Nuisance species or welcome intruder? The ecological consequences of Japanese eelgrass establishment in Puget Sound
Summary / Description
Introductions of species outside of their natural ranges are on the rise, in some cases leading to pronounced socioeconomic and ecological consequences. In the Northeast Pacific, the non-indigenous Japanese eelgrass Zostera japonica has become established in unvegetated mudflats. It occurs widely throughout Puget Sound and enjoys the same level of protection as native eelgrass (Z. marina) in WA state. Furthermore, it is now legal in WA to apply herbicides to eradicate Japanese eelgrass because it is non-native and thought to inhibit shellfish production. However, as a structure-forming species, Japanese eelgrass has the potential to serve as important habitat for nearshore fish and invertebrate communities and stabilize shorelines from erosion and inundation. Surprisingly, the community-wide changes and shifts in food web dynamics that would underlie any modifications to nearshore ecosystem services have rarely been quantified, especially in Puget Sound. We hope to involve a student in helping us to determine if the presence of Z. japonica is related to fish growth, as estimated from ear stones called otoliths. The student will dissect, polish, and interpret fish otoliths (staghorn sculpin and english sole) collected from 6 nearshore sites around Puget Sound that vary in the relative abundance of the native seagrass Z. marina and the non-native seagrass Z. japonica. The specifics of the internship will depend on the interests of the student(s).
Willingness to work outdoors, in the marine intertidal, as well as in the lab and at a microscope. General laboratory skills are helpful. Ability to work as part of a research team. Familiarity with Microsoft Office. Desire to change the world a plus.
Internship Location: NOAA Fisheries, Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, WA
Intern Supervisor: Jameal Samhouri / Number of slots available: 1