Farallon Institute has issued the latest update for the Multivariate Ocean Climate Index (MOCI), and it is now up-to-date through September 2018. The MOCI synthesizes data about the physical conditions of the coastal ocean in California to give a single, generalized representation about its current state. In 2018, MOCI has had neutral values, neither exceptionally high nor low (see below). Read more about and access the MOCI data here.
FI scientist Heather Robinson was recently interviewed for an article in Audubon Magazine about the seabirds of Alcatraz Island. The article details the colony and its history, explaining how the seabirds returned to breed on the island following the closure of the famous prison. Through tours, people can have a unique birding experience on Alcatraz. Heather Robinson closely monitors the bird populations on the island and disturbances to them, and that work is detailed here. This year there were healthy populations of western gulls and record high numbers of breeding Brandt's cormorants.
FI recently hired two new post-doctoral research associates, so please welcome Drs. Brian Hoover and Simon Dedman to the team.
Simon hails from the U.K. with a recently-minted Ph.D. from Galway University where he studied fisheries and marine protected areas, with a focus on skates and rays. Simon brings a wealth of expertise in quantitative science to FI that will enhance our programs in ecosystem-based fisheries management for small coastal pelagic fish species (e.g., sardine, herring, and anchovy). Simon will design and implement a population model for the California-based anchovy population, relative to its role as a key prey species in the ecosystem and the target of local fisheries.
Brian grew up in Colorado and is a recent Ph.D. graduate of U.C. Davis. With an interdisciplinary background in behavior, genetics, sensory biology, oceanography and seabird ecology, Brian’s expertise will enhance our programs of marine spatial ecology in the Northeast Pacific. Brian plies his trade at sea and in the office; he will serve as a shipboard seabird observer (a.k.a., “birder”) on CalCOFI and NMFS oceanographic surveys, and work as a lead analyst for our studies of krill using “hydro-acoustics” and net sampling. Brain will focus on developing and modeling abundance estimates and community structure of zooplankton (krill and copepods), seabirds, and salmon relative to currents in the eastern North Pacific.
Farallon Institute is excited to announce a new grant awarded by California Sea Grant for research in 2018-2020 as part of $2.87 million in federal funding that was recently designated by Congress. Our project is titled "Estimating regional krill biomass and availability: significance to California salmonids during a period of extreme environmental variability". Project efforts will include the processing of acoustically-collected data about krill abundance and distribution, and a new post-doctoral researcher will be hired. You can read more about the 12 projects funded by California Sea Grant this year here.
We are launching quarterly newsletters. These one-pagers will give brief bits of information about news at FI and the state of the physical ocean and biological components of the California Current Ecosystem. You can find the newsletter here or sign up to receive them via email on our support us page.
Overfishing and climate change are co-occurring threats to marine ecosystems and the ways in which they benefit society. Farallon Institute’s Dr. Emily Klein, in collaboration with the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division (Jefferson Hinke and George Watters) and British Antarctic Survey (Tony Phillips and Simeon Hill) used a mathematical model to test outcomes of climate change to managing a large (~200,000 metric ton) international krill fishery. In their study area of the Antarctic Peninsula, this fishery targets Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba), which are also critical forage for an array of charismatic predators important for ecotourism and of conservation concern, including penguins, seals, and whales. The scientists found warming waters associated with climate change could reduce individual krill weight by 40%, significantly reducing the amount of krill available for predators and the fishery, with concurrent reductions in predator abundances by the end of the 21st century. Fishing at currently permitted levels exacerbated these risks, with projected declines in penguin abundance of over 30% by century’s end. Fishing moratoriums were found to alleviate collective risks, in some cases by 20-30% for certain penguin populations. Importantly, these results depend on location and predator group, suggesting the importance of protective measures for specific populations of wildlife. In particular, the authors argue management may be able to reduce risks by implementing marine protected areas and management strategies that use monitoring to update when and how fishing occurs in response to changes in predator populations.
Read more about this study published in this weeks issue of PLoS One here.
Farallon Institute recently hosted a successful evening event featuring a State of the Ocean presentation on the latest scientific understanding of the ocean and that highlighted our 10 years of work in ocean research for conservation. Over 130 people from the community attended the event, held at Hotel Petaluma. The evening began with appetizers and beverages while guests and FI staff visited. President Bill Sydeman introduced the Farallon Institute and the State of the Ocean presentation series, and then Executive Director Jeff Dorman gave the presentation, titled "From Climate to Creatures: the State of the Ocean off Northern California". Topics spanned global issues like ocean acidification to regional changes impacting California fisheries. Following the presentation was a Q&A session with Farallon Institute scientists. An article about the event ran in that day's Petaluma Argus Courier. We were very pleased with the turnout and success of this event. Thank you to everyone who participated and showed their support.
Over the past couple of years, charismatic marine mammals have been easily seen near California's shores as they fed on dense schools of anchovy. In the summers of 2016 and 2017, particularly, the Golden Gate Bridge was an excellent vantage from which to watch humpback whales below as they fed. Despite the appearance of a vibrant nearshore marine ecosystem, anchovy populations have actually had extremely low numbers. When the abundance of these fish reaches such low numbers, their behavioral tendency is to cluster near the shoreline rather than spread out in the greater general vicinity. Having the anchovy and their predators near the shore makes them more visible to people, but gives a misleading picture about the health of their populations. This situation and Farallon Institute's recent work on assessing anchovy abundance fluctuations in California was highlighted in an article by News Deeply: Oceans Deeply. Read more here.
