Genetic diversity in seagrass final product

For my final science communication seminar product, I created an infographic on the importance of genetic diversity in seagrass beds. After receiving feedback from my peers and professionals in the field, I decided to change my first draft into a more simple design and message. We also discussed visiting museums to present our products, so I created a small display (described below) that can facilitate conversation with people about the infographic.

Seagrass Genetic Diversity by Gina Digiantonio

The display is a piece of paper on which two “beds” of seagrass (A and B) are represented with 3 seagrass blades (see picture below). Each seagrass blade has 2 starbursts to represent their genetic diversity. Bed A has two kinds of starbursts present compared to the 4 kinds of starburst in bed B, and is therefore less diverse.

Then, a simulated disease washes over the beds in the form of a pink translucent cover. Suddenly, the pink starbursts are washed out and bed A only has 1 blade remaining while bed B retained its blades.

I will tailor this conversation to different audiences. For example, for a scientifically-minded adult the starbursts can be referred to as “alleles” and we can discuss the influence of dominant vs. recessive traits. My hope is that the activity (and candy) will capture people’s attention, generate interest in the topic, and better visualize the points on my infographic.

Final Product: Fantastic Virginia Corals and Where to Find Them

I am really excited with how the final video turned out! Poor diving conditions prevented me from getting a lot of the extra video that I was hoping for, but I think I made good use of what I have. Taking into account the comments from our last meeting, I tried to create a story that introduces the viewer to a relatively unknown coral species and its importance to the coast of Virginia. It has been uploaded to the Virginia Sea Grant YouTube page, check it out here:


Draft 1-Pg Policy Brief

The Case For Food: The Heartbeat of the Rural Alaskan Arctic Community

Monique Baskin, 2016 John A. Knauss Fellow


A non-traditional and inclusive, state level food (in)security policy strategy would make a difference in the lives of many rural Alaskans. This food (in)security policy strategy should include a vision that actively engages rural indigenous community participation with measurable targets/objectives; timeline; action plan that includes activities, outputs, and short to long-term outcomes; a budget and monitoring mechanisms that include indicators that show progress.


  • 13% and 4% of Alaskan households experience low food security and very low food security respectively.
  • The prevalence of food insecurity is highest in rural Alaska.
  • About 81,000, Alaskans participate annually in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as Food Stamps).
  • In Alaska, more than 73% of SNAP participants are families with children.


Food (in)security has progressed from a broad and global framework to a focus on local communities. In spite of local focus, food (in)security persists because traditional food (in)security definitions and local policy solutions do not take indigenous knowledge, expertise or the need to access resources into consideration to solve the problem.


  • Compared to traditional components of food insecurity (availability, access, quality and utilization), Alaskan Inuit food insecurity components include: availability; Inuit culture; decision-making power and management; health and wellness; stability; and accessibility.
  • USDA-FNSP programs are unsuccessful because more food pantries are located in urban rather than rural areas, where the need exists.
  • In addition, food transportation to rural areas face enormous infrastructure and environmental constraints, significantly handicapping the program.
  • Current decision making and resource management policies promote barriers to resource access.


The State Government should announce a rural food (in)security reduction policy strategy that begins with engaging Inuit Circumpolar Council, rural community leaders and state and local government with the expressed goal of setting up a task force that develops a strategy which includes measurable targets/objectives; timeline; action plan that includes activities, outputs, and short to long-term outcomes; a budget and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms that include indicators that show progress.


For further information, contact Monique Baskin at 301-427-2423 or

First Draft: Assessing the impact of Muskellunge predation on Smallmouth Bass in the New River, Virginia

Assessing the impact of Muskellunge predation on Smallmouth Bass in the New River, Virginia

I am creating a flier with a QR code (a code that can be scanned with your phone) linked to a 5-minute video detailing the results of my project on Muskellunge and Smallmouth Bass in the New River. The video will describe the predatory impact that Muskellunge have on Smallmouth Bass as well as the management implications that predation has on the Smallmouth Bass fishery. Below is an outline for that video:


