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ZEN meetup at CERF 2013

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ZEN partners at CERF 2013

by Pamela Reynolds (ZEN Coordinator)

It was great to meet up with many of the ZEN partners at the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation meeting earlier this week. Researchers from the Sweden, Finland, northern and southern Japan, North Carolina, Virginia, and San Francisco sites gave talks on their research, on topics ranging from seagrass resilience and restoration to shoreline stabilization and blue carbon in estuarine habitats. It was great to hear about the other dimensions of our collaborators’ research programs. The conference also featured dynamic plenary sessions on sea level rise, ocean acidification, eutrophication and species invasions. I look forward to the next CERF in Portland, Oregon USA in 2015.

Toward resilient coasts and estuaries

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by Pamela Reynolds (ZEN coordinator)

The biennial Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF) conference is coming up next month in San Diego, CA. The ZEN research ties closely to this year’s conference theme – Toward Resilient Coasts and Estuaries, Science for Sustainable Solutions. I’ll be presenting the latest with ZEN, and other ZEN partners and grad students will be there talking about their research. This is my first time attending a CERF meeting and I’m excited to see what it has in store. Expect a recap post later in November, and I hope to see you there!

 

 

 

A swim down memory lane

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by Pamela Reynolds (ZEN coordinator)

The past several months we’ve been entrenched in finishing processing the experimental samples, analyzing data and writing up the results. This is a big switch from our constantly on the go routine during field season, and gives us time to reflect on what an amazing past two years we’ve had with ZEN. In that vein, I’ve dug up two pre-blog posts, quick little snippets I wrote back in the summer of 2011 before we launched the ZENscience.org website.

August 2011: Fieldwork Happens

First attempt to set up the ZEN experiment in North Carolina

Out in the field, the one thing I dread most isn’t encountering sharks in the murky water, seeing lightning streak overhead, or being pursued by voracious horseflies. Nope – it’s Murphy’s Law. We’ve all experienced it. A perfectly planned experimental setup can go from a well rehearsed orchestra to utter cacophony in a split second simply because someone forgot to bring scissors or dropped the ruler overboard, or a rogue wave made off with a pencil.

Checking the seagrass

In our case, after placing and pounding 320 poles in the water we realized that our once lovely Zostera bed is now overgrown with Ruppia, a different type of seagrass. In our defense, the seagrass in the clearer water near the approach to the site was, in fact, Zostera. Murphy rears his ugly head, once again. How to deal with the mishap? Remove the poles, all 320 of them, call a few colleagues to find a new site, borrow a boat, and start over. This time everyone knew the drill and the setup went exceedingly smoothly. And, in the process we all learned how to distinguish the three local types of seagrass (Zostera, Ruppia, Halodule) by touch alone in the murky water. Turning Murphy into an educational experience – now that’s science! Having a team of graduate and undergraduate students who keep smiling? Priceless.

[Update: While I still despise coming up short on cable ties in the field, getting caught out on the water during a thunderstorm has quickly risen to fear #1. See the "Science is electric" blog post from 2012 to find out why.]

April 2011: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight

Items customs agents from various countries disliked the most: plaster, t-shirts and dog food.

In preparing for ZEN the VIMS team became well versed in navigating international shipping. One of the things we learned early on was that customs agents are often quite literal. For instance, “300 blocks of 120 mL hardened dental plaster” can be translated into medical equipment and is subject to high tariffs. Doesn’t matter that the plaster has already been hardened and can’t be used to make casts of someone’s teeth – it’s all in the product description. And being vague isn’t much help either. Some countries want to know the composite materials of a t-shirt or line items of every ingredient in the dog food we used as fish bait, while for others the phrase “for education/research, not for resale” is sufficient. We are expecting that to some extent each country will have unique mesograzer assemblages and ecological interactions – why should we assume their import/export process to be the same?

[Update: I wrote this after a week of playing phone tag and emailing with shipping and customs agents to get our packages cleared and on their way to our international partners. Ultimately everything went through and there were no major delays or disruption of our partners' field schedules. Lesson learned? Leave at least a 3 week shipping allowance for international projects. And, keep UPS on speed dial!]

