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Abstracts of Poster Presentations

EXAMINING THE IMPACTS OF ULTRAVIOLET (UV) LIGHT-ENHANCED TOXICITY OF SURFACE OIL SHEENS ON THE SURVIVAL, GROWTH, AND DEVELOPMENT OF LARVAL AND JUVENILE RED DRUM (SCIANEOPS OCELLATUS)

Beers, D (GPMB, The University of Charleston, SC)

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill released approximately 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Following the spill, 2100 km of shoreline were affected, including beaches, estuaries, and wetlands. Petroleum, which is a naturally occurring substance, contains toxic chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs. In the presence of UV light, PAHs can be photomodified into more toxic compounds, leading to increased toxicity in aquatic organisms. PAHs cause a suite of physiological consequences particularly in the early stages of development due to increased vulnerability and less adapted methods of dealing with pollutants. Red drum, otherwise known as redfish, is a recreationally and commercially important fish found along the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastlines. Adults spawn offshore and larval fish travel inland to estuaries to develop until reproductive maturity. Therefore, the aim of this study is to understand the potential impacts of the increased potency of oil slicks due to UV light on the larval and juvenile stages of red drum. It is hypothesized that with exposure to UV light and oil there will be significant decreases in survival, growth, and development of a larval fish exposed after hatching. A 24-hour experimental test will be conducted followed by a 30 day grow-out phase in which multiple sublethal endpoints will be examined. Findings will be used to fill in data gaps for NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration to create more useful mitigation and restoration plans in the event of future oil spills.


CHARACTERIZATION OF THE CORAL METABOLOME UNDER DIFFERENT PH AND TEMPERATURE REGIMES, VIA 1H NMR

Loewenstein, J (GPMB, The University of Charleston, SC)

The increase in sea surface temperature and decline in pH due to anthropogenic activities during the last two centuries are rapidly changing the ocean environment.  This is problematic for reef corals, which are extremely sensitive to environmental changes and exhibit decreased calcification, reproduction, and compromised competitive and immune abilities as a response to stress.  To this end, metabolomic measurements using 1H NMR provide an opportunity to determine the chemical response to a number of stress factors relevant to global climate change, such as elevated temperature and reduced pH.  The present study has several goals: (1) To assess the change in the coral metabolome over a natural pH gradient and (2) To compare the coral metabolome of colonies exposed to different treatments of pH and temperature as well as the combined effect of these two treatments, and examine inter- and intra- species variation of two major reef building species.  Metabolites from coral tissue powder will be extracted using methods modified from Bligh and Dyer (1959) and Wu et al. (2008) and analyzed on a 700 MHz 1H NMR.  Previous studies have demonstrated 1H NMR as a powerful tool for profiling the coral metabolome however this will be the first study to examine the coral metabolome as it is affected by climate change related issues, using NMR.  This work will lay the foundation for future research exploring different species responses and answering fundamental questions about how reef systems will change as global climate change continues to alter their physical and chemical environment.



CAPTIVE POPULATIONS AS A TOOL FOR WILDLIFE RESEARCH: NON-INVASIVE METHODS ASSESS THE STRESS HORMONES AND CONDITION OF GENTOO PENGUINS IN VASTLY DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENTS

Karan, J (GPMB, The University of Charleston, SC)

Although gentoo penguins, Pygoscelis papua, can be found by the hundreds of thousands in the wild, and in zoos and aquariums across the globe, little is known about their basic physiology. Significant differences in stress levels and health have been documented between several Antarctic gentoo colonies, but the source(s) of these differences remains unknown. Correlates with gentoo penguin condition have not yet been established, as parameters such as age, sex, and diet are often impossible to obtain in wild populations. Captive populations therefore provide an invaluable tool for discovering more about animal biology, as they are easily accessible and detailed long-term records are maintained for each individual. By assessing captive gentoo populations, I seek to determine biological and environmental variables that have a significant effect on gentoo penguin condition. The health of eight wild gentoo colonies will also be investigated through comparisons to the captive penguins. The stress hormones and immunocompetence of penguins across various environments will be measured through novel non-invasive methods, allowing each type of population (captive vs. wild) to inform the care and protection of the other. Partnering with several zoos and aquariums across the country will allow findings of the proposed study to reach a wide audience, and results will give institutions the opportunity to better understand their animals, tailor care to individual penguins, and possibly improve overall husbandry practices. Ultimately, I hope to introduce improved monitoring methods for wild penguin populations and better inform research and conservation decisions for the rapidly changing Southern Ocean ecosystem.


