Typhoon Haiyan: before and after

Michelle is still over in Leyte, Philippines with field assistant Gerry Sucano, but already, what we’ve seen of the damage from Typhoon Haiyan to the reefs has been stunning. This was the strongest typhoon in recorded history ever to make landfall, and even on the leeward side, the changes were dramatic in some places.

Caridad reef, Bay Bay, Leyte (2014)
After: Caridad reef, Bay Bay, Leyte (2014)
Caridad reef, Bay Bay, Leyte
Before: Caridad reef, Bay Bay, Leyte (2013)

Interestingly, though, other reefs were barely affected. A bit like a tornado that walks down a street, destroying some houses and leaving others unscathed.

Pinsky lab contributes to National Climate Assessment

Country_map_w_titleMaybe you saw the front page of the New York Times last Tuesday? It had the image here, and it was highlighting the publication of a new report from the federal government called the National Climate Assessment. Think of it like the IPCC report, but for the U.S., and it represented the work of hundreds if not thousands of scientists synthesizing everything we know about climate and its impact on this country. It’s fantastic to see it get this attention!

We got to see one small corner of this report in the making, since Malin was on the team that wrote the 296 page “technical input” report on Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services. It was a long and deliberate process… it started with conference calls through the fall of 2011, then a meeting with dozens of experts in Palo Alto, CA to flesh out the major pieces of the report. Then writing and revising through the spring of 2012, including a special box on “Climate Impacts on New England Fisheries” that we wrote. From there, a federal committee made up of academic and government scientists synthesized all the technical input reports, plus other materials into a draft National Climate Assessment. That was posted online in January 2013 for 90 days of public comments (more than 4000 received and responded to) and extensive peer review, including from the National Academies.

Mean latitude through time of four fisheries in the Northeast U.S.
Mean latitude through time of four fisheries in the Northeast U.S.

And then… drumroll, the final report came out this May, 2014, all 829 pages of it (don’t be too intimidated, though: the website they put together is beautiful and accessible). Wow, that was a long process. But if it has the power and authority to affect the actions of our federal, state, and local governments, plus change public attitudes and business planning, it’s entirely worth it. Oh, and that box on New England fisheries? Find it here, in the Oceans chapter of the final National Climate Assessment.

Count-down to Philippines field work….

VSU corals before collage
Before the typhoon (photo by Laura Mudge).

We’re getting ready for our first trip back to Leyte, Philippines since Typhoon Haiyan made landfall last November, and preparations and planning are well underway for fieldwork starting in early June. By sheer luck, we have two years of pre-typhoon reef fish surveys directly in the typhoon’s path, which makes for a unique scientific opportunity. From photos, the reefs look badly damaged, and the trip is timed to learn more about how reefs like this recover after a massive storm like this. Funding is being provided by the NSF Biological Oceanography program.

VSU corals after collage
After the typhoon (photos by Laura Mudge).










The lab is growing!

Michelle StuartWhile the announcement was long overdue, Michelle Stuart joined in December, moving from Byron Crump’s lab in Oregon to work as our lab manager and population genomics extraordinaire. Besides wrangling new equipment and troubleshooting new protocols, she’s also getting ready for this year’s field season in Leyte, Philippines, our first since Typhoon Haiyan hit the region.

Just last week, Ryan Batt accepted an IMCS Postdoctoral Fellowship and will be joining us in August to work on understanding how changing temperatures affect the structure and dynamics of marine communities. He’s coming from U. Wisconsin – Madison and brings a wealth of data analysis tools, including super-cool early warning indicators of regime shifts.

Also last week, Patrick Flanagan (B.S., University of California Davis) accepted a Ph.D. position in the lab, through the Graduate Program in Oceanography. His interests include food web interactions, species distributions, and the effects of climate change, as well as science communication.

It’s exciting to have a growing community!

Malin awarded 2014 Sloan Fellowship in Ocean Sciences

SloanOut today on Page A9 of the New York Times is the announcement that Malin and seven other scientists were awarded Alfred P. Sloan Fellowships in Ocean Sciences. It’s an exciting day for the lab and for Rutgers (John Paul Chou was also selected in Physics)! The fellowships are given to early career scientists and scholars whose achievements and potential identify them as rising stars and the next generation of scientific leaders. The award will help fund our new research into the consequences of climate change for marine communities and species interactions.

