RAPID: Basin-scale genetics of marine zooplankton


This research is funded under NSF grant OCE-1338959


Investigators: Erica Goetze (PI).  


Overview. Marine zooplankton show strong ecological responses to climate change, but little is known about their capacity for evolutionary response.  Many authors have assumed that the evolutionary potential of zooplankton is limited.  However, recent studies indicate broad circumstantial evidence for the idea that selection is a dominant evolutionary force acting on these species, and that genetic isolation often is achieved at regional spatial scales in pelagic habitats.  The proposed research will use a combination of population genetic, ecological, and oceanographic techniques to test two central hypotheses regarding how the pelagic environment controls genetic variation within zooplankton species. 


This RAPID project will take advantage of a unique opportunity for basin-scale transect sampling across boreal-temperate, subtropical and tropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean (> 90° latitude) through the Atlantic Meridional Transect (AMT) cruise in 2014.  Population genetic studies on this material will use mitochondrial and microsatellite markers to identify the geographic location of strong genetic breaks within three copepod species, and Bayesian and coalescent analytical techniques will test if these regions act as dispersal barriers.  The physiological condition of animals collected in distinct ocean habitats will be assessed by measurements of egg production (at sea) as well as body size (condition index), dry weight, and carbon and nitrogen content.  We will test the prediction that ocean regions that serve as dispersal barriers for marine holoplankton are areas of poor-quality habitat for the target species. We hypothesize that this is a dominant mechanism driving population genetic structure in oceanic zooplankton. 


Intellectual Merit. The proposed research will provide important new understanding of the population genetics and evolution of the dominant secondary producers of the global ocean.  The samples and data obtained on the 2014 AMT cruise will enable us to test novel hypotheses regarding mechanisms that drive genetic evolution in marine zooplankton. 


Broader Impacts. One graduate student will be trained in association with this project, gaining experience in both sea-going and laboratory research. Science outreach will be conducted through a dedicated cruise blog that will target elementary school children, and draw from the live zooplankton images and science content generated during the 2014 AMT cruise.


Incoming graduate student Lauren von Woudenburg will be supported on this award.

Zooplankton ecology & genetics

Goetze lab