In a new Policy Forum published in the journal Science, FI scientist Emily Klein and co-authors spotlight the importance of inclusion and the experiences of minorities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM fields). Research clearly demonstrates the importance of diversity among scientists for more rigorous, creative, and productive science, and many institutions and organizations are actively working to promote diversity in their ranks. Yet representation of minority groups (e.g., racial, ethnic, gender, sexual identity, and persons with disabilities) in science continues to lag behind demographics in society at large. This paper aims to address the critical, and often under-acknowledged, disconnect between diversity initiatives, and the students and scientists they aim to reach.
A new paper by FI scientists Bill Sydeman, Sarah Ann Thompson, and Marisol Garcia-Reyes, along with collaborators from USGS, NOAA, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, describes regional seabird indicators in the Bering Sea. The paper was published in the journal Ecological Indicators, and shows how kittiwakes and murres each relate to climate data when data from different seabird colony sites are combined into an index. We used data for breeding success and the timing of breeding for black-legged kittiwakes, red-legged kittiwakes, common murres, and thick-billed murres. We made an index for: murre breeding success, kittiwake breeding success, murre timing of breeding, and kittiwake timing of breeding. Environmental data included sea surface temperature, sea ice cover, sea level pressure, and two measures of wind speed. These data were also combined into an environmental indices.
Results showed that the seabird indices related to different environmental indices, suggesting that seabirds across the region area are similarly affected by large-scale environmental variability.
FI scientists Bill Sydeman and Heather Robinson presented at the Pacific Seabird Group annual meeting in Tacoma, WA, on February 23-25. Bill's talk was "The California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigation (CalCOFI): 30 years of at-sea seabird observations and counting", and Heather presented on "Diet of Brandt's cormorants (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) during breeding season: A novel approach". Bill was also a co-convener of the symposium "The values of long-term studies: Insight and synthesis".
A new study published in Geophysical Research Letters by Farallon Institute collaborator Chelle Gentemann, with FI scientist Marisol García-Reyes, describes the sea surface temperatures and wind characteristics along the U.S. West Coast during the 2014-2016 marine heat wave event, which was related to the heat wave event that took place in the Gulf of Alaska ("The Blob"). The nearshore warming in the California Current Ecosystem (along the coast of Washington-Oregon-California) began a few months following the development of the offshore Blob (January 2014) and ended in September 2016. Warm waters were periodically dispersed each spring with the onset of the upwelling season, though the warm water temperatures quickly returned when winds calmed. This study also demonstrated that during these three years, the upwelling season was somewhat weakened and its timing shifted, which can have serious consequences for biological communities in this ecosystem.
Results from this study were covered in an online National Geographic article on February 2, 2017.
Marisol Garcia-Reyes and Bill Sydeman have a new paper in the journal Ecological Indicators this week in which they publish the Multivariate Ocean Climate Indicator (MOCI). MOCI is a regional indicator of marine environmental conditions for the central and southern California Current. It accurately represents ocean-climate variability and major climate events such as El Ninos and the recent North Pacific phenomenon "The Blob". MOCI also relates well to biological measurements across trophic levels, including copepod abundance, rockfish growth, and seabird reproductive metrics. Since the data that are used to create MOCI are found online, MOCI is easily update-able and will be updated quarterly. More information about MOCI and the index itself can be found here.
Farallon Institute scientist Marisol Garcia-Reyes is participating in a new research project that investigates Responses of biological productivity and fisheries to changes in atmospheric and oceanographic conditions in the upwelling region associated with the East African Coastal Current. The interdisciplinary group conducting this research, led by Dr. Mahongo at the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI), includes scientists from Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, USA, and UK. Marisol will participate in developing biophysical relationship models between oceanographic conditions and biological productivity in the region.
Farallon Institute scientists Amber Szoboszlai, Julie Thayer, and William Sydeman co-authored a paper for a study that examined the role of forage fish in the California Current Ecosystem, and the results of this study were published in the journal Ecological Modelling. In this research, the authors developed and used a food web model to analyze which species are predators of forage fish (such as sardine and herring) and how much the predators' diets are composed of forage fish species. Results of this study show that many predator species consume multiple forage fish species (rather than focusing on just one type), which suggests that management on the ecosystem level rather than a species-specific level is likely to be a more successful approach to conservation. Likewise, this information suggests that declines in forage fish populations can have far-reaching effects in marine food webs.
On April 28, Bill Sydeman was one of a group of scientists who testified before the California State Senate Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture. The topic of the hearing was "Crab season and domoic acid: lessons learned", and Bill spoke in the section for "Ocean conditions, the West Coast algae bloom and domoic acid levels: Now, over the next year, and into the future". More information about the hearing can be found here, and video of the hearing is archived here (scroll down to 4/28/2016 Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture). The slides from Bill's talk can be found in Presentations.