Fiona Beltram was awarded a Voss Environmental Fellowship to study the dynamics and ecological impacts of cyanobacterial mats in the Galapagos Islands. We first discovered these mats covering large areas of the reef at several of our monitoring sites during the extreme El Niño event of 2015. Since then, Fiona has been developing experiments and observational techniques for assessing the environmental drivers of this new community state, what species might be potential herbivores of cyanobacteria, and how these mats affects the sessile invertebrates and algae that they overgrow.
Camila Lupi was awarded a UTRA grant to study the behavior of herbivorous fishes feeding on algae in extreme high wave environments. Camila will be working with graduate student Robbie Lamb using high-resolution measurements of wave velocities using an acoustic Doppler velocimeter, while simultaneously filming feeding behavior. The goal is to determine the flow conditions that are sufficient for excluding any given species from foraging in the shallow subtidal. This information will be used to validate a general model of periodically stressful environments and how they limit the potential for top-down ecological control.
Last Friday, Fiona Beltram was a guest speaker in Mr. David Moscarelli’s AP Environmental Science class at Ponaganset High School in North Scituate, RI (her former high school). Her presentation, entitled “Community Ecology in the Galapagos Islands”, outlined the basic principles of community ecology and their applications in marine systems. She discussed the lab’s work on El Nino-related effects of climate change in the Galapagos, and presented some recent temperature data from the 2015/2016 El Nino cycle. She then gave an overview of underwater fieldwork methods, and talked about her experience as part of the Witman Lab’s research team working in the Galapagos last summer. Mr. Moscarelli’s students are currently preparing to take the AP Environmental Science exam in May, and will continue to study community ecology and conservation biology throughout the year.
Follow the Witman Lab's adventures, on land and at sea @witmanlab on Instagram and Twitter!