LINKING LAND USE TO PHYSICAL CHANGES IN CHARLESTON’S ESTUARIES AND TIDAL CREEKS

Hanson, B (GPMB, The University of Charleston, SC)

As one of the ten fastest growing cities in the United States, Charleston, South Carolina is experiencing rapid rates of development along its coasts and waterways. Large-scale changes in land use lead to proportionate increases in impervious ground cover. Impervious surfaces increase stormwater input, which can alter salinity regimes. Stormwater runoff is associated with increased fecal coliform and contaminant loads and threatens the integrity of ecologically and economically valuable estuarine ecosystems. In collaboration with an advisory committee of vested stakeholders, including Charleston County and local municipalities, the present study intends to quantify watershed characteristics associated with stormwater impacts, the spatial extent of such impacts, and how they may respond to predicted changes in climate and weather patterns. Stormwater input and its effect on salinity regimes may additionally impact local ichthyoplankton. As a focus study a mesocosm experiment will examine how variable salinity regimes affect growth, development and survival of larval Sheepshead minnows, Cyprinodon variegatus (Lacepede, 1803). Additionally, MS5 multiparameter water quality sondes will be deployed in select Charleston area tidal creeks to quantify hydrological responses to rain events along a gradient of coastal development. With data collected from the sondes, predictive models will identify areas of tidal creeks that are most sensitive to stormwater input using salinity as a proxy for stormwater input.  Results of the current study will inform and improve best management practices by focusing policy and regulation on the most hydrologically sensitive creeks in the Charleston region.


LONG-TERM PASSIVE ACOUSTICS AS A MEANS TO UNDERSTAND SPATIAL AND TEMPORAL PATTERNS OF ATLANTIC BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS (TURSIOPS TRUNCATUS)

Marian, A (GPMB, The University of Charleston, SC)

The Atlantic bottlenose dolphin has a very complex stock structure along the Southeast coast with waters off the coast of South Carolina being home to permanent, local resident dolphins, as well as those that make large-scale seasonal migrations. Most current population and distribution estimates for bottlenose dolphins are based on aerial or boat-based visual surveys, which have many disadvantages including minimal temporal coverage, high variability due to weather and daylight limitation. Passive acoustic monitoring can be more useful than visual surveys because it can enhance temporal coverage. This method can be applied year round at relatively low costs and allows long-term sampling at precise time scales (e.g. duty cycles of 2 min every 20 min throughout the day and night). The goal of the current project is to combine both visuals surveys and passive acoustics to assess seasonal patterns in the distribution of dolphins in the May River estuary, South Carolina and determine if those patterns are associated with the arrival and departure of the migratory stock. If so, the goal is to then monitor temporal variations in the migratory stock’s movement and whether or not it is due to variations in water temperatures associated with annual climate variability.


A BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN (TURSIOPS TRUNCATUS) POPULATION CHARACTERIZATION STUDY IN CAPTAIN SAM’S INLET, SC

Bayles, C (GPMB, The University of Charleston, SC)

The population structure of the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is complex, with seasonally migratory stocks often overlapping with year-round resident stocks (Speakman et al., 2009).  It is historically unknown whether there is a resident population of dolphins in Captain Sam’s Inlet, between Seabrook and Kiawah Island.  Frequency of use by the Charleston Estuarine System Stock (CESS)- a known population of dolphins documented to inhabit Price’s Inlet to North Edisto River- in this area is also unknown. At least one known individual from the CESS has been documented in this area, thus far. This project aims to capture novel data in regards to the structure of bottlenose dolphins in this area in regards to population size and time of use during the year; through the use of land-based photo-ID.  For management and educational purposes, it is important to know how many animals could be affected by increased development and tourism, in this area. The impact of tourism and development to local beaches and water-based tours/experiences have been documented through the National Marine Fisheries Service reports specifically in Captain Sam’s Inlet due to the rarity of strand-feeding events in this area. Therefore, surveys of beach-goers will also be conducted to determine the perception of dolphin presence as well as the importance of having marine biologists on site- through a Town of Kiawah Island funded project- to locals and tourists. It is the hope that the findings from this study will enact better management practices for the marine mammals in this area so they can still be observed and appreciated but exist and feed in an environment not plagued by the possibility of constant stressors.


