Sea Grant’s recent research publications highlight notable work across focus areas
From fisheries management to marsh restoration, Sea Grant makes discoveries, develops new resources
Research is an essential component of Sea Grant’s work in coastal and Great Lakes communities, supporting scientists from hundreds of institutions. This cutting-edge research answers questions related to the health of coastal ecosystems, sustainable management of fisheries and aquaculture, resilience of coastal communities, and development of a skilled workforce.
Here are just a few of Sea Grant’s recent research publications that are making a splash:
Led by 2019 Knauss Fellow Hollis Jones, a team from the National Sea Grant Office examined case studies from the Sea Grant network to better understand strategies for successful research to application (R2A) projects that address complex environmental problems occurring in a socio-economic context. The authors identified five common facilitating factors that enabled ‘successful’ R2A across all projects: platforms for partnerships, iterative communication, transparent planning, clear examples of R2A, and graduate student involvement. Examples of successful frameworks are published in Frontiers in Marine Science in hopes of encouraging more organizations to engage in the R2A process.
Winter run Chinook salmon. (Photo credit USFWS)
This study examined the genomes of Chinook salmon from fall and spring runs, finding that a single genomic region is nearly perfectly associated with spawning migration timing but not with other traits such as maturity and fat reserves, traits long perceived as central to distinct salmon groups. Further, they concluded that associated phenotypes are caused by the migration environment rather than genetics. The authors' finding that a complex migratory phenotype results from a single gene region will facilitate conservation and restoration of this iconic fish. Lead author Neil F. Thompson was supported in his research by the California Sea Grant Delta Science Fellowship.
Vehicles attempt to drive through a flooded road in Honolulu, HI. (Photo credit Hawaiʻi and Pacific Islands King Tides Project)
While sea level rise induced flooding is often thought of as water washing onshore, new research from Hawai‘i Sea Grant found that groundwater inundation and storm-drain backflow represent more substantial predicted flood sources in Honolulu. The study simulated flood scenarios under these three mechanisms for Honolulu’s primary urban center and assessed widespread potential impacts on critical infrastructure. The results illustrate the need to develop effective flood management strategies that consider site-specific sources of sea level rise induced flooding.
Collecting ova from a red snapper female at the Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center. (Photo credit USM Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center)
The red snapper Lutjanus campechanus is an exploited reef fish of major economic importance in the Gulf of Mexico region. With funding from Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, the authors developed the first draft of a reference genome for red snapper that will serve as a framework for the interpretation of genome scans during studies of wild populations and captive breeding programs.
Salt marsh grass is measured with a measuring tape. (Photo credit MIT Sea Grant)
Efforts to restore tidal flow to former salt marshes have increased in recent decades in New England. With support from MIT Sea Grant, this study compared plant biomass and carbon dioxide fluxes between restored marshes and natural marshes at four sites. The findings indicate that well-restored salt marshes can result in greater plant biomass and net ecosystem carbon dioxide exchange, which has the potential to enhance rates of carbon sequestration post-restoration.
Britta Baechler magnifies fibers from clothing with a microscope during her research at Portland State University in 2017. (Photo credit Tiffany Woods | Oregon Sea Grant)
Microplastics are pollutants of increasing concern, which are pervasive in the environment. Aquatic organisms encounter and ingest microplastics, but there is a paucity of data about those caught and cultured in North America. The authors of this study, which include a North Carolina Sea Grant 2020 Knauss Fellow, Cheyenne Stienbarger, and Oregon Sea Grant-funded Elise Granek, summarize current knowledge, identify data gaps and provide future research directions for addressing microplastics effects in commercially valuable North American fishery species.