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COAST Award Program
Impact of Sea-Level Rise on Groundwater Pollution Vulnerability in Shallow Coastal Aquifers
Sustaining Beaches and Social Equity under Higher Sea Levels: An interdisciplinary case study of the Santa Barbara Littoral Cell
Development of Cost-effective Metrics for Monitoring Living Shorelines
Persistence of SARS Coronavirus-2 in natural waters
Summer sandy beach monitoring: The effects of shelter-in-place on Southern California beaches
Fire Impacts on Steelhead Spawning Gravel in the Carmel River
Mechanistic underpinnings of Galápagos coral thermal tolerance
Ocean Acidification and Light as Environmental Drivers of Domoic Acid Toxicity in Coastal and Estuarine Ecosystems of California
Strengthening shellfish in an acidified ocean: does co-culture with seaweeds improve shell integrity in farmed abalone and oysters?
Employing quantitative profiling and compositional data analysis techniques to map the effect of rainstorm runoff in coastal microbiomes
Antibiotic resistance (AR) is a global and ecological problem driven by the overuse of antibiotics in clinical, agriculture, and aquaculture applications. Urban and agriculatural runoff introduce antibiotic-resistant bacteria and antibiotic contamination to recipient environments. Even far below therapuetic concentrations, antibiotics change microbial community compositions in favor of resistant ecotypes. Additionally, antibiotics trigger the transfer of antibiotic resistant genes (AR genes) between related and unrelated microbes, including between environmental and pathogenic genes. Our long-term goal is to elucidate the movement of AR genes between microbiome members in response to urban runoff following rainstorms. As a major step towards this goal, we have sequenced Southern California coastal microbiome before, during, and after first two 2019-2020 seasonal rainstorms to investigate taxonomic and AR gene profile changes, and we observe cyclical changes to both in response to each rainstorm.
Geochemistry and Environmental Impacts of Oil Seeps in Coastal Watersheds
Microplastic ingestion by commercially important fishes
Quantifying the Effectiveness of Bioretention in Removing Microplastics
Feeding habits of important commercial fishes in the Galapagos Marine Reserve
Stomach content analysis is a valuable tool to study fish diet and to infer consumer interactions with other species. Isotopic prints are an excellent complement to stomach content analysis, and the use of δ13C and δ15N allows estimation of the trophic amplitude and the trophic level, respectively, of diet.
In Galapagos, the Pacific spotted scorpionfish (Pontinus clemensi) and the ocean whitefish (Cauloatilus princeps) are important demersal commercial fish species and prey items of top predators such as the Galapagos Sea Lion; however, the diet of the fishes themselves is unknown. To better understand the potential impacts of high fishing pressure on the Galapagos food web, we request funds from COAST's Rapid Response Program to test the hypothesis that P. clemensi and C. princeps have non-overlapping diet, trophic level and trophic amplitude in the Western and the Central-southeastern bioregions of Galapagos. Most of the samples for this project have already been collected. There is urgent need to complete this study as many samples were collected and frozen a year ago and may be spoiled because the supply of electric power on the islands is irregular. COAST funding will cover the completion of the collection of samples and laboratory analysis. The project will contribute to COAST's goals of promoting research to advance the knowledge of marine and coastal resources and the processes affecting them in an international scope. It will also support the strategic priority of training students to join a highly skilled, technologically sophisticated workforce and ensure the success of students from all backgrounds. In addition, the project will strengthen collaboration between Humboldt State University and the Ecuadorian institutions of University San Francisco de Quito, Charles Darwin Foundation and Galapagos National Park Directorate. The expected products are a peer-reviewed publication, three undergraduate senior projects and a presentation at a regional conference.
Seabirds as sentinels of exposure to volatile organic compounds in coastal cities
Constraining carbon budgets and sedimentation rates in coastal wetlands
Coastal wetlands provide valuable ecosystem services including carbon sequestration and sediment accretion which help us mitigate and adapt to climate change. However, predicting carbon cycling and sediment accretion in coastal wetlands is challenging as the physical and biological processes regulating these processes vary on sub-annual time scales. We propose to reduce uncertainty in predicting carbon sequestration and sedimentation rates in coastal wetlands using an unprecedented combination of datasets that combines continuous atmospheric carbon cycling measurements with hydrologic carbon fluxes and sub-annual sedimentary carbon deposition. We will collect atmospheric carbon measurements, specifically ecosystem exchange measurements of CO2 and CH4, in a restored wetland in San Francisco Bay. These atmospheric carbon measurements will be paired with continuous measurements of hydrologic exchange of carbon in dissolved and particulate form and sub-annual sedimentation measurements using 7Be, an isotopic tracer with a half-life of 53 days. Combining atmospheric and hydrologic carbon measurements with sub-annual sedimentation measurements will provide an estimate of the net ecosystem carbon budget of the wetland. We will also characterize interannual carbon burial within the wetlands over the time period following restoration.
