New paper: how warming oceans affect Tiger Shark migration

A new paper in Global Change Biology documents how Tiger Shark migrations have shifted poleward in response to 40 years of ocean warming. Notably, this has left the species more exposed to commercial fishing as its expanded range is largely outside of a protected area for the species. It may also increase the rate of negative encounters between sharks and human beachgoers. The work is the result of a collaboration between researchers at U. Miami, Mississippi State, NOAA, the Pinsky Lab at Rutgers University, and others. Read the full paper here and watch a short video on it here.

Lab members attend FishGlob: a worldwide assessment from scientific trawl surveys

This past week Alexa Fredston (Postdoctoral Researcher), Zoë Kitchel (Ph.D. Candidate), and Malin met with a group of international researchers as a part of the FishGlob project hosted by the Centre for the Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity based in Montpelier, France. The team, Zooming in from Brazil, Seattle, Connecticut, Nova Scotia, France, Vancouver, and beyond is working to better understand changes in species distributions and biodiversity in the ocean by collecting and combining over 70 bottom trawl surveys from across the world.

Alexa presented on a project examining the impacts of marine heat waves on fish biomass in North America and Europe. She has found that substantial decreases in biomass are only associated with the most intense heatwaves. Zoë presented on a project testing for spatial homogenization of fish communities across a diverse array of trawl surveys. While some regions are experiencing homogenization, likely a result of anthropogenic impacts on the ocean, a number of regions are experiencing differentiation, or no directional change in community composition over time.

This exciting collaboration will allow us to better understand range shift dynamics, especially of species crossing international borders and better shape strategies to manage these cross boundary species and future fish communities.

Part-Time Lecturer position open for Molecular Ecology and Population Genomics, Spring 2022

We are currently looking for someone interested in teaching Molecular Ecology & Population Genetics in spring 2022 (11:216:454 and 16:215:554). This is the course Malin has taught the last few years, and we have funds to pay a Part-Time Lecturer for 3 credits (about $5800). This is a wonderful change to gain teaching experience in a small class setting (capped at 25 students). The course is set up as a flipped classroom, so the lectures are already recorded and the in-class exercises are already developed. The course can be taught in person, online, or in hybrid formats.

Knowledge of population genetic theory, hands-on population genomic analyses through the command line, and basic bioinformatics would be needed to teach this effectively.

Please contact Malin ( for more information.

Commentary on Payne et al. article assessing socio-ecological climate risks for European fisheries is available now in PNAS.

(A) Climate risk assessments at finer spatial scales (Right) can reveal heterogeneity and substantially more extreme risks for particular regions or groups that would not be visible in coarse assessments (Left). (B) Climate risk can be defined as the intersection of high climate hazards, high exposure to those hazards, and high vulnerability (i.e., low capacity for adapting to climate hazards). Fishing boat by Martin LeBreton from the Noun Project, which is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Malin Pinsky’s commentary on recent work in PNAS by Payne et al. (read full article here) highlights the paper’s contributions on the less visible vulnerabilities embedded within European fisheries. These fisheries have been overlooked from a climate risk perspective because they are less critical to the regional economy and food supply chain than fisheries of other world regions. Conducting fine-scale climate risk assessments (below the national level), Payne et al. use qualitative approaches to index exposure, hazard, and vulnerability. Their work documents that certain communities and certain fleets have greater exposure to risk than course-scale national data would suggest. The analysis reveals highly uneven geographic patterns of vulnerability apparently driven both by ecological and human social factors. A key recommendation from Payne et al. , according to Pinsky, is that climate risk can be reduced for many fisheries through greater diversification across a wider variety of target species. 

Read full article here

New NSF project to develop climate impact projections for the northeast US continental shelf!

With $750,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation, we’re excited to be starting a new partnership with The Nature Conservancy, University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts, the Responsible Offshore Science Alliance (ROSA), University of Wisconsin, Rutgers Equal Opportunity Fund, the Pacific Northwest College of Art and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration! The focus is on climate impacts ot fisheries, wind energy development, and conservation. More details here

McLean et al. study on shifts in thermal affinity of marine communities is available in the November 8 issue of Current Biology.

Maps showing the rate of change in SST and CTI along with differences in the strength of the underlying processes. A and B: Rate of change in SST (A) and CTI (B) across the 558 grid cells for the period 1990– 2015. C and D: Differences in the strength of tropicalization and deborealization in grid cells where CTI increased (C), and differences in the strength of borealization and detropicalization in grid cells where CTI decreased (D).

Matthew McLean collaborated with nine other researchers across Europe and North America, including Malin Pinsky, to coauthor this study on community change in marine environments. Their report appears in the November 8 issue of Current Biology. Although past studies have documented extensive shifts in community temperature index (CTI), this study uniquely decomposes CTI into four underlying processes at a multi-continental scale (tropicalization—increasing abundance of warm-affinity species; deborealization—decreasing abundance of cold-affinity speciesd; borealization—increasing abundance of cold-affinity species; detropicalization—decreasing abundance of warm-affinity species). Using long-term monitoring of marine fishes across the Northern Hemisphere, McLean et al. show that one-third of increases in mean thermal affinity were primarily due to decreases in cold-affinity species. Cold-affinity decreases were stronger closer to human population centers; warm-affinity increases were stronger in warmer areas. These findings will help in anticipating future changes in biodiversity under climate change and implementing adapted management strategies.

Read full article here

Temporal Genomics Twitter Symposium on July 8th!

