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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:University of California-Santa Barbara
  • Rachel D Simons
  • (805) 679-3044
Award Date:07/27/2020
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 211,707
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 211,707
  • FY 2020=$211,707
Start Date:10/01/2020
End Date:09/30/2023
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:Collaborative Research: The effects of marine heatwaves on reproduction, larval transport and recruitment in sea urchin metapopulations
Federal Award ID Number:2023693
DUNS ID:094878394
Parent DUNS ID:071549000
Program Officer:
  • Michael Sieracki
  • (703) 292-7585

Awardee Location

Street:Office of Research
City:Santa Barbara
County:Santa Barbara
Awardee Cong. District:24

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of California-Santa Barbara
Street:Earth Research Institute UC- San
City:Santa Barbara
County:Santa Barbara
Cong. District:24

Abstract at Time of Award

Rapid and extreme warming events such as El Niño and marine heatwaves have had ecological and economic impacts on nearshore marine ecosystems. These impacts include reductions in biomass and collapses in commercial fisheries. For many species, population booms and busts are controlled by shifts in reproduction and juvenile dispersal related to warmer temperatures and ocean circulation. However, how population fluctuations are shaped by interacting processes that control adult reproduction and larval survival remains unclear. Marine heatwaves often accompany major disruptions in ocean circulation, which can affect survival and the distribution of species that produce free-floating, planktonic larvae. As a result, species can be impacted directly by temperature effects on organismal reproduction and survival, and indirectly by shifts in ocean circulation that affect larval success. This project is examining how the joint effects of temperature and ocean circulation are controlling populations of purple sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus). To address project objectives, the team is developing oceanographic models to predict dispersal of planktonic larvae in combination with controlled experiments on adult reproductive success. This project is advancing the understanding of how ecologically important species respond to ocean temperature and circulation, which are forecast to shift under future climate change scenarios. Broader impacts of the project include training of students and post-docs in STEM and educational outreach. Curriculum development and implementation is occurring in collaboration with existing K-12 outreach programs that focus on underserved communities and under-represented groups. The goal is to empower the next generation of scientists to use integrative approaches to predict ecological consequences of climate change. Purple sea urchins are an ideal species for studying the coupled impacts of warming and ocean circulation on recruitment and survival given a wealth of ecological and organismal data. The species has a mapped genome, can be transported large distances as larvae by ocean currents, and larval abundances in California exhibit orders of magnitude variation with heatwaves and El Niño fluctuations. To quantify the processes that shape spatial and temporal variability in larval supply, researchers are applying a novel combination of biophysical modeling, experiments and statistical modeling of long-term, high-resolution data on larval settlement across the Southern California Bight (SCB). Research module 1 is quantifying spatial and temporal patterns of larval transport using a 3D-biophysical model of the SCB. The model is testing how interactions among historical changes in ocean circulation and temperature, larval life history, and larval behavioral traits affect variation in larval supply in space and time. Research module 2 is focused on how temperature could affect spatial and temporal variation in egg production. Experiments are characterizing reproductive thermal performance curves and quantifying how these vary among populations and organismal history. A novel assay is assessing epigenetic regulation of gene expression associated with performance curves. Finally, Module 3 will integrate mechanistic models from Modules 1 and 2 to statistically assess their ability to explain spatial and temporal trends in a nearly three-decade dataset of larval settlement from six sites in the SCB. This is one of the first studies that integrates models of larval transport, reproductive performance and settlement data to empirically test how physical and biological processes affect local recruitment patterns in complex marine meta-populations. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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