Quantifying water storage and runoff processes in coastal California watersheds through a GEOPATHS hydrological field experience for CSU undergraduates
We propose a cross-CSU applied field training experience focused on increasing participation in the emerging discipline of Critical Zone Science. Our program will expose students to geological, biological, and hydrologic sciences while improving process understanding of watershed storage and discharge throughout the salmon-supporting streams of coastal California. To fund program development, we will submit to the National Science Foundation’s Pathways into Geoscience (GEOPATHS) program, which seeks to increase retention of undergraduates in the geosciences by engaging students in novel, career-relevant professional activities. The program also explicitly aims to broaden participation by engaging students from underrepresented minorities (URMs).
Ecological mechanisms of carbon export in the California Current resolved by a fleet of autonomous imaging robots
In the California current, processes that control coastal production and carbon export are changing. Mechanistic knowledge is needed to predict how changes will affect coastal ecosystems and carbon cycling, but observations that sufficiently resolve these mechanisms, particularly those driven by ecological processes, do not currently exist. We propose to characterize the seasonal cycle of carbon exported in the mesopelagic by particles sinking out of the California current for the first time, by collecting high resolution, sustained observations of individually-resolved sinking particles using new, in situ imaging floats called MINIONs paired with traditional sediment traps. We will request funds from the National Science Foundation to seed these neutrally-buoyant floats at a range of depths in the mesopelagic, collecting hourly images of particles passively settling on the float camera surface. Sinking particle images resolve the quantity and source of sinking carbon, attenuation with depth, and the time period over which export occurs. Floats will be deployed and recovered in Monterey Bay alongside deployments of a surface-tethered sediment trap used to validate float observations. Our vision to seed the California current with a fleet of autonomous, particle-imaging robots will require development of automated image processing and particle identification methods that can be integrated onboard the float computers. This development grant will enable us to apply high throughput image processing and machine-learning classifier tools developed by PI Durkin to MINION-collected images and demonstrate the feasibility of our methodological approach. We will also research how to integrate these computational tools directly onboard MINION float computers, making it possible for processed particle flux data to be communicated over satellite, enabling long-term deployment of a large number of floats.
Life in the deadzone: examining the impact of caldera formation on planktonic ecology
Volcanic systems have played a critical role in the evolution of life on Earth. The energy from hydrothermal fluids represents a source of energy that supported early Earth life and continues to provide for unique and diverse life today. Yet large igneous province eruptions are the main mechanism driving many of Earth’s greatest mass extinction events through global warming, anoxia, and ocean acidification. The scale at which volcanic processes help vs. hinder life on Earth is unclear. This proposal will use previously sampled cores from Axial Seamount to examine how caldera-forming eruptions impacted the overlying water column and sediment substrate. The hypotheses (below) will be evaluated through a combined approach of physical, biological, and chemical characterization of the sediments, including the diversity, abundance, and preservation potential of planktonic and benthic microorganisms. Microorganisms will be identified, quantified, and assessed for signals of deterioration during burial via visual, XRD, and SEM-EDX analyses. LA-ICPMS will be used to determine the hydrothermal fluids that may have contributed to microorganism dissolution.
The effect of rocky intertidal foundation species loss on tidepool biogeochemistry and microbiomes
Coastal habitats, including rocky intertidal systems are declining globally; understanding the roles of foundation organisms (primary producing macrophytes and calcifying invertebrates) in ecosystem metabolism (net community production and net ecosystem calcification) is critical for evaluating the impacts of shifts in community composition in these environments. Our recent work in these coastal ecosystems highlighted the importance of community composition of foundation species in mediating biological feedbacks involving pH and ecosystem metabolism. Further, our recent documentation of significant diel shifts in both microbial communities and nutrients in coastal marine ecosystems suggest that dynamics of microbial-organic matter interactions on short daily timescales may be a fundamental feature of reefs that play a key role in nutrient recycling. This project will define in situ dynamics of benthic macrophytes (e.g., surf grass) and invertebrates (specifically, the mussel Mytilus californianus) as well as water column microbial communities on ecosystem metabolism (NCP and NEC) and nutrient availability in these economically and environmentally valuable coastal ecosystems.
Workshop for the development and application of regionally-specific salmonid bioenergetics models and implications for water management
Microplastic Sampling, Processing and Detection Workshop
Pacific Sardines: are microplastics impacting fishery recovery?,
Effects of ocean warming and acidification on the interaction between purple urchins and bull kelp
This CSU COAST GDP award will fund preliminary data collection in support of a full proposal to be submitted to the National Science Foundation (NSF) in February 2019. The proposed project described here is a collaboration between Drs. Paul Bourdeau and Brian Tissot at Humboldt State University (HSU) and Eric Bjorkstedt at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and adjunct at HSU, and will form the foundation for a long-term research relationship among these collaborators. Bourdeau is a fourth-year professor currently building his research program at HSU, a Hispanic Serving and Primarily Undergraduate Institution (HSI and PUI), whereas Tissot and Bjorkstedt have successfully involved undergraduate students in federally funded research for almost 44 years between them; at both HSU and other institutions. If funded by NSF, the proposed surveys and experiments will be completed within driving distance from the HSU Marine Lab in Trinidad, CA; for each of three summers. Each summer 4 HSU students (2 graduate and 2 undergraduate students) will spend 12 weeks working in the field and at HSU’s marine lab. In the COAST-supported research, one graduate student and one undergraduate student will be supported on the project including calibrating and deploying field pH sensors and setting up, running, and monitoring CO2 dosing systems for laboratory experiments; surveying organisms in the field and collecting experimental data on organismal responses to warming and acidification in the lab; as well as analyzing and communicating results. This proposed project specifically fulfills the COAST mandate to advance coastal and marine-related research throughout the CSU; enhance research and professional development opportunities for CSU faculty engaged in coastal and marine education and research; promote collaborations; and enhance educational opportunities for CSU students.