The ‘Monster Muskie’ – a historical context

  • Description of the dislike and fear that often accompany Muskellunge and other members of the esocid family
    • Quote from previous AFS president
  • Where does this aversion come from?
    • Resource-users are afraid that they are ‘eating machines’
      • Quotes from New River fishermen
    • Muskellunge will prey on other sportfish and decimate quality fisheries
  • This fear of Muskellunge and their impact sometimes leads to anglers taking matters into their own hands
    • Include a snippet of guy killing Muskie in Michigan
    • Quote from Minnesota article

The ‘Monster Muskie’ – scientifically speaking

  • What does Muskellunge diet and predation actually look like?
    • Discuss diet studies from Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota
    • Generally Muskellunge prefer ‘softer’ prey (e.g. Suckers, Minnows, Gizzard Shad)
    • And there are many instances of successful fisheries with both Muskellunge and Smallmouth Bass (e.g. St. Lawrence River)
  • HOWEVER – some evidence exists for predation on less-preferred “spiny fishes,” when preferred forage is lacking
    • This can happen when there is a decrease in preferred forage or when there is a substantial increase in the number of consumers
    • Describe predation on Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and Walleye in other systems

How this applies to the New River

  • Previous New River diet study – consumption of Smallmouth Bass by Muskellunge was very low
  • But then the regulations for Muskellunge changed and now there are more Muskellunge and complaints of decreasing catches of Smallmouth Bass
  • So, are there enough Muskellunge so that now Smallmouth Bass have become a more important part of their diet? How was consumption changed?
  • We set out to answer that question!
    • Pumped a lot of Muskellunge stomachs
      • Throughout the year
      • And throughout the New River
    • Sifted through a lot of Muskellunge puke
    • Found very little Smallmouth Bass – pie charts with diet composition
    • Conclusion – not a very important part of their diet!
  • But, what about the fact that there are more Muskie out there? Even if they eat only a little of Smallmouth Bass, couldn’t it be a lot overall?
  • We set out to answer that question too!
    • We estimated how much an average adult Muskellunge eats annually
    • Then, we estimated how much of that is Smallmouth Bass annually
    • We have an estimate of how many Muskie there are at each site, so then we multiply that consumption by how many Muskie there are, and we have the number of Smallmouth Bass consumed by Muskellunge
    • We also have an estimate of how many Smallmouth Bass there are at each site
    • This is how they compare! Conclusion – it’s very unlikely Muskellunge are having a substantial impact on Smallmouth Bass

What does it all mean?

The Smallmouth Bass population has seen some declines in catches of slot-sized fish over the last few years. If Muskie are not the cause, then what is?

  • Increased fishing pressure
    • VDGIF estimates 60% increase
    • There’s also been an increase in bass tournaments
  • Variable recruitment
    • Water flow and Claytor Dam

Demographic trends over the next few years will hopefully help us figure out exactly what is causing the declines in certain sizes of Smallmouth Bass.

Patterns Hold the Clues: Solving Spring Moralities in Oysters

I’ve created a story board for the outline of my project.  I envision creating a stop-motion animation which details the problem my project is tackling and what I hope is a “sticky” analogy for characterizing oyster reproduction.   The main problem detailed is that when oysters die, there typically is no corpse to biopsy for cause of death, just an empty shell.  Therefore, we need to ask questions about the survivors-what about them is different than the oysters that died?  More specifically, what is the important difference when it comes to mortality.  Given oysters are dying in the spring, it probably has to do with reproduction.  I want to show the variance in the oyster sexual development, and I plan to do that by making the analogy of an oyster’s reproductive system with a tree.  In the winter, the oyster’s reproductive system is dormant, and therefore the “tree” is a pruned back and has no leaves.  As the water warms up the “branches” (follicles) grow outwards and then leaves(eggs) start growing off of the branches, until you are left with a tree full of branches and leaves (ripe oyster).  Using this analogy, I detail the different sexual patterns we have seen in commercial (and supposedly sterile) oysters, and end the video with the point that in order to find out why the oysters are dying, we need to know the proportion of the population that exhibits each pattern before and after the mortality event, which is what I’ve done for my project.

In the story board, each large square represents the image and the text below is the narration (N) or the sound effect (S).  For now, the whole thing does not operate as a stop motion, as the first few slides are stand-alone.  I am thinking that I could try to do the stop motion on the computer with something as simple as having a picture in powerpoint, tweaking it a little, and taking a picture or just saving the picture of the adjusted image.  I am planning to try this out in the very near future to assess if this is a feasible route.