ESA is coming up next week!

ESA_logo_Final-hi_rezMalin is off to the Ecological Society of America meeting in Sacramento, CA next week, in part to run a special symposium on Thursday afternoon, “Climate and Beyond: Cumulative Impacts and Species Range Shifts” with Adam Wolf and Morgan Tingley. They have a great line-up of speakers, so come check it out! Malin will be presenting some of the lab’s new work on the interaction between climate velocity, fishing, and marine protected areas.

Afi and Mario join the lab

Afi and Mario are now hard at work in the lab, and both have been chomping at the bit to get going! It’s just Michelle and Malin that have been slow to set things up for them to work (fieldwork, travel, blah blah blah). In the short term, Afi is learning how to run electrophoresis gels and checking the quality of the hundreds of DNA extractions that we’re doing these days (clownfish!). Mario is analyzing the photo quadrat data that we collected in the Philippines and rapidly becoming an expert on identifying coral genera. We’re excited to have both of them join us!

News from Leyte, Philippines

After a long day of diving in Tinag-an
After a long day of diving in Tinag-an

Pinsky Lab Phillipines is closing down after a great summer season! We (Michelle and field assistant Gerry Sucano) collected 540 clownfish samples and performed fish and coral transects on 600 m of reef off the western coast of Leyte.  While damage from Typhoon Yolanda (known as Typhoon Hayan in the U.S.) is still evident both on land and on the reef, there are still breathtaking stretches of coral habitat that are home to a diverse array of fish and invertebrates. We’ll be coming back here often over the coming years to observe the coral reef recovery, and in particular to understand how the dispersal of baby clownfish contributes to the recovery of their populations.

Sampling clownfish has its humorous moments, and it was especially fun to watch clownfish hide from our field assistant and clownfish wrangler extraordinaire, Gerry.  They would hide behind rocks and peek out at him from around corners. They would zip off to a neighboring anemone, and three or four would get together and watch him, swimming to face each other and then him in what seemed to be an animated conversation about the giant “fish” with bubbles coming out of its mouth.

Michelle at work watching clownfish.
Michelle at work watching clownfish.

The area of the Philippines where we work is a fascinating amalgamation of “primitive” with modern technology.  People live in thatch roofed huts and yet watch episodes of Game of Thrones on tablets. They use modern industrial materials to manufacture “off the grid” solutions, and the natural world is never far away. Even in our air conditioned hotel rooms, part of the wall was made of screen to allow air to move in and out (irony, anyone?). Being in a completely closed space started to feel odd, though the New Jersey winter will surely dispel that notion in due time. Meanwhile, it has been wonderful to enjoy living in this tiny piece of paradise.

Patrick is here!

Flanagan_cohoOur first Ph.D. student, Patrick Flanagan, is now on campus and on the steep learning curve for R. Welcome, Patrick! We’ll be growing quickly over the next few months, with Jennifer Hoey (Ph.D. student) and Ryan Batt (postdoc) both arriving in August. Keep your eyes out for two new postdoc ads as well if you’re interested in that sort of thing…

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).