PREDATOR AVOIDANCE COSTS OF EGG-CARRYING IN SNAPPING SHRIMP (DECAPODA: ALPHEIDAE)

Bergeson, P (GPMB, The University of Charleston, SC)

Offspring-carrying can be one of the costliest activities associated with reproduction. Parents carrying offspring can experience reduced foraging efficiency, predator avoidance, and travel speed. While these costs have been widely studied in terrestrial organisms, considerably less is known about similar costs in marine invertebrates. The snapping shrimp Alpheus angulosus and A. heterochaelis are small, intertidal caridean shrimp found in burrows beneath oyster rubble. Although both species are commonly found in monogamous pairs, only females perform parental care by carrying and tending to fertilized eggs on their abdominal appendages until the larvae hatch and disperse. The present study seeks to quantify the antipredator costs associated with carrying eggs in the female snapping shrimp. The ability of a gravid female to avoid predators will be tested by 1) using an underwater treadmill to measure travel speed, as well as 2) observing difference between gravid and non-gravid females’ tail-flipping behavior. It is hypothesized that both travel and tail-flipping speed of egg-carrying females will be slower compared to non-gravid females, and that these costs will depend on size-specific fecundity. Findings from this study can also be applied to future investigations of similar costs in other crustaceans, including those of considerable cultural and commercial importance.


ADDRESSING LIFE HISTORY INFORMATION GAPS IN TWO CARIBBEAN PARROTFISHES, SCARUS TAENIOPTERUS AND SCARUS VETULA

Jones, D (GPMB, The University of Charleston, SC)

The demography and life history of fish populations – including population structures by age or size, growth rates, reproductive seasonality, and size- and age-at- maturity and sexual transition – are critical inputs for fishery management.  Despite the relative abundance and ecological importance of Caribbean parrotfishes on reefs, little has been published on their life history. Parrotfish research has often focused on aspects of their functional ecology – especially their grazing of coral reefs – while many basic demographic and life history questions have been left unanswered.  The objective of the present study is to determine the life history and population structure of two parrotfish species, the princess parrotfish Scarus taeniopterus and queen parrotfish Scarus vetula, in the U.S. Caribbean.  Monthly parrotfish samples are being collected from St. Croix, USVI, where these species are common.  To-date, we have collected a total of 469 princess parrotfish and 221 queen parrotfish samples from US Caribbean waters.  Our preliminary results indicate that both species are protogynous hermaphrodites and females exhibit a relatively unique oocyte shape compared to other reef fish species.  Sampling efforts will continue to fill in monthly collection gaps so that a comprehensive assessment of life history for these two species will be finished within the next year.  This research will fill a knowledge gap in the literature and increase scientific understanding of Caribbean reef fisheries.


CHARACTERIZING MICROPLASTICS IN THE GASTROINTESTINAL TRACTS OF BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS (TURSIOPS TRUNCATUS) AND OTHER SMALL DELPHINIDS

Pfeifer, T (GPMB, The University of Charleston, SC)

Plastic pollution is a well-documented and global environmental concern. In recent years, microplastics have emerged as a growing concern in marine ecosystems because they are easily ingested by a wide range of organisms with a multitude of feeding strategies. Ingestion of these small particles has been documented in lower trophic level organisms via direct consumption.  However, little is known about the presence, pathways, and potential bioaccumulation of microplastics within larger marine predators. This study will utilize gastrointestinal tracts from small delphinids, primarily bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) that have stranded along various locations of the U.S. coast. We will characterize microplastics from the gastrointestinal tracts by size, color, and shape. Additionally, we will document trends in organism recovery location and prey items. We anticipate defining the pathways by which microplastics entered these organisms by comparing our findings with previous and ongoing studies which characterize microplastics in the common food items of delphinids.


