Climate Change Impacts on Marine Species of Conservation Concern

Thursday, March 10, 2016
North Atlantic Right Whale. Photo: NEAq

North Atlantic Right Whale. Photo: NEAq

NE CSC Science Coordinator, Michelle Staudinger, and USGS Director, Mary Ratnaswamy met with scientists at the New England Aquarium (NEAq) in Boston to discuss shared priorities for addressing climate change impacts on coastal and marine species of conservation concern.

A University of Massachusetts Amherst undergraduate student, Mila Calandrino, who is helping synthesize related information on Northwest Atlantic marine mammals, also attended the meeting. Discussions centered around science needs and potential collaborations to better understand climate-induced shifts in phenology, or the timing of recurring life events such as migration and reproduction, in marine fishes, invertebrates, marine mammals and seabirds.

The New England Aquarium’s Vice President for research, Scott Kraus, and Research Scientist, Dan Pendleton, hosted the meeting with the NE CSC. Several additional NEAq staff participated in the meeting, including Michael Tlusty, Charlie Innis, Amy Knowlton, Philip Hamilton and Marilyn Marx. There was strong interest in collaborating in research and conservation of species such as lobsters, sea turtles and North Atlantic right whales, which are experiencing increasing incidences of larval mortality, cold stunning, and shifts in the timing and distribution of habitat use in northern habitats, respectively. A common goal was identified - to understand the ecosystem role of these species in a changing Gulf of Maine, and to explore the connections between the Gulf of Maine and the Northeast US region as a whole. The NEAq’s serves people of all ages and is an excellent vehicle for testing climate change messaging on these and other shared initiatives. New England Aquarium programs such as the National Network for Ocean Change Interpretation could inform the ways in which NE CSC and NEAq partner to educate the public.

Outcomes from the meeting will be integrated into the ongoing project led by Michelle Staudinger and Adrian Jordaan, Ecological and management implications of climate change induced shifts in phenology of coastal fish and wildlife species in the Northeast CSC region. In addition, PI’s Staudinger and Jordaan are working with Dr. Dan Pendelton (NEAQ) on a related synthesis initiative stemming from the 2015 Regional Association for Research on the Gulf of Maine (RARGOM) Annual Meeting, which seeks to summarize how phenology is shifting in the Gulf of Maine regional marine ecosystem.

Continued collaboration and coordination between the NE CSC and NEAQ will be useful for informing ongoing coastal resiliency and sustainability initiatives of interest to the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, States, NGOs, as well as other stakeholders interested in recovering and managing coastal fish and wildlife along the Atlantic coast.