Skip directly to content

Minimize RSR Award Detail

Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Oregon State University
  • Robert K Cowen
  • (541) 867-0211
Award Date:03/20/2014
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 888,504
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 888,504
  • FY 2013=$888,504
Start Date:09/01/2013
End Date:08/31/2018
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:Spatial variability of larval fish in relation to their prey and predator fields: Patterns and interactions from cm to 10s of km in a subtropical, pelagic environment
Federal Award ID Number:1419987
DUNS ID:053599908
Parent DUNS ID:053599908

Awardee Location

Awardee Cong. District:04

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Oregon State University
Street:Oregon State University
Cong. District:04

Abstract at Time of Award

Background: The spatial pattern of organisms within pelagic marine environments is of significant ecological importance, and this is particularly true for larval fishes. Patchy prey and predator environments should lead to variation in predator-prey interactions, and thus to variations in larval fish growth and survival. These have proven very difficult to resolve in nature, due in large part to the broad range of spatial scales involved and technological challenges with adequately sampling the various processes simultaneously. This study will use new technology (In Situ Ichthyoplankton Imaging System - ISIIS) to simultaneously measure the fine-scale distribution of larval fishes in relation to their prey, their planktonic predators, and the physical environment of the Straits of Florida. This will be combined with targeted fine-scale net sampling and analyses of individual recent daily larval growth. By sampling a series of water masses at very high resolution, this study will address specific hypotheses concerning: i) the drivers of aggregations and patchiness, and ii) the biological consequences of predator-prey interactions at fine scales. Intellectual Merit : The primary intellectual merit of the study is the unprecedented examination of plankton processes at scales of relevance to biological interactions among larval fishes, their prey, and their predators. This field study will further our understanding of the predator-prey interactions contributing to spatially explicit larval growth and mortality patterns. The focus on subtropical planktonic food webs will enhance scientific knowledge of these understudied pelagic ecosystems and provide valuable data for comparative analyses with pelagic food web dynamics at higher latitudes. A deeper understanding of pelagic planktonic ecosystems over a range of spatial and temporal scales is increasingly important as the oceans undergo major environmental changes. Substantial increases in the relative dominance of gelatinous organisms, for example, have the potential to cause major shifts in pelagic food webs. A better understanding of the fine-scale interactions of such food webs will help society anticipate and respond to the consequences of such changes. Broader Impacts : The project will involve traditional education and training approaches, as well as several non-traditional efforts to extend the broader impact of the study. The study will train undergraduate and graduate students and a post-doctoral fellow, with a focus on interdisciplinary research, integrating biological and physical oceanography with an added emphasis on image analysis. Mentoring will include a focus on improvement in scientific communication and outreach to under-represented populations in public schools. A unique effort to engage a broad audience will draw on a partnership with Citizen Science Alliance (CSA) by incorporating ISIIS imagery from this study into a Zooniverse "Window on Plankton" web-based project, which will use volunteer citizen scientists to help analyze the extensive imagery database generated during the study. Finally, this project will provide advanced image analysis capabilities to the plankton science community, as well as a permanent, complete digital library of positively identified, geo-referenced data on plankton and larval distribution.

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

Ottmann D, K Grorud-Colvert, NM Sard, BE Huntington, MA Banks, S Sponaugle "Long-term aggregation of larval fish siblings during dispersal along an open coast.(retracted 2017)" Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., v.113, 2016, p.14067.

Robinson KL, JY Luo, S Sponaugle, C Guigand, RK Cowen "A tale of two crowds: Public engagement in plankton classification" Frontiers in Marine Science, v., 2017, p.. doi:10.3389/fmars.2017.00082 

JY Luo, KL Robinson, RK Cowen et al. "A tale of two crowds: crowdsourcing for classification and machine learning algorithms in plankton imaging" TBD, v., 2017, p..

Luo JY, J-O Irisson, B Graham, C Guigand, A Sarafraz, C Mader, RK Cowen "Automatic plankton image analysis using convolutional neural networks" Limnology and Oceanography Methods, v., 2018, p.. doi:10.1002/lom3.10285 

Ottmann, D, K Grorud-Colvert, B Huntington, S Sponaugle "Patterns of juvenile fish settlement along the Oregon coast." Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., v.598, 2018, p.131.

