Happy New Year! Already 2016 is off to a flying start on the disease front – there are reports of Stichopus (holothurian) and Strongylocentrotus franciscanus (red urchin) mortality near Vancouver (Neil McDaniel) – and this is the time of year that sea star wasting disease is reported to be strongest in parts of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the west coast of the Olympic Peninsula (David Fradkin). Of course the team hopes that there isn’t a repeat of the 2013 – 2014 intense mortality, but we are ready to go for more adventures in echinoderm microbial ecology.
After a successful expedition to Australia, where Kalia, Elliot and Ian sampled numerous tropical and subtropical echinoderms (including asteroids, echinoids, holothurians and crinoids) to understand the composition of viruses inhabiting their tissues, Ian enjoyed the holidays with family in Queensland, while Kalia and Elliot parted ways for their own family and holiday time.
First activity of 2016 is the Team Aquatic Virus’ research cruise in the Puget Sound, from Jan 6 – Jan 11th on board the R/V Clifford A. Barnes (University of Washington). After months of planning, we have identified ~ 32 stations around the Puget Sound where we’ll be looking at SSaDV (and other microorganisms) in compartments that are not easily accessed by divers or scientists working in the intertidal: Waters deeper than 50m, and plankton. At each station, we’ll be doing four main tasks: 1) sampling benthic fauna to see if there are adult or juvenile sea stars present in these habitats, and whether or not they bear SSaDV or other microorganisms; 2) sampling sediment cores to determine the history of SSaDV in the environment; 3) surveying the presence of SSaDV and other microorganisms in virioplankton from areas adjacent to sea star populations; and finally 4) surveying larvae (if there are any) for their microbial ecology. We’ll be following this survey up with dock-based surveys in the spring and summer.
Ian arrived into Seattle this evening in preparation for unload; while Kalia and Elliot arrive tomorrow to assist. We’re also joined on this cruise by undergraduates Jacob and Mitch; it’s their first cruise, so there is much to learn!
Stay tuned for live updates from the cruise to see what we find!