The Conservation of Devil Rays
Thursday, March 16
Daniel Fernando; Co-founder of Blue Resources; Associate Director of The Manta Trust; Ph.D. student at Linnaeus University; New England Aquarium Marine Conservation Action Fund Fellow
Devil rays, also known as mobula rays, are closely related to the more iconic and better known manta rays. In recent decades, all these species have been facing increasing threats driven by unsustainable target and bycatch fisheries, seeking to supply the international demand for their dried gill plates in Chinese medicine. Growing awareness and concerns for the survival of these species resulted in some level of international protection. However, further work is required. Daniel Fernando tells us about his research efforts to better understand these animals and about his work to promote their conservation.
A Clam’s-Eye View of Climate Change: How do intertidal organisms experience their shifting world?
Thursday, April 6
Dr. Brian Helmuth, Professor, Northeastern University Marine Science Center
The impacts of global climate change on ocean ecosystems are now pervasive. But how well do we truly understand the ways in which a shifting climate affects nonhuman organisms, and how might our anthropocentric view of the world cloud our understanding of what to expect in nature? For example, the vast majority of plants and animals, unlike humans, make no metabolic heat and, as such, they have body temperatures that can fluctuate by 30 degrees Fahrenheit or more over the course of a few hours.
Using a unique combination of computer modeling, field instrumentation, and virtual reality technology, Brian Helmuth gives a worldwide tour of how climate change is affecting coastal ecosystems from the perspective of marine invertebrates and explores how many of the most significant effects of global climate change can only be predicted when we step outside our biased perceptions of how weather and climate affect natural ecosystems. His results suggest that while many coastal ecosystems may be much closer to collapse than initially expected, in some cases, climate change can lead to positive responses at some locations. Discerning among these possibilities is therefore crucial if we are to find novel ways of adapting to a warmer planet.
Sharks in Our Backyard: The resurgence of sand tiger sharks in New England
Thursday, April 20
Jeff Kneebone; Associate Research Scientist, Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, New England Aquarium
Julie Cavin, DVM; Associate Veterinarian, New England Aquarium
Despite their scary appearance, sand tiger sharks are docile ocean animals that pose no real threat to humans. Although it has a rich history in New England, this species has declined due to threats like overfishing, and was rarely observed in our region during recent decades. However, a significant number of juvenile sand tigers returned to local waters in the last five to 10 years. Come learn about the biology, conservation, and fascinating resurgence of this species in our own backyard.
Beach Babies – White Shark Nurseries of the Northeast Pacific
Tuesday, April 25
Dr. Christopher G. Lowe, Professor of Marine Biology, California State University Long Beach
Coastal waters can be important feeding grounds for white sharks, particularly areas with high densities of seals and sea lions. In addition, female white sharks also visit coastal waters to give birth to their young. Baby and juvenile white sharks have been found to use shallow open beach habitats and bays as nurseries. So, what does a white shark nursery look like? Probably like your favorite beach. And, why are they there? Probably for the same reasons you are; it’s safe in shallow waters, there is plenty of easy-to-obtain food (not to worry – that doesn’t include you), and it’s warm! Just like any summer beachgoer, baby white sharks don’t like the cold, so they quickly migrate to warmer waters, following the coastline when the temperature drops. We’ve learned all this using a variety of new technology such as acoustic and satellite transmitters, autonomous underwater and aerial vehicles (spybots), and underwater camera (selfie) stations. We’ve even learned about how El Niño can change their migration behavior and how that effects public perception of sharks. Come learn what we think makes for a good white shark nursery and where we might predict the next ones to pop up.
Amazing Aquatic Athletes in the Anthropocene
Thursday, May 11
Dr. Jodie Rummer, Associate Professor, Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University
Globally, coral reefs are at risk from human-induced stressors – such as ocean warming, acidification, and hypoxia – now more than at any time in recorded history. Dramatic effects on fish performance, distribution, and overall ecosystem health are predicted. While the evolutionary success of fish is credited to their adaptations to challenging environmental conditions, whether they can keep pace with the large-scale, rapid changes plaguing their habitats today is not known. Coral reef fishes may be at greater risk as they diversified during a time of relative stable environmental conditions, and today’s rapidly changing conditions may heighten their vulnerability.
Through her research, Dr. Jodie Rummer is tracking metabolic and swimming performance of fishes under climate-change relevant conditions, across development and species, and over multiple generations. This information is crucial for making predictions as to which species and/or populations may be most at risk from climate change and whether the fishes’ long evolutionary history will be enough to protect them from future changes in their habitat.
Seeing Deeper into the World of the Great White Shark
Thursday, May 25
Greg Skomal, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries
Despite its well-established presence in the North Atlantic Ocean, the white shark is not considered an abundant species, and efforts to study its ecology have historically been hampered by the inability of researchers to predictably find these sharks. However, the rebounding population of gray seals off the coast of New England is drawing white sharks in greater numbers to our shoreline. Cape Cod has now become the only known aggregating site for white sharks in the North Atlantic. To take advantage of this opportunity, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries initiated a long-term white shark research program in 2009 to study the ecology and natural history of this species in the western North Atlantic. With more than 100 white sharks now tagged with sophisticated technology, Greg Skomal and his team are piecing together an incredible story of how this shark lives in the North Atlantic.