From The Cistern Yard to Antarctica

The sunset reflecting off the ice and the mountains, making them appear pink. (Photo: Michael Bollen)

Recent College of Charleston graduate, Lauren Lees (BS, Biology, 2017), shares her experiences aboard a research cruise to Antarctica

When I graduated from the College of Charleston last May, I never thought I would spend a significant part of my year off working in Antarctica. However, that’s where I ended up thanks to an amazing opportunity offered to me by Dr. Jack DiTullio. The trip down south was a chance for me to broaden the scope of my research experience, as well as a personal adventure, to say the least. Dr. DiTullio was the Chief Scientist aboard the RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer. The Palmer set sail from Punta Arenas, Chile on December 19, 2017 to the Amundsen Sea. From the Amundsen we performed a transect along the Antarctic continent into Terra Nova Bay. After a brief stop in McMurdo Station roughly halfway through the trip, we continued to collect data in Terra Nova Bay until we began our transit to Hobart, Tasmania where we disembarked on March 4, 2018.

Many (but not all) from the science party and USAP staff aboard the second leg of NBP18-01. (Photo: Michael Bollen)

Zodiac operations to collect sea ice and brine samples. (Photo: Michael Bollen)

On board, the DiTullio group was one of four academic research groups gathering massive amounts of data over our 77 day research cruise. We were funded by National Science Foundation to investigate the factors that limit phytoplankton growth in the Southern Ocean. This is one of the most productive phytoplankton communities in the ocean, and it plays an important role is sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. By understanding what factors limit phytoplankton growth, we can begin to predict how this community might affect, as well as be impacted by, climate change in the future. In our experiments, we explored how the limitation of iron, B12, zinc, manganese and other trace elements affected the growth, productivity, and species composition of phytoplankton in the Ross Sea. Additionally, we conducted a series of hydrocasts as we travelled from the Amundsen Sea into Terra Nova Bay. From these samples, we measured numerous variables such as chlorophyll, accessory pigment and Vitamin B12 concentrations. The data collected from the hydrocasts allow us to develop spatial and depth profiles of several biogeochemical parameters that influence the phytoplankton community. The DiTullio group also consisted of two collaborators from Italy—Francesco Bolinesi, a PhD student from the University of Naples Federico II who investigated the photosynthetic efficiency of phytoplankton, and Pasquale Castango, a physical oceanography post-doctoral researcher from the Parthenope University of Naples. We worked closely with Dr. Mak Saito’s group from the Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI).  The Saito group focuses on trace metal chemical oceanography and worked with us to set up experiments investigating the effects of various trace metals on phytoplankton growth and productivity. Their sampling involved the use of a separate trace metal clean rosette which allowed them to measure concentrations of various trace metals (e.g. iron, cobalt, zinc, etc.)  that may greatly affect phytoplankton growth and productivity throughout the cruise.  The WHOI group also collected large volume in-situ filtered water samples for measuring protein concentrations. Dr. Rob Dunbar’s group from Stanford investigated dissolved oxygen isotopes and salinity changes in seawater to determine how much water at a given location and depth came from basal ice melt, which can be used as evidence for rates of glacial melt in Antarctica. Additionally, throughout the cruise they collected data to investigate carbon cycling, and one graduate student, Michael Bollen from the University of Otago, New Zealand  also collected samples for diatom identification and abundance. The fourth group aboard the Palmer was Dr. Grace Saba’s team from Rutgers University, who deployed and monitored an autonomous glider fitted with an acoustic sensor that will be used to better understand the composition and food web interactions in the Ross Sea.

New frazil ice forming in February. (Photo: Lauren Lees)

The Palmer breaks through ice. (Photo: Michael Bollen)

Being on a research vessel for the first time was an experience that I’ll always value, and it was filled with highs and lows. One of the best parts of the cruise was meeting my fellow scientists and getting to bond with them as time went on. It can be hard to see the same people every day, all day for an extended period of time, but the group got along incredibly well—probably too well if you knew of the shenanigans that took place during the science breaks. Another obvious highlight of mine would be seeing the wildlife and the scenery—pictures honestly don’t do it justice. I’d also being lying if I said one of my happiest moments wasn’t getting off the ship in McMurdo. Being able to walk for more than a few hundred feet in one direction felt amazing after being on board for about a month and a half.

With high points, there are always low points. The most glaring low point for me was running out of fresh food half-way through the trip. But, we all survived, and I have a new appreciation for a salad. Additionally, being unable to communicate with my loved ones back home was hard at times. The ship has limited internet—enough to send some messages— but not enough to maintain the constant communication we are so used to today. That being said, it was rather refreshing to unplug from social media for a few months, and I can now say I’m able to live without my smartphone.

