The dawn of ZEN

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By Emmett Duffy, VIMS, ZEN Master

May I have the drum roll please . . .

Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen, to the new official online home of the Zostera Experimental Network, known informally as ZEN. We are a global network of marine ecologists and evolutionary biologists from 15 sites (so far!) around the world, united in a quest to figure out how ecosystems associated with eelgrass (Zostera marina) work. The project has been seeded with generous support from the US National Science Foundation.

Eelgrass is one of the most widespread and important plants of the world’s shallow coastal seas and estuaries, ranging from above the Arctic circle to the balmy climes of Portugal, North Carolina, southern  California, and southern Japan. ZEN has partner sites in all of those places. Extensive meadows of eelgrass support rich and productive biological communities of fish and shellfish, and provide important living buffers against storm and hurricane damage. As you might imagine, environmental pressures differ profoundly acros its broad range, from the glacial landscapes of northern Norway to the sweltering heat of the American southeast, as do the types of animals that live among the eelgrass. For these reasons, eelgrass beds are ideal candidates for exploring how gradients in environment and biodiversity influence the complex functioning of ecosystems.

Experimental plot, Finland, summer 2011

ZEN is coordinated by myself and Dr. Pamela Reynolds at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. We started officially in December of 2010 with a kick-off meeting that brought partners to Williamsburg, Virginia to plan strategy and finalize methods for our first big field experiment conducted in summer 2011.

On top of our day jobs, Pamela and I have been busy lately sorting the big trove of images from ZEN’s first global experiment in summer 2011, and wrestling with HTML code and other such arcana, in an effort to get the ZEN website up and running. There are still a few bugs to work out but we’re now pulling back the curtain, so voila! We hope you’ll find the site useful. For example you can find:



1) A list of ZEN’s participating partners and a little about the sites where they are working here. Stay tuned to the ZEN blog for updates on activities throughout the network.

2) A summary of the 2011 field experiment here — and first-hand accounts of the experiences of some of the students and others that participated here.

3) News of ZEN activities, publications, and research findings here.

And of course you can always leave a comment or send us an email using the little box at bottom of the page. Thanks for visiting. Y’all come back!


  1. cjn says:

    Congrats on the site launch!


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