Microbiome warfare: the ability of microbes from invasive Sargassum horneri to interfere with kelp recruitment
Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, is a native, iconic species to the southern California coastline. This macroalgae is integral to marine ecosystems and forms dense canopies which shelter the coastline from storms and provide vital habitat and nutrients to countless organisms. However, in recent decades, M. pyrifera kelp forests have thinned substantially and have not recovered to their previous densities. As a result, Sargassum horneri has invaded the open clearings, spread rapidly throughout southern California’s kelp forests, and is now the dominant organism at many sites. Once established, S. horneri may affect the recovery of native kelp by hindering kelp recruitment. We hypothesize that S. horneri inhibits kelp recruitment on multiple levels, which may include; 1) physical obstruction, 2) production of noxious chemicals, and 3) alteration of surrounding microbes, all of which may act independently or synergistically to impair kelp recruits. We have shown that an altered microbial community hinders kelp recruits, and in this investigation we will focus primarily on whether S. horneri employs a microbial strategy in its invasion and spread. We will use a multidimensional approach that combines ecological surveys, laboratory experiments, and metagenomic DNA analysis. First, we will characterize the microbiome of S. horneri and its potential alteration of microbes in the surrounding environment and compare the microbiomes to the native M. pyrifera. The S. horneri-associated microbes will also be used in laboratory experiments to quantify the effects on kelp. Previous studies investigating the effect of invasive species on the health of the surrounding environment and organisms have failed to include microbes, so we will include the underrepresented microbial fraction for a more comprehensive approach to ecology. Understanding the full extent of S. horneri’s invasion mechanisms is a vital step towards eradicating this invasive species and recovering native kelp populations.
Developing an interdisciplinary approach to assess mercury cycling in coastal lagoon systems: Malibu Lagoon, Southern California
Along the shoreline of California, coastal lagoons often develop where streams meet the ocean. Because these lagoons receive runoff from their upstream watershed, they are often impacted by agricultural and urban contaminants (e.g., nutrients, sediment, metals). We propose to combine geochemical, geomorphic, and GIS tools to study mercury transport and fate in coastal in Malibu Lagoon, with the goal of creating an assessment approach that can be applied to other West Coast lagoon systems. Additionally, we will evaluate the public’s perception of contaminant hazards to provide insight into how new evidence related to watershed mercury cycling can be included in future remediation efforts. Results from this study will be leveraged to support a large-scale coastal lagoon study that incorporates sites in Northern and Southern California, and expands to include additional physical components (e.g., hydrology, sediment transport modeling), in additional to geochemical and political science considerations. The primary objects of this COAST proposal are to:
1) Design an interdisciplinary system-based approach to assess mercury cycling in coastal lagoons by utilizing geochemical and geomorphic tools, along with Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology;
2) Evaluate links between MeHg production and dissolved oxygen concentrations in lagoon water and sediment; investigate how lagoon restoration efforts influence mercury bioavailability; and
3) Evaluate public perception of coastal lagoons with respect to societal benefits, human/ecosystem health, and economic value; assess links between public perception, stakeholder consensus and policy decisions that drive lagoon restoration projects.
Climate change and marine communities: effects of ocean acidification on ecological interactions in eelgrass habitat
Seagrasses form important habitat for many animals along coastlines worldwide, and provide a variety of key ecosystem services, including the sequestering of dissolved carbon dioxide, a primary driver of ocean acidification (OA). Given the potential for seagrasses to reduce the negative effects of OA on the diverse community of fishes and invertebrates found within these habitats, the State of California has identified the protection and restoration of seagrasses such as eelgrass (Zostera marina) as a critical strategy in enhancing California’s ability to cope with climate change. Seagrasses are not monospecific habitats, however; seagrasses compete for light, nutrients, and space with epiphytic algae that grow on seagrass blades, and macroalgae that grow within seagrass patches. Key factors that mediate this competition include (i) other human impacts such as increased water temperatures, changes in light availability and nutrient loading; and (ii) herbivory by epifaunal mesograzers (small crustaceans and gastropods), whose consumption of epiphytic algae and macroalgae may strongly promote seagrass persistence. It is unknown how either of these factors may influence the relative abundance of seagrass and competing algae subject to OA. In our proposed project we seek to (i) determine the interactive effects of OA, nutrient loading, light, and water temperature on the growth and abundance of eelgrass and algae; and (ii) determine how these factors interactively affect grazing on epiphytes by eelgrass epifauna. We will address these objectives with laboratory experiments in which we establish experimental eelgrass communities (eelgrass, algae, and mesograzers) exposed to discrete combinations of OA, nutrients, light, and temperature. The results of our research will directly inform ongoing efforts by the State of California to determine how regional and global ocean changes may affect key habitats and their ecosystem services, and in turn, how coastal ecosystems may help ameliorate the effects of climate change.