 

ESA 2013

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by Pamela Reynolds (ZEN Coordinator)

In August I attended the 2013 Ecological Society of America Meeting in Minneapolis, where I gave a research talk on the ZEN project and participated in a special session “At the Hub: Lessons Learned by Early-career Ecologists in Grassroots Research Networks” organized by Eric Lind of Nutrient Network (NutNet) and Cayelan Carey of the Global Lakes Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON) who focus on ecological research networks in terrestrial and freshwater habitats. Along with other early career panelists, I discussed the benefits, and difficulties of conducting  ecological research at large, interconnected scales. Although ZEN is funded by a NSF grant, the research relies heavily on contributions from the individual research site teams and operates similarly to a grassroots model, featuring networks of motivated and locally-funded scientists collaborating on a common set of questions. It was great to hear from the other panelists from the National Phenology Network (NPN) and  Smithsonian, as well as interact with the audience including members of other networks such as ERN to discuss the nitty gritty of doing networked science and education. I’m still compiling my notes from the session, but once finished I will post the highlights here along with other feedback and common questions from the meeting.

Serena, Pamela and Klemens at ESA 2013

At the conference I also met up with some of the ZEN team. Mary O’Connor, from the ZEN Vancouver site, along with Klemens Eriksson and Serena Donadi from the Netherlands and Rebecca Best from Bodega Bay, CA. All gave presentations on their research projects, ranging from metabolic theory to functional diversity and the role of foundation species in structuring marine habitats.

 

 

 

Kayaking in the Archipelago Sea

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Paul Richardson

by Paul Richardson (VIMS technician)

The weather is beginning to warm here in Virginia, which means that soon I will be able to dust off my kayak and take it for a paddle in the nearby York River. The last time I went kayaking was over the summer when I was in in Finland. While there I was fortunate to have two wonderful and very hospitable neighbors in Korpoström, Heidi Arponen and Kevin O’Brien, who work for the Finnish Forestry Service known as Metsähallitus (Finnish), or Forststyrelsen (Swedish). In addition to taking me to lunch, having me for dinner and sharing many cups of tea, Heidi also invited me to go sea kayaking in the Baltic on her her SKUK Explorer. It was amazing. Heidi and Kevin mounted a GoPro camera on the front of my boat so that I can share the experience here. The GoPro took a still every 5 seconds. I hope you enjoy this virtual tour of the Baltic.

I’m a GRAZER baby…

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Pamela Reynolds, ZEN Coordinator

by Pamela Reynolds (ZEN Coordinator)

As a small token of our appreciation for the hard work of all of the ZEN partners (past, present and future!), we present:
“GRAZER”. Turn up the volume and enjoy!


This film is, as everything in ZEN, a collaborative production and we very much appreciate the contributions of all of the ZEN participants. Lyrics were written by Paul Richardson, editing by undergraduate Conor MacDonnell, and lyrics by undergraduate Nick Penthorne. The film features cameos by Emmett Duffy and others in the Marine Biodiversity Lab at VIMS, as well as chorus refrains from many of the ZEN sites (watch the film all the way to the end so you don’t miss this!). The film premiered along with a select few other films on the big screen at the Beneath the Waves Film Festival at the Benthic Ecology Meeting last week in Savannah, GA. Enjoy!