Overall, the high points of the trip greatly outweigh the low. We were able to see Orcas with the southernmost active volcano, Mt. Erebus, in the background. We saw penguins and seals regularly as we transited through the ice. We experienced a sunset after months of constant light in the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. And we conducted some amazing science with an incredible group of people.

An Orca spy-hopping in the channel into McMurdo. (Photo: Michael Bollen)

Orcas and penguins stand-off. (Photo: Hannah Beutler)

 

#GradStudentLife – A GPMB Student Profile

Ever wonder what students do while working toward a Master of Science in Marine Biology?
Of course there are the classes, labs, tests, seminars, papers, work, studying, networking, etc…add in sample and data collection, data analysis, etc…oh yeah, and then there’s the thesis and defense!

This installment of our profile series shares the work of second-year GPMB student Graham Wagner.

 

 

#GradStudentLife – A GPMB Student Profiles are written and compiled by second-year GPMB student Elizabeth Gugliotti

#GradStudentLife – A GPMB Student Profile

Ever wonder what students do while working toward a Master of Science in Marine Biology?
Of course there are the classes, labs, tests, seminars, papers, work, studying, networking, etc…add in sample and data collection, data analysis, etc…oh yeah, and then there’s the thesis and defense!

Welcome back to our Graduate Program in Marine Biology student profile series! Julia Reynolds is our first student profile for 2018 and is finishing up her thesis following a successful defense on January 12, 2018.

Julia’s research focuses on exploring the use of king mackerel abundance data for use in fisheries management processes and decisions. Julia has been investigating the formulation of the South Atlantic King Mackerel (SAKM) juvenile abundance index in U.S. South Atlantic coastal waters. She hopes the results of her research will lead to better informed and more proactive management decisions for this fish. Julia’s love for the ocean and its creatures was sparked from summer family vacations taken to the beautiful coastal waters of southern Maine. This love for ocean life grew into an interest in fisheries management. Her favorite part of her research is going out to sea to collect data. She finds a peace and tranquility on the open water that can be hard to find in the bustling ports and cities that dominate a large portion of our coastline today. She sees nature’s beauty not only in the ocean, but also in the mountains as she is an avid hiker. She has hiked both the northern and southern terminuses of the Appalachian Trail and the highest peak east of the Mississippi (Mt. Mitchell).

Julia with an adult of her study species, South Atlantic King Mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla)

 

 

#GradStudentLife – A GPMB Student Profiles are written and compiled by second-year GPMB student Elizabeth Gugliotti

#GradStudentLife – A GPMB Student Profile

Ever wonder what students do while working toward a Master of Science in Marine Biology?
Of course there are the classes, labs, tests, seminars, papers, work, studying, networking, etc…add in sample and data collection, data analysis, etc…oh yeah, and then there’s the thesis and defense!

Keilin Gamboa-Salazar is a third-year GPMB student getting ready to finish up the program and shared her research and goals with us.

Keilin is our resident international student from Costa Rica and works in the Reef Fish Section of the SCDNR. Her research focuses on the reproductive biology of Gag and Scamp Grouper. She is investigating the relationship between the number of egg-batches spawned per female, and the age and size of the fish. In addition, she is modeling the probability of spawning for a female, influenced by the age or size of the fish, as well as  any associated environmental variables. This information will shed light on what variables can influence spawning with the ultimate goal of having a better understanding of the reproductive output of the fish stock, and incorporating this knowledge into the regional stock assessments. Keilin first got interested in this research because of the possibility of finding information which would lead to actual change in the way that fisheries are managed, and in that way have an impact on ocean conservation. When not looking through a microscope, Keilin highly enjoys going on research cruises up to 100 miles offshore, where you can see absolutely nothing but water in the horizon. She also enjoys getting to play with all sorts of fishes, and other critters when processing the samples for the Reef Fish lab. She hopes to develop a career in the fisheries which involves offshore cruises, with the ultimate goal of working for the conservation of the oceans. Keilin is currently working on finishing data analyses and writing her thesis, so look out for a thesis defense announcement in January!

Keilin with one of those other critters

Keilin showing off a Snowy Grouper

 

#GradStudentLife – A GPMB Student Profiles are written and compiled by second-year GPMB student Elizabeth Gugliotti

SCDNR Open House 2017

The SCDNR Open House was this past Saturday, October 21. Every two years SCDNR invites the public to meet and talk with marine biologists, fisheries managers, and educators at the Marine Resources Center plus their partners at the College of Charleston, Hollings Marine Lab, NIST and NOAA.
Guests learned about marine science with informational booths as well as tutorials, tours, crafts and fun family-friendly activities.
We are happy to be a partner for this event and had a great day meeting the community!

