Marketing Retarget Pixel

Spring 2017 Newsletter

  • Greetings from the NOAA Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center!

    We are thrilled to share news and accomplishments from the NOAA LMRCSC’s first six months under its 2016 award from the NOAA Office of Education Educational Partnership Program (EPP). Since the initiation of this award in September 2016, the LMRCSC has held a successful Science Meeting and announced funding allocation for research projects for 2016-2017. In addition, take a moment to “meet” Marisa Litz, a recent NOAA EPP Fellow alumna from LMRCSC at Oregon State University and check out what three LMRCSC students did over their spring break. Finally, learn more about how one LMRCSC scientist’s work came to fruition in a recent FDA regulation change. 

    Thank you,

    Paulinus Chigbu, Ph.D.
    Director, NOAA LMRCSC

    AlPlace-AaronWatson-NewsletterFDA Approves the use of taurine in fish feed – Research from NOAA LMRCSC featured scientist, Al Place, contributed to the approval

    Al Place, LMRCSC at Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology professor, and former LMRCSC doctoral student Aaron Watson found a substitute for fishmeal in the diet of fish, using plant protein with added taurine. This February, years after the bulk of their research, the FDA approved the use of taurine in fish feed.  

    While mammals can produce taurine, some species of fish cannot. Place and Watson found that the amino acid taurine is essential to the diets of several fish.  

    With the growing human population and global pressures on fisheries, aquaculture has been heavily relied upon and is rapidly expanding. Traditionally, aquaculture has relied on fishmeal as feed, but “harvesting fish to feed the fish is not a sustainable system,” Place noted.  

    However, when Place and Watson began researching taurine in fish feed, no one had succeeded in completely eliminating fish meal from fish diets. 

    “There was something special about fishmeal,” Place said.  

    Their LMRCSC-funded research project studied gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata), but other research conducted by the pair focused on cobia (Rachycentron canadum) and striped bass (Morone saxatilis). Place and Watson tested the digestibility of plant proteins and found that only one protein tested, barley, was indigestible. They also were able to supplement algal oil for fish oil, thus creating a fully plant-based fish diet with 1.5% taurine. The resulting  “vegetarian fish diet” performed better than other diets when tested on cobia, with better feed conversion, higher percent weight gain, and higher specific growth rates, but had other benefits, according to Place. 

    Although taurine is a cheap and relatively sustainable alternative, it must be purified before it can be consumed. The method used for this synthesis can result in fairly high levels of arsenate, Place said.  

    “By moving away from fishmeal to plant protein not only are we saving the fishery by removing fewer fish from the natural environment, we are also lowering the levels of toxic products like methyl mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in our waters.” 

    Today, Place is working with a company that is interested in producing a transgenic soybean, which will produce a biologically made taurine that is free from arsenate.  

    Watson, who earned his doctoral degree from the Marine Estuarine and Environmental Science program at University of Maryland College Park, is now an assistant marine scientist at South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.  


    Eight collaborative projects funded by the LMRCSC for 2016-2017

    The LMRCSC has recently funded eight collaborative research projects for 2016-2017, three of which are being led by graduate students as principal investigators.  

    This year’s project topics included the reproductive biology of red deepsea crabs, the ecosystem impact of a harmful algal bloom species (Dinophysis acuminata) on aquaculture shellfish, and the impact of increasing sea surface temperatures on piscivorous and planktivorous species dynamics. The total amount allocated to these research projects is $321,279.  

    Each year, the LMRCSC Technical Advisory Board (TAB) reviews research proposals submitted by Center scientists and makes recommendations on which projects the LMRCSC should fund. This competitive funding allocation process results in the selection of proposals that meet quality standards, fit into the Center’s priority research areas and the mission of NOAA Fisheries, and provides substantive student training. The Board is comprised of scientists that represent each of the Center's research thematic areas and are selected from various entities of NOAA and the academic community. 

    For a full list of TAB-funded projects, visit our TAB Projects page.  


    AFSSymposium-2017-ConnorOlsenUMES Fisheries students host aquatic resources and ecosystems symposium

    LMRCSC student leaders in the American Fisheries Society Student Subunit at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore hosted the Delmarva Aquatic Resources and Ecosystems Research Symposium on April 28, 2017, which took place at the Assateague Island National Park Headquarters and the UMES Paul S. Sarbanes Coastal Ecology Center. Sixty people attended the daylong symposium whose goal was to facilitate open discussions amongst the various stakeholders in Delmarva resources. LMRCSC students and faculty, as well as guests from U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen’s office and the NOAA Office of Education Educational Partnership Program, took part in the symposium.   AFSSymposium-2017-CrawfordIntro

    Keynote speaker Tom Horton shared his career-long observations of changes in nature, species and the fishing industry on Delmarva, particularly in Somerset and Dorchester counties.  

    Horton is professor of practice in environmental studies at Salisbury University and has expertise in nature writing, journalism, and Chesapeake Bay politics, culture, and science. He has written eight books about the Chesapeake Bay and covered the environment for the Baltimore Sun for 35 years.  

