June 16, 2018

Testing how ocean change affects abalone

Summer Intern Larissa Neilson weighs each abalone in water, while Senior Research Specialist Steve Litvin keeps track of the measurements. Image: Todd Walsh © 2018 MBARI

A team of MBARI scientists is monitoring abalones under carefully controlled environmental conditions for two months to learn more about how these animals will fare in future ocean conditions. Abalone live near the coast, an area subject to upwelling—the process of deep nutrient-rich water coming up toward the surface. Recent research indicates that coastal species exposed to upwelling can have lower growth rates, weaker calcification, and low rates of survival. Future upwelling is expected to be more stressful for coastal animals due to ocean acidification and declining oxygen levels.


Summer Intern Larissa Neilson weighs each abalone in water, while Senior Research Specialist Steve Litvin keeps track of the measurements. Image: Todd Walsh © 2018 MBARI

As part of their ongoing research into the impacts of a changing ocean, MBARI Scientist Jim Barry and his Benthic Ecology Group designed a complex system that allows them to simulate changing ocean conditions. The system contains 15 chambers, where the researchers can vary upwelling-related water qualities—temperature, oxygen, and acidity (pH). After the abalone have been in this system for two months, the researchers will compare how varying conditions affected the growth and calcification of the animals. The results will help researchers understand how natural and human-caused climate variability is affecting coastal species and ecosystems.

The following photographs show MBARI staff and interns setting up this experiment in MBARI’s seawater lab.

Article by Nancy Barr


Summer Intern Erin Malsbury weighs the abalone when they are dry. By weighing the animals in and out of water, the scientists can estimate the weight of their shells. Image: Todd Walsh © 2018 MBARI


Summer Intern Yuuki Niimi photographed each animal. Image: Todd Walsh © 2018 MBARI


Each individual abalone is identified by a tiny tag with a unique number. Image: Todd Walsh © 2018 MBARI


Postdoctoral Fellow Charles Boch examines one of the juvenile abalone destined for an experiment in the upwelling simulator. Image: Todd Walsh © 2018 MBARI


Steve Litvin checks that the individual chambers are properly sealed. Image: Todd Walsh © 2018 MBARI


Scientist Jim Barry and Senior Research Technician Chris Lovera monitor the upwelling-system control panel, which shows the environmental conditions in the various chambers. Image: Todd Walsh © 2017 MBARI


 

For additional information or images relating to this article, please contact: Kim Fulton-Bennett
831-775-1835, kfb@mbari.org

Researchers
James Barry

James Barry

Senior Scientist/ Research Chair/ Benthic Ecologist