Jeewantha (virtually) attends AFS 2020!

Jeewantha Bandara, a Pinsky Lab graduate student and Fulbright Scholar, attended the virtual annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society from September 14th to the 25th. He presented a poster titled “Use of Dissolved Oxygen, Salinity and Zooplankton Concentration to Determine Black Sea Bass (Centropristis striata) Habitat in North East Atlantic”. Jeewantha sought to determine which underlying environmental variables determine the distribution of Black Sea Bass. He used a two-stage GAM to explore the predictive power of a range of environmental variables on presence/absence and abundance of Black Sea Bass. He found that a model including salinity, zooplankton, and temperature best predicted the distribution of Black Sea Bass.

Click the links below to download the poster, and poster presentation video!

Welcoming Three New Lab Members!

The Pinsky Lab is pleased to welcome two new graduate students, Jaelyn Bos & Kyra Fitz, and a new Post-doc, Brendan Reid.

Kyra is joining the lab as a 1st year Ph.D. student in the Ecology and Evolution program. She has a B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has studied the impacts of environmental change on a variety of species including corals, elephant seals, sea lions, sea turtles, and larval fish. Her research interests include population genomics, marine conservation biology, and spatial ecology. In her free time she enjoys playing tennis, swimming, cooking, and taking her dog, Lucy, to parks.

Jaelyn is also joining the lab as a Ph.D. student in the Ecology and Evolution program. She is from Maryland, and graduated from University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2017 with bachelors’ degrees in environmental science and biology. From 2017 to 2019, she served with the Peace Corps in Mozambique, teaching high school biology. She’s interested in coral reefs, conservation, and ecosystem resilience, particularly in East Africa. She also enjoys hiking, running, and hanging out with friends and family (from a distance).

Brendan grew up in New Jersey and is happy to be back working for the Garden State! He received his Masters from Columbia University and his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and post-PhD he has worked at the American Museum of Natural History and at Michigan State’s Kellogg Biological Station. He is interested in gene flow and the demographics of species and communities, and his past work has used genetics to understand these processes in a wide variety of taxa (crustaceans, sloths, marine and freshwater turtles, and fish). Brendan currently lives with his girlfriend and two cats in New York City and he enjoys hiking, reading, and music.

Characterizing uncertainty in climate impact projections: Morley et al. paper out in ICES JoMS

Ensemble mean projections across 18 Earth system models and 6 niche models for the RCP 8.5 scenario for Pacific halibut (a, b), Pacific ocean perch (c, d), summer flounder (e, f), and American lobster (g, h). For each species, the left panel shows projected suitable habitat for the initial time period of 2007–2020, and the intensity of the blue represents habitat suitability while grey represents areas of the projection grid that are not suitable. The right panels show projected change in habitat suitability between the 2081–2100 time period and 2007–2020. For the right panels, red represents a decline in habitat suitability, blue represents increases in habitat suitability, and grey represents areas of no change; increasing intensity of blue (red) represents a proportionally greater increase (decrease) in habitat suitability.

Former Pinsky Lab Post-doc, Dr. Jim Morley, collaborator, Dr. Thomas Fro¨licher, and Dr. Malin Pinsky assessed and quantified the uncertainty in climate impact projections in their new paper out in ICES Journal of Marine Science. Using a case study approach, the team conducted 8964 unique projections for shifts in suitable habitat of seven important marine species occurring on the North American continental shelf, including American Lobster, Pacific Halibut, Pacific Ocean Perch, and Summer Flounder. They found that projection uncertainty arose from Earth system models (ESMs), and the niche modelling approach used to represent species distributions for all species, but variation associated with the parameter values in niche models was insignificant. Greenhouse gas emissions scenario contributed to uncertainty for projections at the century scale. The characteristics of projection uncertainty differed among species and also varied spatially, which underscores the need for improved multi-model approaches with a suite of ESMs and niche models forming the basis for uncertainty around projected impacts. Ensemble projections show the potential for major shifts in future distributions. Therefore, rigorous future projections are important for informing climate adaptation efforts.

