Drift kelp and Urchin Grazing in Kelp Forest Food Webs

Casey Sheridan – Carr Lab

Positions: 2 interns

Tentative dates: flexible, June – September 2021

Project Location: lab on Coastal Campus, if applicable diving field work in Monterey

Project Background: In kelp forests along the central coast of California, a change from passive to active grazing behavior in sea urchins has shifted a once continuous kelp forest to a patchy landscape of underwater urchin barrens. Our current research focuses on the processes responsible for these shifts from forested to barrens states, associated changes to kelp forest food webs, and the factors that may increase resilience or promote recovery of kelp forest ecosystems. In kelp forests, much of the productivity of kelp ultimately becomes detritus before it is eaten by a wide array of consumers, fueling detrital food webs. We are especially interested in exploring how the loss of this kelp detritus alters the structure and function of kelp forest ecosystems.

Intern duties: For students who are AAUS SCUBA certified: Students may assist with subtidal experiments in Monterey, California designed to evaluate the food web effects of the loss of drift kelp (detached pieces of kelp) from the system. This will consist of making drift kelp and urchin manipulations (additions and removals) to plots in the field and surveying the associated communities regularly over time and collecting and identifying organisms at its conclusion. Students will assist in constructing, maintaining, and monitoring underwater experiments.

For students who are not AAUS SCUBA certified: Students may assist with collection and identification of small kelp forest invertebrates sampled from drift kelp in the field experiment. This will entail using dissecting scopes to sort, identify, and preserve invertebrate specimens. Students will also analyze photo quadrats taken of the experimental kelp forest plots to identify species and track changes in the benthic community. We will train students in species identification for the invertebrate collection and photo analysis. There may also be opportunities to assist with conducting urchin behavior and grazing experiments in laboratory seawater tanks. We are also happy to support students who would like to pursue their own projects related to these over the course of the summer.

Intern qualifications: Candidates for this position should have the enthusiasm and strong personal motivation to conduct lab and/or field research and follow instructions well with attention to detail. Previous microscope and data entry work would be valuable. A desire to learn local kelp forest invertebrate and algae identification is essential. To participate in the SCUBA diving portions of these projects, students must have active AAUS certifications and CPR/O2/First aid at the time of placement and for the duration of the summer and the ability to work strenuous days in the field with a good attitude.

Do you recommend the intern(s) volunteer in your lab during Spring quarter?
Not required, but highly recommended

UC Santa Cruz Land Acknowledgement

“The land from which we base our work is the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.”