First Draft

The Cost of Sick Oysters

ASCS Infographic First Draft

Lauren Huey

Rough draft of layout:


The images that I made of the oyster, the oysterman, and the shucking house represent the change from historical statuses. The full oyster image represents how many bushels of oysters there were in the Chesapeake Bay before their decline with the red portion representing the oysters present in the Bay today, which is about 1% of historical populations (Newell 1988). The oysterman represents the 50,000 oystermen working in the Bay at the peak of harvest in the 1880’s, with the 1000 people with oyster harvest licenses today represented by the red portion (Chesapeake Bay Program 2010). Lastly, the building represents the 136 shucking houses that were in operation in 1974 with the red portion signifying the 6 that were still operating as of 2010 (Chesapeake Bay Program 2010). There will be text to accompany the images but I haven’t written it yet. It will likely be a more concise version of the explanation of the images above. The size of the red portions was calculated based on the percent of the historical status of each factor today, with this percentage applied to the height of the figure and the resulting height being colored red. Through these images, I want to show the effect that the collapse of the oyster fishery had on the local economy and jobs.

A and B are small info bubbles. A will be about the debate on whether or not to introduce a non-native oyster to the Chesapeake Bay that occurred for over a decade. B will state that an estimated $4 billion was lost to Virginia and Maryland’s economy due to the oyster decline (Chesapeake Bay Program 2010).

The bottom portion of the infographic will discuss the causes of decline and bring oyster disease to the forefront. I will include a graph of Perkinsus marinus prevalence over time to show that it is still present at high levels in the Chesapeake Bay. I will end with the light at the end of the tunnel: oysters are recovering, with scientists trying to understand this recovery (which is what I’m doing) so that we can harness the natural resilience of oysters to improve fishery management and restoration efforts.


Chesapeake Bay Program. 2010. On the Brink: Chesapeake’s Native Oysters. Annapolis.

Newell, R.I.E. 1988. Ecological changes in Chesapeake Bay: Are they the result of
overharvesting the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica). In M.P. Lynch and E.C.
Krome, editors. Understanding the Estuary: Advances in Chesapeake Bay Research.
Solomons, Maryland: Chesapeake Research Consortium Publication 129. CBP/TRS
24/88. pp 536-546.

Updated Layout:


What Makes A Wetland A Wetland? – Draft 1

What Makes a Wetland a Wetland?

Project Update: During some informal conversations with friends and family, I realized there is much less understanding of what a wetland is than I had originally thought. So I decided  I would like to  focus my project  primarily on what exactly makes something a wetland (i.e., hydrology, soils, and plants). I have copied the first draft of my script below, and some draft sketches for the animation. I still need to work out a few kinks, and transitions between topics, but this draft covers the basic framework of what I would like my audience to learn.

I am still struggling with how to end the animation. First of all, it is entirely possible that this script is too long for a 2-3 minute video. Aside from that, I can’t decide what theme to end on.  I think it is really important to reinforce why wetlands are important – so that’s how I currently end my script. But I also really want to convey how changing climate affects wetland hydrology (not yet in the script). I don’t think I have enough time to cover both ecosystem functions and wetland vulnerability, so if I had to choose one, which should it be?

Script 1.0

  • What makes a wetland a wetland? Well the simplest answer is water.
  • Wetlands are not completely dry, nor are they bodies of water such as a lake, pond, river, or stream. Wetlands are areas of land either permanently, or periodically saturated with water.
  • Sources of water to wetlands include precipitation, runoff, groundwater, and tides.
    • While many wetlands are found in transitional zones between upland and aquatic ecosystems, for example next to a river or lake,
    • Wetlands can also form anywhere on the landscape with an accumulation of water such as surface depressions that collect rainfall and runoff, or areas where groundwater discharges to the land surface
  • The development of characteristic wetland soils, and the growth of specially adapted wetland plants depends on the presence of water.
    • In most non-wetland soils, oxygen is readily available to plant roots and oil bacteria. However, in saturated soils water displaces oxygen, leading to anaerobic, or oxygen-limited conditions. These are called hydric soils
    • In fact, decomposition in anaerobic soils is what gives wetlands their characteristic rotten egg smell.
  • Plant species have varying tolerance of saturated soils.
    • Species such as cattails are almost always found in wetlands, while other species such as red maple are equally likely in wetland and upland habitats
    • Wetland plants, also known as hydrophytes, have evolved special adaptations that allow them to survive and grow in low-oxygen hydric soils.
  • Wetland water levels, or hydrology, can range from permanently to rarely flooded. Some wetlands may have a shallow layer of standing water, while others may be muddy, or even appear dry for much of the year. However, as long as saturated conditions persist long enough to develop hydric soils and support wetland plants, the area is considered a wetland.
    • There are many different types of wetlands depending on the hydrology – movement of water, soils, and plant species found there.
    • For example, marshes are permanently or temporarily flooded wetlands, often dominated emergency vegetations such as cattails or marsh cordgrass.
    • While swamps are forested areas dominated by woody vegetation such as bald cypress and tupelo trees, and subject to seasonal patterns of inundation.
  • Although once viewed as stinky, insect-ridden wastelands, we now know that wetlands perform many important ecosystem functions.
    • Wetlands act as a natural filter to improve water quality. Often described as nature’s kidney’s, wetlands remove excess nutrients, sediment, and pollutants from our waterways, just like kidney’s filter toxins from our blood
    • Wetlands also provide protection from floods and storm surge, and plants provide food, habitat, refuge, and nursery grounds for many fish, birds, invertebrates and small mammals.

Animation Image Ideas:

First Image – Happy Raindrop


Wetlands are not completely dry, nor are they bodies of water . . .


Wetland Water Sources


Hydric Soils



Diversity in Seagrass- First Draft


Importance of Diversity in Seagrass Beds

For this draft I used Canva to create a rough verison of what I want my first infographic to include.  The first infographic will be targeting a general audience. The images I used were either personal pictures or taken from the IAN website, but I still need to add the attributions for them and an additional source list at the bottom. I’m also trying to consider ways I can make the infographic more visually appealing, maybe by adding additional pictures for the 3 levels of diversity.

Click here to see the draft of Infographic1!

One thing I found while working on the infographic draft was that I wasn’t able to fit as much information as I thought I would be able to. After realizing this, I updated the outline for my second infographic that is focused more on my research in H. wrightii beds in Florida.  I talked to a new professor at Florida International University who is going to be working on seagrasses in Indian River Lagoon and a marine consultant for the lagoon and offered to share my infographics with them.


Updated outline for Infographic 2:

  1. Recent seagrass die-offs in Florida
    1. Algal bloom in Indian River Lagoon (2016)
    2. High salinity in Florida Bay (2015)
  2. Common restoration techniques don’t often consider genetic diversity in their projects due to time and money constraints
    1. Genetic diversity research can provide this information to help these projects be more effective
      1. Even over a short time period of 1-2 years, genetic diversity can increase restoration success measures such as shoot density (Williams 2001)
    2. Graphic of how genetic diversity data for Florida was obtained
      1. The samples were collected prior to the diebacks so the data can help set a baseline of natural diversity in the beds
      2. Sampling scheme consisted of two 5-m by 5-m blocks, with a sample taken at each meter (shown in a visual). This was performed at 9 sites in Florida
    3. Overlay map
      1. The size of circles on the map at the 9 sites will vary in accordance with the diversity found at the site
      2. *This map will be similar (but much smaller) to the one at this link (hw-florida-sites2) but will have the variation in symbol size representing the diversity, and won’t have the site initials


Blue Catfish: Invasive?

90 lb Blue Catfish from Rappahannock River

How do we define an invasive species?

