ZEN is a collaborative partnership among ecologists throughout the northern hemisphere conducting coordinated research in beds of eelgrass (Zostera marina) to tackle big questions about how biodiversity, climate change, and natural variability across the globe influence ecosystem structure and functioning. ZEN’s primary funding comes from the National Science Foundation, but benefits from in-kind support from partner institutions throughout the world. Continue Reading
ZEN includes partners from seven US states and sixteen countries — Japan, South Korea, Canada, USA, Mexico, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Croatia, Ukraine, the Netherlands, Russia, France, Ireland, Wales, and Portugal. Partners include professors, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, undergrads, and scientific staff. Our group’s expertise encompasses experimental ecology, population genetics, taxonomy, systematics, and quantitative analytical methods.
Here is where team members post the latest updates on research activities, results, interesting natural history observations, and other ruminations from the Zostera Experimental Network. Currently, our ZENterns (undergraduate students engaged in ZEN) are reporting from their research assignments across the globe. For fun, watch the video from the 2011-2012 field seasons, above, then click here to head over to our blog to read entries about the ongoing research from the ZEN partners and their students.
A novel component of the second generation of ZEN includes a formal integration of undergraduate education and involvement in the ZEN program. In spring 2014, we launched a coordinated upper division undergraduate Seagrass Ecosystem Ecology course at each of the three core ZEN sites: College of William & Mary, San Diego State University, and the University of California, Davis. The course focused on ecological theory and hands on training in marine ecology.
Seagrass beds are highly productive habitats, and provide structure and food for dense and diverse communities of animals. Seagrasses stabilize sediment, buffer coastlines, and improve water clarity, nutrient cycling and production. In many areas of the world eelgrass and other seagrasses serve as nursery habitats for juvenile fishes and shellfish, thus providing essential habitat for fisheries.
The first ZEN experiment was conducted in summer 2011 at 15 partner sites, from southern Japan and along both coasts of North America to Portugal, Scandinavia, and into the inner reaches of the Baltic Sea in Finland. Partners at each site set up a “top-down/bottom-up” experimental manipulation, excluding crustacean grazers and fertilizing eelgrass to test for impacts on eelgrass health and the proliferation of nuisance algae.