Investigating the impacts of ocean acidification on natural microbial communities in a nearshore coastal upwelling ecosystem
Anthropogenic carbon dioxide is decreasing ocean pH throughout the world. The vulnerability of the California Current System (CCS) to ocean acidification is amplified by seasonal upwelling in the region. While interest in the impact of ocean acidification on marine organisms has grown, most studies have often focused on single organisms and often on higher trophic levels. An understanding of the impacts on microbial communities is limited, with most previous work focusing on phytoplankton, and less still examining the response of natural phytoplankton assemblages to ocean acidification (OA). Since microorganisms at the base of the marine food-web play important roles in cycling organic matter and nutrients in the ocean, shifts in their community structure and interactions will have cascading impacts on marine ecosystems. In order to address the gaps in our understanding of OA impacts lower trophic levels in coastal upwelling ecosystems, we aim to (1) characterize natural variability in chemistry and lower trophic level community structure over a variety of time-scales from hours to months, (2) develop a small-scale experimental system with controlled chemistry, to characterize shifts in planktonic assemblages in response to variability in carbonate chemistry, and (3) explore the impact of changing CO2 on trophic interactions, particularly microzooplankton grazing. Preliminary data from these experiments will be used to submit an external proposal to NSF (Division of Ocean Sciences) with the additional goals of increasing our experimental scale, examining biogeochemical feedbacks and applying novel “omics” tools to better characterize the impacts of OA on lower trophic levels. The co-located, temporally-resolved chemical and biological measurements coupled with the development of a small-scale system to manipulate natural communities proposed in this project, will provide us an unprecedented view of the impacts of OA on microbial communities and their growth and grazing interactions in an ecologically and economically relevant coastal upwelling ecosystem.
Profiling the methylation landscape of Mytilus californianus genomes
The role of DNA methylation is widely understood in vertebrates, however, recent studies reveal an opposing pattern and function for DNA methylation in some invertebrate taxa. In invertebrates, methylation has been observed in coding regions of DNA and is postulated to protect conserved genes, through hypermethylation, from forming transcript variations induced by the environment. Conversely, limited methylation of inducible genes may afford them environmental plasticity by allowing for the creation of alternative transcripts. Absent from prior invertebrate studies are marine intertidal organisms from the rocky intertidal community that experience markedly stressful environments. This study will begin to bridge this knowledge gap and highlight the importance of epigenetic regulatory mechanisms in Mytilus californianus and contribute to an emerging awareness of the relevance of these mechanisms in a global climate change framework. Furthermore, until recently, marine invertebrate populations with broad distributions such as M. californianus were thought to harbor little if any locally adapted traits. As such, these populations were expected to rely solely on physiological plasticity to respond to changing environments. Based on this, many efforts to model population level responses have assumed a shared response and physiological limit. More recent studies suggest population level responses of species such as M. californianus may be more varied than once thought despite lacking clear genetic underpinnings for these differences. Compared to classical genetic responses, epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation provide an alternative and potentially a more rapid mechanism to induce environmental flexibility and to accrue more favorable phenotypes and could play important roles in establishing locally adapted traits within marine populations. Thus, it is essential to understand the role of these mechanisms in this ecological important coastal species if efforts to predict population level responses are to advance.
Assessing coastal ocean acoustic health using the metric of humpback whale non-song sounds
Expansion of soniferous human activities in the ocean, especially coastally, has elevated the importance of understanding how sound is used by marine animals, and how these species may be affected by additional anthropogenic noise. Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are one of California’s most charismatic coastal visitors, and also have one of the most complex acoustic repertoires in the animal kingdom. While humpback song has been well-studied since the 1970s, non-song sounds have only recently been a focus of acoustic research. Non-song sounds may represent a broader acoustic index for the species since, unlike song, they are produced by both sexes and used year-round in a variety of behavioral contexts. Descriptive research on non-song sounds in feeding and migration areas has recently been published from several humpback populations around the world. Monterey Bay unfortunately remains understudied acoustically, despite its reliable population of humpbacks and easy coastal access. Monterey Bay also represents a baseline for sound production in a quiet environment, as it is relatively less developed or trafficked than many other humpback feeding areas.
We propose to develop an acoustic catalogue of humpback whale non-song sounds in coastal Monterey Bay. COAST funds will support a pilot project using passive acoustic recording and behavioral observation of humpback feeding groups. The Monterey Bay data will be combined with recently established catalogues for Alaska and North Atlantic populations to form the basis of larger proposals that will compare humpback dialects as well as overall sound levels and potential effects of anthropogenic noise in each of the three areas. This research will advance our understanding of animal communication systems and contribute to guidelines for assessing effects of noise on marine species. The project will also provide leadership opportunities and summer support for one graduate student and field experience and research projects for two undergraduate interns.