    He said, "There's not much more pressing on Delmarva than climate change and sea level rise."  

    Following Horton's presentation, a panel comprised of Angel Willey, Wes Townsend and Roman Jesien, Ph.D. shared their insights on behalf of the sectors they represent.  

    Willey is a program manager and natural resources biologist in the Coastal Fisheries Program of Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Townsend is a commercial fisherman and owner and operator of F/V PAKA out of Indian River Inlet, DE. Jesien is the science coordinator at Maryland Coastal Bays.   AFSSymposium-2017-PanelEach of the panelists provided their perspective on a range of subjects including fisheries management and regulation; the impact of science on regulation/rule development; the challenges stakeholders face in fisheries in regard to management; and the future of fisheries related to resource availability, interest from the next generation of commercial fishermen, and funding for research.  

    In the afternoon, the event moved into a poster session, oral presentations and exhibitions from the LMRCSC, Assateague Island State Park, Assateague Coastal Trust, among others. The posters and presentations highlighted student research related to the aquatic resources and ecosystems found throughout the Delmarva Peninsula by students hailing from UMES, Delaware State University, UMCES Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and more.


    NOAA EPP Graduate Fellows at LMRCSC, UMES spend spring break at SCUBA training

    Three NOAA EPP Graduate Fellows at LMRCSC, UMES, spent their spring break diving deeper into SCUBA training, which will apply to both their current research and eventually, their professional careers. Dr. Brad Stevens, the LMRCSC Distinguished Research Scientist and the students’ advisor, and Les Burke, University of Maryland Dive Safety Officer, led the students in advanced SCUBA training in Key Largo, Florida over the weeklong March holiday.

    UMES master’s students Andre Price and Rebecca Wenker completed their Advanced Open Water training. Price, Wenker, and doctoral student Cara Schweitzer also received training on diving using enriched air (also called Nitrox), which allows divers to stay longer at deeper depths, and students also practiced underwater navigation using compass courses at Jules Undersea Lodge.  

    Scuba-SpringBreak-2“My research involves diving offshore Ocean City and collecting soft coral samples from fished and unfished sites,” Wenker, a first year master’s student in the Marine Estuarine and Environmental Science (MEES) program said. 

    “The fished sites are usually deeper in depth (about 100 ft.), so the time I would be able to remain at depth would not be very long. Nitrox can extend your bottom time, so the Nitrox certification I obtained will make getting samples from these fished sites easier. Navigation is also a useful skill to have, especially when you are diving in water with low visibility like I will be.” 

    The students used Nitrox to dive more than 85-feet to a sunken Navy vessel, the 510-foot Spiegel Grove. They also got to assist in the measurement of an anchor that will be preserved and listed on a national registry and explored an underwater laboratory, all while being surrounded by some interesting marine life.

    Price said that he’ll apply these diving skills to assist with Schweitzer’s research on underwater habitat characteristics off the coast of Ocean City, MD.  

    “The diving experience that I have gained will help me to continue to diversify my professional skill set as a graduate student, and as a marine scientist,” Price said. “I hope to continue to build my skills as a diver because there are many opportunities for employment, and research positions that require skilled divers.”

    The trip was partially supported by grants from NOAA BREP (#NA16NMF4720285) and the Atlantic Coast Fish Habitat Partnership.

    For more information on LMRCSC diving initiatives, contact Brad Stevens at

    Science Meeting 2017

    LMRCSC scientists convene at the NOAA SEFSC for annual meeting

    The 2017 Annual Science meeting, held at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center in Miami, Florida, brought together LMRCSC scientists, NOAA collaborators and administrators, and student researchers for a daylong discussion of the Center’s research and potential areas for collaboration.

    The day began with welcomes from LMRCSC Director Paulinus Chigbu, Ph.D. and Audrey Trotman, Ph.D. the CSC program manager in NOAA’s Office of Education. LMRCSC Distinguished Research Scientist Brad Stevens, Ph.D. provided a description of the Center’s research process.

    SEFSC scientists presented on topics such as stock assessment, Endangered Species Act corals, SEFSC socioeconomics programs fisheries statistics, and more. 

    LMRCSC students and researchers presented on upcoming research projects such as the molecular endocrinology and reproductive biology of the red deep-sea crab Chaceon quinquedens; the impact of increasing sea surface temperatures on piscivore and planktivore species dynamics; and assessing the impacts of harmful dinoflagellates and Vibrio sp. on aquaculture in the Delaware Inland Bays. 

    The day concluded with a discussion of potential areas of collaboration, challenges and opportunities and feedback from SEFSC scientists on the work presented. 

    This is the second year that the LMRCSC has convened its science meeting at one of NOAA’s Science Centers. Last year’s meeting, held at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, MA brought scientists from each of the centers together to learn more about ongoing research and gave an opportunity to discuss sharing resources and ways to work collaboratively on research. 


    NOAA LMRCSC alumna Marisa Litz earns role at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

    LMRCSC alumna Marisa Litz, who earned her Ph.D. in Fisheries from Oregon State University (OSU) in December 2016, currently serves as the pink, chum, and sockeye salmon specialist for Puget Sound with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). 

