Advanced Ecosystem Research

Farallon Institute News

Farallon Institute named an award recipient in the Google Impact Challenge: Bay Area

September 29, 2015

The Farallon Institute for Advanced Ecosystem Research is pleased to announce its selection as an award recipient in the Google Impact Challenge: Bay Area, a program that is providing an aggregate $5 million to 25 selected local non-profits that have presented the most innovative ideas for building an even better Bay Area. Selected from nearly 800 organizations, the Farallon Institute will receive both a grant and support from Google volunteers to conduct the North Coast Cooperative project focused on brining new technologies to traditional oceanographic sampling off northern California.

Online voting for additional winners of the Google Impact Challenge: Bay Area will be open until October 20. While Farallon Institute has already been awarded a grant and is not included in the online voting contest, please check out these other Bay Area non-profits that are doing amazing work, making a difference in their communities, and cast a vote for your favorite.

Read the full press release here.

FI research presented at American Fisheries Society meeting and highlighted in Nature News

August 21, 2015

FI Scientists Julie Thayer and Amber Szoboszlai presented results of their research at the American Fisheries Society annual meeting (AFS) last week in Portland, Oregon. Information from those presentations was highlighted in a Nature News article. The article explains that resources such as the California Current Predator Diet Database (CCPDD; previewed in the August 14, 2015 post below) can be used as tools for ecosystem-based fisheries management. The CCPDD contains diet data for 119 predators that eat forage species. Data on predator-prey interactions are integral to ecosystem-based fisheries management because they chronicle the natural mortality of commercially valuable forage species due to predator consumption. This research is unique because it has indexed data on predator-prey interactions at the species level, allowing for greater transparency and data-accessibility, as well as case-by-case consideration of both commercially important species like Pacific hake, Chinook salmon, northern anchovy, and Pacific sardine, and species of conservation concern such as the brown pelican.

Julie and Amber have been utilizing this new resource on predator diet to generate bio-energetic and threshold models to describe the forage needs of California Current predators in light of ongoing ecosystem-level changes in the Pacific Ocean. Amber’s recent work that was presented at AFS last week focused on portraying bio-energetic predator consumption estimates of anchovy and sardine, both of which have populations in decline. Julie also presented her research at AFS; she has been developing threshold models to examine at what level of prey corresponding predator productivity declines. These models usually result in estimates that are much higher than what predators actually eat (bio-energetic consumption) because they require higher levels of prey in the system to be able to find their food. In combination, prey bio-energetic and threshold models can be used to estimate the forage needs system-wide for the full suite of California Current predators. In turn, we are working to provide the results of this research on the needs of predators to fisheries managers to complement their mandated efforts to implement EBFM that considers predator-prey interactions.

Meet Dr. Mike Litzow

August 18, 2015

It is with great pleasure that we announce that FI Scientist Captain Mike Litzow has now earned a Ph.D. in Marine Ecology from the University of Tasmania in Australia. Mike's dissertation research focused on the impacts of climate variability and change on Alaskan marine ecosystems and its fisheries resources. We congratulate Dr. Litzow on this tremendous accomplishment!

--Jeff Dorman, Executive Director, and Bill Sydeman, FI Board President

Farallon Institute's California Current Predator Diet Database (CCPDD) research has been released

August 14, 2015

Julie Thayer and Amber Szoboszlai are presenting research on predator consumption of forage species at the American Fisheries Society Conference, in Portland, Oregon, August 17-21. Their research on California Current predators will be highlighted in a symposium on the challenges and successes of Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management. The foundational source for these projects is the California Current Predator Diet Database (CCPDD), which is summarized in this infographic and detailed in their newly published paper in Ecological Informatics. The data used for analysis in the project are archived and freely available for download at Data Dryad.

NY Times covers deep-sea fish

July 1, 2015

FI researcher Pete Davison was featured in two recent articles in The New York Times about deep-sea fish. One discussed the abundance of these fish, and how the other was about how, due to their high abundance, they might contribute to the global carbon cycle and effects of climate change.

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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