Next to habitat degradation, invasive species are the greatest threat to global biodiversity (Light and Marchetti 2007), yet definitions of “invasive species” vary broadly (Lockwood et al. 2013). It is important to remember that introduced species are not necessarily invasive, and many are beneficial (Gozlan 2008; Gozlan et al. 2010). Many terms are used to describe organisms that have been transplanted into a new environment. These species are commonly referred to as “non-native”, “non-indigenous”, or “introduced”, but invasive has a different meaning. Some define an invasive species as a non-native species that has been demonstrated to cause ecological or economic harm. This is problematic because it requires human assessment of harm, which is prone to human bias (Lockwood et al. 2013). It also ignores the possibility that non-native species can be beneficial economically and ecologically (Davis et al. 2011). Many ecologists define an invasive species as a species that is self-sustaining and expanding in its new environment, regardless of impact, yet “expanding” can have subjective definitions too (Lockwood et al. 2011).

The federal government has its own definition for invasive species. The National Invasive Species Council defines an invasive species as “an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” They also state that for a species to be “invasive”, its negative impacts must outweigh any benefit that it provides, and they recognize that many “alien species are non-invasive and support human livelihoods or a preferred quality of life” (ISAC 2006).

Characteristics of invasive species in aquatic environments

Moyle and Light (1996) were able to make several generalizations about invasive species in aquatic environments. First, most invasions are unsuccessful; however, when they occur, most do not result in major ecological changes. Second, invasions are more successful in systems that are polluted or otherwise altered by human activity. Third, predators are more likely to alter the communities than omnivores.

Blue catfish biology and life history

Blue catfish were introduced into Virginia’s tidal rivers in the 1970s and 1980s, and populations have expanded. Blue catfish now occupy every major drainage of the Chesapeake Bay. We have collected diet contents from over 15,000 catfish, and we have found that blue catfish are omnivorous, feeding mostly on vegetation, Asiatic clams, and other aquatic invertebrates. Only the largest catfish eat other fish, and these large fish make up a small percentage of the population.

Trophic levels are often used to understand how an organism fits into the food web. Trophic level one is composed of autotrophs or organisms that make their own food, usually plants or plant-like organisms. Trophic level two feeds on vegetation, trophic level three is omnivorous, and the upper trophic levels are carnivorous (see image below).

Conceptual Trophic Level Diagram

We calculated trophic levels for blue catfish based on their diet. Trophic levels for blue catfish ranged from 2.72 to 3.55, indicating an omnivorous feeding strategy. We also identified the length(s) at which blue catfish began to eat other fish, and calculated trophic levels for these “fish eating” catfish. Blue catfish began to eat significantly more fish when they reached lengths of 20 – 28”; however, even these larger catfish were omnivorous, feeding on vegetation, mollusks, and crustaceans. Trophic level calculations for these large blue catfish were not indicative of an “apex predator” (<3.55). Big, predatory fish in the system like striped bass and flathead catfish occupy higher trophic levels (4.70 and 4.33, respectively). Blue catfish occupy similar trophic levels to non-native common carp, which is not that surprising as both feed heavily on aquatic vegetation.

Trophic Level Calculations for Blue Catfish by River

There has also been some concern that blue catfish are feeding heavily on imperiled species such as river herring and American shad, which swim up Virginia’s tidal rivers every spring to spawn. We collected stomachs from thousands of catfish during the spring spawning migration, and American shad and river herring were found in less than 1% of blue catfish stomachs.

Interactions between blue catfish and blue crab have also been a concern, as blue crab support one of the most lucrative commercial fisheries within the Chesapeake Bay. Blue catfish do eat blue crabs, and predation increases in brackish areas. Yet predation of blue crab is still relatively uncommon (< 15% of stomachs).


Generalizations about freshwater invasions (Moyle and Light 1996) provide valuable insight into the “invasiveness” of blue catfish in the Chesapeake Bay. The authors concluded that invasion is more likely in areas disturbed by human activities. Much of the Chesapeake Bay is far from pristine, and has a long history of pollution and/or disturbance.  Agricultural runoff, raw sewage overflows, and chemical spills have degraded water quality in the Bay over the last century. The Bay now has seasonal “dead zones” due to low oxygen, and many of the fish from the Chesapeake Bay are contaminated with toxins (PCBs and methylmercury).

It’s not all bad news, as most invasions do not result in major community changes. Our data shows that blue catfish are omnivorous, and even the largest fish still occupy lower trophic levels than other predators in the system. Omnivores are less likely than predators to cause major ecological changes (Moyle and Light 1996).

Are blue catfish invasive?

This ultimately depends on your definition of invasive. If you adopt the definition suggested by many ecologists, blue catfish are invasive. With this definition, any species is invasive if it is “self-sustaining” and “expanding geographically”.  After introduction, blue catfish populations expanded downriver and into neighboring systems, and they now occupy every major drainage of the Chesapeake Bay.

If you adopt an impact-based definition, like the definition used by the National Invasive Species Council, blue catfish may not be invasive after all. Here, for a species to be invasive, its negative impacts must outweigh any benefit it provides. Blue catfish in the James River support a spectacular trophy fishery. This trophy fishery employs full time guides and provides a financial boost to the local economy. People travel from around the U.S. to experience trophy catfish on the James River, which regularly exceed 50 lbs in weight, and numerous articles about this fishery appear in Field and Stream and In Fisherman. In addition to recreational fishing opportunities, blue catfish support a growing commercial fishery that financially supports commercial fisherman and fish processing facilities.

Our research has shown that blue catfish are not apex predators, but are omnivores with trophic levels ranging from 2.72 – 3.55. They do not regularly consume American shad or river herring. The one concern is that blue catfish eat blue crabs in brackish areas, yet blue crabs were still fairly uncommon. While we can’t estimate impacts on blue crab populations without knowing how many blue catfish there are, it is doubtful that their impact on this resource financially exceeds the benefits that they provide.

Ultimately, before an agency or researcher labels a species as “invasive” they should first provide their definition for an invasive species. Future work is still needed to assess impacts of blue catfish in the Chesapeake Bay. Population estimates are needed, so that they can be integrated with our diet information and our estimates of consumption rates. This will allow us to estimate blue catfish consumption of blue crabs (lbs/year), which can be compared to other sources of mortality.


Davis, M. A., M. K. Chew, R. J. Hobbs, A. E. Lugo, J. J. Ewel, G. J. Vermeij, and K. Thompson. 2011. Don’t judge species on their origins. Nature 474(7350):153-154.

Gozlan, R. E. 2008. Introduction of non‐native freshwater fish: is it all bad? Fish and Fisheries 9(1):106-115.

Gozlan, R. E., Britton, J. R., Cowx, I., and G. H. Copp. 2010. Current knowledge on non‐native freshwater fish introductions. Journal of Fish Biology 76(4):751-786.

Jenkins, R. E., and N. M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater Fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland.

(ISAC) Invasive Species Advisory Committee. 2006. Invasive species definition clarification and guidance white paper. National Invasive Species Council.US Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library. Washington, DC. Available at (Oct 2016).

Lockwood, J. L., Hoopes, M. F., and M. P. Marchetti. 2013. Invasion Ecology. John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey.

Moyle, P. B., and T. Light. 1996. Biological invasions of fresh water: empirical rules and assembly theory. Biological Conservation 78(1):149-161.

First Draft_Goldsmith

Willy Goldsmith

Advanced Science Communication Seminar

First Draft



Working Title: “It’s cheaper just to go to the fish market”: Understanding preferences and motivations of recreational bluefin tuna anglers along the U.S. east coast.


Format: Photo Essay

Photo essay comments/questions:

  • At the moment I’m envisioning having the essay divided into three sections: a “beginning,” “middle,” and “end,” as outlined below. For each section, I’m considering having a single paragraph/block of text (~150-200 words), along with “meaty” (2-3 sentence) captions for each image. I’m considering 6-7 images/graphics for each of the three sections. Does that sound reasonable?
  • I have a lot of photos from my field work, but am lacking in certain types of shots that I think would lend extra emphasis to some points I would like to make. Is it permissible to use other photos from friends or colleagues provided that I have their permission to do so?