Read the full article here.

Jennifer Hoey defends her PhD!


Dr. Jennifer Hoey successfully defended her PhD dissertation, “Adaptation and evolutionary potential in light of anthropogenic stressors in the ocean” on May 11th, 2020! It was by videoconference, with audience members calling in from literally all over the world. Jennifer’s research on evolutionary patterns in summer flounder has already been published in two papers, Hoey et al. 2018 Evolutionary Applications and Hoey et al. 2020 Molecular Ecology, with a third on the way. Jennifer has also done incredible science outreach work as part of the Science Partnership Committee within the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI). She has become a vital part of not only our lab, but the entire Rutgers Ecology & Evolution community through her work with the graduate program, outdoor activities, dining, art and more. She will be sorely missed as she moves on to a postdoc at UC Santa Cruz. The biggest congratulations and thank you to Jennifer on behalf of the entire Pinsky lab and DEENR!

Using multiple natural tags provides evidence for extensive larval dispersal across space and through time in summer flounder: Hoey et al. paper out in Molecular Ecology!

Jennifer Hoey, a Pinsky Lab PhD candidate, and a team of collaborators published a paper exploring larval flounder dispersal last week in Molecular Ecology. They used both SNP genotypes and otolith core microchemistry from 411 archived summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus) samples collected between 1989 and 2012 at five locations along the U.S. east coast to reconstruct dispersal patterns over time. While neither genotypes nor otolith microchemistry alone were sufficient to identify the source of larval fish, they used otolith microchemistry to identify clusters of larvae that originated in the same location, which allowed them to make genetic assignments of clusters with more confidence. They found that most larvae likely originated near Cape Hatteras, a biogeographic break, and that larvae were transported both north and south of the break. Larval sources did not move north over time, despite the northward shift of adult populations over the same time period. Their novel, multi-tag approach, demonstrates that summer flounder dispersal is widespread throughout their range, on both intra‐ and inter‐generational timescales, and may be a particularly important process for synchronizing population dynamics and maintaining genetic diversity during an era of rapid environmental change. Broadly, their results reveal the value of archived collections and of combining multiple natural tags to understand the magnitude and directionality of dispersal in species with extensive gene flow.

Hiring Data Scientist for project modeling coral reefs and the potential for evolutionary rescue!

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 scientist on a 4-month project modeling the future of coral reefs and the potential for evolutionary rescue. 

This is a temporary, hourly position starting in March 2020 at an hourly rate of $32-$60 (depending on qualifications).

The scientist will assist the PI, a postdoc, and our collaborators by performing statistical analyses and developing visualizations of outputs from a regional model of coral adaptation in the Caribbean. These analyses will contribute to our understanding of coral adaptation and the potential for conservation over the coming centuries across a realistically complex landscape. We seek to test a set strategies for expanding existing marine protected area networks in the region with the goal of facilitating coral adaptive potential. The scientist will also synthesize existing region-specific data on coral reefs and format model data for conservation applications. The work will support scientific publications, other reports, and on-the-ground conservation planning efforts.

The scientist 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, The Nature Conservancy, 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 master’s degree in ecology & evolution, marine biology, oceanography, climate, or a related scientific field, or an equivalent combination of education and relevant experience
  • Exceptional skill with a scientific computing language (e.g., R, MATLAB, or Python) and with data science applications
  • Strong data visualization skills
  • Experience with GIS
  • Strong ability to accomplish tasks independently
  • Excellent communication skills with professional colleagues

Preferred Qualifications

  • Knowledge of coral reef biology, ecology, or oceanography
  • Start date in March 2020

To apply, please follow the instructions listed in the Rutgers employment portal post by submitting a cover letter that describes your interest in the position, a curriculum vitae, and the contact information for three references, as well as answering the “posting-specific questions”. Review of applications will begin immediately after February 2, 2020 and continue until the position is filled.