Genomic diversification and speciation along ecological gradients in a marine species flock
Effects of hypoxia on nursery function for fishes in coastal estuaries: investigating mechanisms and developing indicators
Exploring metabolic compensation in response to temperature in the intertidal copepod, T. californicus
Acquisition of oceanographic instrumentation for a shipboard ocean observing system to support novel, long-term oceanographic research and education in the California State University System
Locomotor and feeding morphology and performance of the salt marsh harvest mouse and coexisting wetland rodents
Exchange processes between river plume and the continental shelf waters
River plumes are a major component of the circulation of continental shelves, they are the primary link between estuaries and the coastal ocean, and can influence regions hundreds of kilometers away from their origins. In the far-field, the leading edge or “nose” of the plume has been considered the region where most mixing and exchange with the continental shelf happens. Yet, few observations have been conducted to better understand the dynamics of this region, especially with proper resolution to fully resolve these complex features. Despite the fact that they are under surveyed, there is observational evidence, which suggests that the far-field region of river plumes can induce the cross-shelf transport in the coastal ocean as the nose propagates along the coast. The mechanisms responsible for this are still poorly understood, as well as the how waters are mixed and entrained into the plume. This could play a major role in the transport of larvae, nutrients and sediments between the inner-shelf and offshore waters. Motivated by these previous, yet scarce, observations, I propose to use sophisticated ocean numerical modeling techniques to conduct preliminary investigation on the impact of the passage of river plumes on the continental shelf circulation. The goals of this project are to characterize the three-dimensional circulation forced by the nose of the plume, quantify the exchange between inner-shelf and offshore waters due to frontal passes, estimate the mixing and entrainment of shelf waters into the plume and investigate the dominant momentum balances under a range of discharge conditions. The results obtained here will provide a theoretical framework to motivate new measurements in the far-field region of a river plume, which may play a crucial role on the cross-shelf exchange of nutrients, larvae, pollutants and sediments, and therefore impact the marine ecosystems.
Can a Water-Energy-Food Nexus approach mitigate seawater intrusion in California's coastal aquifer system?
Science Communication Training with COMPASS at the Romberg Tiburon Center (RTC)
We propose a professional development workshop to enhance the science communication and engagement skills of CSU faculty and students affiliated with COAST. Performing cutting-edge research is necessary, but no longer sufficient to solve the complex environmental issues confronting coastal zones and oceans. Scientists at all stages of their careers benefit from professional development to help them stretch beyond traditional academic communication norms. Science communication and engagement trainings are not often made available to CSU faculty and students. This workshop has been collaboratively scoped with the COMPASS Science Communications team to address the needs of CSU faculty and students, and will be led by the COMPASS team. COMPASS will organize and execute a moderated plenary session with several invited journalists, a one-day science communication training involving one COMPASS staff and up to four journalist/policy trainers, and a 2-hr Message Box Session for invited students. The workshop will be held at San Francisco State’s Romberg Tiburon Center and provide practical support for scientists to enhance their engagement with journalists, policymakers, the public, and even other scientists! This event will empower participants with professional tools, techniques and real-world connections to share their work, help meet the strategic goals of COAST and communicate the value of CSU research and education programs.
Verification of the vocalizations in Giant Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
In his recently completed thesis, my former student, Brian Clark, reported on aspects of the reproductive behavior of Giant Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas, which were successfully observed and described at Goat Harbor, Santa Catalina Island, CA from June 2014 to August 2015. This site was visited daily during the summer months, which is the assumed spawning season and aggregations were not present during the spring and fall months. As part of that study, we concluded that Giant Sea Bass (or Giants) produced booming sounds, which were often associated with aggressive behavior, but may also be associated with spawning activity. This booming sound was verified in the field as being produced by Giants with paired video and audio recordings on three occasions. These low frequency “booms” ranged from 50 to 80 Hz. In addition, “drum roll chorusing” sounds were recorded within the Giant Sea Bass aggregation site at two different frequencies, 250 Hz and 350 Hz. These sounds, coincided with peak activity (1900-2100 hrs.) of the Giants when the fish are moving about the water column rather than remaining stationary near the substratum. These “drum roll” vocalizations have not yet been linked directly to Giants, a fact that greatly limits our interpretation of their mating behavior. Simply put, the immediate goal of this proposal is to verify whether these sounds are produced by Giant Sea Bass.
Emergency rescue, digitization and dissemination of the Peter Fischer marine geophysical data collection
We propose to establish a digital community archive of acoustical and other data collected along the southern California coast. In May 2017, the CSU Long Beach Department of Geological Sciences acquired a large collection of marine geophysical and other data collected in the coastal zone from San Diego to Santa Maria from the 1970s to 2010. Due to current restrictions on seismic data collection in State offshore waters and cost/time considerations, it is highly unlikely that this voluminous data bank could ever be replicated in the future. Thousands of acoustical data records, large format maps, reports and other data currently occupy more than 100 ft2 of space and need to be digitized. The paper data and maps cannot be stored indefinitely and without digitization, these valuable data will be lost. This project will preserve, digitize, and make available these data in the form of a community archive that will be freely available to all interested scientists and the public. These data, especially when combined with other datasets, can be used to test and verify hypotheses of fault evolution, fault interaction during earthquakes, tsunami generation, and more that help refine coastal seismic hazard evaluations. The high-resolution acoustic images of sand packages can help in assessing models of sediment transport on beaches, coastal ecosystems, and other places. Our fully equipped computer lab with large-format chart scanners and GIS, 3D visualization and other data-logging software will be used to digitize the historical data. Students will participate in cataloging and digitization processes, which will introduce them to different types of geophysical data and the methods by which they are obtained. Students will observe maps of the California coastal zone, and become familiar with many of the geologic and geographic features.