Outline (Potential photos/images in italics)

Introduction: Framing the problem/question

  1. Recreational fishermen: lots of them spend a lot of time and effort fishing for Atlantic bluefin tuna (Angler holding a bluefin)
    1. Bluefin internationally managed, U.S. needs to keep catches within prescribed limits (Graphic of catch limits, or photo of international meeting?)
  2. But why do they do it? The balance sheet (fuel + time + tackle, etc.) doesn’t seem to add up to a plate of sushi at the end of the trip. Other factors are at play, but what are they? (Composite image of all of the things that go into a tuna trip; photo of prop wash behind boat, bait, tackle, etc. Then juxtapose with an image of sushi)
  3. Why do we need this information?
    1. Can better predict/effort harvest based on regulations/fish availabilityàpredict catches, effort, and keep landings within prescribed limits (Image of juvenile bluefin tuna with caption about recruitment/spawning success; A busy boat ramp, or boats leaving the harbor).
    2. Understand what makes recreational anglers “tick”—what aspects of the fishery do they value? How much do they value the fishery overall? Help to understand our understanding of the economic importance of this fishery, and to devise regulations to maximize utility/welfare (Happy angler fighting a fish? Action shot of tuna jumping?).

 Methods: Tools for understanding angler behavior

  1. Any decision involves tradeoffs, from the food we eat to the things we buy. By deconstructing a decision into its constituent parts, researchers can understand the value and relative importance of those parts (Maybe include an image of a readily understandable market example, e.g. deciding between the purchase of two smartphones with different brands, memory, size, color, camera quality, price, etc. [I have successfully used this analogy in the past])
  2. We employed this same technique with fishing trips—surveyed recreational bluefin tuna anglers and offered them hypothetical fishing trips with different levels of relevant factors to see which trip they prefer. By choosing a certain trip, respondents implicitly make tradeoffs among the different factors, which we can tease out through modeling. Emphasize the collaborative nature of this work (focus groups with anglers, need for survey respondents. (Map of study area; image of survey tool; example of pre-survey outreach materials)
  3. Examples of the kinds of tradeoffs anglers might make—preference for catching and keeping lots of small fish, or catching and releasing one large fish? What about “non-consumptive” factors, like hooking and losing fish, or seeing lots of fish but not hooking one? What about even more general benefits like spending time on the water with family and friends? (I have lots of potential images to use here: several small fish dead on the deck versus one large fish in the water about the be released; an angler casting into a school of feeding tuna and/or hooking a fish; a school of feeding tuna; someone hooked to a tuna surrounded by friends).


Results: Putting the pieces together (I’m still in the analysis stage of my research so I will hopefully have more information to share in the next few weeks as I put together my final product).

  1. Preliminary survey results
    1. Nearly 50% of surveyed anglers responded.
    2. Anglers certainly derive value out of aspects of tuna fishing other than harvesting fish (may be able to share specifics regarding willingness to pay for different aspects of the trip; could provide accompanying images exhibiting these aspects, such as releasing a tuna, or a hook bent or broken by a tuna that got away [it happens!]. Or, could have an infographic showing the average relative importance of different aspects of a trip).
    3. Marginal effects would be interesting to share if available (e.g., willing to pay a lot to harvest one fish, but substantially less to harvest a second fish) (happy angler posing with a harvested tuna)
    4. Is heterogeneity—for example, by region—in preferences and motivations (perhaps images of boats with different ports written on the stern, or a boat offshore landing a tuna with the name and homeport of the boat clearly visible).
  2. How results can be used:
    1. Explain the idea of “consumer surplus,” which is a recreational angler’s analog to profit (willingness to pay minus amount actually paid). We can use our willingness-to-pay estimates in conjunction with existing expenditure and effort information to estimate the overall value/benefits that anglers derive from this fishery, and could also inform how certain changes to regulations could further increase those benefits (Potential infographic here: calculating consumer surplus).
    2. We will share findings with managers, who can use this information to better predict effort and harvest and prevent the U.S. from exceeding its quota while providing more stable regulations to anglers that are in alignment with preferences/maximize consumer surplus (e.g., would anglers rather harvest one 150-pound tuna or three 50-pound tuna?) (Angler fighting a tuna; or hooked tuna swimming next to the boat).
    3. Spur further collaboration among scientists and tuna fishermen both on and off the water; we have a lot to learn from one another and together can create a healthier fishery for both the fishermen and the fish (Image of me with a captain deploying a satellite tag?).

First Draft: “Fantastic Virginia Corals and Where to Find Them”

Hannah Aichelman

December 2, 2016

Video Title: “Fantastic Virginia Corals and Where to Find Them”

Goals of the video:

  • Introduce the viewer to a temperate coral native to Virginia, Astrangia poculata (The Northern Star Coral)
  • Educate the viewer about what a coral is, and why coral in Virginia is important
  • Show the viewer what my experimental aquaria set-up looks like, and how I use respiration chambers as a “coral treadmill” to understand changes in coral energy budget under changing temperatures.


I have taken several videos and images that I will be able to use in my ASCS video, detailing all parts of the process of going to the field as well as what happens once the corals are back in the lab. I have also contacted colleagues and now have underwater videos of tropical reefs, which I think will provide an interesting comparison to viewers, as most people have a better idea of what a tropical reef looks like as opposed to the relatively unknown temperate reefs.

The following is a table of the video clips that I have so far, including information about the length, content, and location of the video. I will have the opportunity to go diving one more time before the semester is over, and I plan to film more video and take additional photos. I currently feel like my video is lacking underwater footage, as the visibility was very poor last time I went diving offshore. With any luck, the visibility will be much better during my next dive and I will have an abundance of footage to add to the video.


# Video Duration What is Happening? Location Use?
1 0:00:14 View over the side of the boat. Turns 360° to look at me getting gear together and Dan talking. On boat, inside Rudee Inlet ?
2 0:00:07 Me putting weight belts away. On boat, inside Rudee Inlet No
3 0:00:14 Dan and I talking on the boat. Clip starts focused on me standing at back of the boat, moves to Dan standing, ends looking over the side of the boat at the shore. On boat, inside Rudee Inlet ?
4 0:00:08 Camera on the boat motor, looking off the stern of the boat at the wake. Inside Rudee Inlet ?
5 0:00:11 Camera on me assembling dive gear, specifically putting bcd and reg on the air tank. Inside Rudee Inlet, on the boat Yes
6 0:00:49 Camera on me assembling my dive gear. The bcd and reg are already on the tank. On boat, inside rudee inlet Yes, part.
7 0:00:11 Looking forward from the stern of the boat. I’m talking with Captain Curtis, but no audio discernible. On boat, inside rudee inlet Yes
8 0:00:09 Looking off the side of the boat, camera turns to look at the rip rap before leaving Rudee Inlet. Inside Rudee Inlet No
9 0:00:09 Camera on me looking out the window of the boat, I’m taking pictures. You can also see Captain Curtis in frame. Inside Rudee Inlet, on the boat No
10 0:00:09 Video taken from stern of boat, looking forward at me talking with Curtis about the GPS coordinates of the wreck. The boat and therefore the video is moving around a lot, I look like I’m getting tossed a bit. Quality is poor at the beginning (very bright) but gets better at the end. On boat, at light tower. Yes
11 0:00:05 Video of Dan’s SCUBA gear (rebreather setup). No people in the video. No action, but a good picture of the rebreather unit that Dan uses when diving. On boat, at light tower ?
12 0:00:21 Starts out looking at the Chesapeake Light Tower from a distance, then slowly turns almost 280° from the light tower to look first over the boat and then out at the ocean. Far enough offshore that the only view at the end of the clip is the horizon. On boat, at light tower Yes
13 0:00:11 View of the light tower from a distance. Video stays focused on the light tower for the duration. On boat, at light tower ?
14 0:00:17 Video focused on me assembling the Li-Cor light meter and getting ready to take it in the water with us. On boat, at light tower Yes
15 0:00:26 Underwater view of the wreck. Video starts looking down the stern of the boat, then pans and focuses in on a single colony of Astrangia poculata Underwater, at wreck of the JB Eskridge Yes
16 0:00:28 Video starts focused in on the grate where the temp logger was attached. Moves to focus on me removing the temp logger from the wreck and putting it into the dive bag. Underwater, at wreck of the JB Eskridge Yes
17 0:10:53 Underwater view of corals in the respiration chambers. One brown colony and one white colony, each in their own chambers, are visible. In the tanks at ODU Yes
18 0:00:46 Underwater view of tropical reef in Belize, including a pretty Southern Stingray swimming by. Courtesy of Justin Baumann.  Belize, underwater Yes
19 0:00:06 Video of me back-rolling into the water in my SCUBA gear. Courtesy of Ian Vorster. On the boat/in the water Yes

*Question marks in the ‘Use?’ column refer to videos that could serve as filler throughout the video if needed.


