Sarah Albright (MS student at CSUS), Dr. Andrew Sellers (STRI Panama), and Davidson just published an Invasion Note investigating potential biotic resistance by native herbivores on an invasive tropical alga.
This work is a follow up to Sellers, Saltonstall, and Davidson's earlier work in Bocas del Toro Panama. Previously, we observed large abundances of the invasive Kappaphycus alvarezii escaping two abandoned farms. The alga occurred in very high cover in some areas and even started overgrowing coral reef and smothering seagrass beds. However, we also observed several herbivores, such as native urchins, feeding on the alga.
In this study we explored the effect of native herbivores using an herbivore exclusion experiment and a short lab experiment. Our results suggest native herbivores may help reduce abundances of escaping algae. However, we hope to better explore the role of native herbivores as biotic resistance to Kappaphycus with a larger future experiment. You can read more about the study here.
Albright, S.L., Sellers, A.J. & Davidson, T.M. Native urchins as potential agents of biotic resistance to the introduced alga Kappaphycus alvarezii in a tropical lagoon. Biol Invasions (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-021-02651-z
I am very proud to announce that Carla Cruz Medina was awarded the prestigious CSU Trustees Award. Carla is a 2nd year MS student at Sac State and has been a key member of the Bushy Lake Restoration project led by Dr. Michelle Stevens. Her thesis will investigate the ecological impacts of the invasive red swamp crayfish Procambarus clarkii. Please read more about Carla's story below.
I'm pleased to announce the publication of a new collaborative paper in PLOS One: Lee et al. (2021) Variable host responses mediate host preference in marine flatworm−snail symbioses (Link). In this paper, we investigated how the effects of a symbiotic marine flatworm vary amongst different tropical snail hosts in Panama. We found that the impacts of flatworms can vary from negative to neutral (or even possibly slightly positive) depending on snail host species. Likewise, we found snails that tended to be more negatively affected by flatworms also exhibited a more vigorous rejection response during worm inoculations. This work was initially conducted while [the recently graduated] Dr. Lee was an undergraduate student. (Congrats to the new Dr. Lee!)
The Davidson lab is continuing to advance research, even amidst the pandemic. Sarah has nearly finalized a working flume to test how water velocity may impact algae fragmentation. Jessica continues to analyze her data investigating how wood borers altered structural complexity of woody debris. New graduate students Rebecca and Carla are hard at work researching ideas for their projects. Carla, members of the Kneitel lab, and I are also continuing to sample for aquatic invertebrates and invasive species through the Bushy Lake Restoration Project (pics below). While we suffered a few puncture holes in the inflatable kayak on our most recent trip, we were still able to finish the sampling before the kayak sank. Nothing like some frigid lake water to wake you up on an early Sunday morning. Finally, Cass (with help from Catlinh) are continuing to conduct a meta-analysis to better understand the varying impacts of invasive nutria (a burrowing aquatic rodent).
Sacramento State students --- please see the flyer below for information on our COAST undergraduate research program! You can earn up to $500 towards a marine/watershed research project in collaboration with a faculty mentor. Due: Oct 31, 2020. PDF copy of this flyer:
Members of the Davidson Lab are collaborating with an interdisciplinary team of scientists from Sacramento State and other organizations (led by Dr. Michelle Stevens, Environmental Studies) to help develop a restoration plan for Bushy Lake. Bushy Lake is a small urban-influenced lake off the American River Parkway in Sacramento. While this lake suffers from urban-related disturbances (water quality, invasive species, debris), a wide variety of wildlife use this urban lake as habitat (see pictures below from Dr. Jamie Kneitel). Thus, this site has the potential of becoming a key refuge for threatened native species, such as western pond turtles and various waterfowl.
The Davidson and Kneitel Labs at Sacramento State are currently conducting preliminary sampling to assess the abundances of invasive and native aquatic invertebrates. Once we finalize our sampling and survey design, we will conduct longer term sampling to better characterize the aquatic community and food web dynamics over time. Ultimately, this information will help us understand the aquatic food web at Bushy Lake and determine what additional control or management options may be necessary to restore this lake for native species. For more information see the Bushy Lake Restoration project website.
Images above provided by Dr. Jamie Kneitel
Updates: Despite the global pandemic, the Davidson lab moves forward with what research can be done from the safe confines of our homes and computers. Sarah Albright continues to develop and test a device to measure the tensile force of different algae in her garage. By examining the tensile force, she can test the biomechanical properties of different algae species and sizes. Ultimately, we hope we can infer how algae species and size may influence fragmentation, a method that some invasive algae use to disperse and propagate. Ethan Roberts (now recently graduated!) has moved onto a job with the state where he helps to monitor and control invasive weeds. We're sad to see him go, but happy to hear of his successes. He continues to analyze and write up his research on the environmental effects of isopod burrows. Davidson has been hard at work analyzing and writing up research from his mangrove research on introduced Hawaii mangroves and project examining the biogeography of invasive shipworm borers. We're all looking forward to returning to the field next season (hopefully) when the infection risk gets low enough. Until then, we'll isolate, keep working on our computer-based projects, and keep wearing our masks.