The ecological impact of dredging in Morro Bay
Morro Bay is a small bay and estuary at the northern edge of California’s southern coast. It includes a manmade causeway that connects Morro Rock, a prominent volcanic feature in the region, with the small town (approximately 10,000 residents) of Morro Bay. The two largest industries in Morro Bay are ecotourism and fishing. Due to the manmade causeway, the entrance to Morro Bay requires minor dredging annually and major dredging every six to seven years. The most recent major dredging project began in December 2016 and ended February 28, 2017. The project moved 240,000 cubic yards of dredge spoil material to adjacent beach at the mouth of Morro Creek, ostensibly to nourish the beach. The PI observed this effluent during and after pumping and was extremely concerned about the consistency and quality of the dredge spoil and the impact of the beach nourishment project on local wildlife. This project was considered exempt from a formal environmental impact assessment by the Army Corps of Engineers and no post-dredging monitoring was included in the project. We sampled sediments immediately at the end of the pumping period, and we propose 12 months of additional sampling post-nourishment. Our goals are to assess the impact of the nourishment on the beach in four dimensions: 1) invertebrate, 2) plant, and 3) bird biodiversity as well as 4) sediment characteristics and stratigraphy. Sediment quality will be compared to reference sites north and south of the nourishment area and will include grain size, bulk chemical analysis, and stratigraphy of beach sediments. Our sampling directly incorporates students into the research and seeks to make research products that can help local communities such as Morro Bay design optimal dredging and nourishment projects that minimize ecological impacts.
Post-wildfire vegetation recovery and sediment change of a coastal California watershed
This research focuses on vegetation recovery and sediment processes in a southern California watershed after wildfire, which can impact coastal landforms, water quality, and estuarine habitats. There is a need to monitor significant natural events to understand the impact of sediment delivery on ocean coastline habitats and dynamics. Current approaches of estimating sediment do not include the effects of wildfire processes in steep coastal watersheds, and may result in inaccurate coastal sediment budgets. In light of changing climate and increased frequencies and magnitudes of wildfires, information that can improve traditional coastal sediment budgets is needed. Altered post-wildfire vegetation and sediment patterns following the 2013 Springs Fire in southern California were documented in Big Sycamore Canyon in water years (WY) 2013 and 2014. The variability in response highlights the importance of collecting reach-scale data to monitor vegetation and volume changes (deposition and erosion), which contributes sediment to downstream estuary and coastal areas. Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) provides high spatial and temporal resolution data and will document vegetation recovery and post-fire sediment deposition or erosion that occurred during the WY 2017 winter storms. This information will be lost during the onset of the WY 2018 storm season when sediment may become mobilized. This COAST Rapid will support LiDAR collection in Fall 2017 to quantify the total volume of channel material removed from the headwaters and transported to the estuary at the mouth of Big Sycamore Canyon. LiDAR will enhance our ability to document inter-relationships among vegetation re-growth that stabilizes sediment on hillslopes and sediment supply and facilitate initial coupling of vegetation and sediment interactions. The proposed project will strengthen existing and future endeavors with researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara and integrate research and education by involving students from San Diego State University.
Remote forcing of seasonal currents in the California Current System
UCEs for CSUs: A metazoan target-capture panel of ultraconserved elements for use in seascape genetics
California’s groundbreaking network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) was designed to conserve habitats and communities of the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem by providing stepping-stones of protected habitat that are assumed to be connected, for most species, by planktonically dispersing larvae. However, although there has been much research effort invested in monitoring nearly every aspect of individual MPAs, there are currently no existing initiatives to evaluate the realized connectivity of the network. Seascape genetic methods promise to provide such an evaluation, yet have fallen short in the past due to theoretical issues surrounding large population sizes and high genetic diversity in marine populations, as well as practical challenges such as genetic marker development and coordinated multi-species sampling effort. The proposed project seeks to address these issues by developing a “universal” panel of genetic markers anchored at genomic elements that are conserved across the diversity of animal phyla (ultraconserved elements; UCEs). A panel of such markers would be broadly useful for phylogenetic and population genetic studies, allow easy comparison across species, and would facilitate undergraduate research due to their relative ease of use and broad applicability. UCEs would also lend themselves nicely to analysis with a family of population genetic methods called coalescent models, which I have shown to be more powerful for evaluating marine population structure than traditional methods based on summary statistics. The UCE panel together with the preliminary data and analysis that result from this work will be used in multi-CSU campus proposals to NSF and California Sea Grant that would combine biophysical modeling of larval dispersal with coalescent modeling to test the hypothesis that California’s MPAs contain distinct ecological populations that are connected by direct dispersal of larvae.