RELATING SHRIMP BLACK GILL AND PARASITE INFECTIONS TO POPULATION ENERGETICS OF WHITE SHRIMP LITOPENAEUS SETIFERUS

Zuidema, S (GPMB, The University of Charleston, SC)

The white shrimp Litopenaeus setiferus fishery constitutes one of the most valuable fisheries in South Carolina. In the last two decades, an increase in the prevalence of the condition “black gill” occurred in white shrimp throughout the South Atlantic Bight. Black gill, the melanization of gill tissue, results from a defense response in crustaceans that is triggered by gill irritants (e.g. fungi, bacteria, heavy metals). This condition in the South Atlantic Bight has been attributed to infection by an apostome ciliate and is associated with reduced physical condition of infected shrimp. However, it is unclear if and how black gill relates to the presence of non-ciliate shrimp parasites and how these infections affect population-level energetics of white shrimp. The objectives of this study are to assess the relationship of visible black gill and 1) non-ciliate parasites in white shrimp; 2) environmental factors and shrimp life-stage; and 3) parasite infection on white shrimp population energetics. This study examines post-larval to adult life-stages of white shrimp and is being conducted in the estuarine tributaries of the Ashley and Wando rivers, and Charleston Harbor in Charleston, SC. To understand how black gill and parasite infections relate to shrimp population energetics, measurements of shrimp biomass will be used to calculate secondary production of white shrimp, and will then be tested for correlation with black gill prevalence and parasite biomass. Findings will provide insight into the health of white shrimp in Charleston, SC and help natural resource managers to understand interannual variability in these populations.


REEXAMINING THE TAXONOMIC PLACEMENT OF HYPNOGORGIA PENDULA USING MITOCHONDRIAL DNA AND MORPHOMETRICS

Vill, C (GPMB, The University of Charleston, SC)

Restoration of mesophotic octocorals affected by the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is currently hindered by a lack of knowledge regarding octocoral genetic diversity and population connectivity. This study focuses on the population genetics and phylogenetics of the mesophotic octocoral Hypnogorgia pendula, one of the common large octocoral species indicative of the mesophotic reefs impacted by the DWH oil spill. The study intends to 1) increase sample size to conduct a more robust examination of the mtDNA haplotype distribution of H. pendula from the Gulf of Mexico and 2) examine the taxonomic placement of H. pendula using molecular systematics to verify diagnostic morphometric characters for species identification and compare that to Muricea pendula, a closely related shallow water octocoral. The study will use a portion of the mitochondrial mutS gene to confirm species identifications and to assess the genetic diversity within this taxon. This study will resolve the differences between H. pendula and M. pendula both genetically and morphologically.


TURTLE TRACKING TROUBLE: DO CARAPACE MORPHOLOGY AND COMPOSITION DICTATE SATELLITE TRACK DURATIONS FOR HARD-SHELLED SEA TURTLES?

Hoffman, K (GPMB, The University of Charleston, SC)

For several decades, satellite telemetry has enabled global collection of spatial distribution data across sea turtle species. Data collection windows vary among species and location, but generally speaking shorter track durations are associated with Kemp’s ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempii) than loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta). Using similar transmitter attachment procedures, researchers with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) have obtained track durations of 17 to 173 days for Kemp’s ridley sea turtles but 6 to 510 days for 80 loggerhead sea turtles since 2004. Given extensive overlap in spatial distribution and diving behavior for these tracks across species, additional research is needed to investigate potential causes of track duration disparities. As such, I propose to evaluate potential interactions between carapace morphology and composition on transmitter adhesion, and in turn, track longevity. The first objective will be to use a suite of morphometric data for both species captured in the SCDNR surveys (2000 to 2018) to test for significant differences in carapace curvature, and ultimately, whether such differences would result in differential water shear force at the point of transmitter attachment. The second objective will be to test for differences in epoxy adhesion strength between species (as well as among scutes) using keratin obtained from stranded sea turtles. Preliminary results from these first two thesis objectives will be presented, along with a timeline for completing the remaining three thesis objectives.


