations. The postdoc will join a team of researchers that includes Kent Carpenter and Dan Barshis (Old Dominion University), Chris Bird (Texas A&M), Beth Polidoro (Arizona State), Robin Waples (NOAA), Jeff Williams (Smithsonian), Angel Alcala (Silliman U.), and others.

The postdoc will lead analyses of multiple population genomic datasets through time, including changes in diversity and signatures of selection, compare impacts and changes across species, and conduct trait-based analyses to understand characteristics of populations more or less prone to genetic bottlenecks. The postdoc will also contribute to summer population genomic workshops in the Philippines. Extensive opportunities for collaboration across the multi-institutional team, across Rutgers, and in the region are available, including within the Rutgers Genome Cooperative, the Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, and the Genetics Department. The postdoc will have the opportunity to mentor undergraduate and graduate students.

The position is ideally suited to quantitative researchers with a strong background in population genomics, bioinformatics, data science, and global change. No experience in marine biology required, though experience with population genomic modeling, Approximate Bayesian Computation, database management, and/or hierarchical modeling is a plus. Applicants with evidence of creativity, productivity, strong oral and written communication abilities, and enthusiasm are especially encouraged to apply, particularly those that bring a new perspective, new ideas, or a new skillset to the team. A promising record of publication is valued. The successful applicant will be an independent, motivated problem solver who communicates well and enjoys working in a collaborative setting.

**Position details**
The postdoc start dates are flexible, with preferred dates between May and October 2020. Salary starts at $50,000 per year and includes health insurance, retirement, tax savings plans, and other benefits. Funding for conferences and a computer are available. This is a one-year appointment with the expectation that it will be renewed twice (three years total), contingent upon satisfactory performance. Applicants must have a PhD at the time of employment.

**Application process**
Review of applications will begin on December 16, 2019 and will continue on a rolling basis. Interested candidates should email to malin.pinsky@rutgers.edu: 1) a one­page cover letter that describes their interest in the position and their relevant background, 2) a CV, and 3) the names and contact information for three scientists familiar with their work.

**Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey**
Rutgers is situated in New Jersey at a crossroads of American innovation, commerce, and culture and with a history entwined with that of the nation. Chartered in 1766, the university is the only one in the United States that is, at once, a colonial college, a land-grant institution, and a state university. Located within an easy drive of New York City, there are nonetheless an exceptionally wide array of marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems nearby, from the continental shelf and estuaries to barrier islands, coastal plains, the piedmont, Precambrian highlands, and ridge and valley geological provinces. Ecology & evolution at Rutgers consists of approximately 60 faculty and 50 graduate students pursuing research and training in conservation biology, ecosystem ecology, evolutionary biology, marine biology, microbial ecology, population and community ecology, population genetics, and restoration ecology.

Malin Pinsky
Associate Professor
Global Change Ecology & Evolution Lab
Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources
Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences
Rutgers University
New Brunswick, NJ 08901



Pinsky Lab at the Ecological Society of America’s 2019 Meeting

Pinsky Lab members (L to R) Jennifer, Lisa, Allison, Katrina, Rene and Dan at ESA

Pinsky Lab members, Jennifer, Lisa, Allison, Katrina, Rene and Dan, attended The Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) 2019 Annual Meeting in Louisville, KY from August 11th to the 16th. All of them presented an oral presentation or a poster at the conference, attended talks, met researchers in their subfields, and attended networking events.

When not attending the conference, or a networking event, they all spent time exploring Louisville – riding Bird scooters about the town, and trying lots of local food and drink.

Pinsky Lab in South Africa at Species on the Move

Malin, Zoe, and Becca all attended, and gave presentations at the Species on the Move conference at the Kruger National Park in South Africa in late July.

All of them spoke to the theme of the conference: Zoë’s “Alternative climate drivers of local species richness, colonization, and extirpation in marine fishes”, Becca’s “Adapting to change? Availability of fish stocks to fishing communities on the US west coast”, and Malin’s plenary on the “Impacts of climate warming on ectotherms in the ocean and on land.

Outside of presenting and networking at the conference, they had the chance to take in the breathtaking scenery at Kruger, exploring the savannah and catching views of baboons, giraffes, and elephants!

Conservation planning for species evolving with climate change: new article in Nature Climate Change

A coral reef off Cuatros Islas in the Philippines.
Photo: Michelle Stuart/Rutgers University-New Brunswick

Drs. Timothy Walsworth, Daniel Schindler, Madhavi Colton, Michael Webster,  Stephen Palumbi, Peter Mumby, Timothy Essington, and Malin Pinsky authored a paper exploring the efficacy of various management strategies to protect species in the face of warming ocean temperatures. While previous research addressed where to establish protected areas, nearly all studies overlooked the fact that most species can also evolve in response to climate change, despite growing evidence that rapid evolutionary response can occur. The paper focused in particular on corals.

The team evaluated a range of potential conservation strategies, including protecting: 1) the hottest 2) the coldest and 3) both the hottest and coldest sites at the time of site selection; sites with the 4) highest and 5) lowest abundance at the time of site selection; 6) sites that are evenly spaced across the entire network, and 7) randomly selected sites about the networks. The researchers found that strategies conserving many different kinds of sites would work best (e.g. 6 and 7).

“Rather than conserving just the cold places with corals, we found that the best strategies will conserve a wide diversity of sites,” Malin explained. “Hot reefs are important sources of heat-tolerant corals, while cold sites and those in between are important future refuges and stepping stones for corals as the water heats up.”

Click to read the full article

Press coverage:

Climate Change Threatens Commercial Fishers From Maine to North Carolina – Rogers et al. article in Nature Climate Change

Lobster boats anchored off Cutler, Maine.
Photo: Malin Pinsky/Rutgers University-New Brunswick

Drs. Lauren Rogers, Robert Griffin, Talia Young, Emma Fuller, Kevin St. Martin, and Malin Pinsky collaborated on a paper which seeks to understand how climate change will likely affect the fishing opportunities for 85 communities in New England and the Mid-Atlantic. The team integrated climatic, ecological and socio-economic data to identify where strategies for adapting to the ecological impacts of climate change will be most needed. They used 13 global climate models to project how ocean temperatures are likely to change, then examined ocean temperatures and types of bottom habitat to determine where important commercial fisheries species are likely to move. They also looked at whether the species caught by fishing communities are likely to become more or less abundant in the ocean regions where they typically fish.

Read more about the paper from the news outlets below:

Jennifer joins Chris Chambers (NOAA) to raise larval summer flounder

Jennifer has been helping out Chris Chambers (NOAA collaborator) and his team raise larval summer flounder through to metamorphosis under a range of different temperatures. These larvae have parents caught off of New Jersey, and their growth development and survival will be compared with that of larvae with North Carolina parents. The goal of this project is to compare the thermal performance of summer flounder throughout the species range and involves taking many photos of metamorphosed larvae (which are sometimes very iridescent!).

Metamorphosed summer flounder larvae shot by Emily Olson (NOAA)