Llopiz JK, RK Cowen, MJ Hauff, R Ji, PL Munday, BA Muhling, MA Peck, DE Richardson, S Sogard, S Sponaugle "Early life history and fisheries oceanography: new questions in a changing world" Oceanography, v.27, 2014, p.26.

Shulzitski K, S Sponaugle, M Hauff, K Walter, E D?Alessandro, RK Cowen "Patterns in larval reef fish distributions and assemblages with implications for local retention in mesoscale eddies" Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science, v.75, 2018, p.. doi:10.1139/cjfas-2016-0304 

Shulzitski K, S Sponaugle, M Hauff, KD Walter, RK Cowen "Encounter with mesoscale eddies enhances survival to settlement in larval coral reef fishes" Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, v., 2016, p.. doi:10.1073/pnas.1601606113 

Shulzitski K, S Sponaugle, M Hauff, KD Walter, RK Cowen "Encounter with mesoscale eddies enhances survival to settlement in larval coral reef fishes." Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, v., 2016, p.. doi:10.1073/pnas.1601606113 

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.

Intellectual Merit: Through a combination of traditional net sampling and innovative plankton imaging, we examined the planktonic community in unprecedented spatial resolution to assess predator-prey co-occurrence across fine- to meso-scales within the Straits of Florida, a strong western boundary current oceanographic system. We conducted two major 18-d oceanographic cruises in the Straits of Florida - one each in the summers of 2014 and 2015, both on the RV Walton Smith. Specifically, our work measured scales of patchiness for a wide diversity of co-occurring zooplankton from protists to gelatinous predators. By combining in situ imagery and individual otolith analysis, we examined how spatial relationships to their prey and predators influenced larval fish growth and survival. We examined relationships between spatial distributions and larval fish growth under both open ocean and frontal (eddy) physical environments. Further, >100TB of imagery data created a Big Data problem that necessitated the development of an image analysis (i.e., image classification) algorithm and processing pipeline to facilitate our project imagery analysis needs. This automated image analysis pipeline is available to the oceanographic community. Thus far, this project has supported nine scientific publications (published/in review), six additional publications that are in final preparation, and one published dataset.

 Broader Impacts: The project provided training and research experience for a total of 54 diverse personnel. Five total faculty included two PIs, one collaborating faculty member from Rutgers, one OSU Research faculty member handling the ichthyological collections, and one CGRB faculty collaborating on image processing. Seven total postdocs and seven graduate students participated in some capacity. Two senior research associates and two research associates participated in the cruises, and three short-term research assistants helped prepare the ISIIS imagery for the Kaggle National Science Data Bowl competition. Three REU students participated in the cruises and worked up some of the data as summer projects. Finally, a total of 25 undergraduates volunteered, earned research credit, or were paid to help sort the MOCNESS ichthyoplankton samples or process ISIIS imagery. 

 Beyond this personnel involvement and experience, additional participation occurred through project outreach via multiple outlets: (1) The first-ever Kaggle National Science Bowl, whereby our data were used to challenge the data science community to devise an algorithm to automatically classify plankton from segmented images. The complexity of the data as well as a large prize supplied by Booz-Allen Hamilton enticed over 1000 teams to participate, leading to three top classification algorithms which were implemented as part of this project; (2) Continued interactions with the public through supplying imagery data and blogs to Plankton Portal, an outreach effort we developed together with Zooniverse to enable the general public to actively help classify plankton images (>11,000 participants since 2013); (3) HMSC's annual Marine Science Day where we introduce 2000+ local Oregon residents to plankton and ISIIS; (4) Workshops with middle school girls, summer camp groups, teachers, media groups, and artists to introduce them to plankton and larval fishes with hands-on sample contact; (5) Career talks with local high school students targeting homeless populations; (6) Guest lectures in upper-class undergraduate classes; (7) Creation of cruise videos that are available to the public; and (8) General communications regarding the project via the lab website, cruise blog, facebook, and twitter. 


Last Modified: 11/28/2018
Modified by: Robert K Cowen

For specific questions or comments about this information including the NSF Project Outcomes Report, contact us.