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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:University of Maine
  • Andrew J Pershing
  • (207) 228-1656
Award Date:03/23/2010
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 490,669
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 490,669
  • FY 2010=$490,669
Start Date:04/01/2010
End Date:03/31/2014
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.050
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Understanding copepod life-history and diversity using a next-generation zooplankton model
Federal Award ID Number:0962074
DUNS ID:186875787
Parent DUNS ID:071750426

Awardee Location

Street:5717 Corbett Hall
Awardee Cong. District:02

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of Maine
Street:5717 Corbett Hall
Cong. District:02

Abstract at Time of Award

Evolution has shaped the physiology, life history, and behavior of a species to the physical conditions and to the communities of predators and prey within its range. Within a community, the number of species is determined by both physical properties such as temperature and biological properties like the magnitude and timing of primary productivity, and ecological interactions such as predation. Despite well-known correlations between diversity and properties such as temperature, the mechanisms that drive these correlations are not well-described, especially in the oceans. The investigators will conduct a model-based investigation of diversity patterns in marine ecosystems, focusing on calanoid copepods. Diversity changes on both sides of the Atlantic suggest three main hypotheses, relating copepod diversity to environmental stability, productivity, and size-based predation. To test these, the investigators will develop a novel model of copepod population dynamics. The model treats developmental stage and mass as continua, leading to a single partial differential equation for abundance as a function of stage and mass. This approach facilitates the use of algorithms from computational fluid mechanics to resolve numerical dispersion problems that characterize many copepod abundance models. This new modeling framework will be tested by building a model for the species Calanus finmarchicus and Pseudocalanus newmani to compare the results of the model with prior observations and models for two contrasting ecosystems, the Gulf of Maine and Gulf of St. Lawrence. The model formalizes trade-offs between temperature-dependent development, mass-dependent and temperature-dependent growth, and mass-dependent mortality. A series of 1-D simulations will be conducted, encompassing a range of environmental conditions. Each simulation will be initialized with many distinct "species," where a species is described by a set of parameters specifying key physiological and life history parameters. These will be coupled to a nutrient-phytoplankton-microzooplankton model and integrated for many years. This procedure will produce a community of copepods adapted to conditions in each simulated environment. By studying how the modeled copepod communities respond to changes in physical conditions, productivity, and predation, mechanisms accounting for copepod diversity patterns will be tested. The project will lead to improved models for important copepod species that can be incorporated into ongoing and future ecosystem forecasts. The information on copepod biogeographic limits developed by this study could support estimates of copepod distributions under climate change. The model will be designed to work in a basin-scale model. By allowing adaption to physical and biological conditions, the emergent copepod communities should provide more realistic estimates of the impact of climate change. The project will support the professional development of one graduate student and one postdoctoral associate. It will also engage one undergraduate summer intern each year. Concepts related to this project will be communicated to the wider public on a blog at

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

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Maps, Frederic; Record, Nicholas R.; Pershing, Andrew J. "A metabolic approach to dormancy in pelagic copepods helps explaining inter- and intra-specific variability in life-history strategies" JOURNAL OF PLANKTON RESEARCH, v.36, 2014, p.18.

Record, Nicholas R.; Pershing, Andrew J.; Maps, Frederic "Plankton post-paradox" ICES JOURNAL OF MARINE SCIENCE, v.71, 2014, p.296.

Barton, AD, Pershing, AJ, Litchman, E, Record, NR ,Edwards, KF,Finkel, ZV , Kiorboe, T, Ward, BA "The biogeography of marine plankton traits" ECOLOGY LETTERS, v.16, 2013, p..

Maps, F., A. J. Pershing, N. R. Record "The Compupod framework: a new approach to simulating growth and development in diverse marine copepod species" ICES Journal of Marine Science, v., 2011, p.. doi:10.1093/icesjms/fsr182 

Record NR, Pershing AJ, Maps F "Emergent copepod communities in an adaptive trait-structured model" Ecological Modeling, v.260, 2013, p.11.

Record, Nicholas R.; Pershing, Andrew J.; Maps, Frederic "First principles of copepod development help explain global marine diversity patterns" OECOLOGIA, v.170, 2012, p.289.

Barton AD, Pershing AJ, Litchman E, Record NR, Edwards KF, Finkel ZV, Kiørboe T, Ward BA "The biogeography of marine plankton traits" Ecological Letters, v.16, 2013, p.522-534.

Record NR, Pershing AJ, Maps F "The paradox of ?the paradox of the plankton?" ICES Journal of Marine Science, v.71, 2014, p.236.

Project Outcomes Report


This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

Copepods are tiny crustaceans (most are less than a millimeter)  that live in the oceans and in lakes.     Although small, they are ubiquitous--they are one of the most abundant group of animals on the planet, and they play a central role in marine foodwebs.  The main goal of our project was to develop new techniques for modeling copepods and to use these models to understand how they are distributed in the ocean.

Like all animals, copepods start small and have to grow and develop before they can reproduce.  This creates a trade-off between maturing quickly but at a small size or maturing slowly but being larger.  Each copepod species balances this trade-off in a different way, one that allows it to be successful in a particular environment.  In warm waters where seasonal cycles are small, many copepods take the "quick but small" strategy.  In colder waters with strong annual cycles in temperature and productivity, many species take the "slow but big" strategy.  This allows them to produce huge numbers of eggs when conditions are right and to accumulate energy reserves to survive adverse periods.  Modeling this trade-off and understanding its consequences were the major goal of our project.

We began be developing a general model of the growth-development trade-off.  We call this model the "compupod model."  This relatively simple model can represent a wide variety of copepod species.  We then used this model to explore how copepods are adapted to different ocean environments.  

One of our central studies created several artificial oceans regions, each representing conditions (temperature and primary production) along a north-south gradient in the Atlantic.  We seeded each region with several randomly created compupods, each with a different solution to the growth-development trade-off.  We then allowed the compupods to grow and compete, and we examined the combinations of life-history strategies that work in each environment.  We found a higher diversity of strategies and relatively few large copepods in the warm environments.  We found fewer strategies in the cold environment and usually one large species dominated.  These patterns are similar to those found in nature, suggesting that the growth-development trade-off is central to explaining the distribution of copepod species in the ocean.

We also used the compupod model to examine in more detail a particular strategy employed by large copepods.  Many large species, especially in colder environments, accumulate energy reserves and use these to persist during poor conditions.  This strategy, known as diapause, is central to the success of many of the most important copepod species, including those that are food for fish and whales. We also used a simplified version of the compupod model to explain why the distribution of the number of copepod species does not change with temperature in the manner predicted by standard ecological theory.

Our work is continuing on multiple fronts.  Dr. Frederic Maps is now a professor at the Universite Laval and is using the compupod approach in the Arctic.  Dr. Nicholas Record, now at Bigelow, is continuing this work in the Gulf of Maine.  Dr. Andrew Pershing, along with graduate student Karen Stamieszkin is using many of the ideas developed in this study to understand how copepods contribute to the flux of organic matter from the productive surface waters to the ocean bottom.  This flux supports the growth of animals on the ocean floor and is important for removing carbon from the atmosphere.

Last Modified: 07/06/2014
Modified by: Andrew J Pershing

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