Zacherl - 0351860: Collaborative research: Tracking larval invertebrate dispersal trajectories using calcified structures.
Many marine species produce pelagic larvae that can be advected away from their natal source by oceanic currents. Predicting their destination has been one of the foremost challenges for marine biologists. The potential interactions among larval swimming behaviors, complex ocean circulation dynamics, and variability in pelagic duration make it difficult to predict the sources of larvae settling into adult habitat. Yet, identification of the natal source of incoming recruits has tremendous consequences for understanding population dynamics as well as for the design of effective marine reserve networks. Most attempts to artificially tag and recapture microscopic larvae to identify potential source populations have suffered from poor recapture rates. However, fish biologists have successfully exploited otoliths as environmentally induced natural tags to examine exchange among fish populations in some systems. Despite pressing needs to also understand the dispersal trajectories of invertebrate larvae, ecologists have paid less attention to analogous environmentally induced tags in larval invertebrate hard parts. Invertebrate ecologists only recently demonstrated the potential to use the elemental composition of molluscan statoliths and protoconchs as tags of natal origin. However, to date, no study has effectively used this tool to identify the natal source of any marine invertebrate recruit. This project will use environmentally induced tags in the statoliths of recently recruited Kelletia kelletii whelks to examine exchange of larvae among distinct regions of this species range. The natal portions of statoliths and protoconchs will be isolated and analyzed for their chemical composition using laser ablation inductively coupled mass spectrometry. Canonical discriminant analysis and maximum likelihood measures will be parameterized with larval samples collected at potential source locations and can be used to assign the recruit samples to likely source locations. The likely accuracy of the natal assignments can be confirmed with the appropriate validation work that addresses the extent of spatial and temporal variations in ocean chemistry. Intellectual merit: This project will make major contributions to the fields of marine ecology and conservation while simultaneously promoting the participation of underrepresented groups in science. Contributions include the advancement of a new tool to track larval dispersal trajectories of marine invertebrate larvae, encouraging participation by women and minorities in science (at the undergraduate, graduate and faculty levels), and fostering collaboration between a junior faculty member at a masters granting institution (with 63% minority student body) with well-established professors at a PhD granting institution. Overall this project will provide valuable research experience to undergraduates, foster minority participation in science, provide valuable training for future teachers, and make a significant advancement in the field of marine ecology. [edited 21 Jan 04, J. Pawlik]