Advanced Ecosystem Research

Farallon Institute News

New methods for deep-sea fish biomass estimation

June 16, 2015

Farallon Institute scientist Peter Davison, in collaboration with researchers at Scripps Institute of Oceanography and CSIRO (Australia), has published a paper describing methods for acoustic surveys of deep-sea fishes. Survey methods developed for larger, shallow-living fishes such as sardines cannot be directly applied to deep-sea fishes due to the combined effects of their small size, great abundance, species diversity, and pressure at depth. The deep-sea fish species present, their size distribution, and their depth of occupation must be estimated in order to accurately survey the biomass of these fishes using sonar data from surface ships. The new methods outlined in this significant research paper further our collective knowledge of how to study a difficult-to-access ecosystem and the important species that live there.

New krill aggregation model results

June 10, 2015

Farallon Institute scientists recently published a study in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series describing krill aggregations in the California Current. We used an individual-based model to simulate krill populations and explore the physical conditions that lead to krill aggregation. Two regions that were identified as important regions of krill aggregation (South of Point Sur and Monterey Canyon) are also known regions of importance for top krill predators (seabirds and whales). You can find more information here.

Above: Hotspots are identified from (a) spring and (b) summer model runs. The size of the markers indicates the number of days the location was identified as a significant hotspot ranging from a maximum of 45 days (largest marker) to a minimum of 10 days (smallest marker). Grey patches are hotspots identified from acoustic data. Isobaths shown are 200, 1000, and 2000 meters depth.

FI research presented at recent climate workshop

June 10, 2015

Farallon Institute President and Senior Scientist Bill Sydeman was invited to participate in the 2014-2015 Pacific Anomalies (a.k.a. “The Blob”) Workshop held at Scripps Institute for Oceanography on May 5-6, 2015. Bill presented on the response of seabirds to the unusual conditions recently seen throughout the Northeast Pacific Ocean. Dr. Sydeman’s talk can be found here.

Mini workshop at the Farallon Institute

April 27, 2015

Collaborators from NOAA's Environmental Research Division (ERD) and Farallon Institute met on 21-22 April 2015 in Petaluma, CA, to plan research on climate change, upwelling, and ecosystem dynamics. Left to right: Drs. Mike Jacox (ERD), Kylie Scales (ERD), Steven Bograd (ERD), Marisol Garcia-Reyes (FI), Elliott Hazen (ERD), Bill Sydeman (FI), and Jeff Dorman (FI). Lunch was held at a local Thai restaurant.

Alcatraz Island seabird monitoring 2015 has begun

April 27, 2015

March marks the beginning of seabird breeding season on Alcatraz Island. Brandt’s cormorants started to arrive in mid March and commenced nest building, courtship displays, and laying eggs. There are almost twice as many adults at the Alcatraz colony as there were at this time in the last two years, and more cormorants continue to arrive every day. Their progress will continue to be monitored bi-weekly by FI scientist Heather Robinson for the duration of breeding season, which will conclude in September when all chicks have fledged.

L-R: Heather Robinson; Brandt's cormorant, San Francisco in background; nesting Brandt's cormorant with eggs

Workshop in South Africa

April 27, 2015

In March, Farallon Institute scientists Bill Sydeman, Marisol Garcia-Reyes, and Sarah Ann Thompson participated in a workshop in South Africa for a newly-funded project that will compare the California and Benguela Current Ecosystems. Collaborators Bryan Black and Margit Wilhelm (University of Texas), Steven Bograd (NOAA), and Ryan Rykaczewski (University of South Carolina) also made the journey. The American researchers met with the South African collaborators in Lambert’s Bay, South Africa, from March 9-13.

For this project, the group will characterize trends and variability in upwelling (a process responsible for high biological productivity) in the Benguela Current System (BCS), and will investigate how this variability affects the ecosystem. Later, these biophysical relationships will be compared with those in the California Current System (CCS). Workshop participants gave presentations detailing recent research done in both the CCS as well as in the BCS, which is the basis and framework for the current project. The meeting was a success getting this research off the ground while allowing the large group of collaborators an opportunity to get to know each other in the light of working together for the next several years.

Lambert’s Bay is a small coastal town in the Western Cape region of South Africa. It was formerly known for its fishery, but is now more largely known for the sizeable and easily-accessible cape gannet colony. Data collected at the gannet colony over the last 25 years will be used in the aforementioned research. The area around Lambert’s Bay is also known for the production of rooibos tea and French fries. The American group was excited to find that wild ostriches are commonly seen on the drive from Cape Town to Lambert’s Bay.

Cape gannets in Lambert's Bay

L-R: Sarah Ann Thompson, Bryan Black, Steven Bograd, Marisol Garcia-Reyes, Ryan Rykaczewski, and Bill Sydeman

New Farallon Institute Executive Director

January 22, 2015

Dear friends and colleagues:

I am extremely pleased and excited to announce that Dr. Jeff Dorman is the new Executive Director of Farallon Institute (FI). While Jeff will now oversee day-to-day operations and management of the organization, I will remain as President of the Board and Senior Scientist and work closely with Jeff, FI’s Board of Directors, and our cadre of interdisciplinary scientists to conduct, support, and develop new directions in marine ecosystem research. As Jeff has been associated with FI for many years (since 2008), we anticipate this transition and expansion of our administrative and management systems will be seamless. Jeff will also continue research on modeling krill and how changes in climate might impact future ecosystem productivity at mid to upper trophic levels. Jeff earned his M.A. in Biology from San Francisco State University and Ph.D. in Oceanography from UC Berkeley.

Cheers, Bill

Farallon Institute contributions to journal special issue

January 22, 2015

Two new papers by Farallon Institute scientists are included in a special issue of Deep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography. The issue is titled "CCE-LTER: Responses to the California Current Ecosystem to climate forcing".

Bill Sydeman and co-authors include a paper investigating changes in upwelling and stratification in the Southern California region of the California Current Ecosystem and how they might affect seabird populations through changes in prey availability. The results show that there are seasonal trends in upwelling and stratification. Among the prey species examined, including krill and forage fish, no overall trend in krill abundance was found, while there were decreases in abundance seen for several fish species. The composition of the krill community, however, changed through time. Seabird density also decreased over the study period. Spring seabird density in the study area was found to be related to spring krill abundance and winter nearshore larval fish abundance, dominated by anchovy. Understanding predator-prey relationships such as these, and their relationship to environmental conditions is of great value when considering ecosystem-based management of upper trophic level organisms (fish, seabirds, and mammals).

In another paper, Farallon Institute post-doctoral researcher Pete Davison and co-authors describe mesopelagic fish biomass in the California Current Ecosystem. Mesopelagic fishes are an abundant group of fish that live at ocean depths of 200-1000 m and are a vital link between lower trophic levels and higher predators, as well as between the productivity of the ocean surface and the deep sea. Sampling these fish is difficult due to the depth of their habitat, and scientists assess the biomass of this group by either trawl sampling or acoustically-derived estimation. This study utilized and compared these methods while also addressing aspects of inaccuracy that warrant improvement. The authors provide a new estimate of mesopelagic fish biomass that is much larger than any previous estimate, and demonstrate a significant role of these species in regional ecosystem functions.

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