Steven Berkeley Marine Conservation Fellowship Winners

Steven Berkeley  His Marine Conservation Legacy Lives On by Howard Williams (AFS Administrative Specialist and Berkeley Fellowship Coordinator)

Since the scholarship began in 2008, more than 300 outstanding students have applied. Each year we ask previous recipients to update us on their research and how the fellowship has impacted both their research and their careers. We also ask them to relate how they believe that their research will impact the marine conservation cause. Steven Berkeley’s marine conservation legacy lives on through the vision of our marine fisheries students.

The 2014 Steven Berkeley Marine Conservation Fellowship Winners
Casey Benkwitt

Casey Benkwitt

RECIPIENT – Casey Benkwitt Casey Benkwitt is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Dr. Mark Hixon’s lab at Oregon State University. For her dissertation, she is studying the population dynamics, behavior, and ecological effects of an invasive coral-reef fish. Originally released off the coast of Florida through intentional and/or accidental aquaria releases, the Pacific Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans) is now spreading rapidly throughout the greater subtropical and tropical western Atlantic regions. Lionfish are altering coral-reef ecosystems through their over-consumption of small native fishes, but little is known about their ecological effects in other coast- al habitats and the mechanisms of those effects other than predation. Benkwitt’s current research seeks to determine how invasive lionfish are affecting native fish in seagrass beds surrounding coral reefs, and whether lionfish affect the settlement of native fishes through chemical cues. If lionfish are foraging substantially in seagrass areas and/ or if settling coral-reef fishes do not recognize chemical cues from lionfish, then lionfish are having greater effects on native fishes than previously documented. Benkwitt’s research can aid in controlling the lionfish invasion, as understanding the extent of lionfish impacts will help marine resource managers direct limited resources to habitats most affected by lionfish.

Nathan Fury

Nathan Fury

 

RUNNER UP – Nathan Furey Nathan Furey is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences and is advised by Scott Hinch. His dissertation research focuses on the migration and movement ecology of juvenile salmon smolts, particularly Fraser River Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) as they leave natal freshwater habitats and mi- grate to marine feeding grounds. Fraser Sockeye have undergone dramatic declines in recent years, and thus there is a need to better understand the factors influencing migration behavior and survival. Through acoustic telemetry and large-scale arrays such as the Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking (POST) project and the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN), a large database of individual smolt movements and survival has been developed that will be used to develop empirical models relating migration experience to intrinsic and environmental factors. Field research will characterize fine-scale movements of predator-prey dynamics for outmigrant smolts and predating Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus) in a lake-river transition. Lastly, a large-scale individual-based modeling (IBM) framework will be developed as a tool to simulate smolt migrations in realistic oceanographic conditions. The results of these studies will help describe the role of movement behaviors play in determining individual fitness through multiple landscapes. Furey has a BSc from the University of New England in marine biology and environmental science, and a MSc in wildlife and fisheries sciences from Texas A&M University.

Marissa McMahan

Marissa McMahan

RUNNER UP – Marissa McMahan Marissa McMahan is currently a Ph.D. student at North- eastern University and works in Jonathan Grabowski’s lab located at the Marine Science Center in Nahant, Massachusetts. She received her MS from the University of Maine in 2011, where she researched how predators influence lobster movement behavior and how increasing water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine influence lobster growth. Her background in commercial fishing gives her a unique perspective on marine science and she attempts to incorporate fishermen in much of her research, which focused on predatory-prey dynamics in the Gulf of Maine (specifically between cod and lobster), and now focuses on fisheries and community ecology, in hopes of better understanding the impacts of emergent species on local ecology, food web dynamics, and fisheries productivity. In light of recent and continuing climate change, emergent species are be- coming more common in areas such as the Gulf of Maine, and her interest is in the recent range expansion of the Black Sea Bass (Centropristis striata) into the Gulf of Maine.