Evaluating genetic responses to fishery selection in two Southern California fishes
Preliminary data for an NSF-DEB collaborative proposal: using phylogenomics to resolve the evolutionary origin of air-breathing molluscs
Aside from insects, air-breathing snails and slugs (pulmonates) comprise the most species-rich radiation of animals that evolved from a marine ancestor. However, the events and trait changes leading to this explosive diversification of >30,000 species remain unclear; neither studies using handfuls of genes from hundreds of species, nor hundreds of genes from handfuls of species, have resolved the evolutionary branching at the base of the pulmonates. We will collect preliminary genomic data to support an NSF-DEB pre-proposal, demonstrating we have the samples needed, and can collect the necessary data, to resolve this evolutionary puzzle. Our team combines experts funded by NSF-DEB who study Sacoglossa, photosynthetic sea slugs (Krug and Valdes), and Siphonarioidea, false limpets (Eernisse); one (or both together) likely comprises the sister group of pulmonates, but which one remains unclear. Moreover, our work has shown that deep evolutionary relationships within Sacoglossa and Siphonarioidea require genomic data to resolve, and many species remain to be described. We propose to use cutting-edge exon-capture techniques and next-generation DNA sequencing to generate five transcriptomes, and then to obtain sequences for 500 nuclear genes from ethanol-preserved tissues of 10 sacoglossan and two siphonariid genera. This will demonstrate (i) that we can generate and analyze phylogenomic data, and (ii) that combined with existing pulmonate sequences, our project will resolve relationships across this critical gastropod radiation. These data will support a full NSF proposal requesting support to sequence the remaining 24 sacoglossan and 2 siphonariid genus-level lineages plus outgroups. COAST funds ($20,000) will support generating and analyzing DNA sequence data, with a pre-proposal submitted to NSF-DEB by Jan 23, 2018. Our project will address major goals of DEB by (1) clarifying the evolutionary origins of Pulmonata and its key traits, (2) providing new systematic frameworks for Sacoglossa and Siphonarioidea, and (3) describing over 50 new species.
Chemical tracers of human activities and ecological associations in California vernal pools
The effects of anthropogenic activities, such as pollutants, on water quality are important to assess because they can have extensive effects on human and ecosystem health. Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) are a broad class of compounds that include pharmaceuticals, personal care products, illicit drugs, herbicides and pesticides. Their “emerging concern” is indicated by the fact that measurements are being made but they are not currently regulated. Many freshwater ecosystems in California, such as wetlands, have not been assessed for CECs and its association with ecosystem health. Our proposal will address this gap by quantifying CECs in California vernal pools under different land use practices. Vernal pools are seasonal wetlands or ponds that support numerous endangered and threatened species. Vernal pools represent greatly reduced habitat (< 10% remain), and this remaining habitat is found in a matrix of urban and agricultural development. Consequently, vernal pools may be especially susceptible as a recipient of CECs. In addition, vernal pools represent the upper watershed of the Central Valley and the Sacramento River, and as such are hydrologically connected to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and San Francisco Bay. Assessing the relevant sources of water quality impact on vernal pool ecosystems through CEC measurement will also allow assessment of the relevance of specific sources on coastal ecosystem health due to this hydrological connection. The research proposed by PIs Miller-Schulze and Kneitel will be focused on collecting preliminary data on CEC concentrations and associate them with local land use, vernal pool size characteristics, water physico-chemistry (e.g., phosphates, nitrates, conductivity), and aquatic invertebrate and plant density and diversity. This will be the basis for developing competitive research proposal for the National Science Foundation. Graduate and undergraduate students from Departments of Chemistry and Biological Sciences will be included in this research, interact collaboratively, and disseminate results.
Contaminant-selective sponges for removal of ocean toxins
Seawater contaminated with high levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) poses an alarming threat to the health of humans and marine mammals. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (e.g. bisphenol A) and carcinogens (e.g. dyes and phthalic acids) are typical POPs that must be removed from seawater. One approach for removal of POPs from water involves using an adsorbent to soak up and remove pollutants. Metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) offer a “sponge-like” platform for seawater remediation, since they are structurally and chemically diverse and highly porous materials that are constructed from metal nodes bridged by organic ligands. However, no experimental studies have investigated the adsorption mechanisms of POPs within MOF membranes. This is critical to improving selectivity of POPs for seawater remediation. In this project, we propose to (a) monitor the effects of varying the metal cations on acid-base interactions, (b) change the functional groups on organic ligands and observe resulting hydrogen bonding interactions, and (c) vary the chemical functionality as a function of layers on chemical adsorption. Specifically, we will: (1) use a quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) to monitor the growth of MOFs; (2) probe film composition, morphology, crystallinity, and thickness using energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, surface/cross-sectional scanning electron microscopy, and grazing-incidence x-ray diffraction; and (3) collect QCM data to probe chemical adsorption properties. If successful, this work will elucidate the mechanisms of adsorption in MOFs, and provide insight into some structure-property relations that are important for chemical adsorption in MOF membranes. Importantly, this work will elucidate design criteria for MOF “sponges” for removal of POPs, such as endocrine disrupting chemicals and carcinogens, from seawater.