Photos available to use as stills throughout the video:

  • From first dive (good visibility and nice shots of the wreck)
    • 2 photos of Dan swimming next to the wreck
    • 4 photos of different parts of the wreck of the JB Eskridge
    • 1 photo of basket of science with collected corals
    • Photo of light tower from a distance
    • 2 photos looking off the stern of the boat at the wake
  • From experiments in the lab
    • Various photos of the respiration chamber and tank set-up
    • Many photos of corals in the tanks at ODU

Order of Events:


I plan to start the video small, focused in on Astrangia and explaining what a temperate coral is. The video will then zoom out to the big problem at hand, in other words the question my research will attempt to answer and how I will answer that question. To finish, the video will zoom back in to the importance of the coral in Virginia and why the viewer should care (essentially finishing with the So What?).


  1. Start zoomed in on a colony of Astrangia poculata (photo).
    • Explain: A. poculata is a temperate coral that lives off the coast of VA, which is in the middle of the species’ range that extends from the Gulf of Mexico to Cape Cod.
  2. Zoom out to show the wreck of the JB Eskridge and an example of A. poculata‘s habitat (montage of photos of the wreck; video #15)
  3. A. poculata and the temperate ‘reefs’ it forms look very different from tropical coral rees
    • Show video #18 as an example of tropical reefs (video courtesy of J. Baumann)
    • Tropical reefs are more biodiverse and the structure is much more complex. Temperate corals do not build reef structure like tropical corals do.
  4. Although A. poculata looks very different from tropical corals, they are closely related evolutionarily
    • Explain what a coral is, consists of a coral animal that secretes a calcium carbonate skeleton with symbiotic algae (Symbiodinium) living within the animal’s tissue.
      • For this explanation, I will freeze the video on a close-up of A. poculata and then animating in additional images with explanations to communicate the concept of the coral ‘holobiont’ (the various organisms that coexist to form a coral).
    • Discuss the fact that A. poculata is unique because it is not required to associate with Symbiodinium, an approach that is referred to as facultative symbiosis.
      • Use side-by-side images of brown and white colonies of A. poculata to show that it can exist as a healthy and happy colony in both states.
  5. We know little about Astrangia in Virginia, but it is still an important study species.
    • Introduce my masters project and the question I am trying to answer, essentially ‘How will Astrangia poculata be affected by increasing sea surface temperatures associated with climate change’.
    • Transition: in order to study this species, I first have to collect then and bring them back to the lab.
  6. Summary of the process of collecting Astrangia in the field and bringing it back to ODU
    • Start in the Lynnhaven Inlet, getting gear set up and ready (video # 5, 6, 14)
    • Transition to clips of the the boat in motion and then the Chesapeake Light Tower once we arrive at the site (video #10, 12)
    • Clip of me back-rolling into the water (video #19, courtesy of I. Vorster)
    • Underwater at the site, show the coral in situ (video #15 and various photos)
    • Show temperature loggers, explain importance of logging temperature and light at the site in understanding the corals’ environment (video #16)
    • Show the basket of science, collected corals (various photos)
    • Clip of boat riding back to shore (video #4 and photos)
    • Clip of coral in tanks back at ODU (various photos)
  7. Summary of my experiments at ODU using the respiration chambers (i.e. the coral treadmill)
    • Once the corals are safe and sound in the tanks at ODU, we let them acclimate, or get used to, the conditions in the tank (various photos of the corals in the holding tank at ODU).
    • When the corals have had enough acclimation time, we start the temperature ramp. The corals are transferred into respiration chambers, aka the coral treadmill (photo of experimental set-up and maybe cute cartoon of corals ‘running’ on a treadmill?) and placed in a water bath. The temperature is slowly increased, and every 2°C I measure respiration and photosynthesis (video #17).
    • By measuring respiration and photosynthesis as the temperature increases, I get an idea of the stress on the coral, as well as how much the symbiont is contributing to the energy budget for brown colonies.
  8. Communicate the importance of my experiments and Astrangia in general as a member of Virginia’s offshore hard bottom ecosystems
    • Although the role and ecosystem importance of tropical corals is well understood, this is not so for temperate corals. However, Astrangia is all over the hard bottom off the coast of Virginia, including the wrecks. Even so, we know very little about this species in general and, more specifically, about this Virginia population. Most of the research so far on this species has been conducted on populations farther north in its range, including Rhode Island and Cape Cod. Our lack of understanding of Astrangia locally includes its ecological significance. Does it play a role in creating habitat used by larval fishes and other invertebrates for shelter? Probably. Is it possibly cementing the wrecks together and keeping them intact? It would be a shame to lose this species before we even understand its function in the ecosystem, which adds to the importance of how this species could respond to future temperature stress. Specifically to Virginia, Astrangia is also important because it is found all over the wrecks, which plays a role in dive tourism and potentially helping out the local economy (although I don’t have a source to cite for this info).



The numbering below corresponds with the numbers in the ‘Order of Events’ section above.

  1. “Hiding beneath the surface of the ocean offshore of Virginia Beach is a coral. The Northern Star Coral, or Astrangia poculata, makes its home not only here in Virginia, but also along coastlines from the Gulf of Mexico all the way up to Cape Cod. The Northern Star Coral needs hard bottom structure to survive, which explains why you can find it all over shipwrecks off the coast of Virginia.”
  2. “One such example is the wreck of the JB Eskridge, a tugboat that lies under 70 ft. of water approximately 13 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. The conditions at this site are often poor, with large waves and poor visibility beneath the surface a common occurrence. Even so, the Northern Star Coral exists happily on the deck of the JB Eskridge.”
  3. “Although the Northern Star Coral is in fact a coral, it does not build reefs like its close relatives that form tropical coral reefs. There are no bright colored fish darting among coral heads and sea fans. Instead, when diving on the JB Eskridge, I am welcomed only by the occasional fish or spider crab.”
  4. “The Northern Star Coral, just like tropical corals, is an interesting combination of many different organisms living together. The coral animal, a relative of the jellyfish, secretes a calcium carbonate skeleton that you may have found washed up on the beach. The skeleton provides a home for the individual coral animals, called polyps, and protects them from predation. The coral animal can capture food out of the water column using its tentacles, but it also gets food from another source. Within the tissue of the coral animal lives tiny symbiotic algae, or Symbiodinium. These algae photosynthesize and share the sugars produced in this process with its host. Both partners of this symbiosis benefit, as the coral gets food and in return the algae gets a safe place to live.

*I have stopped here to get some feedback on the dialogue so far as well as on the organization of the video. I want the dialogue to be informative, but not too technical, and I hope that I have accomplished that here.

Project Proposal

In 2015, 12.7 percent of U.S. households were food insecure. Of those, 7.7 percent were households with low food security and the other 5 percent were households with very low food security. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity, low food security and very low food security as follows:

Food Insecurity – at times during the year, these households were uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food. Food-insecure households include those with low food security and very low food security.

Low food security – households obtained enough food to avoid substantially disrupting their eating patterns or reducing food intake by using a variety of coping strategies, such as eating less varied diets, participating in Federal food assistance programs, or getting emergency food from community food pantries.

Very low food security – normal eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced at times during the year because they had insufficient money or other resources for food.

About 160,000 indigenous Inuit people (from Canada, the United States (U.S.), Greenland and Russia) are affected by food insecurity and currently, there is a lack in effective and sustainable policies that take into consideration indigenous perspective. The traditional components of food insecurity include availability, access, quality and utilization however, Alaskan Inuits view food security as the natural right of all Inuit to be part of the ecosystem, to access food and to care-take, protect and respect all of life, land, water and air. It is characterized by environmental health and is made up of six interconnecting dimensions, which include: availability; Inuit culture; decision-making power and management; health and wellness; stability; and accessibility. (Inuit Circumpolar Council-Alaska 2015. Alaskan Inuit Food Security Conceptual Framework: How to Assess the Arctic From an Inuit Perspective: Summary Report and Recommendations Report. Anchorage, AK.)