Good news: I am happy to announce a new paper published in Science Activities called "Leaf detective: using evidence of damage on mangrove leaves to measure the effects of different herbivores." In this lesson, elementary students examine real mangrove leaves (digitized) to infer which organism(s) caused the damage they observe. They practice making a scientific question, collect data, graph, and then make a conclusion based on scientific evidence. This lesson represents several years of work and testing in both Sacramento and Hawaii elementary classrooms. My Hawaii collaborators and I are happy that we can share this lesson idea with K-6 teachers. Please email me for a copy, if you do not have access through the link above. And teachers are welcome to contact me if you wish to discuss ideas on how to adapt it to an online learning environment.
I hope everyone stays safe and vigilant. Wearing a mask saves lives!
Congratulations to Ethan Roberts who won 2nd place at the CSUS Spring Symposium for his talk: "Burrows created by an ecosystem engineer improve survivorship of intertidal invertebrates". Congrats also to Sarah Albright, who successfully completed her Advancement to MS candidacy. Other lab members are also working diligently, such as Jessica Nichols who is analyzing mounds of field data, and Jenna Grossman who is helping Sarah with algae fragmentation studies and beginning to design her own project.
In other news, I am honored to receive the university's Outstanding Teaching Award for the college of NSM. I appreciate the support of my colleagues and students! I do love teaching as much as I love research. I am continuing to analyze data exploring how herbivory varies in introduced and native mangroves and collaborating with a Hawaii elementary school teacher and a former post doc adviser to develop curriculum for K-6 teachers using mangroves as a model system.
Finally, back in January my wife and I traveled to the Galapagos Islands! It was an amazing trip and I'd recommend every biologist and nature lover to visit some time. It is one of the few places that felt pristine with a diversity of huge tree-like cactus, giant tortoises, strange tropical penguins, and an unparalleled wealth of marine life...including of course, my favorite: the beautiful Sally lightfoot crab. We have still to fully sort through over 1000 photos we took...but here are a few samples. Enjoy!
The CSU COAST Undergraduate Student Research Award program at Sacramento State is currently accepting applications! Due Friday Dec 13 at 5pm.
Students can request up to $500 to cover supplies, travel, and other expenses for a research project related to marine, coastal, or coastal watershed ecosystems for 2019-20 (including summer). The application is located here.
Note: you will need to find a faculty research mentor at Sac State and then write a short proposal description (<500 words) and budget justification. I recommend writing your proposal in a text editor and getting feedback from your faculty mentor before submitting via the online system.
This summer lab member Sarah Albright spent every other weekend searching for native and non-native algae throughout San Francisco Bay. As preliminary research for her Master’s thesis, Sarah is creating a list of algae species residing in the Bay, and their current range. Some algae were found everywhere (such as Mastocarpus and Ulva), while others were only found in a few locations (such as at Oakland Port, where she found Codium fragile and Sargassum muticum).
Fig 1. Sarah carefully stepping along rocks covered in slimy Ulva spp. across from Oakland Port in order to reach the water’s edge, where Sargassum muticum has established alongside other introduced species of algae.
Sarah collected one specimen of each genus/species she could find during each trip and began to compile a small herbarium collection for future reference. These herbarium specimens will allow her to also take the time to more accurately ID individuals - though often, molecular analysis is required for identification to a species level. Nonetheless, these herbarium specimens can be used and archived should they become useful for another topic of interest at a later date.
Outreach with Del Oro High School students: Additionally, Sarah spent some time with Del Oro High School students in the field. These high school juniors and seniors learned ecological field survey techniques, become familiar with intertidal marine ecosystems and organisms, and assisted in real data collection for a Master’s Thesis.
Fig 2-4. Sarah training Del Oro High School students in the field identification of algae, how to create testable hypotheses from field observations, and field research concepts.
Guest contributor: Sarah Albright
This Summer, the Council of Oceanic Affairs, Science, and Technology (COAST) hosted undergraduate student internships at several of the 29 National Estuarine Research Reserves across the United States. Lab member Ethan Roberts spent his Summer interning with Jeff Crooks at the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve (TRNERR), where he helped analyze historical data and update species identification guides. The goal of his internship project was to make the job of identifying cryptic species easier by pointing out key features and making direct visual comparisons, so he took to creating illustrations with pencil and colored pencil.
In one of his pieces, Ethan used image editing software to group his drawings of the most common local goby species onto a single page and scaled them to life-size. The print will later be used by the TRNERR team during the Fall research season.
Ethan’s work is also novel in that it accounts for species not seen in San Diego previously. For example, some salt marsh habitats at TRNERR are now home to the Princely fiddler crab, Uca princeps, a large tropical visitor not found in any modern field guides (below). As global climate change continues, taking a second look over dated species guides and implementing visual tools may become important parts of doing good science.
Contributor: Ethan Roberts
COAST offers internships and other research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students at Sacramento State and beyond! See here for details.