The Temporal Genomics Working Group, a collaboration between five universities including members of the Pinsky Lab, is presenting a Twitter Symposium as part of the Research Coordinated Network for Evolution in Changing Seas.

Members of the RCN for Evolution in Changing Seas and the ecology & evolution community at large are invited to participate in a Twitter conference during the first full week in July 2021. This Twitter conference is aimed specifically at researchers interested in, or currently utilizing, temporal genomics methods and practices.

This Twitter conference will provide:

  • An opportunity for scientists (particularly those early in their career) to share their work with a broader community in an informal setting.
  • An opportunity for presenters and attendees to network and interact with the public and other researchers.
  • Increased visibility for the field of temporal genomics.

Presentation style:

  • Participants in the Temporal Genomics Twitter Conference are invited to condense their current research into a ~5-7 tweet thread (1,400-1,960 characters).
  • Each presenter will be given thirty minutes (15 minutes for presentation tweets and a 15 minute “live” Q&A session).

Unsure what a Twitter conference is? Check out this guide from the #ASEH2018 Twitter conference for more information on the general structure and types of presentations, or tweets, involved.

If you have questions about the Temporal Genomics Twitter Conference, please contact René Clark: rene.clark[at] (@rene_delight on Twitter), or John Whalen: jwhal002[at] (@WhaleTalez on Twitter).

For more info. visit:

Use the hashtag #TempGen2021Tweets

Clark et al. paper on spatially divergent selection in clownfish out in Proc. R. Soc. B!

yellowtail clownfish in the Philippines, 2014 – Pinsky Lab

René Clark (Ph.D. candidate) and co-authors from the Pinsky Lab, Montclair State University, Columbia University, UCLA, Shiga University (Japan), and Visayas State University (Philippines) published a paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B investigating the relationship between selection, gene flow and genetic drift across the species range of Amphiprion clarkii (the yellowtail clownfish). Using RNAseq data from populations near the range center (Indonesia & the Philippines) and the northern range margin (Japan), they found signs of local adaptation to cold temperatures at the range edge, despite strong genetic drift and gene flow from lower latitudes. Many of the targets of selection were found in genes involved in acclimation to cold stress, including protein turnover, metabolism, cell structure, and cell death, and may point to an important link between plastic and evolutionary responses involved in thermal adaptation.

Read the full article here!

Zoë Kitchel and Doug Zemeckis publish climate change and NJ fisheries bulletin!

Figure 3.
Shifts in the center of fall distribution of black sea bass (upper) and summer flounder (lower) along the northeast U.S. continental shelf from the 1970s through 2018. Data are based on the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s fall bottom trawl surveys. Source:

Pinsky Lab PhD candidate, Zoë Kitchel, and Rutgers Cooperative Extension Agent, Doug Zemeckis, authored a bulletin in Rutgers’ Cooperative Extension Bulletin on the impacts of climate change on New Jersey’s marine fisheries. The bulletin breaks down this issue for a general audience and packs the information into ~3 pages. With a quick read, you will become acquainted with climate change, its causes, effects on the ocean, and its impacts on marine life and fisheries.

Read the bulletin here!

Overfishing of Atlantic Cod Likely Did Not Cause Genetic Changes: Pinsky et al. paper out in PNAS

This article was adapted from Todd Bates’ press release.

Atlantic cod
Bottom-dwelling fish such as Atlantic cod are often found near structures such as
shipwrecks. Photo: NOAA

Overfishing likely did not cause the Atlantic cod, an iconic species, to evolve genetically and mature earlier, according to a study led by Drs. Malin Pinsky and Bastiaan Star.

“Evolution has been used in part as an excuse for why cod and other species have not recovered from overfishing,” said Malin. “Our findings suggest instead that more attention to reducing fishing and addressing other environmental changes, including climate change, will be important for allowing recovery. We can’t use evolution as a scapegoat for avoiding the hard work that would allow cod to recover.”

The study, which focuses on Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) off Newfoundland in Canada and off Norway, appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Atlantic cod range
Atlantic cod habitat includes both sides of the north Atlantic Ocean and beyond. Image: NOAA

Many debates over the last few decades have centered on whether cod have evolved in response to fisheries, a phenomenon known as fisheries-induced evolution. Cod now mature at a much earlier age, for example. The concern has been that if the fish have evolved, they may not be able to recover even if fishing is reduced, according to Pinsky.

Cod populations with late-maturing individuals can produce more offspring and more effectively avoid predators, he said. They are also better protected against climate variability.

Both theory and experiments suggest that fishing can lead to an earlier maturation age. But prior to the new study, no one had tried to sequence whole genomes from before intensive fishing to determine whether evolution had occurred. So, this team sequenced cod earbones and scales from 1907 in Norway, 1940 in Canada and modern cod from the same populations. The northern Canadian population of cod collapsed from overfishing in the early 1990s, while the northeast Arctic population near Norway faced high fishing rates but smaller declines.

The team found no major losses in genetic diversity and no major changes that suggested intensive fishing induced evolution, suggesting that we focus on managing for more direct threats (e.g., overfishing, environmental change) than for evolution.

This study prompts future investigations to see if other species, especially those with shorter lifespans (in contrast to cod), do or don’t show signs of evolution.

Scientists at the University of Oslo, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Institute of Marine Research (Norway), University of Basel and University of Zurich contributed to the study.

Read additional coverage by Science Magazine here!

Read the original press release here!