My communication project aims to present how indigenous communities view food security, how current policies impede progress in this area, through the use of a 1-page policy brief and infographic. Both the policy brief and infographic will address three key issues: a) the lack of subsistence priority, b) harvest disasters and c) impacts of increased activity in the region, with an explanation of how Alaskan indigenous communities view food security as its foundation.


The purpose of this project is to educate and communicate the nuances of food security when it involves Arctic Indigenous communities.


I plan to address state government officials as well as share my project with key members and representatives of the Alaskan indigenous communities with the goal of making sure that I capture specific nuances.

It is my hope that my project and information shared will be the catalyst that encourages state policy makers to review current policies and engage with the Alaskan subsistence communities to develop and implement policies that are better suited to dealing with food security.

Next Steps

  1. Identify more information for one-pager
  2. Develop key takeaways
  3. Begin researching and select possible images to use for infographic
  4. Develop list of possible state officials to brief

Project Proposal


The management of a recreational fishery composed of multiple predatory species can pose a challenge to managers, as they must maintain both the ecological balance of the system and the satisfaction of divergent angler groups who may have competing interests. Historically when either the ecological or social perspective of a system or fishery has been ignored, the result is often a damaged relationship between the resource users and the managing agency (Churchill et al. 2002). Fisheries managers must understand how interactions between predators—real or perceived—affect angler perceptions of predator species. Ideally, fisheries managers can use their understanding of the occurring biological interactions to educate anglers and appropriately address any concerns and conflicts that might be present. Such conflicts exist for many recreational fisheries and are especially prevalent in fisheries surrounding large predators like muskellunge Esox masquinongy.

Muskellunge and other esocids have held a bad reputation amongst anglers for over a century (Hall 1987) and have been cited as the cause of declines in many sportfish populations over the years, including walleye Sanders vitreus (e.g. Scidmore 1964, Maloney and Schupp 1986), crappies Pomoxis spp. (e.g. Siler and Beyerle 1984), and black bass Micropterus spp. (e.g. Krishka et al. 1996, Kerr and Grant 2000). Despite these claims, evidence of muskellunge preying on and altering other sportfish populations is equivocal. Many populations of muskellunge and other sportfish, like smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieu and walleye, exist together naturally in North America and support successful recreational fisheries (e.g. Thomas and Haas 2004, Knapp et al. 2012). Other systems exist, however, in which direct predation on other sportfish populations by muskellunge seems to be a major issue (e.g. Schmidtz and Hetfeld 1965). Thus, the muskellunge and smallmouth bass populations of the New River, Virginia provided an ideal opportunity to study and improve our understanding of the interactions between muskellunge and another popular sportfish.

Our research studied the importance of smallmouth bass in muskellunge diet in the New River, Virginia. Over two years we collected the stomach contents from 274 muskellunge using pulsed-gastric lavage. Food items were identified to the lowest level of taxonomic resolution possible, weighed (wet weight), and measured (TL for fish). We found that consumption of smallmouth bass by muskellunge was very limited. Smallmouth bass represented only 1% (of total wet weight) of muskellunge diet. The primary prey items consumed by muskellunge were suckers Catostomidae spp., smaller centrarchids (i.e. Lepomis spp. and rock bass Ambloplites rupestris), and minnows Cyprinidae spp. These prey items were consistent with those found in the diet of New River Muskellunge in 2000-2003 (Brenden et al. 2004) and with muskellunge diets reported for other systems (Kerr 2016).


Project Proposal

The product I intend to create is a ‘flier’ with a QR code—a barcode that can be scanned with a cellphone. The QR code will take the scanner to a short 5-minute video on the project’s findings. The QR code, along with the video’s web address, will be printed on waterproof fliers and available at local tackle shops, guiding services, and boat ramps. If possible, I would also like to have the QR code and web address printed in local fishing publications. New River anglers are a diverse group, each with his or her own level of familiarity with technology. Reaching the different types of anglers will likely require multiple mediums. Thus if time permits, I would like to advertise several viewings of the video on the fliers and hold Q-and-A segments following the video.


Intended Audience

New River anglers are my intended audience for this project, especially those that fish for smallmouth bass and muskellunge. Smallmouth bass anglers in particular are concerned about the impact Muskellunge have on the quality of the bass fishery, and this research should help ease their concerns.



Brenden, T. O., E. M. Hallerman, and B. R. Murphy. 2004. Predatory impact of Muskellunge on New River, Virginia, Smallmouth Bass. Proceedings of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies 58:12-22.

Churchill, T. N., P. W. Bettoli, D. C. Peterson, W. C. Reeves, and B. Hodge. 2002. Angler conflicts in fisheries management: a case study of the Striped Bass controversy at Norris Reservoir, Tennessee. Fisheries 27:10-19.

G. E. Hall. 1987. Managing muskies. American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 15, Bethesda, Maryland.

Kerr, S. J. 2016. Feeding habits and diet of the Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy): a review of potential impacts on resident biota. Muskies Canada Inc. and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Peterborough, Ontario.

Kerr, S. J. and R. E. Grant. 2000. Muskellunge and northern pike. Pages 325-355 in Ecological impacts of fish introductions: evaluating the risk. Fisheries Section, Fish and Wildlife Branch, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Peterborough, Ontario.

Knapp, M. L., S. W. Mero, D. J. Bohlander, D. F. Staples, and J. A. Younk. 2012. Fish community responses to the introduction of muskellunge into Minnesota lakes. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 32:191-201.

Krishka, B. A., R. F Cholmondeley, A. J. Dextrase and P. J. Colby. 1996. Impacts of introductions and removals on Ontario percid communities. Report of the Introductions and Removals Working Group, Percid Community Synthesis. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Peterborough, Ontario.

Maloney, J. and D. H. Schupp. 1977. Use of winter rescue northern pike in maintenance stocking. Fisheries Investigational Report 345. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. St. Paul, Minnesota.

Schmidtz, W. R. and R. E. Hetfield. 1965. Predation by introduced Muskellunge on perch and bass II: Years 8-9. Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Science Arts and Letters 54:274-282.

Scidmore, W. J. 1964. Use of yearling northern pike in the management of Minnesota lakes. Fisheries Investigational Report No. 277. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. St. Paul, Minnesota.

Siler, D. H. and G. B. Beyerle. 1984. Introduction and management of northern muskellunge in Iron Lake, Michigan. American Fisheries Society Special Publication 15:257-262.

Thomas, M. V., and R. C. Haas. 2004. Status of the Lake St. Clair fish community and sport fishery, 1996-2001. Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Division.


Musical Parody Proposal

Salt marsh loss due to accelerated sea-level rise is a major concern, particularly in regions such as the coast of North America, where sea-level rise is 3-4 times greater than the global average. Fortunately, salt marshes have methods for keeping pace with sea-level rise. One such method is landward migration. Marshes move into and displace upland forests, as sea level rises. Another method of resilience is vertical accretion. Salt marshes can build up vertically by trapping sediments, facilitate by plants, on the marsh surface. However, we don’t know how animals, which interact with the plants, influence the trapping of sediments. Therefore, the goal of my research is to understand how animals are affecting sediment deposition, and ultimately vertical accretion, through their interactions with the plants. Specifically, I study two species of crabs, which interact with plants in contrasting ways. The marsh fiddler crab (Uca pugnax) facilitates plant production, while the purple marsh crab (Sesarma reticulatum) eats plants. However, these two species co-occur along a major portion of the North Atlantic coastline (Virginia to Cape Cod, MA) and their net effects on sedimentation could be very interesting. Understanding these effects could also be useful in understanding salt marsh resilience in the face of accelerated sea-level rise.