IMPOSEX INDUCTION BY ENDOCRINE DISRUPTING CHEMICALS: EFFECTS OF TBT AND WASTEWATER EFFLUENT ON THE EASTERN MUD SNAIL

Mathis, E (GPMB, The University of Charleston, SC)

Environmental endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), such as the well-known diethylstilbestrol (DES) and the plasticizer bisphenol A (BPA), and many more mimic ligands involved in multiple hormonal signaling pathways, including those that perturb PPAR/RXR molecular signaling. By regulating development, lipid metabolism and energy homeostasis, PPAR/RXR signaling may influence adaptation and fitness of organisms exposed to these EDCs. Charleston Harbor and its surrounding waterways are now experiencing a dramatic shift due to dredging, accommodations for the supertanker ships, and population increase. These waterways may also become subjected to offshore oil drilling. Dredging and “convenient port of call” tankers may increase the burden of the antifouling paint, Tributyltin (TBT) and use of Corexit oil dispersants, both increase the burden of EDCs in our coastal ecosystem. Here, we propose to explore how EDCs have their impact at the cellular and organismal level. Specifically, we will investigate the EDCs TBT (PPAR/RXR ligand) and accumulation of EDCs in wastewater effluent.


EVALUATING THE EFFICACY OF MARINE PROTECTED AREAS FOR SNAPPER-GROUPER SPECIES IN THE US SOUTH ATLANTIC

Pickens, C (GPMB, The University of Charleston, SC)

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been used widely by fisheries managers to curb habitat destruction and increase biomass and sizes of fish inside MPAs to promote spillover into adjacent regions. In 2009, nine MPAs were established off the Southeast United States' Atlantic Coast to provide refugia from exploitation for a variety of deepwater demersal reef-associated species (snapper-grouper complex) targeted by fishers in this region. A previous study of two of these deepwater MPAs, using a time series (2001-2014) of underwater video, found no change in community composition and abundance of a targeted snapper species inside and outside of the MPAs.  Three of the deepwater MPAs are frequently sampled by a collaboration of the Marine Resources Monitoring Assessment and Predictions (MARMAP) program, Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program, South Atlantic (SEAMAP-SA), and Southeast Fishery Independent Survey (SEFIS) using traps (1990-present) and underwater video (2011-present). This study will utilize the trap and camera deployment time series data collected by these partners in three of the deepwater MPAs to test for changes in fish community composition, abundance, and life history parameters (age distribution, sex ratios, and spawning presence) inside-outside of the MPAs as indicators of MPA effectiveness. Regardless of the impact that these MPAs have had, the results will be useful for the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council and their management of the economically important snapper-grouper species, helping to identify if MPAs are an effective management strategy for this fish complex.


FROM THE SEAFLOOR TO ESTUARINE SHORES: ZETAPROTEOBACTERIA IN CHARLESTON, SC.

Enriquez, A (GPMB, The University of Charleston, SC)

The deep ocean hydrothermal vents are a source of high amounts of iron. Zetaproteobacteria are the only organisms known to oxidize iron in such an environment under nearly neutral pH conditions. Previous research identified their ability to grow on carbon steel, and recently, in more estuarine environments such as Chesapeake Bay. Given these recent findings, it is reasonable that Zetaproteobacteria live in the Charleston Bay area. The goal of these studies is to identify areas in Charleston where Zetaproteobacteria grow and to assess any biogeographical differences between samples, as well as the potential to colonize mild steel in a salt marsh and coastal environment. Sediment samples were collected at low tide across sites with varying salinity from the Charleston area rivers: the Stono, Ashley, Wando, and Cooper. In addition, in situ dissolved oxygen, temperature, and salinity were recorded when possible. At all sites, samples were collected for measurement of Iron (II) and total iron. Preliminary PCR analysis confirms the presence of these bacteria; the abundance will be quantified using qPCR. In addition, Microbial Iron-Oxidation Chambers (MIOCs) were constructed with small steel coupons and will be deployed in the same area as the sampling sites. These MOICs will also be assessed for the presence of Zetaproteobacteria using PCR. Identifying how and where these bacteria can grow in Charleston area rivers will allow for a better understanding biogeographical differences between Zetaproteobacteria in coastal estuarine environments.