Monday, September 13, 2010

UNCW Lab Seeks New Graduate Students in Ecology of Coral Reefs

The Pawlik lab will be recruiting one or two new MS/PhD students for Spring or Fall 2011 to study the ecology of Caribbean coral reefs. Our research program, funded by NSF and NOAA, includes research components in the Bahamas, southern Caribbean, and the Florida Keys, and has included missions in NOAA’s Aquarius habitat. More information about our research is at this website:

Applicants should be highly motivated and independent, with an excellent academic record, references, and past field research experiences using SCUBA. More information about the UNCW graduate program and about expectations of graduate students in the Pawlik lab can be found at this website:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Focus on Creative Inquiry

Last week's focus on creative inquiry symposium was very interesting event. It was a great chance for all of the creative inquiry teams at Clemson to get together and showcase their hard work for the semester. There were over 100 posters and they all covered a unique topic. This symposium was an excellent chance to ask questions of one another and learn about other areas of research. For instance, I learned from a poster about pain thresholds and how it relates to genders as well as importance of body parts. Although there were many other posters I spent most of my time at the event discussion our poster. Many people were interested to learn that fishermen are missing the areas of highest crab abundance even though they are inside the legal areas. I explained how our data showed that fishermen base their fishing effort on salinity and that crab abundance is also based on salinity. I was often asked why fishermen are unable to effectively fish for crabs if they have the proper methods for finding them and I explained how we believe that salinity and crab abundance in the rivers has changed dramatically over the past few years in response to the drought and then recent rains. Discussing our poster was very interesting, but it wasn't until I walked around and talked to other teams that I gained a full perspective of the event. This was a great opportunity to learn about hundreds of different research projects going on in different fields all across campus and to be able to take in such a vast amount of information in one place was an incredible opportunity and I am glad I was able to take part in it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why do scientists have to have meetings?

The Benthic Ecology meeting was my first time witnessing so many people gathered to share science. I though it was pretty awesome to have that many people in one place who were all doing research that would help our understanding of the benthic world. After hearing quite a few speakers I began to question why there needed to be a physical meeting of scientists. Why couldn't everyone just share their research electronically. It seemed to me that all the travel and use of resources was unnecessary and wasteful. I gained a different perspective on this dilemma after attending the film festival at the meeting. Some of these films were quite good and also quite disturbing. The combination of music and video images really spoke to me in a way that posters, talks, numbers, and graphs couldn't. I left the film festival with an intensified frustration and conviction that I had to do something about the environmental problems that exist on our Earth (now, a month later, I still have the same intense conviction). After the film festival, it occurred to me that scientists have to gather and speak to each other in person to share things that just can't be shared any other way. I realized that it will take more than logic and reason to inspire the change necessary to take care of our environment. This is true of scientists and the general population. That's why scientists have to have meetings.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Busy week at Bennetts Point

The time we spent at the Bennetts Point field station in the ACE basin this Spring Break was definitely an interesting experience.

Most of the time was spent on the boat setting out and pulling up crab traps.

Abby and I also slaved during a gnat storm to put plastic Vexar mesh around new crab pots to prevent the smaller crabs from escaping. Sometimes research materials require a little DIY.

Once the crabs were caught, we had to process them in the lab. On the day that the middle of the Ashepoo was sampled, we had to measure, weigh, extract hemolymph, and photograph over a hundred crabs.

Frank, Adam, and I also worked with SC DNR on the SCORE project. We bagged up a trailer of oyster shells, and added them to an oyster reef not too far from the field station. The folks from DNR said that since the first bags were put in place, they could definitely tell a difference in the number of live oysters that had been recruited to the site, and the reduced erosion of the marsh grasses behind the reef.

Friday, April 9, 2010

seashores and sunsets.