Multiple stakeholder groups could benefit from learning about my research. For this project, I will focus on young students living in coastal areas of North America. The group I’m targeting can span between early middle school and late high school. By targeting this group I will 1) demonstrate the threat of sea-level rise in their own backyards at an earlier age than generally climate change is taught and 2) reinforce the important of coastal ecosystems. Salt marshes provide habitat for many commercially important species, store carbon, and serve as storm protection, however many young students do not know the importance of this coastal habitat, and its role in their daily lives. By targeting this group, I can help to encourage the idea of conservation of coastal habitats early on in their life. Sharing research with students of this age could also demonstrate how research is done and that working in science does not just mean working in a lab on a microscope, and can be a wide range of experiences.

For this project, I would like to develop a musical parody to a popular song. A popular song will be easily recognized by my target group and provide an instant “hook” because they will recognize it. Some examples of this being done are: “Snail” by ASHELLNATION, which is a parody of “Sail” by AWOLNATION. Another example is “Anaconda-The Educational Version” by College Humor, which parodies “Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj. In these parodies, lyrics of modern songs are manipulated to reflect some educational information. I will choose a popular song and modify the lyrics to explain the importance of salt marshes, the background of my research, and some results from the research I conducted this summer.

In addition to changing the lyrics of the chosen song to reflect my research, I will also include a music video that has images, cartoons, figures, and other pictures to help enhance the understanding of the research that is being sung about. Because sometimes song lyrics can be hard to understand, this music video will feature the lyrics of each frame along the bottom. The final product, song with altered lyrics and music video, will be uploaded to YouTube, my personal website and shared via Twitter.

Project Proposal

Overview—. Blue catfish are native to the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio drainages, and were introduced into Virginia’s tidal rivers during the 1970s and 1980s. They are now extremely abundant and have been a controversial topic over the last decade. Some detest the species, citing perceived ecosystem changes after their introduction, while others rely on the fishery for their livelihood. After communicating with various angler groups in Virginia, it became clear to me that many members are frustrated with the media coverage of “invasive” blue catfish in the Chesapeake Bay. Local anglers are confused as to why blue catfish have been labeled as an invasive, while other non-natives have gotten a free pass.


MD DNR has posted this sign at numerous boat ramps. Why are non-native blue catfish (from the Mississippi River) labeled as invasive, while channel catfish (also from the Mississippi River) are not?

Definitions of “invasive species” vary broadly, and should be separated from “non-native” or “exotic” labels (Lockwood et al. 2013). Many people do not realize that most of Virginia’s freshwater fisheries revolve around non-native species, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, brown trout, muskellunge, and channel catfish (Jenkins and Burkhead 1994). So why do blue catfish receive an invasive label? What separates them from all the other non-native fish that continue to be protected and stocked in Virginia waters?

Outreach Product—. My goal here is to develop a simple, streamlined blog post that provides an overview of the various definitions for an invasive species, much of which will come from Invasion Ecology (Lockweed et al. 2013). I will also address the definition of invasive species as defined by the National Invasive Species Council, which takes a more objective, quantitative approach to Executive Order 13112 (ISAC 2006). Further, I will review the history of non-native freshwater fish introductions, many of which have been very beneficial (Gozlan 2008; Gozlan et al. 2010).

After defining invasive species, I will present the most recent science on the life history of blue catfish within the Chesapeake Bay. I will then prompt readers to decide, based on the evidence, whether or not blue catfish should be labeled as an invasive in Virginia’s tidal rivers.

Desired impact—. I will clearly define what an invasive species is, while avoiding the jargon found in my source material (NISC 2006; Lockwood et al. 2013). I will also explore the history of non-native fish introductions throughout the U.S. and in Virginia. I will then briefly discuss the life history characteristics of blue catfish and ask the readership to decide, on their own, whether or not blue catfish should be considered an invasive species within the Chesapeake Bay. I want readers walking away with a clearer understanding of what an invasive species is, and I also want readers to understand the history of non-native fish in Virginia. Furthermore, I want readers to understand some of the basic biological characteristics of an invasive species, which I will then relate to blue catfish biology.

Desired audience—. My intended audience is Virginia angler groups who fish in VA tidal rivers. However, due to the ease of distributing information on the internet, I will also distribute the materials to other stakeholders that utilize Bay’ resources. This will be posted on my existing outreach website (, and I hope to use peer evaluations to keep the materials clear and concise.


Gozlan, R. E. 2008. Introduction of non‐native freshwater fish: is it all bad? Fish and Fisheries 9(1):106-115.

Gozlan, R. E., Britton, J. R., Cowx, I., and G. H. Copp. 2010. Current knowledge on non‐native freshwater fish introductions. Journal of Fish Biology 76(4):751-786.

Jenkins, R. E., and N. M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater Fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland.

(ISAC) Invasive Species Advisory Committee. 2006. Invasive species definition clarification and guidance white paper. National Invasive Species Council.US Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library. Washington, DC. Available at (Oct 2016).

Lockwood, J. L., Hoopes, M. F., and M. P. Marchetti. 2013. Invasion Ecology. John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey.

Project Proposal_Goldsmith

The Atlantic bluefin tuna, while considered overfished, supports a popular, high-economic-output recreational fishery along the U.S. east coast from Maine to North Carolina. Due to the highly migratory nature of bluefin tuna, the species is managed internationally throughout the Atlantic Ocean, with the United States receiving an annual allocation as a percentage of the Atlantic-wide total allowable catch, which it apportions domestically among different users (i.e., commercial and recreational fishermen). It is imperative that the United States maintain its landings within the designated quota in order to avoid international sanctions.

While domestic commercial landings can be monitored in near-real-time due to strict reporting requirements for fishermen and seafood dealers, tracking recreational bluefin tuna harvest has presented a persistent challenge for the National Marine Fisheries Service. While catch reporting is also required for the recreational fishery, compliance is extremely low, estimated at about 20%. In addition, landings by the recreational sector can fluctuate widely from year to year due to changes in fish availability or to regulations, each of which can affect angler behavior—for example, the number of anglers participating in the fishery, and the intensity of their fishing effort. Better understanding the drivers of bluefin tuna angler effort is critical for predicting bluefin tuna harvest by the recreational sector and preventing landings that exceed the United States’ internationally designated quota. At the same time, examining the decision-making, preferences, and values of recreational Atlantic bluefin tuna anglers will serve to quantify the benefits that recreational fishermen derive from the resource, as well as to identify the components of the fishing experience that contribute to those benefits. By surveying recreational anglers and employing econometric modeling techniques to tease out their motivations, preferences, and values, my research will inform the development of management strategies that maximize angler welfare while maintaining catches within prescribed limits.

I believe that the recreational bluefin tuna fishing community along the U.S. east coast would benefit from learning about my research and its implications. Specific examples of audiences I may target include charter boat association members, visitors to recreational fishing trade shows/exhibitions, and big-game tournament participants. I have observed many recreational anglers exhibit a sense of distrust and lack of confidence in the domestic fishery management system; I believe that such sentiments are largely due to a) a lack of understanding of the work that is occurring and its purpose, and b) the absence of a personal connection or sense of solidarity with individuals who are conducting such research. Given the highly collaborative nature of this work, which relies on survey data, my economic research represents an excellent opportunity to communicate the type of research that is being conducted on behalf of recreational anglers while also demonstrating the benefits that can result when fishermen, fisheries scientists, and managers work together toward a common goal.

The product I intend to develop will be a photo essay for exhibition to recreational anglers. The photo essay will explain the challenges of managing the recreational bluefin tuna fishery while illustrating the methods that I will use to tease out the motivations and values of anglers. For example, how much do anglers value harvesting a tuna compared to catching and releasing a tuna? Through my field work with bluefin tuna fishermen, I have assembled a broad array of compelling images to engage the audience and provide tangible examples of how my research relates to—and seeks to benefit—recreational bluefin tuna anglers.  While the photo essay will touch on the goal of being able to better predict angler effort and harvest, I will focus my photo essay on the need for quantifying the benefits recreational anglers derive from the fishery, which can be a difficult concept to explain (most fishermen tend to think more about expenditures when they hear fisheries economics). The photo essay will be exhibited on a large poster, or perhaps a series of posters. While I do not know the full range of venues at which I would present the final product, I am currently scheduled to speak about my research to the Stellwagen Bank Charter Boat Association ( on April 11, 2017, and would certainly display the photo essay there.

