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Media Advisory 18-001

"Understanding Our Ocean Connections": NSF symposium highlights links among people and marine ecosystems

Long-Term Ecological Research symposium takes place on April 19, just before Earth Day

Fish under water.

On Thursday, April 19, NSF will hold a symposium on Understanding Our Ocean Connections.


March 5, 2018

On April 19, scientists from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network will take part in the symposium "Understanding Our Ocean Connections."

The researchers will present findings on the connections among humans and ocean ecosystems such as coral reefs, kelp forests, mangrove forests, salt marshes, sea ice and the continental shelf.

Questions that will be answered at the symposium include: Does the future of coral reefs depend on the fish that live there? Can hurricanes increase a region's resilience to disasters? Do giant kelp forests serve as stepping stones to biodiversity?

Scientists will also discuss how tiny plankton sustain fisheries; whether salt marsh sustainability is a realistic goal; and what a penguin's view of life on ever-shrinking sea ice might be.

WHO: NSF LTER Network scientists

WHAT: NSF LTER Symposium "Understanding Our Ocean Connections"

WHEN: Thursday, April 19, 2018, 8:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. EST

WHERE: National Science Foundation, 2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314.
Room #W2210 and #W2220

CONTACT: To register for the symposium and gain entry into the NSF building, please contact Cheryl Dybas at cdybas@nsf.gov or phone (703) 292-7734.

Agenda: NSF Symposium "Understanding Our Ocean Connections"

8:30 a.m.

Welcome

8:40 a.m.

Introduction to Long-Term Ecological Research
Peter Groffman, City University of New York, NSF Long-Term Ecological Research Network

8:50 a.m.

The Future of Coral Reefs: Does It Depend on Help from Fish?
Deron Burkepile, UC Santa Barbara, NSF Mo'orea Coral Reef LTER Site

9:15 a.m.

Hurricanes as Resilience-Builders
Evelyn Gaiser, Florida International University, NSF Florida Coastal Everglades LTER Site

9:40 a.m.

Giant Kelp Forests: Stepping Stones to Biodiversity
Kyle Cavanaugh, UC Los Angeles, NSF Santa Barbara Coastal LTER Site

10:05 a.m.

BREAK

10:35 a.m.

How Do Tiny Plankton Turn into Fish on a Changing Northeast U.S. Shelf?
Susanne Menden-Deuer, University of Rhode Island, NSF Northeast U.S. Shelf LTER Site

11:00 a.m.

Sustainability of Salt Marshes: Still a Realistic Goal?
Merryl Alber, University of Georgia, NSF Georgia Coastal Ecosystems LTER Site

11:25 a.m.

Life on Ever-Shrinking Sea Ice: A Penguin’s Perspective
Bill Fraser, Polar Oceans Research Group, Oregon State University, NSF Palmer Station LTER Site

11:50 a.m.

Closing Remarks



Presentation Abstracts: NSF Symposium "Understanding Our Ocean Connections"

The Future of Coral Reefs: Does It Depend on Help from Fish?
Deron Burkepile, UC Santa Barbara, NSF Mo'orea Coral Reef LTER Site

Coral reefs are hubs of marine biodiversity. They provide food, recreation and shoreline protection to some 1 billion people. But corals around the globe have declined by 50 to 90 percent, and forecasts of reef health have been dire. Research by scientists at the NSF Mo'orea Coral Reef LTER Site shows that reducing nutrient pollution and fish overharvesting can help reefs resist and recover from the impacts of large-scale disturbances such as coral bleaching, and may help corals survive in a warming world.

Hurricanes as Resilience-Builders
Evelyn Gaiser, Florida International University, NSF Florida Coastal Everglades LTER Site

Ecosystem health, like human health, is the result of chronic and short-term stresses. When will these stresses result in a stronger system, and when will they launch a downward spiral? Researchers at the NSF Florida Coastal Everglades LTER Site combine field work, large-scale experiments, and ecological models to offer new answers. For example, they're providing evidence that storms such as hurricanes can buffer the effects of increasing sea-level rise. It all comes down to resilience, these scientists say.

Giant Kelp Forests: Stepping Stones to Biodiversity
Kyle Cavanaugh, UC Los Angeles, NSF Santa Barbara Coastal LTER Site

Giant kelp is an example of a foundation species: one that physically modifies its environment and provides food and habitat for an entire ecological community. In contrast to long-lived foundation species such as forests, coral reefs and mangroves, giant kelp has a short life span, leading to fluctuations in its abundance and genetics. Research at the NSF Santa Barbara Coastal LTER Site is yielding new insights into how giant kelp populations vary and what impact they have on coastal ecosystems.

How Do Tiny Plankton Turn into Fish on the Changing Northeast U.S. Shelf?
Susanne Menden-Deuer, University of Rhode Island, NSF Northeast U.S. Shelf LTER Site

The Northeast U.S. Shelf generates millions of dollars in revenue from fishing, energy development and shipping. It's also used for waste disposal, recreation and conservation, and almost 30 percent of the U.S. population lives along its shores. Researchers at the NSF Northeast U.S. Shelf LTER Site are melding historical records with long-term observations of the oceans, then combining them with mathematical models and large-scale experiments. The findings will ultimately inform the management of this productive ecosystem, from its phytoplankton and zooplankton to its commercially valuable fish.

Sustainability of Salt Marshes: Still a Realistic Goal?
Merryl Alber, University of Georgia, NSF Georgia Coastal Ecosystems LTER Site

Intertidal marshes -- lands between the tides -- are ever-changing ecosystems. Over millennia, they've kept pace with sea level, but today's rate of sea-level rise and increasingly common droughts and storms pose new challenges. An influx of saltwater, for example, has the potential to change how coastal marshes function, and may threaten their existence. Experiments at the NSF Georgia Coastal Ecosystems LTER Site and comparisons with other NSF long-term research sites are providing insights into the environmental and human factors that increase or decrease the effects of flooding from severe storms and sea-level rise. Can salt marshes stay resilient in the face of such changes?

Life on Ever-Shrinking Sea Ice: A Penguin's Perspective
Bill Fraser, Polar Oceans Research Group, Oregon State University, NSF Palmer Station LTER Site

The Western Antarctic Peninsula is among the most rapidly warming regions on Earth. Mid-winter temperatures have increased, on average, by more than 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 degrees Fahrenheit) over the last six decades. That warming has resulted in the melting of sea ice, and changes in the timing of seasonal events such as when the ice first freezes for the winter season and when it thaws in the Antarctic spring. Species such as Adélie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins use sea ice differently. Their responses to the warming of Antarctica are leading to new insights into changing food webs in one of the most distant places on the planet.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF, (703) 292-7734, email: cdybas@nsf.gov

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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