New papers from the lab

Exciting news on the publication front:

  • Jim’s paper on rapid responses of marine animals to winter temperature variability is now out in Global Change Biology. He found strong variation in how animals responded to a warm winter (higher or lower abundance; or shift north vs. south), but the rate and direction of response was predictable from thermal affinity.
  • Ryan has been hard at work to understand long-term trends in species richness in marine ecosystems all around North America. The paper was just accepted in Ecology Letters! More on this later.
  • Jordan Holtswarth was an REU student in our lab last summer, and her paper on reproduction in clownfish is now in press at Bulletin of Marine Science!

Field season in the Philippines

It is May, and we have a larger-than-usual team this year headed to Visayas State University in the Philippines to continue our research on metapopulation dynamics in coral reef fish. Michelle is leading the tagging and sample collection, Katrina is trying new oceanographic measurement sand field experiments, Allison is getting her first introduction to the system in preparation for modeling efforts, and Malin is helping out all around and catching fish (thanks to training from Tony Nahacky last year). We also have the indispensable help of local assistants Gerry Sucano and Rodney Silvano, plus Apollo Lizano (visiting student from U. Philippines Marine Science Institute). It’s great to be in the water again!

Jim @ Fisheries Leadership & Sustainability Forum

Postdoc Jim Morley is just back from presenting and participating in the latest Fisheries Forum in Monterey, CA earlier this week. The topic was “Managing Fisheries in a Changing Environment,” and participants included Fisheries Management Council members, staff, NOAA employees, and many state agency employees. Lots of interest in how to adapt to the rapidly changing ocean conditions that we are seeing. Jim talked about how OceanAdapt and the species distribution projections we are developing can help.

Hiring a data science technician for coral reef research!

Data Science Technician

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 science technician on a three-year project modeling the future of coral reefs and the potential for evolutionary rescue. The project is in collaboration with the Coral Reef Alliance, Dr. Daniel Schindler at the University of Washington, and other collaborators. The project is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

The technician will assist the PI, a postdoc, and our collaborators by identifying, assembling, and synthesizing existing, region-specific data on coral reefs and their oceanography, ecological communities, population dynamics, evolutionary parameters, and climate in the Pacific and Caribbean. These data will contribute to regional and/or global models of coral adaptation and the potential for conservation over the coming centuries across realistically complex landscapes. Important questions to be studied include the relative role of ecological vs. evolutionary change in rapid coral adaptation, the interaction between oceanography and evolutionary processes, and the potential for conservation actions to facilitate rapid adaptation. Other duties will include assisting with data visualizations as well as project and lab logistics such as training students, preparing materials for grant reports and applications, maintaining a website, and organizing events.

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

Preferred Qualifications
– Experience with data management, including spatial data
– Knowledge of coral reef biology, ecology, or oceanography
– Experience with computer clusters and scientific computing
– Start date in summer 2017
– Experience on the Meso-American Reef or in Fiji or Indonesia

To apply, please please send a cover letter that describes your interest in the position, a curriculum vitae, and the contact information for three references to Malin Pinsky (malin.pinsky@rutgers.edu). Please combine all components of the application into a single file, and include “CORAL tech position” in the subject line. Review of applications will begin on April 14, 2017 and continue until the position is filled.

This is a full-time position, initially appointed for a period of 12 months at an annual salary of $30,860-$35,000 (depending on qualifications), plus health insurance, retirement contributions, and other benefits. The position can be extended for at least one year depending on performance.

More information about the Pinsky lab can be found at http://pinsky.marine.rutgers.edu. Please contact Malin Pinsky (malin.pinsky@rutgers.edu) if you have any questions.

Putting endangered wildlife in a corner

Photo by Aziz Saltik (flickr)

Our new paper on extinction risk in marine and terrestrial species is out today in PNAS, “Range contraction enables harvesting to extinction” [free preprint here]. Led by Matthew Burgess at UCSB, the research shows that shrinking distributions puts many animals at further risk from extinction as their abundance decline. While harvesters (fishers or hunters) are typically expected to stop harvesting when a species becomes rare and the costs of harvest become too high, contraction of a species into dense clusters can keep harvesting profitable, even at very low abundance. Examples of species with these contractions include Bengal tigers, Asian elephants, and bluefin tunas.

News coverage:

New paper: Who should pick the winners of climate change?

It is tempting to try to guess which species will be the winners of climate change, and which the losers. But our new paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution suggests that we should avoid doing that when we design management and conservation measures. Instead, we propose harnessing the diversity and evolutionary capacity of the natural world as a climate adaptation strategy by designing “adaptation networks.” We focus on coral reefs as a particularly salient example.

Patrick defends!

Patrick Flanagan very successfully presented and defended his MS Thesis today, “Community-temperature mismatch in a benthic marine ecosystem.” He investigated whether changing temperature could be used to understand ecological community change on the northeast US continental shelf. Congratulations, Patrick! He’s graduating from the Graduate Program in Oceanography.

New paper: where did Nemo go?

Photo of orange clownfish courtesy of Simon Thorrold.

Baby fish float on ocean currents. So where do they go? Our paper out this week in Current Biology uses DNA to answer that question for clownfish in Papua New Guinea, and about 20 km is the simple answer. What’s especially exciting is that we show how very common and easily measured population genetic patterns called “isolation by distance” accurately measure the larval dispersal process. We validated our answer against observations of dispersal for hundreds of individual larvae (an incredibly time-consuming endeavor). Our findings help open the door to applying the isolation by distance method to a much wider range of marine species.

This work was the result of an exciting collaboration with Serge Planes, Geoff Jones, Simon Thorrold, Pablo Saenz-Agudelo, Michael Berumen, Michael Bode, and others.