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.

New insights into larval dispersal

Map of predicted population openness on Ragged Island, Bahamas.
Map of predicted population openness on Ragged Island, Bahamas.
Larvae disperse across patchy seascapes, and yet we typically assume that those seascapes are uniform. In a new paper in Ecological Applications, Malin and co-authors tease apart the consequences of this seemingly simple fact: Pinsky et al. 2012 Open and closed seascapes: Where does habitat patchiness create populations with high fractions of self-recruitment? As the title suggests, isolated habitat patches can have high self-recruitment, even without unusually short dispersal distances.