    As a senior level biologist, Litz contributes directly to WDFW's mission to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife, and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities. 

    “My duties include providing Puget Sound pink, chum, and sockeye forecasts and maintaining escapement and run reconstruction files for these species. I also work on the Puget Sound Management team to inform management decisions as a member of the North of Falcon salmon setting team and a member of the Pacific Salmon Commission's Fraser River Panel Technical Committee.”

    Litz also recently presented a public talk as part of the initial salmon setting season on salmon survival and environmental conditions. She was featured in several local news articles and blogs, including The Columbian

    As part of her involvement in the NOAA LMRCSC, Litz was supported by a TAB grant awarded in 2012 titled, “Evaluating the effects of prey quality on tissue lipids, taurine, and growth in juvenile Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) with a controlled feeding study.” Litz worked with co-principal investigators Dr. Jessica Miller (OSU), Dr. Allen Place (UMCES IMET), and Dr. Robert Emmett (NOAA Fisheries). The project ultimately became part of Litz’s dissertation, and the manuscript is under review by the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.

    Reflecting on her experience as an LMRCSC student, Litz said that “the LMRCSC puts students first - and this is particularly apparent at national meetings.”

    “The organization supports student learning and professional development in a way that individual universities cannot,” Litz continued. “I think LMRCSC students are better poised to meet the challenges of the workplace because they have had the opportunity to collaborate and develop professionally at a national level prior to graduating.”

    Litz also served as a fellow in the NOAA Graduate Research and Training Scholarship Program from 2014-2016, where she spent four months as an intern at the NOAA Newport Field Station in Newport, Oregon working with Dr. Richard Brodeur on developing a bioenergetics model for juvenile Chinook salmon. Litz incorporated work from this opportunity in her dissertation, which is now in prep for Fisheries Oceanography.  She was also recently awarded a travel grant to present this work at the P/ICES Early Career Scientist Meeting in Busan, Korea May 29 - June 2, 2017.

    Litz valued the sense of community the LMRCSC provided at the national level. “Engaging with peers and faculty and learning about complementary work being conducted at the various partner institutions was extremely valuable for me in terms of framing my own research,” Litz said. “Exchanging ideas and methodologies, regardless of the species or system being evaluated, really helped me to advance my own thinking about approaches to science.”

    Litz took a leadership role in supervising and mentoring LMRCSC summer interns while they were at residence at OSU and had the opportunity to work with NOAA collaborators Dr. Robert Emmett (deceased), Dr. Thomas Hurst (AFSC), Dr. Richard Brodeur (NWFSC), and Louise Copeman (OSU CIMRS).

    Litz earned her M.S. in Fisheries from OSU; a B.S. in Marine Science from University of Maine; and a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of British Columbia. 


    LMRCSC Distinguished Research Scientist at UMES featured for black sea bass habitat research

    This story was originally published on the UMES website on Friday, February 3, 2017. 

    Masonry fish magnet: Marine researchers aim to nurture sea bass habitats  

    Four days prior to Christmas, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore put down a deposit on a small plot of real estate along the state's Atlantic coast.

    The location is 10 miles east of Ocean City some 50-to-60 feet underwater.

    Resting on the ocean floor are 330 concrete blocks configured in 30 structures of varying sizes - each resembling a pyramid - and not to be confused with the terrestrial structure by the same name in the 9500 block of Coastal Highway.

    Funded by a $216,000 grant, UMES marine scientists built an artificial reef to test whether a strategically designed, man-made environment might attract black sea bass and tautog, two species popular with fishermen… 

    Read the full story at 

    LMRCSC in the News

    Below is a sampling of NOAA LMRCSC students and faculty in recent news. A full list of news coverage is available upon request.  

    Ocean conditions appear improving for salmon – The Columbian
    March 3, 2017 – Marisa Litz, Ph.D., a recent graduate of OSU’s doctoral program in Fisheries, is cited in her role as a Fishery Biologist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

    The courtship of blue crabs - UMCES News 
    February 14, 2017 – In a Valentine’s Day feature, J. Sook Chung, an LMRCSC scientist at UMCES-IMET and endocrinologist, discusses crab reproduction, which is one of her areas of expertise. 

    Animals of the Ice – NOAA Ocean Today
    January 18, 2017 – LMRCSC alumna Symone Johnson introduces an episode of NOAA’s Ocean Today. 

    $20.5 Million to Help Assure Future of Underrepresented Groups – Ingenuity 
    January 5, 2017 – The NOAA LMRCSC earned a $15.5 million award to train and graduate students in marine science and the NSF CREST-CISCEP program at UMES earned $5 million to continue its research and education mission.  

  • NOAA Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center
    University of Maryland Eastern Shore (Lead Institution)
    (410) 651-7870
    Award numbers: FY 2016 Award #NA16SEC4810007 
    Funding Agency: NOAA Educational Partnership Program with Minority-Serving Institutions (EPP/MSI)
    This website is best viewed in Chrome or Firefox browsers.