Project Proposal

Over the last few years, several commercial oyster growers in Virginia have reported significant mortality events of their oysters during the spring and summer months.  The summer of 2014 was the worst on record, as growers across the state reported summer mortality, most severe on the Eastern shore and in some cases as high as 85% of the crop (Karen Hudson, personal communication).  Severe mortality events like that in 2014 are of major concern to industry stakeholders.  As an industry collaborator put it, “this is a matter of the viability of the oyster aquaculture industry in Virginia.”

My research team is in a unique position to address this issue because we’ve deployed genetically different oysters to previously affected commercial farms and have been gathering data since February of this year.  In the late spring, we witnessed a mortality event at one of the commercial farms specific to only the triploid oysters. No other significant mortality events were observed across our other sites.  Our mission now is to scientifically determine what was different about these oysters that caused a significant number of them to die.  The research will be foundational to understanding the gene x environment interaction that is causing summer mortality events of commercial oysters.

The industry stakeholders, namely the farmers and hatchery managers, are very interested in this research because they want to know why the oysters are dying.  It currently remains a mystery, and given the timing of this workshop, I will likely not have the ‘smoking gun’ to communicate in my product.  In lieu of the answer, I’d like to share the crux of the analysis we are undertaking to get at the answer.  With a better understanding of our analysis, I think the stakeholders will appreciate the strides we are making to get the answers and will gain confidence that we are capable of addressing the problem.

My goal is to produce a clear, jargon-less, non-traditional form of communicating the ideas behind our lab work so that the industry stakeholders gain a better understanding of how we are addressing the issue.   I think the best way to do this is by developing a short video that explains the big topics we are investigating through our analysis in the lab.  These big topics are the variation in reproductive development in triploids and the associated health of these oysters.   Ideally, the audio would be able to stand alone so I could disseminate that separately.  I’m inspired by Abby Lunstrum’s stop-motion photography animation, and think that may be the route I will go, however I’m not big on arts and crafts.  I am considering other ways to produce the images besides drawing and cutting.

Project proposal

Current eastern oyster fishery production is a fraction of what it was a century ago due to overfishing, habitat destruction, disease, and pollution. Recently however, oyster aquaculture has begun to rebound, largely due to the development of disease resistant oyster and increased use of intensive aquaculture practices (cages, racks, or floats). Parallell to this rebound in production has been an increase in the area of subaqueous leases in Virginia for oyster growing. Currently, over 120,000 acres of bottom are leased and applications for 25,000 acres are pending—up from just 90,000 leased acres only a decade ago and approaching the historical maximum of 134,000 acres attained in the 1960’s. Despite these positive trends, several factors may inhibit continued industry growth. Tensions between the Virginia aquaculture industry and the public have increased substantially over the last few years. In coastal communities like those along the densely populated Lynnhaven River conflict with oyster aquaculturists has largely centered on the use of intensive aquaculture methods, which are argued to be unsightly and possibly even dangerous to bay recreational activities. Though aquaculturists contend their efforts are providing much needed jobs and economic stimulus while simultaneously enhancing water quality and restoring the Bay, coastal property owners worry about the industry’s effect on property values and safety.

Oyster leasing is currently facing some critical users conflicts. Property owners associate oyster leases and aquaculture with “the evil” ( and tend to claim that oyster cages are “everywhere”. One of my communication goal for this project is to reduce this misperception of the impacts of oyster leasing and try to communicate the benefits associated with growing oysters to this coastal property owner community. That’s why my key audience will be mainly property owners and local communities but this tool will also greatly benefit managers at VMRC.

I would like to develop a one-page infographic about Virginia oyster leasing representing these points:

  • Fact sheet/ fact numbers about local productivity and economy from oyster growing activities and aquaculture benefits
    • Oyster aquaculture benefits
      • environmentally
      • economically
      • socially
        • Include some historical context (historical photos from the 1960’s when oyster production was at its peak)
      • Relative extent of intensive oyster aquaculture in the Lynnhaven River
        • Google Satellite image (to see where the cages really are)
      • Some simple diagrams/ pie (number of leases, number of lease holders, % of intensive use)
    • Diagram of the leasing process that can currently be found at this page but under text format to encourage the use of lease and/ or people to apply for a lease.
      • Include contact information of VMRC Oyster Ground lease program.

I am still not sure how and where I will distribute this communication product. Probably I will try to pin some at local recreational businesses around Lynnhaven river (eg kayak, jet skis rental store) or distribute some at fresh markets or seafood festivals.

Project Proposal


Sea surface temperature (SST) increases due to anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions are causing a decline in the health of marine ecosystems worldwide―including both temperate and tropical coral habitats (Hoegh-Guldberg & Bruno 2010). Although the effects of rising SST on tropical corals have been well explored (Barshis et al. 2010; Castillo et al. 2014), corals inhabiting temperate hard bottom ecosystems, for example off the coast of Virginia, remain understudied. Sea surface warming has been more prominent in the North Atlantic compared to other ocean basins (Rhein et al. 2013); hence the need to understand how temperate corals will respond to SST increases is urgent. Along with rising ocean temperatures, rapid population growth and human activities in coastal watersheds have caused increased stress within coastal waters globally. Human development along coastal watersheds has increased nutrient loading leading to eutrophication, which, along with sedimentation, has modified primary and secondary production and altered the trophic structure of temperate coastal ecosystems (Gilbert et al. 2014; Paerl et al. 2003; Paerl et al. 2006).

For my masters work, I am studying Astrangia poculata, the Northern Star Coral, because it is a temperate species and its environment is experiencing significant changes in primary and secondary production coupled with increased SST (Paerl et al. 2003; Gilbert et al. 2014; Rhein et al. 2013). A. poculata is a temperate scleractinian coral widely distributed from the northwestern Atlantic to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico (Dimond and Carrington 2008; Kaplan 1988). A. poculata is an important member of the temperate hard bottom community, which provides shelter and habitat for juvenile fish and other invertebrates and also supports various commercially and recreationally important species (Kennish 1999; Deaton, Chappell et al. 2010). A. poculata is also dominant on Mid-Atlantic shipwrecks (up to 75% cover in some areas; D. Barshis pers. observation). These wrecks are a key resource for local fisherman and SCUBA diving operators along the Virginia coast. A. poculata can survive with (symbiotic) and without (aposymbiotic) their symbiotic algae and is thus termed facultatively symbiotic (Dimond and Carrington 2008). The response of corals with facultative symbioses to climate change is understudied, making the study species unique. The trophic ecology of temperate corals may be more complicated than that of tropical corals (obligate symbiosis) and little is understood of the physiological changes to carbon acquisition in A. poculata when bleached. This highlights the importance of understanding how facultatively symbiotic corals like A. poculata could change their methods of obtaining carbon under thermal stress. Understanding A. poculata’s response to temperature stress will allow us to predict how benthic hard bottom ecosystems may shift in the face of a changing climate and will help inform environmental management decisions for hard bottom ecosystems in Virginia and the Southeastern United States.

Project Description

My outreach product will be a video that introduces the viewer to corals off the coast of Virginia, specifically my study species (Astrangia poculata, Northern Star Coral) and the goals of my research. The video will start with the process of getting out to my study site, which is 13 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach at the Chesapeake Light Tower. After taking the viewer out to my site, I will take them underwater to the shipwrecks that A. poculata calls home. I will include footage of collecting the corals, as well as the process of collecting other data at my sites such as temperature and light levels. The video will follow the field work process all the way back to the lab, and demonstrate how I maintain corals in aquaria at Old Dominion University. I will finish up with some details about my masters project and what I hope to learn from my experiments.

I plan to utilize a mix of footage taken in the field as well as photographs and potentially cartoons to illustrate the main points of my research. For example, I plan to communicate to viewers the basic idea of what a coral is by pausing the video on an image of a coral in the field, and then overlay the image with a cartoon demonstrating that a coral is a plant, animal, and rock all rolled into one. Along with communicating this in the video, I plan to bring coral specimens with me to the Virginia Aquarium during outreach events to physically show visitors the different aspects of a coral.