Please contact Malin Pinsky ( if you have any questions.

Katrina Catalano wins the Rosemary Grant Advanced Award!

Pinsky lab PhD candidate, Katrina Catalano, won the 2019 Graduate Research Excellence Grant (GREG) – Rosemary Grant Advanced Award for her proposal, titled “An Investigation of the Effects of Genes on Larval Swimming Speed and Dispersal Distance”. This funding will allow Katrina and colleagues to perform a genome wide association study looking for associations between clownfish (Amphiprion percula) swimming endurance and genotypes. Congrats, Katrina!

Thermal affinities and temperature gradients explain how warming changes ocean community composition: Burrows et al. 2019, Nature Climate Change

Figure 1, c-f (Burrows et al. 2019) Thermal characteristics in simulated pools of species varying in thermal diversity (high: c and d; low: e and f) and species’ thermal ranges [STR] (narrow: c and e; wide: d and f), showing subsets forming communities at a mean annual sea temperature of 15 °C.

A new paper published in Nature Climate Change by Dr. Michael Burrows et al., with contributions from Dr. Ryan Batt (former Pinsky Lab postdoc) and Dr. Malin Pinsky, used 29 years of fish and plankton survey data to assess how warming is changing marine communities’ composition and structure. They found that “warm-water species are rapidly increasing and cold-water species are decreasing” as ocean waters warm. Informed by species’ incidence, and changes in sea surface temperature (SST), the team created measures of species’ thermal affinities, community composition, and other summary metrics. They used these to measure community-level change in thermal affinity and composition.

Regions with relatively stable temperatures (e.g. the Northeast Pacific and Gulf of Mexico) showed little change in structure, while areas that warmed (e.g. the North Atlantic) shifted strongly towards warm-water species dominance. They also found that communities whose species pools had diverse thermal affinities and a narrower range of thermal tolerance showed greater sensitivity to change.

Next, they found that communities in regions with strong temperature depth gradients changed less than expected. In these regions, rather than moving horizontally through the water, species can instead move deeper to maintain their preferred temperature.

They concluded that this evidence strongly supports temperature as a fundamental driver of change in marine systems, and that metrics based on species’ thermal affinities are useful tools to predict and provide prognoses for community dominance shifts.

Check out press coverage of the article below:

Changes in both size and distribution of fish stocks on the US West Coast drive variation in availability to fisheries: Selden et al. article in ICES JoMS

Block seine fishing. Image courtesy of WDFW.
Commercial fishing boat hauling up a block-seine trawl. Image from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Changes in the total catch of a species do not always correspond to changes in total biomass or changes in the species’ distribution alone. This discrepancy drove Dr. Rebecca Selden, former Pinsky lab post-doc and current Assistant Professor at Wesleyan College, and colleagues to seek a greater understanding of the forces driving both fish stock availability and catch at US West Coast ports in their recently published article.

The team first sought to couple changes in a species’ biomass with the species’ distribution to explain the heterogeneity in stock availability experienced by fisheries across different latitudes. They measured the change in distribution and biomass of five commercial target species (dover sole, thornyheads, sablefish, lingcod, and petrale sole), and found that the timing and magnitude of stock declines and recoveries are not experienced uniformly along the coast when they coincide with shifts in species distributions.

Second, they integrated information on distances travelled by fishers with estimates of availability along the coast to generate port-specific indices of availability. They found that additional factors, like greater vessel mobility and larger areal extent of fish habitat, affect availability, and may work to counteract or augment the effects of changing fish biomass and distribution.

Lastly, they found that higher stock availability was not consistently associated with higher catch per ticket. Because fish landings were not consistently related to stock availability, Selden et al. suggest that social, economic, and regulatory factors likely constrain or facilitate the capacity for fishers to adapt to changes in fish availability.