More than 80 undergraduate students, most from Bowdoin have conducted research at the Bowdoin Marine Laboratory, Schiller Coastal Studies Center, or been Coastal Studies Fellowship recipients. Below is a small sample of 'Alumni' of the Schiller Coastal Studies Center.

Roger Brothers '11, Biology

Roger Brothers '11, Biology

Adult sea turtles find their way back to the beaches where they hatched by seeking out unique magnetic signatures along the coast, according to a new article co-authored by Roger Brothers ’11. His study is published in this issue of Current Biology.

“Sea turtles migrate across thousands of miles of ocean before returning to nest on the same stretch of coastline where they hatched, but how they do this has mystified scientists for more than fifty years,” said Brothers, who is a PhD student at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He studied marine biology at Bowdoin. “Our results provide evidence that turtles imprint on the unique magnetic field of their natal beach as hatchlings and then use this information to return as adults.”

While earlier studies have shown that sea turtles use the Earth’s magnetic field as a guide while out at sea, it has remained unclear whether adult turtles also depend on magnetic features to recognize and return to the nesting sites chosen by their mothers before them, the researchers explain.

Several years ago, UNC’s Kenneth Lohmann, co-author of the new study, proposed that animals including sea turtles and salmon might imprint on magnetic fields early in life, but that idea has proven difficult to test in the open ocean. In the new study, Brothers and Lohmann took a different approach by studying changes in the behavior of nesting turtles over time.
“We reasoned that if turtles use the magnetic field to find their natal beaches, then naturally occurring changes in the Earth’s field might influence where turtles nest,” Brothers said.

To investigate, the researchers analyzed a 19-year database of loggerhead nesting along the eastern coast of Florida, the largest sea turtle rookery in North America. They found a strong association between the spatial distribution of turtle nests and subtle shifts in the Earth’s magnetic field.

In some times and places, the Earth’s field shifted so that the magnetic signatures of adjacent locations along the beach moved closer together. When that happened, nesting turtles packed themselves in along a shorter stretch of coastline, just as the researchers had predicted. In places where magnetic signatures diverged, sea turtles spread out and laid their eggs in nests that were fewer and farther between.

Brothers said that little is known about how turtles detect the geomagnetic field. Most likely, tiny magnetic particles in the turtles’ brains respond to the Earth’s field and provide the basis for the magnetic sense, but no one knows for sure.
Sea turtles likely go to great lengths to find the places where they began life because successful nesting requires a combination of environmental features that are rare: soft sand, the right temperature, few predators, and an easily accessible beach.

“The only way a female turtle can be sure that she is nesting in a place favorable for egg development is to nest on the same beach where she hatched,” Brothers said. “The logic of sea turtles seems to be that ‘if it worked for me, it should work for my offspring.’”

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Emily Norton '10, Biology, Mathematics minor

Emily Norton '10, Biology, Mathematics minor

Emily Norton is a NOAA Coastal Management Fellow with the Maine Coastal Program. She received an M.S. in Oceanography from the University of Hawaii.

Emily was nominated for the NOAA Fellowship program by Hawaii Sea Grant, and matched by the Maine Coastal Program to provide a baseline characterization in the Gulf of Maine for developing Maine’s Ocean Resources Strategy and implementing Maine’s ocean planning efforts.

Emily was a Doherty summer fellow at Bowdoin working under Amy Johnson's guidance. She completed an honors project titled: Mathematical modeling of underwater walking in the green crab, Carcinus maenas

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Becca Selden '06, Biology major, Spanish minor

Becca Selden '06, Biology major, Spanish minor

Marine ecologist Becca Selden studies fish populations. But to better understand fish, which are threatened by climate change and harvesting, she also has to understand people. Besides researching the dynamics of ocean ecosystems, she also studies how fishermen in coastal communities are changing along with our changing oceans.

Currently a National Science Foundation post-doctoral research fellow at Rutgers University, Selden’s curiosity about oceans began as a child, when she explored tide pools on family visits to southern California. At age 11, she went snorkeling for the first time and recalls how amazed she was to discover a colorful, mysterious world invisible to those on land. She knew early on she wanted to devote her life to marine biology.

Selden recently returned to Bowdoin—the place where her childhood wonder began the transformation into adult expertise—to give a talk and meet with students interested in marine biology careers. She told students how invaluable it was to her to be able to collaborate with a faculty mentor here—Amy Johnson, Bowdoin’s James R. & Helen Lee Billingsley Professor of Marine Biology. As a junior and senior, Selden received a Beckman Scholarship to support her research with Johnson. They studied whether the scent of crab predators would alter sea urchin morphology and development.
Selden urged students to take advantage of the research opportunities available to them at Bowdoin. “None of my friends who wanted to do research here were turned away,” she said.
After graduating from college, Selden traveled the world on a Watson Fellowship, studying sea turtle conservation in small communities in South Africa, Malaysia, the Cayman Islands, Australia, and Panama. During this year of travel, her thinking about marine conservation began to shift.

“My generation of scientists is looking at having their work make an impact,” she said. “We have observed in our lifetimes the decline of species, even extinctions. We have a profound appreciation that our actions are influencing ecological systems.” —Becca Selden ’06

She described evolving from an idealistic young girl focused on conservation—and saving animals like leopards at any cost—to a seasoned scientist who is mindful of how important natural resources are to sustaining people throughout the world. “I realized that people can’t just up and stop what they are doing,” she said. “So working with communities to design solutions that are more of a win-win is the way to go. I’ve gone all the way to the other side. I don’t see any marine life as overly sacred. Millions of people rely on seafood for their main source of protein.” Instead, she concluded, she wants to see better, more sustainable management of fisheries.

