Becca interviewed on her new paper

Nice interview with Becca on her research showing that warming is transforming predator-prey interactions in the Northeast US:

Six presentations at ESA and AFS!

Lots of great presentations this month:

  • Jennifer presented 25 years of changes in population genetic patterns of summer flounder at the Ecological Society of America (ESA) meeting in Portland, OR
  • Sarah presented on genomic evidence for evolutionary rescue in little brown bats hit by white nose syndrome, also at ESA
  • Malin gave three talks: how ecology can help meet the UN sustainable development goals, how to teach about climate change (with Rebecca Jordan), and how climate change impacts in the ocean are different than those on land (all at ESA)
  • Becca talked about changing predator-prey interactions as a result of warming in the Northeast US at the American Fisheries Society (AFS) meeting in Tampa, FL
  • Jim presented a detailed projection of marine animal distributions in North America over the coming century (AFS)
  • Allison presented some of her Ph.D. work on eco-evolutionary dynamics in salmon (AFS)

Diversity protects predator-prey interactions

Cod are a less important predator as bottom temperatures (SBT) warm.

New paper just out online in Global Change Biology, led by postdoc Becca Selden: functional diversity among predatory fish helps protect ecosystems from the impacts of warming. Becca showed that warming has helped make Atlantic cod a much less important predator in the Northeast U.S., but other predators (spiny dogfish, hakes) have expanded to fill its role.

On a geeky note, what’s especially interesting is that these changes in predator-prey interactions with warming are occurring even though both predators and prey are shifting their distributions as the environment changes.

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

Species numbers going UP in the coastal ocean

Ryan just published a paper in Ecology Letters showing that the number of species in many parts of the coastal ocean is going up, not down as many would expect.  He spent the past few years trying to understand how marine biodiversity is changing, but his findings were initially so surprising that he doubted them.

Globally, biodiversity is going down. But because some species have started to live in more places, and different places, what happens globally isn’t what we see locally.

He studied decades of patterns in biodiversity around the North American coastline, and surprisingly, most of these regions show *increases* in the number of species present. At the same time, He found that organisms that were previously rare in these areas are becoming increasingly common.

The natural world is full of surprises.

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!

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 ( 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 Please contact Malin Pinsky ( if you have any questions.

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! Marine species respond rapidly to winter temperatures

Bluefish illustration courtesy of
Bluefish illustration courtesy of

Jim Morley has a new paper just online early in Global Change Biology (here). Studying marine fish and invertebrates of the coast of the southeast US, he found that winter temperatures quickly and predictably affect species’ distribution and abundance in the following year. In particular, we found a greater abundance of southern, warm-water species following mild winters. We also found that these impacts cascade up to affect fisheries catches for many species. Interestingly, these responses appear in a region that has not been warming over the last couple decades, though 1-3 °C of warming is expected by the end of this century. Warmer winters likely will result in increased abundance of species with more southern affinities, such as white and pink shrimp, southern hake, and star drum.

Becca gives departmental seminar at Bowdoin College

Photo from Bowdoin College

Becca was invited to present her PhD and post-doctoral research in the departmental seminar series at Bowdoin College, her alma mater. She presented a talk entitled “Climate, fishing, and marine food webs: predator-prey interactions in a changing ocean.” Her research and career to date were featured on the Bowdoin website! See