Christian Conroy

Christian Conroy

The 2013 Steven Berkeley Marine Conservation Fellowship Winners

Christian Conroy, Northeastern University Advisor: Jonathan Grabowski I just started my third year as both a Ph.D. student in the Marine and Environmental Sciences Department at Northeastern University and as a dad. My dissertation research concerns physical and behavioral diversity of Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua) and its importance in exploited populations. Specifically, I focus on red (“rock”) and olive (“white-belly”) Atlantic Cod phenotypes that coexist in shallow, structured habitat within the Gulf of Maine. Through the sampling efforts made possible by the Steven Berkeley Marine Conservation Fellowship, I was able to identify and de- scribe the consistent coloration and morphometry (i.e., body shape) of red cod as distinct from that of olive cod, despite collecting both phenotypes in locations from Salem Sound (Massachusetts) to Sheepscott Bay (Maine). Preliminary telemetry results indicate habitat limitation of red cod based on depth; this phenotype has avoided a known cod spawning ground frequented by larger olive cod in close proximity to the shallow, structured rock ledges and humps where monitoring is ongoing. Such stark differences in physical characteristics and habitat preferences at the local scale may have important consequences for the sustainability of exploited stocks. These research efforts would not be possible without the generous funding provided by the Berkeley Fellowship. Berkeley Fellowship Runner-Ups for  2013 • Alexander Filous, University of Hawai’i at Manoa • Alexis Jackson, University of California, Santa Cruz

Tony Spitzack

Tony Spitzack

The 2012 Steven Berkeley Marine Conservation Fellowship Winners

Tony Spitzack, Washington State University Advisor: Brian Tissot Recently, managers have sought to increase coral reef ecosystem resilience by implementing marine protected areas (MPAs); however, researchers are still unclear whether MPAs enhance resilience. The objectives of my study were to (1) use exclusion cages as a disturbance to evaluate the relative resistance along an MPA network with a gradient of protection and (2) use three levels of exclusion to manipulate the herbivore guild structure, identifying aspects of the community structure that may be vital to benthic community resistance. Monthly, I photo- graphed changes within fish exclusion cages as well as following the cage sites after removal for a total of 18 months. Preliminary results indicate a high level of protection, and a diverse herbivore guild structure is significantly positively correlated with higher coral reef resilience. The study has the potential to impact marine conservation by providing evidence that MPAs increase resilience and, given the short time period required to see significant results, offer a method for quickly assessing coral reef resilience. The Berkeley Fellowship was invaluable to my research allowing me to cover a large portion of the operating expenses and material costs associated with my research. Currently, I am working for the Forest Service and processing the photos. Berkeley Fellowship Runner-Ups for 2012 • Caitlin Cleaver, University of Maine • Geoffrey Smith, University of Florida

Valentina Di Santo

Valentina Di Santo

The 2011 Steven Berkeley Marine Conservation Fellowship Winners

Valentina Di Santo, Boston University Advisor: Phillip Lobel I am currently a postdoctoral researcher working with Professor George Lauder at Harvard University to investigate the effect of climate-related stressors on swimming performance of fishes. I received the Steven Berkeley Marine Conservation Fellowship in 2011, about halfway through my Ph.D. at Boston University. The award funded my dissertation research on physiological responses of embryonic and juvenile skates (Leucoraja erinacea) to increased ocean acidification and warming. I employed a comparative approach by analyzing the responses of skates from two latitudinally separated populations reared in common garden conditions. The results show a decrease in body condition and developmental and exercise performance in skates exposed to temperature and CO levels projected by the end of century. Furthermore, the two populations responded differently to warming and acidification, indicating that the northern population may be more vulnerable to climate change. In particular, the Steven Berkeley Marine Conservation Fellowship funded the equipment that allowed me to set up an ocean acidification exposure seawater system. Results from my research enhance the capacity to predict near-future responses of skates to ocean warming and acidification and underscore the importance of tailoring specific management and conservation strategies for species challenged by climate change. Berkeley Fellowship Runner-Ups for 2011 • Lewis Barnett, University of California Davis • Pablo Granados-Dieseldorff, Texas A&M University

