Drs. Hoadley and Kocot awarded Alabama Center of Excellence grants

Dr. Hoadley has been awarded two Alabama Center of Excellence grants to study climate change impacts on benthic filter feeders and phytoplankton communities in the northern Gulf of Mexico. He will lead the first grant entitled  “Understanding the Interactive Effects of Predation and Ocean Acidification on Economically Important Oyster Variants in the Northern Gulf of Mexico” with collaborators Dr. Dustin Kemp (University of Alabama at Birmingham) and Dr. Lee Smee (Dauphin Island Sea Lab). The second grant “Using Optical and Metabolomic Approaches to Predict the Nutritional Quality of Plankton Communities for Shellfish Consumption Under Multi-Stressor Climate Conditions” is led by Dr. Jeffrey Krause (Dauphin Island Sea Lab), with Dr. Hoadley and Dr. Alison Robertson (University of South Alabama) as co-PIs. Oyster aquaculture and fisheries production are both economically important industries along the northern Gulf of Mexico and rely on healthy phytoplankton communities for food. Climate change impacts such as rising sea surface temperatures, ocean acidification and eutrophication are poised to impact multiple trophic levels and the two grants will study how these interactions impact overall primary productivity and oyster reef health under various future climate scenarios.

Dr. Kocot has been awarded an Alabama Center of Excellence grant with PI Dr. Kelly Dorgan (University of South Alabama and Dauphin Island Sea Lab) and co-PI Dr. Ken Halanych (University of North Carolina Wilmington) for a project titled Meiofaunal diversity as a tool for understanding and monitoring northern Gulf of Mexico environments. The team will develop a framework to use marine meiofaunal communities as indicators of disturbance to shallow subtidal sediments off the coast of Alabama, with application to the broader northern Gulf of Mexico. Meiofauna, which are microscopic animals that inhabit the interstitial spaces in sediments, are abundant, diverse, and ecologically important, yet poorly studied in our region. They have been shown to be reliable indicators of environmental impacts, in part because they are relatively confined to local areas, thus reflecting cumulative stressors over a time period corresponding to their lifespans. The team will leverage high-throughput DNA metabarcoding to survey meiofauna coupled with traditional taxonomic work and targeted DNA barcoding to make sequences for expert-identified organisms available in public databases. This project will also include a taxonomy training workshop with world experts who will train students from the Gulf Coast region on how to identify these tiny animals.