Monthly Archives: December 2012

Biotic dispersal in seagrass seeds…..cool new paper!

Just came across a great wee paper by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, examining dispersal of eelgrass (Zostera marina) seeds through biotic mechanisms.  Basically, they found that the seeds of this seagrass species can actually pass through the guts of marine animals like fish and turtles and still be viable to germinate, much like happens with many terrestrial plant species (think of many of the fruits that you eat!).   Another reminder of the similarities between seagrasses and terrestrial angiosperms!

Now you may be thinking…so why is this important?  Well, it turns out that from an ecological point of view this is exceptionally important, as it may allow the seagrass seeds  to travel to (and eventually colonise) otherwise bare areas that would be too far away for seeds to reach through normal dispersal mechanisms (such as transport with water currents).  To get a more detailed overview of dispersal in seagrasses as a whole, there is a great paper published in Bioscience (Robert Orth is a co-author on this paper as well, as are a few people from my research group).  This paper comes to the conclusion that dispersal of seagrass seeds over long distances (10s -100s km) through mechanisms like biotic dispersal is extremely important to the maintenance of seagrass populations!

All in all some really cool stuff that’s helping shape the way we monitor and conserve seagrass meadows, which form the basis of coastal ecosystems in many parts of the world.

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The first of many!

Sub-tropical coral patch

Yes…another PhD student trying their hand with yet another blog.  I’ve thought (too) long and hard about what to say in my first blog, but lets start with some of the reasons as to why I felt the need to start this blog, and why these will hopefully set me apart from other blogs that are out there!

  • To make marine ecology accessible to the publicAs researchers, I think we all know the feeling of going to a party with a group of non-scientists, explaining your research, and getting confused looks back!  I believe that when this happens, it is our fault as researchers, and we need to explore avenues that help raise general awareness to the public.  After all, we cannot expect the lessons we learn in our research to be conveyed to the public effectively merely through the publication of our research in scientific journals.  In short….I’m hoping to write about science in a way that my parents, family and friends find interesting and accessible!
  • To increase awareness of marine ecology: This is fairly similar to above, but I feel it deserves a separate section (my blog, my rules!).  I find that most non-scientists I meet have at least a moderate interest in marine science.  When I tell people that I am a marine ecologist, I generally hear stories back about how fish aren’t the same size as they used to be, or describing whale behaviour from the latest David Attenborough documentary.  But there is a lot more really cool stuff that we do as marine ecologists, yet the knowledge of this work outside the scientific community (and even within the community as well!) is fairly limited.  In particular, I’m hoping to raise awareness about seagrass (the organism that I study!); an extremely important yet often-ignored component of many marine ecosystems.  Hopefully this blog will act as a bridge between some of this research and the public.  We are custodians of the marine environment, and we have a responsibility to deliver what we know to the public in a way that can be understood easily.
  • To give a balanced view of marine ecology in Australia: This is more a personal gripe of mine, with marine ecology not receiving much attention in mainstream media!  I don’t expect research to be on the front page of newspapers, but with the diversity of marine life around our coastline, it really does deserve more attention than it gets!  I’d also like to try to counter some of the misinformation that is continually portrayed in much of the popular media in Australia, particularly in relation to denial of climate change and marine parks.
  • To act as a resource for up-and coming marine biologists and ecologists: In my undergraduate days, I often looked long and hard for Australian websites that gave me easily digestible information about marine biology and marine ecology in Australia.  Or websites that gave me really useful information about how to position myself best for a future career in research science.  I hope that this blog becomes a place where budding marine biologists and ecologists to come and get easy-to-understand, relevant information!
  • Selfish reasons: OK, so I admit there are also ulterior motives in creating a blog…it’ll help me keep on track with my PhD research, it helps to build an online footprint (see here for why that is important!), and it may even increase awareness with the research community about the publications I have produced (even though I want this blog to be broad and not just all about my research!).  But hey, we’re all allowed to be a bit selfish, right!

Above all, I hope this blog will have active community involvement!  I know this won’t happen overnight, but hopefully it will come in time.  I like being controversial (I think that’s the best way to start conversation!), so disagree with me, give me feedback, or even tell me I don’t know what I am talking about!  As long as no boundaries are crossed, constant feedback can only be a good thing!