Rutgers Today also has an article about the announcement.

Teaching ourselves creativity

Photo by Tim K. Hamilton [flickr] under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Photo by Tim K. Hamilton [flickr] under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Are some people born creative, and others born to be dull? Do we need creativity to solve the grand challenges facing the world today, whether in science or society more broadly? In a paper that just became available online in Conservation Biology (Online Early), we argue emphatically No to the first question, and Yes to the second if we are to provide clean air, clean water, and abundant wildlife for generations to come. Creativity provides the raw material we need to solve some of the toughest conservation challenges, and yet we rarely think about how we can increase our individual and collective creativity. There’s a surprising amount we can do, in fact, from intentionally surrounding ourselves with unfamiliar concepts, to making time for reflection, and embracing risk responsibly. Once you’ve read the article… get outside and take a walk to let it sink in!

Postdoctoral position in quantitative climate ecology

We are seeking an outstanding postdoc to study the responses of marine communities to climate change and climate velocity using long-term ecological and environmental datasets. The research will aim to quantify community change across North American continental shelves, determine the impacts of climate change and variability on these patterns, and understand how these factors alter the emergent properties of communities and food webs. Topics will include the processes of community assembly and disassembly, the appearance of non-analog communities, and changes in potential species interactions and food web dynamics. The research will build from an existing, four decade-long ecological dataset for the continental shelves of North America (e.g., Pinsky et al. 2013 Science) and will integrate statistical analysis with ecological modeling. There will also be opportunities to apply the research to conservation and applied fisheries questions through existing partnerships with governmental and non-governmental organizations.

The ideal candidate will have a Ph.D. in ecology or related field, a strong background in statistics using R, excellent written and oral communication abilities, a promising record of publication, and evidence of creativity and enthusiasm.

**Application process**
Interested candidates should send an email describing their research interests and qualifications along with a CV and two representative publications to malin.pinsky@rutgers.edu. Strongly qualified applications will be encouraged to apply for the IMCS Postdoctoral Fellowship, due December 15, 2013 (http://marine.rutgers.edu/main/).

Overfished species have lower genetic diversity

Photo by Winky (Flickr)
Photo by Winky (Flickr)

Genetic diversity is the raw material for evolution, and it allows species to adapt to changing environmental conditions. But can fisheries cause species to lose genetic diversity? In our meta-analysis just out this week in Molecular Ecology (OnlineEarly), we find strong evidence that the answer is yes. Previously, studies on individual populations have had somewhat ambiguous results: some studies found an effect, others did not. Our finding provides more evidence that the evolutionary impacts of overharvest are important for fisheries management, and may explain why some heavily overfished populations (e.g., Newfoundland cod) have had such a hard time recovering.

New paper in Science shows that marine species follow climate velocity

Cod photo by Joachim S. Müller.
Photo by Joachim S. Müller.

As ocean temperatures change, fish that provide food for people around the world are moving into new territories. While it’s been common to talk about broad expectations like species shifting towards the poles as the climate warms, the problem has been that many species are not shifting towards the poles, and even of those species that are, some are shifting quickly and others slowly. In a paper out today in Science, we show that  the trick to more precise forecasts is to follow local temperature changes, expressed as climate velocities.

Photo by Cliff on Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/people/nostri-imago/)
Photo by Cliff on Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/people/nostri-imago/)

Climate velocities are the rate and direction that temperatures move across the seascape. The findings suggest that climate velocity will be a powerful tool for forecasting future range shifts and have implications for marine conservation and fisheries management. Transient populations are especially vulnerable to overexploitation.

Press coverage includes BBC Radio, LA Times, CBC, ScienceNow, ClimateWire, the Southern Fried Science blog, and EuropaPress. Princeton also has a blog post.




As one example, lobster in the northeastern United States (above) moved north at a pace of 43 miles per decade. (Video by Leah Lewis and D. Richardson, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)