Mapping social modifications to the natural estuarine environment in Alamitos Bay, Southern California
We are requesting funds to support the development of a USC Sea Grant grant proposal seeking funds to develop a prototype GIS geospatial visualization learning tool demonstrating the ways in which human construction and development have altered Alamitos Bay, Long Beach, California, through time. USC Sea Grant has expressed interest in our grant application to their program. The first step in this process entails the organization and preliminary analysis of historic land use data for Alamitos Bay, identification of temporal and spatial data gaps, and assessment of the utility of historic aerial photographs. Alamitos Bay is a significant urban, permanently open mouth estuarine system evincing a wide range of urban human uses. Our long term goal is to expand the prototype to include other estuaries in the network of estuaries integral to the southern California Bight. Using COAST funds, we will: 1) Remunerate two CSULA graduate students to help organize and assess the existing collection of historic maps and photographs already assembled by Sullivan’s undergraduate methods classes; 2) Building on #1, develop and submit a proposal to USC Sea Grant for funds to create a prototype visualization geospatial learning tool. Our COAST GDP application is an interdisciplinary (anthropology and marine biology) collaboration between faculty from CSULA and CSULB, and our larger grant effort will expand that collaboration by including scientists from Southern California Water Resources Project (SCWRP), strengthening both the interdisciplinary aspect and GIS expertise of the project. Our project is original in that it organically integrates estuary science and social science, emphasizes the temporal dimensions of spatial change, emphasizes urbanization, and utilizes geospatial visualization modeling as the basis of a digital learning tool. The content and methodology of our learning tool will set it apart as unique among an emerging catalog of digital environmental applications.
Development of a Sustainability Index for California’s Beaches: A Workshop
This COAST grant will facilitate a two-day workshop, sponsored by CSU Channel Islands, with the goal of constructing a Beach Sustainability Index (BSI), an objectively derived quantitative score based on readily available data or standardized observation. The BSI will accommodate the varying taxonomy of beach habitats across coastlines. We will bring together researchers, NGOs and stakeholders involved with policy/management to discuss how coastal ecosystem functions goods and services can be assessed/evaluated.
Establishing the age class and health status of fall congregations of humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, in the coastal waters of Central California and the Santa Barbara Channel, using aerial photogrammetry
The highly productive waters of the Central California coastline and the Santa Barbara Channel serve as a key feeding ground for humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) of the Eastern North Pacific. Essentially, the region represents the southern-most extent of their feeding range along the western seaboard; typically, humpback whales feed in the region from early spring through late fall. Foraging opportunities during the fall may be particularly important, potentially representing a final opportunity for whales to build up energy reserves prior to migration to nutrient-impoverished breeding regions. In this study, we will compile surface photography and use a small UAV to gather aerial imagery of these fall aggregations of humpback whales. Surface photography will be used to identify whales, through the comparison of fluke markings to known fluke ID catalogues. Aerial images will be used to determine body morphometrics, establish age class and assess body condition in the individuals that make up these seasonal groups. As this population is currently under consideration for down-listing, potentially leading to loss of their protected status, this new information will provide timely, baseline details for use in future health assessments. Furthermore, as body condition potentially influences migratory behavior, detecting and describing body condition and associated health status of whales within this spatial and temporal window, immediately preceding their departure for the breeding grounds, may also inform our understanding of recently reported basin-wide anomalies in humpback whale migratory behavior during the 2016 El Nino event.
This proposal seeks Rapid Response funding for the 2017 sampling of a time-series analysis describing soft corals on shallow reefs in St. John, US Virgin Islands. The intellectual merit of the project lie in addressing how coral reefs will change in the future, but rather than focusing on the extensively-studied topic of the death of stony corals, it focuses on soft corals that are replacing stony corals in this location. My ongoing work provides a unique opportunity to describe this transition, as my students and I have been studying stony corals in St. John for 30 y. Recently we have analyzed 25 y of photographs to describe a gradual regime change in community structure favoring soft corals over stony corals. A limitation of this analysis is that soft corals cannot be identified to species in photographs, and with NSF support in 2014, we started in-water analysis to identify soft corals to species. At the end of the soft coral grant (May 2017) we have 3 y of data with which trends can be described, but the time series remains too sparse for rigorous analyses. An application for renewal to NSF recently was declined, and with the next submission due in August 2017 (for research in 2018), there is an urgent need to support 2017 surveys to maintain the integrity of the time-series, and test the hypothesis that soft corals communities are differentially changing relative to stony corals. This COAST proposal requests $7,500 that will be used for graduate support to conduct a 1-month fieldtrip to St. John, analyze data at CSUN, maintain competitiveness for NSF support, and promote graduate research leading to the MS degree. A grant submission for ~$500k will be submitted to NSF concurrent with the fieldwork supported by this application.
The current and potential distribution of an invasive annelid in central and southern California
Biogeography and physiology of Rhodoliths at Catalina Island/Demonstration of land-based integrated aquaculture of seaweeds and abalone in California