This year, instead of heading down go the Florida panhandle to get a tan and drink margaritas, I spent my spring break on the Carolina coast with the rest of the CMR team. Our first stop was the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where we attended the 2010 Benthic Ecology Meeting. This was my first experience at an academic conference. Not only did we get the chance to hear Dr. Childress, Kirk, and T.J. discuss their research during the presentations, but we were also granted the opportunity to listen to many other captivating speakers discuss their respective areas of research. Academics from all over the country, as well as a few from nations abroad, had made the trip to Wilmington, North Carolina that weekend in March to discuss the ecology of benthic marine life.

A few of my favorite parts of the BEM were the evening poster sessions, the incredible hors d'Ĺ“uvres and the friendly bar tenders, and the first annual marine ecology film festival. From a disturbingly intense, yet enlightening film about the harsh realities of shark finning, to a short video filmed in Africa which taught us about the mysterious morymid electric fish known as Chisembe, to a remake of the popular music video by T.I. called “What Invert You Like,” the film festival included several extraordinary original pieces, not to mention a few short films submitted by Dr. Childress and Kirk. However, for me, the best part of the weekend would have to have been the nights we spent out bowling with the group, and especially, the banquet cruise in historic

downtown Wilmington. Watching the sun set from the top deck of the Henrietta with my new friends was the perfect way to end a wonderful weekend.

I stayed in Wilmington an extra night to visit an old friend, then left bright and early Monday morning to head down the coast and rejoin everyone in Charleston. It was the perfect day for such a drive, and I stopped to take a walk on the beach more than once along the way. When I finally made it to ACE Basin, just south of Charleston, my teammates were relaxing on the balcony at the field station overlooking Mosquito Creek, a tributary of the Ashepoo River. This was my first time participating first hand in field research. However, we all spent the first night playing cards and getting to know each other just a little bit better. Abby and I, “Team A,” were up by 8:00 am the next morning to go out on the boat and set traps on the upper Ashepoo with Kirk. It was a little bit chilly out on the river that day, but we enjoyed every minute of it. In between setting crab pots and collecting data at each station, we had a picnic out on the dock. Abby and I managed to catch about seven crabs that day, although at first it seemed like most of our traps were coming up empty. Back at the lab, the rest of the team joined us to assist in measuring and photographing the blue crabs, as well as extracting a sample of hematocrit

from each specimen. It was an experience unlike any other. On my last night at ACE Basin, we grilled hot dogs and hamburgers out by the fire pit. And the next morning after assisting Dr. Childress and a few of the girls with zip-tying Kevlar mesh to a few new crab traps, I left ACE Basin. I believe that it was a very successful trip, and I definitely wouldn’t have traded my spring break for another visit to Panama City for anything. On my drive home to Charlotte, I thought of all the wonderful memories I had made on my last spring break as an undergraduate.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Catching Crabs

This year's spring break was definitely different then any other spring break trip I have ever had. At first, I was extremely unsure of how the week was going to go. This all changed on our way to Wilmington. As Alyssa already said, the conditions on the bus were not the greatest, but it was a great opportunity to bond with the people in our group. Once we actually got to the Benthic Ecology Meeting, I was assured that the week wouldn't be boring.

The first morning, we learned a lot about blue crabs, which was really interesting since the rest of our spring break would be spent catching crabs. I really liked the speaker from Texas that talked about the effect of insecticides and pesticides on blue crabs. Although the talks were interesting, my favorite part was the film festival. Some of the films were serious, and some of them were hilarious. The best film was the rap about invertebrates. I was amazed at how much I actually remembered from my invertebrate biology class! After the film festival, we spent our night bowling, which was definitely an interesting experience since I never broke a score of 100.

