Seawalls: Allowing humans to build closer to water, but altering processes along shorelines.

Example of engineered-shore structures: seawall (Gittman et al., 2016)

By Abby Tinari, SRC intern Participating in the Shark Research and Conservation Program’s Urban Shark Project, I have spent a decent amount of time on the water throughout downtown Miami. In this time, I have noticed the concrete shoreline that shapes Miami’s shores. Of course, there are sandy beaches, but much of the barrier between land and water is a hardened seawall. It made sense, considering 20 feet from the seawall is a high-rise building, that needs the support and the seawall provides. This realization, at how much humans have changed and destroyed the coastlines, intrigued me. I then started … Continue reading

A Study of Microplastics in San Francisco Bay

Plastic from facial scrub next to a dime. Photo credit: Dave Graff. Source:

By Lauren Kitayama, SRC intern Introduction Microplastics (defined as being < 5mm in size) are small enough to be ingested by filter feeders and planktonic organisms. Studies have shown that the average seafood consumer could be ingesting 11,000 pieces of microplastic annually (Cauwenberghe & Janssen, 2014). The human health impacts are not well understood, but preliminary research suggests that the particles themselves may not be able to pass through the intestinal wall. However, additives and toxins including chemicals that are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors are still a cause for concern (Galloway, 2015) Microplastics come as pre-production beads (often called … Continue reading

Plastic debris contamination in the Acoupa weakfish (Cynoscion acoupa) in a tropical estuary

Zoomed in image of red plastic debris inside the digestive tract of an Acoupa weakfish specimen (Ferreira et al., 2016)

By Elana Rusnak, SRC intern The Acoupa weakfish (Cynoscion acoupa) is an economically important fish that lives along the tropical east coast of the American continents. They tend to live in estuary systems—calm, brackish water habitats—as juveniles and sub-adults, and then move to saltier areas as they age. Tropical estuaries are one of the most productive ecosystems on Earth, and they provide shelter, food, and developmental grounds for many species of fishes and invertebrates. Unfortunately, since estuaries are more sheltered environments, plastic debris tends to accumulate and be ingested by the many species that make the estuary their home.   … Continue reading

Making a run for it: escaped farmed Atlantic salmon integrating with wild populations

Atlantic salmon are popular sport fish in Norway and beyond [Image by Vetle Kjærstad]

By Robbie Roemer, SRC master’s student Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) as their name implies, are primarily found in northern Atlantic waters and are classified as androminous (living in the sea, and returning to freshwater to spawn). Known to be a popular recreational sport fish, this largest species found in the genus Salmo is prized for its table fare and thus, faces heavy commercial fishing pressure. This species is particularly sensitive to habitat alteration and human influence (Staurnes et al. 1995; Kroglund et al. 2007) and coupled with the high commercial demand, has seen significant historical declines over the last half … Continue reading

Caribbean Spiny Lobster Fishery Is Underpinned by Trophic Subsidies from Chemosynthetic Primary Production

Figure 1: This image shows that the Caribbean spiny lobster trade is very lucrative, especially in the Bahamas. It also shows the food web and how the lobsters obtain their food from chemiosynthetic primary production. The lobsters consume the clams, which obtain nutrients from sulfate that was fixed by sulfate fixing bacteria from detritus. (Higgs, N. D., Newton, J., & Attrill, M. J. (2016). Caribbean Spiny Lobster Fishery Is Underpinned by Trophic Subsidies from Chemosynthetic Primary Production. Current Biology, 26(24), 3393-3398. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2016.10.034)

By Molly Rickles, SRC intern Caribbean spiny lobsters are a very commercially important species that brings in millions of dollars in revenue annually. The lobsters are especially important to the Bahamas, which has a large fishery. Recently, artificial reefs were created for the lobsters in areas where they are usually fished. This made it easier for the present study from Higgs and colleagues to take place, which analyzed the Caribbean spiny lobster diet. The main purpose of the study was to show that a significant portion of the lobster’s diet is from chemosynthetic primary production in the form of lucinid … Continue reading

Sneaky Predators

Image of the red lionfish (Pterois volitans) displaying its characteristic fins and venomous spines. (From Wikimedia Commons)

By Arina Favilla, SRC intern “Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance, ” Mufasa wisely tells Simba in The Lion King right before a pouncing lesson. This is true of any ecosystem on the planet—the sun provides energy for plants to grow, plants are grazed on by herbivores, who are eaten by consumers, who are prey to other predators. Any prey-predator imbalance can have cascading effects on the entire ecosystem, particularly when invasive predators are especially sneaky predators, beating Simba in the element of surprise. The element of surprise is difficult to accomplish in the aquatic environment because … Continue reading