GPMB students hosted a touch tank and offered fun crafts for the kids.

GPMB students also had a bake sale and raffle to raise funds for the MBGSA in support of student travel for conferences and events.

Guests were invited inside to see some of the resources of the lab and experience hands-on activities.
Faculty and students presented preserved sharks and fish, live plankton samples and the entire collections room of over 100,000 preserved fish and invertebrate specimens!

Thanks to everyone who made the event a success! It was a great day and we are already looking forward to the next one!

21st Annual Student Research Colloquium

The 21st Annual Student Research Colloquium was held on September 23, 2017. We had another successful event with oral and poster presentations from our Graduate Program in Marine Biology students as well as a graduate student from The Citadel.

Presentations were followed by the keynote address given by Dr. Billie Swalla, Director, Friday Harbor Laboratories, Washington University.

The event was closed with a Lowcountry Boil and introduction of the new GPMB students.

The purpose of the colloquium is three-fold:

  • It gives students the opportunity to present their research in a professional setting and receive feedback from judges and audience members.
  • The presentations are a showcase of the research activities performed by GPMB students and faculty affiliated with the program.
  • Finally, the colloquium is an opportunity for students and faculty to interact and talk about the research activities they are interested in.

You can view the full program, including presentation abstracts here.

2017 Presentation Awards

Congratulations to this year’s presentation winners!

Oral Presentation – 1st Place: Elizabeth Underwood “Investigation of the Salinity Tolerance of the Invasive Island Apple Snail in South Carolina.”

(L to R: Keynote Speaker Dr. Billie Swalla, Underwood, Dr. Karen Burnett, Sigma Xi)

Oral Presentation – 2nd Place: Rachel Leads “Occurrence, Fate, and Effects of Microplastics in the Charleston Harbor Estuary, South Carolina.”

(L to R: Keynote Speaker Dr. Billie Swalla, Leads, Dr. Karen Burnett, Sigma Xi)

Poster Presentation – 1st Place: Teresa Popp “The Reproductive Biology and Ecological Impacts of an Invasive Crab, Petrolisthes armatus

(L to R: Keynote Speaker Dr. Billie Swalla, Popp, Dr. Paul Nolan, Charleston Audubon Society)

Poster Presentation – 2nd Place: Emily Welling “Energetic Response to Feedinga nd Temperature in Juvenile Red Drum, Scianeops ocellatus

(L to R: Keynote Speaker Dr. Billie Swalla, Welling, Dr. Paul Nolan, Charleston Audubon Society)

 

Another great Student Research Colloquium in the books

We would like to thank Dr. Billie Swalla for being our Keynote Speaker!

Thanks also go out to all of the student presenters, committees, faculty and staff who made this event a success!

 

GPMB second-year student Anna Kimelblatt presents her poster titled: ASSESSMENT OF ATLANTIC HORSESHOE CRAB (LIMULUS POLYPHEMUS) NESTING BEACHES AND EGG DENSITIES AVAILABLE TO FEDERALLY THREATENED SHOREBIRDS IN THE ACE BASIN, SOUTH CAROLINA.

GPMB third-year student Nathan Baker begins his oral presentation titled: TEMPORAL CHANGES IN SOUTH ATLANTIC OCEAN FISH BIODIVERSITY.

Keynote Speaker Dr. Billie Swalla with Poster Presenters

Keynote Speaker Dr. Billie Swalla with Oral Presenters

Lowcountry Boil at the SCDNR Outdoor Classroom

Lowcountry Boil at the SCDNR Outdoor Classroom

 

 

Hurricane Irma

Grice Marine Lab was prepared for the worst and made it through Hurricane Irma safely.
The College shut down at 12:00 p.m. on Friday, 9/8/17 and students were evacuated from campus (including Grice dorms) by 6:00 p.m.

What exactly does “prepared” mean for GML?
This is some of the preparations that were started earlier in the week and completed Friday morning:

  • Data backups completed
  • Files secured
  • All boats secured on higher ground and truck moved to a secure location
  • All outdoor equipment and materials secured
  • Hurricane shutters installed on East side of building
  • All non-essential office and lab computers and electrical equipment unplugged, moved away from windows and off floors and covered with plastic
  • Equipment in classrooms, computer lab and conference room unplugged, covered with plastic and secured
  • Collections Room secured
  • Refrigerators, freezers and equipment holding live animals are verified on emergency power

The storm hit the Lowcountry in earnest on Monday, 9/11/17, bringing wind, rain, and storm surge. The afternoon and early evening brought tornado watches and warnings. Much of Fort Johnson was flooded and lost power, but the GML building did not sustain any damage.

