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Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecture Series - March 6th 2013.


VT EPSCoR is collaborating with Vermont Sigma Xi to host Dr. Rikk G. Kvitek as part of the Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecture Series. Dr. Kvitek is a professor in the California State University in Monterey Bay.

Mediation of the foraging behavior, spatial distribution and ecological influence of sea otters and shorebirds by harmful algal blooms. (P,G,S)
* 9:45 AM in the Farrell Room (3rd floor St. Edmunds) at Saint Michael's College
* 2:30 PM in the Mildred Livak Room at the Davis Center (repeat presentation)

From "You've Got to Be Kidding!" to "Ah-Ha!": Hope for our oceans through insight and innovation. (P,G,S)
* 7:00 Norwich University; room to be announced shortly

For additional information, please contact Declan McCabe:

Presentation abstracts:

Mediation of the foraging behavior, spatial distribution and ecological influence of sea otters and shorebirds by harmful algal blooms. (P,G,S)
Here I will present evidence from a series of investigations suggesting that partial predation by siphon-nipping fish may have selected for sequestration of paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins (PSPT) in butter clam (Saxidomus spp.) siphons, and that once acquired, this defense mediates predation by other species (sea otters and shorebirds) thereby altering the ecological influence of these high-level predators in regions where blooms of toxic dinoflagellates occur. I will describe in greater detail testing of the general hypothesis that the foraging behavior and distribution of sea otters and shorebirds under natural conditions are mediated by benthic prey toxicity due to harmful algal blooms. Sea otters in southeast Alaska did change their foraging behavior at sites where Butter Clams (Saxidomus giganteus) were found to contain paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins (PSPT) in high concentrations. At the most toxic sites Sea Otters shifted their diet away from their primary Butter Clam prey to smaller and less abundant non-toxic species. At sites of intermediate prey toxicity some Sea Otters continued to forage on Butter Clams while discarding the most toxic body parts. In California, observed changes in shorebird feeding behavior (mainly Oystercatchers, Willets, Godwits and Whimbrels) was correlated with seasonal changes in PSPT in their primary prey, sea mussels (Mytilus californianus) and mole crabs (Emerita analoga). In rocky habitats where mussel toxicity exceeded 150mgSTX/ 100g, Oystercatchers significantly increased their consumption of limpets as well as their discard rate of mussel tissue. In sandy beach habitats where Emerita toxicity exceeded 150mgSTX/ 100g, shorebird abundance decreased significantly, while their rejection rate of Emerita prey increased significantly. We conclude that these predators reduce their exposure to PSP toxins during HAB events through a variety of behavioral responses including: changing their diet, discarding toxic prey and/or avoiding affected areas. These responses may account for the rarity of sea otter and shorebird mortality due to HAB's, and result in HAB toxins providing a refuge from predation for some prey populations.

From "You've Got to Be Kidding!" to "Ah-Ha!": Hope for our oceans through insight and innovation. (P,G,S)
Need, frustration, breakthrough and surprise is a trajectory common to many enterprises, especially science, where answers are often sought beyond the "You've Got to Be Kidding!" edge of what seems possible. Indeed, it is often frustration-induced lateral thinking that brings us to those Ah-Ha! moments of insight, innovation and breakthrough. Choosing or being forced to see things differently can make all the difference. Now, with our coastal oceans and communities facing the unprecedented threats of global warming, climate change, sea level rise, acidification, pollution, storm intensification, fishery declines, coastal erosion, harmful algal blooms, and more, we are in need of Ah-Ha! insights and solutions more than ever before. Not the least of which being ways to enhance public environmental literacy. Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) has been championed for over a decade as the pursuit and use of deeper ecosystem understanding to drive effective adaptive management solutions for the sustainable use of environmental goods and services. But it is difficult to understand, let alone agree upon and manage what you cannot see. Recent advances in our ability to collect and utilize spatially explicit data for the visualization of California's marine ecosystems have sprung from and lead to surprising insights that are making EBM both possible and personal. Here I use the ambitious, multi-institutional California Seafloor Mapping Project as a case in point for how transformational technology and data are changing for the better the way the public, agencies and scientists see, manage and interact with the marine environment. Stunning imagery, basic and applied scientific collaborations and breakthroughs, enhanced public environmental literacy, critical work force development, innovative resource utilization, and effective policy and management decisions are all now flowing from this type of strategic investment in state-of-the-art marine environmental data.