Multivariate Ocean Climate Index updated

Farallon Institute has issued the latest update for the Multivariate Ocean Climate Index (MOCI), and it is now up-to-date through December 2017.  The MOCI synthesizes data about the physical conditions of the coastal ocean in California to give a single, generalized representation about its current state.  This last year MOCI has mostly returned to “normal” range of values, but is still on the warm/unproductive side - particularly in central California (see below).  Read more about and access the MOCI data here.

Photo by Ron LeValley.

Photo by Ron LeValley.

New paper models fishing and climate effects on krill and their predators in the Antarctic

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.



FI hosted a well-attended State of the Ocean presentation in Petaluma

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.

Photo by Ron LeValley

Photo by Ron LeValley

Article featuring work by Farallon Institute describes an ecosystem that is not as healthy as it appears

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.

Photo by Ron LeValley

Photo by Ron LeValley

New paper in Science magazine addresses failed diversity initiatives in STEM fields

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.

FI scientists publish new paper about seabird indicators in the Bering Sea

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.  

Common murre; photo by Ron LeValley

Common murre; photo by Ron LeValley

FI presents at the Pacific Seabird Group annual meeting

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".

New study describes ocean temperatures during the 2014-2016 marine heat wave

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.


Farallon Institute's Multivariate Ocean Climate Indicator (MOCI) published

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.  

New research on effects of upwelling variability on biological productivity and fisheries in East Africa

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.

New study provides information on the role of forage fish in the California Current Ecosystem

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.  

Common Murre SE Farallon Island 07-05-08 2029.jpg

Bill Sydeman testifies to the State Senate on climate conditions during the 2015-2016 closed Dungeness crab fishery season

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.

Photo by J. Newton, California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Photo by J. Newton, California Department of Fish and Wildlife