Announcing Mid-Atlantic Ocean, Coastal, and Estuarine Acidification Graduate Research Fellowship Recipients NOAA Ocean Acidification Program

NOAA Ocean Acidification Program and the National Sea Grant College Program are pleased to announce the 2018 recipients of a new Mid-Atlantic Graduate Research Fellowship in Ocean, Coastal, and Estuarine Acidification. Six fellowships were awarded through a competitive selection process to provide Masters and Doctoral students two years of funding during the 2018 and 2019 academic years through the Mid-Atlantic Sea Grant programs.

In addition to supporting students’ academic expenses, the fellowship will provide additional professional development opportunities and facilitate interaction with ocean, coastal, and estuarine acidification stakeholders. In mid-August, the fellows are participating in a training week during which they will visit various Sea Grant communication offices, aquaculture facilities, academic laboratories, and NOAA science centers.

During their graduate studies, the fellows will address pertinent issues relevant to coastal ecosystems and communities related to ocean, coastal and estuarine acidification.The dynamic Mid-Atlantic region includes diverse ecosystems, such as the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary, and economically important fisheries, like Eastern oysters and Atlantic sea scallops. Carbon dioxide concentrations can fluctuate greatly in these marine environments and make it more challenging for young shelled organisms, like oysters and scallops, to grow and survive. NOAA Ocean Acidification Program together with Sea Grant created this Graduate Research Fellowship to develop ocean acidification researchers for the Mid-Atlantic region who can address priority research needs of ocean acidification and increase the region’s research capacity.

The six fellows from the Mid-Atlantic region are:

Amanda Zahorik- University of Delaware, Anthony Himes- College of William and Mary-Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Caroline Schwaner - Stony Brook University, Elizabeth Wright-Fairbanks - Rutgers University, Fei Da -College of William and Mary-Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Teresa Schwemmer - Stony Brook University

Amanda Zahorik, University of Delaware

“Ocean Acidification and microbially-mediated shell calcification in the Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica”

Amanda is a Ph.D. student studying environmental microbiology. Amanda will be looking at how ocean acidification may impact the microbial community living in the Eastern oyster. More specifically, she will be focusing on on sulfate-reducing bacteria, which are known mediators of shell formation in other environments. She will looking at the role sulfate-reducing bacteria might play in shell formation in oysters grown in both "normal" and acidified environments.

Anthony Himes, College of William and Mary-Virginia Institute of Marine Science

“Influence of salinity history on future ocean acidification tolerance in larval Eastern oysters, Crassostrea virginica, in Chesapeake Bay”

Anthony is a Ph.D. student studying the effects of ocean acidification on the eastern oyster. His research project will determine if eastern oyster larvae spawned from oyster reefs that experience varying degrees of low salinity exposure in Chesapeake Bay have different tolerances to future ocean acidification conditions. Low salinity events are known to naturally be accompanied by lower pH, which could confer some resistance to acidification. This work is important to help understand how the Eastern oyster will persist in Chesapeake Bay with continued climate change as this species provides vital, commercially important ecosystem services that improve the health of the bay.

Caroline Schwaner, Stony Brook University

“Identifying Molecular Markers associated with Resilience to Ocean Acidification in the Eastern oyster and the Northern quahog”

Caroline is a Ph.D. student investigating if populations of Northern quahog and Eastern oyster have adaptive genetic alleles that indicate resiliency to ocean acidification. She will identify genetic markers associated with resilience, taking into consideration the potential cost of resilience and how it would relate to aquaculture. The hope is to provide information that would allow shellfish farmers to breed populations of oysters and clams that will be able to withstand ocean acidification with minimal physiological cost of resilience at later life history stages.

Elizabeth Wright-Fairbanks, Rutgers University

“Assessing the susceptibility of Atlantic sea scallops and surf clams to ocean acidification using glider-based monitoring and larval transport models”

Liza is a Ph.D. student who focuses on the biological impacts of climate change. For her research project, she will be focusing on using an autonomous underwater vehicle, called a Slocum glider (in Liza’s photo), to map the spatial and seasonal variability of ocean pH along the coast of Massachusetts to New Jersey. This map will help aid the Atlantic Capes Fishery, a local shellfish fishery, determine areas of interest for the fishery and plan for future changes in ocean pH.

Fei Da, College of William and Mary-Virginia Institute of Marine Science

“Chesapeake Bay acidification: From daily forecasts to half-century projections”

Fei Da is a Ph.D. student interested in acidification and hypoxia in the Chesapeake Bay. Fei’s research will focus on isolating the primary physical and biological stressors on Chesapeake Bay acidification by using a coupled 3D hydrodynamics-biogeochemistry model. He will use this model to generate automated daily nowcasts and 2-day forecasts of relevant acidification metrics online, and project how Chesapeake acidification may change by 2025 and 2050 due to global climate change and local human impacts.

Teresa Schwemmer, Stony Brook University

“Physiology-based modeling of estuarine fishes and ecosystems under ocean acidification”

Teresa is a Ph.D. student who is interested in the physiological effects of ocean acidification on fishes. Teresa previously explored metabolic rate and chloride cell abundance as two possible mechanisms by which ocean acidification affects growth and survival in the early life stages of the Atlantic silverside, an important food source for many larger fishes. She will now use this data to model the effects of ocean acidification on populations of Atlantic silversides and Summer flounder to better understand this can affect entire ecosystems. The model can then be used by resource managers to conserve vulnerable fisheries.


Title image credit Virginia Sea Grant Image 1: Sophia Wensman, a doctoral student at Oregon State University, places a bag of oysters on top of empty oyster shells in Netarts Bay as part of a research project funded by Oregon Sea Grant. She and other researchers aim to see if the number of bags of shells the oysters are stacked on affects the health and growth of the oysters differently. The empty shells dissolve and emit calcium and carbonate into the water, much like an antacid, potentially mitigating the effects of ocean acidification. The researchers aim to determine the amount of shells that will achieve the desired growth for the lowest cost. They will also measure the uranium and calcium in the oyster shells to see if the empty shells under them reduced the acidity of the water. Credit: Tiffany Woods Image 2: John Stubblefield provides tour of METARC Credit: Katie O' Reilly Image 3: The six recipients of the Ocean, Coastal and Estuarine Graduate Research Award Image 4: Sea Grant funded PhD Student explains her project to visitors. Credit: Katie O'Reilly, National Sea Grant Office Image 5: Credit: Oregon Sea Grant Image 6: Presentation at Stacy Wallis Workshop Credit: Katie O'Reilly, National Sea Grant Office

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