I traveled out to my site earlier this week and already have some wonderful footage to include in this video! The visibility was very poor, but I think it will be a great way to demonstrate the difficulties of field work to the viewer.

Desired Impact

As the outreach component of my Virginia Sea Grant Graduate Research Fellowship, I have partnered with the educators at the Virginia Aquarium to communicate my research. I therefore want to make this video a product that the Virginia Aquarium will be able to utilize, even after I am no longer a graduate student at ODU. The target audience for this video will be the many visitors to the aquarium. In communicating with the public about my research on temperate corals, I have been surprised that few people are aware that there are corals off the coast of Virginia. I hope that this video will serve to inform the public about corals in their own backyard, and even though I can’t physically take the Virginia Aquarium visitors underwater with me, I hope to make them feel like they have experienced this environment, and therefore help them to feel connected to it and want to protect it.

I have already planned several outreach events with the Virginia Aquarium at which I can show this video. This includes a program called Lunch and Learn, which is lunchtime event with the aquarium docents and provides me the opportunity to teach those who will then teach many others about my research and Virginia corals. I will also be working with the Mentoring Young Scientists program and talking with young, aspiring scientists about my work.


Literature Cited

Deaton A., Chappell W., Hart K., O’Neal J. & Boutin B. (2010). North Carolina Coastal Habitat Protection Plan. In: (ed. North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources DoMF) Morehead City, North Carolina, pp. 424-426.

Dimond, J. and E. Carrington (2008). Symbiosis regulation in a facultatively symbiotic temperate coral: zooxanthellae division and expulsion. Coral Reefs 27(3): 601-604.

Paerl H.W. (2006). Assessing and managing nutrient-enhanced eutrophication in estuarine and coastal waters: Interactive effects of human and climatic perturbations. Ecological Engineering, 26, 40-54.

Paerl H.W., Valdes L.M., Pinckney J., Piehler M., Dyble J. & Moisander P. (2003). Phytoplankton photopigments as indicators of estuarine and coastal eutrophication. Biosciences, 53, 953 – 964.

Hoegh-Guldberg O. & Bruno J.F. (2010). The impact of climate change on the World’s marine ecosystems. Science, 328, 1523-1528.

Barshis D.J., Stillman J.H., Gates R.D., Toonen R.J., Smith L.W. & Birkeland C. (2010). Protein expression and genetic structure of the coral Porites lobata in an environmentally extreme Samoan back reef: does host genotype limit phenotypic plasticity? Molecular Ecology, 19, 1705-1720.

Castillo K.D., Ries J.B., Bruno J.F. & Westfield I.T. (2014). The reef-building coral Siderastrea siderea exhibits parabolic responses to ocean acidification and warming. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 281.

Rhein M., Rintoul S.R., Aoki S., Campos E., Chambers D., Feely R.A., Gulev S., Johnson G.C., S.A. J., Kostianoy A., Mauritzen C., Roemmich D., Talley L.D. & Wang F. (2013). Observations: Ocean. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In: (ed. Stocker TF, D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgle) Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

Gilbert M.G., Hinkle D.C., Sturgis B., Jesien, R.V. (2014). Eutrophication of a Maryland/Virginia Coastal Lagoon: a Tipping Point, Ecosystem Changes and Potential Causes. Estuaries and Coasts, 37.

Kaplan EH. (1988). A field guide to southeastern and Caribbean seashores: Cape Hatteras to the Gulf coast, Florida, and the Caribbean. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston, MA. USA. 425 pp.

Kennish MJ. (1999). Estuary Restoration and Maintenance: The National Estuary Program. CRC Press, 376 pp.

Project Proposal

Seagrasses increase water clarity, reduce erosion, store carbon, and provide habitat for hundreds of species, including commercially and recreationally important fish (Zieman 1982; Koch et al. 2006). However, seagrasses are subject to a variety of threats including dredging, climate change, and eutrophication. As a result, these important ecosystems are declining globally (Orth et al. 2006). However, populations of seagrasses that have high genetic diversity are more resilient to environmental stressors and contribute more ecosystem services (Hughes & Stachowizc 2009; Reynolds et al. 2012). My research is focused on the genetic population structure of the tropical seagrass Halodule wrightii in Florida, North Carolina, and Bermuda. Seagrasses can reproduce sexually and asexually and morphology cannot differentiate between clones and unique genotypes, so genetic techniques are important for distinguishing between areas of low and high genetic diversity. My study uses microsatellite primers, which are areas of the DNA that consist of short repeat sequences and do not code for proteins. The genetic diversity measures found in this study can contribute to restoration decisions by identifying ideal donor beds and establishing a baseline of diversity for natural beds.

I have found it difficult to explain the importance of genetic diversity both to members of the public and to other scientists because genetic terms can quickly become jargon. For that reason, I want to create a product that can be useful for audiences at different levels of scientific knowledge. I plan to make 2 infographics to target these different groups. The first will be directed towards a general, public audience that discusses the different levels of diversity within seagrass beds and the interactions between levels.  This infographic will attempt to convince the audience that we should care about diversity of seagrass at all levels, but particularly the genetic level since it has feedbacks into the ecosystem level and can make up for the low species diversity of seagrass beds (Duffy 2006). I think high school science teachers might find this product especially useful, and I am going to try to find a website containing resources for teachers that would accept the infographic as a tool for teaching diversity. Infographic 2 will be more of a case study displaying the data from my genetic diversity study and relating it to restoration in the Florida Bay area following a recent dieback. The target audience will be scientists outside the field of genetics, restoration groups, or more scientifically inclined members of the public. This infographic will be useful to me during my thesis defense, as well as during any future talks about my work.

I believe infographics might be the best medium for accomplishing my goal because they are visually appealing and are great for reducing information to the “take home” messages. After looking at a couple of tools that help to make infographics I think I’ll use Canva because I like their templates and the ease with which items manipulated. However, I’m open to suggestions about other ways I can convey this information!

The topics discussed in the first infographic will be:

  1. The problem: Seagrasses are declining globally
  2. Diversity can help prevent declines AND increase ecosystem services
  3. Levels of diversity
    1. Ecosystem level (the different species utilizing seagrasses as habitat)
    2. Species level (the number of seagrass species that make up the base of the ecosystem)
    3. Genetic level (the number of different genotype, or unique individuals*, within a given seagrass bed)

*Important to explain that seagrasses can produce either sexually or asexually

Feedbacks into ecosystem level

The topics discussed in the second infographic will be:

  1. Graphic of how genetic diversity data was obtained
    1. Visual of sampling scheme
    2. Visual of DNA region being targeted and amplified using microsatellite primers. This will be kept as simple as possible
  2. Common restoration techniques; pros and cons of each in terms of success, impact on donor beds, and implications for genetic diversity of restored areas
    1. Vegetative fragments vs transplants
  3. Overlay map
    1. Area in Florida Bay affected by the summer 2015 seagrass dieback
    2. Relative genetic diversity of 5 sites within Florida Bay (based on number of unique genotypes present within a sampling area)

Literature Cited:

Duffy JE (2006) Biodiversity and the fuctioning of seagrass ecosystems. , 233, 233–250.

Hughes AR., Stachowicz JJ (2009) Ecological impacts of genotypic diversity in the clonal seagrass Zostera marina. Ecology90, 1412–1419.

Koch EW, Ackerman JD, Verduin J, Kuelen M Van (2006) Fluid Dynamics in Seagrass Ecology—from Molecules to Ecosystems. Seagrasses: Biology, Ecology and Conservation, 193–225.

Orth RJ, Carruthers TJB, Dennison WC et al. (2006) A Global Crisis for Seagrass Ecosystems. BioScience, 56, 987.

Reynolds LK, McGlathery KJ, Waycott M (2012). Genetic Diversity Enhances Restoration Success by Augmenting Ecosystem Services. PLoS ONE7, e38397.

Zieman JC (1982) Ecology of the seagrasses of south Florida: a community profile (No. FWS/OBS-82/25). Virginia University, Charlottesville (USA). Dept. of Environmental Sciences.