Kristina Cammen

Kristina Cammen

The 2010 Steven Berkeley Marine Conservation Fellowship Winners

Kristina Cammen, Duke University Advisor: Andrew Read The Berkeley Fellowship that I received in 2010 was instrumental in funding my dissertation research on the susceptibility of bottlenose dolphins to red tides in the Gulf of Mexico. More broadly, the fellowship also provided me with an invaluable opportunity to advance my career interests in marine ecology and conservation genomics. In collaboration with the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program and NOAA Fisheries, I conducted both a candidate gene and genome-wide analysis of variation among bottlenose dolphins from two geographic regions that differ in the frequency of red tide occurrence and the apparent susceptibility of dolphin populations. I found that the frequency of some genetic markers varied significantly between dolphins that died and dolphins that survived red tide exposure, and I concluded that genetics is likely one of several factors that influence the susceptibility of bottlenose dolphins to red tide exposure. My research contributed to our understanding of the ecology of harmful algal blooms and the potential for upper trophic level organisms to adapt to this growing threat in coastal ecosystems. I completed my Ph.D. at Duke University in May 2014 and am currently a postdoctoral teaching and research associate at the University of Maine in Orono. Berkeley Fellowship Runner-Ups for 2010 • Justin Perrault, Florida Atlantic University • Hollie Putnam, University of Hawai’i at Manoa

Aleksandra Maljković

Aleksandra Maljković

The 2009 Steven Berkeley Marine Conservation Fellowship Winners

Aleksandra Maljković, Simon Fraser University Advisor: Isabelle Côté The Steven Berkeley Marine Conservation Fellowship was the greatest accolade I received during my Ph.D. and validation that I was doing something tangible and, in conservation terms, worthwhile. I studied the effects of variable prey spectra, generated by gradients of fishing pressure, on the trophic and spatial ecology of Caribbean reef sharks. Sharks inhabiting lightly fished or unfished reefs fed at higher trophic levels (or in longer food webs) and spent more time at their “home” reefs than sharks inhabiting areas with greater fishing pressure on their reef fish prey. Fisheries therefore have indirect impacts on the trophic ecology and energetic requirements of these top predators, and this research proved especially useful in determining the mechanisms by which selective fisheries can generate trophic cascades in complex coral reef food webs. The Berkeley Fellowship allowed me to focus solely on research for a full year—and there are no words to describe how grateful I am for that. I am now investigating how fear effects generated by top predators influence the health of coral reefs. This research is particularly exciting because preliminary results suggest that restoration of top predator communities to degraded reef habitat may accelerate recovery of corals, and subsequently fish populations, via their impacts on herbivore foraging behavior. Thank you AFS for awarding me the Berkeley Fellowship and stoking my passion for marine conservation. Berkeley Fellowship Runner-Ups for 2009 • Jack Kittinger, University of Hawai’i at Manoa • Annie Schmidt, University of California Davis

Adam Peer

Adam Peer

The 2008 Steven Berkeley Marine Conservation Fellowship Winners

Adam Peer, University of Maryland Advisor: Thomas Miller I am a fisheries biologist for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Division of Hydropower Licensing in Washington, D.C. I started at FERC after my dissertation at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Chesapeake Biological Lab. With the support of the 2008 Berkeley Fellowship, I investigated how female phenotype influences reproductive potential of Atlantic Coast Striped Bass. My research combined analyses of historical survey data with laboratory and field studies and indicated that (1) water temperature is the primary factor influencing timing of female movement onto spawning grounds, with timing negatively related to both temperature and female length; (2) female condition has a positive influence on fecundity, oocyte volume, and indirectly the probability of spawning; and (3) female weight, not condition, has a greater influence on offspring phenotype. This research would have been incomplete without the fellowship, which supported field sampling, histological analysis, and travel to obtain eggs for experiments. I believe that my research has and will continue to provide pieces in the larger puzzle of sustainable fisheries by demonstrating the connection between climate, migration timing, and fisheries management and by refining our understanding of recruitment, which can improve stock-recruitment models and predictions of population sustainability. Berkeley Fellowship Runner-Ups for 2008 • Keith Dunton, Stony Brook University • Mandy Karnauskas, University of Miami