As the Benthic Ecology wrapped up, we all prepared for a much different atmosphere in the ACE Basin. Whenever anyone asked me what my plans for spring break were, I would simply respond with "catching crabs." This obviously received some interesting responses. But down at the ACE Basin, this is precisely what we did. Rebecca and I were on a team that went out on the upper portion of the Ashepoo River. It was freezing cold when the boat was moving, but not too bad when we were sitting still. The morning consisted of setting out the crab pots, surveying the water, and a picnic at the bacteria-infested landing. Later in the afternoon, we went back to get the crab pots, which were really hard to get out of the water. I think we caught 7 crabs total, naming them as we caught them. Once we got all of the pots back up, we went back to the lab to take all their measurements. I think my favorite part was extracting the hematocrit from the crabs. Although, we didn't catch many crabs on my day, a lot more were caught throughout the week. Overall, I think it was a very successful trip. I learned a lot more about catching crabs then I ever thought I would, and I would definitely do it again.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Benthic Ecology Meeting

Our journey to Wilmington, NC began with six hours in a huge white van with absolutely no circulation. While everyone in the front of the van was freezing, those of us in the back row were sweating from the lack of air/ sticking to the seat. Despite the heat, I got to know some of my fellow research teammates very well. Our voyage in the van began with being quizzed by TJ on biology questions for a middle school class. Sounds like a nerd fest, right? Let's be honest, why else would we all choose to go to the Benthic Ecology Meeting if we weren't a little nerdy?!

Once we arrived in Wilmington, I honestly couldn't be happier for the air conditioning in our hotel. It was amazing! We woke at 7 a.m. the next morning for a full day of talks. These talks ranged anywhere from blue crabs to sea grass to predatory behavior. I'm a little biased when I say that all the talks done by Clemson (Dr. Childress, Kirk and TJ) were some of my favorites. There was a really good talk on explaining how alligators are apex predators in marine environments. I was also really engaged in all of the coral reef restoration talks since we had talked about them a lot in class.

My favorite part of the Benthic Ecology Meeting was the film fest. To be able to see these ecosystems working in a video was incredible. The most moving film I saw was one on shark finning. This global issue really hits home to me. I absolutely love sharks. I've been scuba diving with numerous species on several occassions and they're awesome animals. Seeing the shark finning industry unfold in front of me was completely eye opening. My goal in life is to save as many species as I can; so to see animals that I love so dearly being chopped to pieces and then thrown back into the water to die was really upsetting. I hope that film reached all of the other biologists in the audience as well so we can do something to protect the few shark species that are left.

There was also an extremely interesting film on the chisembe. The chisembe is found in Lake Malawi in Africa. These fish hunt by emitting electrical pulses from a "battery-like" organ found near their tale. The impulses project a shadow of their prey, commonly cichlids, onto their body so they know where to find them. The chisembe also modify their electrical pulses when a member of their same pack is nearby. The pulses will become synchronized and be in short bursts that go back and forth between the two fish.

The amount of information I took from this meeting is incredible. I learned so much on several different aspects of marine biology. I got to know everyone in my class pretty well, and we had several nights of bonding at the sketchiest bowling alley ever. Needless to say, I think I can go a few years before I feel the need to go bowling again. The last night ended with a beautiful dinner cruise, dancing, and Clemson taking home two poster awards. All in all, it was a fun and very valuable trip that I can't wait to (hopefully) take again next year.

Clemson SCORE

Over Spring Break Clemson's Conservation of Marine Resources team traveled to ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve. In addition to working with Blue Crabs, those of us in 494 worked with SC DNR and their South Carolina Oyster Restoration Enhancement (SCORE) program. Oysters work as filters by improving water quality, provide habitat to fishes and invertebrates, and protect shorelines by controlling erosion. SC DNR was kind enough to provide us with all the shell that was needed to be bagged. Once all shell was bagged we traveled to our site. We waited until low-tide and then began hammering our bags of shell in with rebar extending the pre-existing reef both laterally and outwards.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Benthic Ecology Meetings

The Conservation of Marine Resources team participated in the 39th Benthic Ecology Meeting in Wilmington, NC. Their poster won an award for "Outstanding Undergraduate Student Research".

Thursday, January 21, 2010

This is why fisheries need to be protected from overfishing:

The red grouper was just discovered to be an important "habitat engineer." How many other vital ecosystem processes are performed by heavily fished species that we don't even know about? Once a species is gone from the ecosystem, it could have far greater effects than just losing one entree from our seafood menu.