Marine Conservation Internship Update

Our Doris Duke Conservation Scholars are taking part in conservation internships all over the US this summer. They are guest blogging here at L-C-Ideas to keep us up to speed on what they’re doing. Please check back for more!

Marine Conservation Update (part 1)

By Zach and Maria

Ahoy readers! Last time, Zach and Maria were virtually diving underwater at some of the world’s most pristine reefs. Now they are boating at kelp forests and virtually traveling across the world in 3-D. It has been totally rad to have the opportunity to develop our projects and we’re stoked- can you tell that we have become accustomed to La Jolla. In all seriousness, time is flying as we learn more about conservation and cultural diversity in the field of oceanography from both inside and outside the lab.

Since the last blog, Maria and Zach have finished going through thousands of underwater coral photos and labeling juvenile coral on coral photo mosaic. This leaves them time to see the other parts of the lab, which includes field work. Zach had a chance to set out on the open ocean. He assisted Noah Ben-Aderet, a PhD student in the Sandin lab, in tagging California yellowtail amberjack. California yellowtail are very elegant in their appearance, movement through the water, and on the dinner plate. These qualities make them a highly targeted sports fish species in Southern California. Yet, life history characteristics of the California yellowtail, specifically migration patterns and spawning habits, are still not known. The purpose of his project is to better understand the life histories of the yellowtail as well as address the recreational impact on the fishery. His research will be used in the future to make decisions about the California yellowtail fishery. It is amazing that Noah can collect critical data in a humane fashion without negatively impacting the fishery he is studying and in a sense trying to conserve.

Noah measuring the yellowtail

Noah measuring the yellowtail

Maria toured the wet lab and learned about saltwater tanks. Kate, Yoan, and Brian have an impressive saltwater aquarium with live rocks that they’ve made, different corals they have grown since they were recruits, a shrimp, and some snails. Who knew that females were the dominant sex amongst fish and that fish can change their sex to be the dominant one! They also created a wet lab to grow coral recruits and do experiments. It is clear that the tanks and wet lab are in a delicate balance and their success with both is impressive.

Fun things going on in the wet lab

Fun things going on in the wet lab

Now they are back to the photomosaics to work on their projects. What are our projects you ask? Zach is investigating the relationship between the size of coral patches and fish biomass to better grasp how coral influence reef fish assemblages. Maria is looking at the distribution of fungia recruits relative to rubble patches to understand how they recruit to different microhabitats and if depth is a factor. She will hopefully be using data from new 3D models to understand depth! It is exciting that these are relatively new questions with little previous study.

3D Imaging

3D Imaging

In fact, we were able to see the 3-D imaging of the coral photomosaic at the WAVE Display by the Qualcomm Institute at UCSD. The display consists of 35 3-D television screens that come together to like one large movie screen. We first put on 3D glasses that look like sunglasses and then stepped in front the screen to watch an amazing show. As we looked around one picture of the photomosaic, we had the fish’s eye view of the complex structure of the reef. We then saw a basilica in Florence, petroglyphs in Egypt, rocks on Mars, and temples in Greece all in three dimensions. Scientists from all backgrounds like astronomy and archeology are able to use this technology for a unique view of their research.

Besides the exciting events going on in the lab, Maria and Zach also got to experience other fascinating adventures in California. They got to attend an interesting seminar centered around the idea on the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program. This program is one of the most prestigious fellowships in the scientific community. Basically, the program completely funds one’s graduate school career. The seminar entailed an overview on what the program is and the application process. Maria and Zach will have a chance to write rough drafts and get them reviewed by their peers. The scholars will come away with partial proposals that could be used in the future for applying to multiple fellowship programs including the National Science Foundation one.

Maria and Zach also had a chance to explore the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, is a scientific agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce. It is responsible for gathering data on the atmosphere and oceans, including all the inhabitants of the oceans. At the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, they conduct research on species ranging from whales to sea turtles to anchovies. The tour of the facility included a stop at the fish room, where there were many huge tanks throughout the parking garage-like space. A panel of numerous NOAA employees ranging from scientists to directors to ship captains talked about their paths of how they got to where they are now as well as past and current research. The visit to NOAA gave a taste of what the federal government does to conserve the oceans.

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