Selden’s interest in the complexity of sustainability steered her graduate studies. At the University of California, Santa Barbara, Selden looked more deeply into “the ecology of a marine system that was embedded within our socioeconomic system, one that people are dependent on for their livelihood.” There she investigated the effects of smaller-sized California sheephead, whose body sizes have decreased due to overfishing, on sea urchins (which sheephead like to eat) and on kelp forests. Kelp is a critical habitat and food source for many species and disappears when there is an overabundance of sea urchins. “We lose biodiversity when we mess with species in this way,” she said.

In her recent research, Selden has been looking at how fishing and climate change are affecting predator-prey relationships along the Atlantic seaboard. She is also investigating how fishing communities are adapting, or not adapting, to climate change and shifting fish populations.

“In the Northeast, we’ve seen rapidly warming waters and in response, species have shifted farther north,” she said. “One is the American lobster, which has moved its center of distribution 200 kilometers north over the last four decades.”

While that has been good for lobstermen in Maine, it has hurt lobstering communities south of us. “Because it is such a valuable fishery, each boat has a territory and is somewhat aggressive about maintaining that territory,” Selden said. “That makes it difficult for fishermen to move as their fish move.”

Two top fish predators Selden has been focusing on are cod and spiny dogfish, which eat, among other things, lobster and herring. Predators are important to the entire food web, and if they are reduced, it sends shockwaves through the ecosystem, leading to dramatic changes in other species. Cod, a popular cold-water species, has been vastly depleted from fishing. Meanwhile, spiny dogfish prefer warmer waters and are not, at the moment, a preferred fish to eat.
Selden predicts that in a warmer world, cod will not fare well. “The geographic range of cod will decline as water warms and carbon dioxide increases,” she said. Even if we stopped fishing cod entirely to return the depleted cod stocks to their former glory, cod will decline, she added.

However, spiny dogfish could move in and take over the functional role of cod. “From an ecosystem perspective, this is potentially good news, in that the impact on the forage community may be small because there could be compensation from a warm-water predator,” Selden said. “The net ecosystem effect might be neutral.”

Selden said that no matter where she ends up in her career—at a government research center or at a liberal arts college—she wants to be involved in marine resource policy. “My generation of scientists is looking at having their work make an impact,” she said. “We have observed in our lifetimes the decline of species, even extinctions. We have a profound appreciation that our actions are influencing ecological systems.”

This profile is taekn from a story by Rebecca Goldfine, Octobr 26, 2016

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Molly (Mary) Wright '05, Biology, English minor

Molly (Mary) Wright '05, Biology, English minor

Molly has a Ph. D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and is a scientist at the UC Museum of Palentology where she is studying the evolution of monogamy in Lysiosquilloid mantis shrimps. She is interested in both how monogamy has evolved in the mantis shrimps and how environmental and demographic factors affect whether mantis shrimps form social pairs that mate exclusively in wild populations. She uses a combination of phylogenetic methods, field studies in French Polynesia, and molecular techniques to try to understand the ultimate causes of monogamy in mantis shrimps.

Molly conducts most of her field research in the coral back reef ecosystems of Moorea, French Polynesia, at the University of California's Gump Pacific Research Station. She also visits museums (Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Australian Museum) to study the morphological traits of extant mantis shrimps. She conducts most of her laboratory research in the Molecular Phylogenetics Lab and the UCMP molecular labs.

"I really love exploring marine ecosystems: I can't think of a better way to spend my time than investigating the tide pools and kelp forests of California or the coral reefs and sand flats of French Polynesia! As a scientist, I get to pursue answers to questions that fascinate me and I have a great mix of field work, lab work, writing, and teaching that keeps me on my toes."

At Bowdoin, Molly was a Rusack Fellow at the Coatal Studies Center Marine Lab, summer 2004, and an INBRE Post Graduate Fellow summer 2005. Under the guidance of Amy Johnson, Molly completed an honors project titled: Growth and metabolism in the green sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis

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Peter Benjamin Stranges '05, Biochemistry

Peter Benjamin Stranges '05, Biochemistry

Peter Benjamin Stranges (Ben) is a poctdoctoral research fellow in Genetics at Harvard Medical School where he studies genome engineering and synthetic biology.

Ben was a Doherty Fellow at Bowdoin Summer 2004, and conducted senior honors research during the 2004-2005 academic year.  Ben explored the mathematical possibilities of modeling von Bertalanffy growth in sea urchins with a variable exponent that relied on oxygen transport through boundary layers under the guidance of Professor Amy Johnson and Research Associate in Mathematics and Biology Olaf Ellers.

Ben completed a Bowdoin Honors Project titled: Boundary layer fluid dynamics effects on oxygen metabolism and growth rates in green sea urchins, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis

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Emily Grason '04, Biology

Emily Grason '04, Biology

Emily Grason is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington, Seattle, with an expected completion date of June 2015.

Emily says: "I am interested in understanding ecological interactions through the lens of non-native species. Species introductions often cause noticeable disruptions to community function and provide "natural" systems on which to test hypotheses about how species respond to novel selective forces. For non-native species, a novel habitat can be a double-edged sword in terms of predators. Typically, when species are translocated to a new environment, they leave behind them a suite of "natural enemies", predators, parasites, competitors, and pathogens. This can be good news for the non-native, an occasionally translates to increased success in the non-native habitat, growing bigger, faster, making more babies. However, the non-native also faces a line-up of unfamiliar threats, including predators to the novel habitat. How do they handle these threats? How do these interactions influence the probability that a non-native species will become invasive?"

At Bowdoin Emily studied aspects of the ecology of an invasive species of bryozoan and completed an honors project: Influence of an invasive bryozoan on Onchidoris muricata prey selection in the Gulf of Maine, with mentoring from Coastal Studies Scholar Marney Pratt.

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