 

ZEN Benthic Ecology Meeting 2013

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Pamela Reynolds, ZEN Coordinator

by Pamela Reynolds (ZEN coordinator)

Meetings are wonderful excuses to meet up with old friends, make new ones, and, of course, talk science! Last week I presented some of the emerging results at the annual Benthic Ecology Meeting in Savannah, Georgia. The meeting was a great opportunity for many of the ZEN partners to network with each other and other attendees of the meeting, which focuses on marine ecology research along the East and Gulf coasts. Drs. Mathieu Cusson (Quebec), James Douglass (Massachusetts/Florida), Kevin Hovel (California), and Erik Sotka (North Carolina) were all in attendance, along with two new ZEN partners, Drs. Randall Hughes (Massachusetts) and Joel Fodrie (North Carolina), two of the ZEN student exchange fellows (Rachel Gittman, Nicole Kollars) and other grad students who have helped with the ZEN research (Jon Lefcheck, Laetitia Joseph). I was excited about the depth and breadth of talks, especially by those presented by the ZEN partners, which ranged from experiments on the role of functional diversity and salt marsh mutualisms, to whether crabs can hear and the effects of seagrass habitat fragmentation on epifauna. (See a full list of talks and abstracts on the BEM website) Additionally, our short music video “GRAZER” was one of 14 films chosen for the main Beneath the Waves Film Festival screening at the conference. I’ll post the film here shortly so check back.

Some of the ZEN partners at the 2013 Benthic Ecology Meeting

GRAZER debuts at Beneath the Waves Film Festival

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Pamela Reynolds

by Pamela Reynolds (ZEN Coordinator)

At the Virginia Institute of Science, we are gearing up for this year’s Benthic Ecology Meeting in Savannah, Georgia. We can’t wait to hear what our colleagues are up to, talk science, and watch the films at this year’s Beneath the Waves Film Festival.

 

Come to the festival on the evening of March 21st to watch our short film, titled “GRAZER”. This film was produced by the Marine Biodiversity Lab at VIMS and features contributions from the ZEN partners as well as undergraduates at the College of William and Mary. It’s our way of saying “thank you” to all of the hard working individuals who’ve dedicated the past two years with us to quantify the role of biodiversity and to understand top-down and bottom-up interactions in eelgrass beds. We’ll be posting the full video on ZENscience.org later this week, so check back!

To get you excited, here’s a short teaser…

 

Sci-Octopus

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Ocean bloggers at Science Online 2013

Six years ago, on a cold January morning, I attended a cozy gathering on the campus of UNC Chapel Hill of scientists, journalists and educators interested in utilizing online tools to deepen our activities and promote collaborations. Over the years I have watched the conference grow exponentially, encouraging conversation, community, and connections at the intersection of science and the web. This January boasted the largest yet ScienceOnlineConference in Raleigh, NC, and I had the opportunity to meet up with old colleagues, make some new ones, and sing more than one sea shanty. The Ocean Bloggers were by far the biggest (and loudest) contingent at the conference, and will be holding their own spin off SciOnline: Oceans conference in October. In addition to headliner talks by the social media specialists at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and discussion on topics ranging from managing your online persona, ‘doing’ outreach and citizen science, to rethinking peer review and science deficits and denials, along with blitz sessions on everything from mobile apps for the lab to dog cognition – there was something for everyone to get involved in. Looking forward to SciOnline 2014, although next year I may opt for the SciOnlineLIVE version and even further embrace employing online tools to engage with the wider science community.

The conference had some great book giveaways. A colleague and I received copies of the R Cookbook, which will undoubtedly be useful for analyzing all the ZEN data that keeps coming in!

Mascot for this year’s Sci-Online Conference? Sci-octopus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duffy Receives Outstanding Faculty Award

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It was announced today that Dr. Emmett Duffy is one of the 2013 recipients of the Virginia Outstanding Faculty Awards. This honor recognizes excellence in teaching, mentorship, research and service.

J. Emmett Duffy, VIMS Professor of Marine Science, receives 2013 Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award

In response, Emmett says: “Receiving the Outstanding Faculty Award is of course a huge thrill for me.  One reason is that it’s allowed me to spread the word about the ZEN partnership and project (see the College of William and Mary’s video here) and to highlight some of the cool things we’re doing.  Honestly, I think ZEN is the most exciting science I’ve ever done, and we have our large group of motivated partners, and especially Pamela Reynolds, to thank for that. There will be more to come soon since we’re in the thick of data analysis and some intriguing results are emerging. Stay tuned!”

 

 

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