The grounds, specifically the Grice Green Teaching Gardens, will need some care after being flooded in salt water for hours.
The Grice Green Teaching Gardens Facebook page has before-and-after photos of the area as well as explanations of the effects on various plants.

Classes are in session today and we are happy to welcome back students, faculty, and staff!

 

 

2017 Fort Johnson REU Program

Grice Marine Lab hosted ten students for the 2017 Fort Johnson Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program. They arrived May 31st, hit the ground running, worked for ten weeks, and closed the program with exceptional presentations on August 9th. Each intern was paired with a mentor on the Fort Johnson campus to develop and execute a research project on the program theme of “Marine Organism Health: Resilience and Response to Environmental Change.” Along the way, the interns learned how to share their research in weekly workshops on science communication led by Carolyn Sotka. The program also included lectures, field trips and professional training for careers in science.

Here are the interns, their home institution and mentor lab
(click to enlarge)

  • Cecilia Bueno (Lewis & Clark College). The effects of salinity on sperm function and fertilization in Squirrel Treefrogs (Hyla squirella).
    Mentor: Allison Welch, PhD (CofC)
  • Killian Campbell (Eastern Washington University). The role of heat shock proteins 70 and 90 in tolerating abiotic stressors in the seaweeds Gracilaria vermiculophylla and Ulva lactuca. Mentors: Erik Sotka, PhD and Ben Flanagan (CofC)
  • Hailey Conrad (Rutgers University). Genetic variation in resistance to ocean acidification during larval development in a northern population of the sea urchin Arbacia punctulata.
    Mentor: Robert Podolsky, PhD (CofC)
  • Meagan Currie (Swarthmore College). A toxicological investigation of the effects of 4-nonylphenol on the coral Acropora cervicornis.
    Mentors: Cheryl Woodley, PhD and Natasha White, PhD (NOAA)
  • Christine Hart (Clemson University). Dynamics of benthic diatom communities: patterns in biomass and composition.
    Mentors: Craig Plante, PhD and Kristy Hill-Spanik, MS (CofC)
  • Deanna Hausman (U. of Texas at Austin). Toxic effects of oil and UV light on the estuarine shrimp Palaemonetes pugio.
    Mentors: Marie Delorenzo, PhD and Paul Pennington, PhD (NOAA)
  • Melanie Herrera (U. of Maryland, College Park). Comparison of fish populations in dense and sparse assemblages of the invasive seaweed Gracilaria vermiculophylla.
    Mentors: Tony Harold, PhD and Mary Ann McBrayer (CofC)
  • Kady Palmer (Eckerd College). Perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) in plasma of the West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus).
    Mentor: John Bowden, PhD (NIST)
  • Emily Spiegel (Bryn Mawr College). Getting in the mood: the effect of environmental stress on the reproduction and productivity of a polar diatom.
    Mentors: Peter Lee, PhD and Nicole Schanke, MS (CofC)
  • Brian Wuertz (Warren Wilson College). Investigating the potential of dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (DOSS) to promote inflammatory response in macrophage.
    Mentor: Demetri Spyropoulos, PhD (MUSC)

Visit the blog written by the interns to read about the projects and see their progression over the summer: Marine Organism Health: Resilience and Response to Environmental Change

Many thanks to Bob Podolsky, Director, Ft. Johnson Summer REU Program, College of Charleston and Carolyn Sotka, Science Communication Workshop Series, Ft. Johnson REU Program.

Thanks also go to all the mentors and contributing partner institutions at Ft. Johnson: the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR).

This program is supported by NSF Award No. DBI-1359079

Congrats and great job 2017 Fort Johnson REU Interns!

 

Forensic Scientist Brings CSI to GML

Grice Marine Lab recently hosted forensic microbiologist Sarah Seepaulsingh, PhD candidate from Fordham University.

Here is a summary from Sarah about her study:

“I am a forensic microbiologist using the necrobiome, specifically bacterial and fungal community changes, to estimate postmortem interval. Using swine carcasses as a proxy for human remains, I am analyzing epinecrotic community succession (microbial communities residing in or living on the surface of decomposing remains) at various sites along the coast of the eastern United States. Ultimately, my goal is to compare the temporal changes of microbial surface communities during decomposition along a gradient from tropical south Florida to continental southern New York. In addition to a latitudinal study, I will also look at seasonal differences by comparing between winter and summer. The purpose of my research is to add to the growing collection of postmortem microbial studies thus contributing to the ultimate goal of reliably determining postmortem interval in human death investigations. ”

Sarah used three locations on the grounds and hopes to return in the summer for another round to add to her data.