Publications, Environmental Science and Policy

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    Public priorities on locally-driven sea level rise planning on the East Coast of the United States
    (PeerJ Environmental Science, 2020-05-04) Carpenter, Adam Thomas
    Sea level rise poses a substantial concern to communities worldwide. Increased inundation, storm surge, saltwater intrusion, and other impacts create challenges which will require considerable planning to address. Recognizing the broad and differing scope of sea level rise issues and the variability of policy options to address them, local planning frameworks are necessary in addition to tools and resources available from state and federal governments. To help assess priorities and preferences on sea level rise planning, a survey of 503 persons affiliated with coastal communities on the East Coast of the United States was conducted in December 2017. This survey studied key aspects locally-driven sea level rise plans, including planning priorities, funding options, methods to resolve conflict, and potential responses. Six key findings address these and other concerns to provide the foundation of a locally driven framework for public officials.
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    Development of Novel, Exon-Primed Intron-Crossing (EPIC) Markers from EST Databases and Evaluation of their Phylogenetic Utility in Commiphora (Burseraceae)
    (Botanical Society of America, 2014-03-31) Gostel, Morgan R.; Weeks, Andrea
    Premise of the study: Novel nuclear exon-primed intron-crossing (EPIC) markers were developed to increase phylogenetic resolution among recently diverged lineages in the frankincense and myrrh family, Burseraceae, using Citrus, Arabidopsis, and Oryza genome resources. Methods and Results: Primer pairs for 48 nuclear introns were developed using the genome resource IntrEST and were screened using species of Commiphora and other Burseraceae taxa. Four putative intron regions (RPT6A, BXL2, mtATP Synthase D, and Rab6) sequenced successfully for multiple taxa and recovered phylogenies consistent with those of existing studies. In some cases, these regions yielded informative sequence variation on par with that of the nuclear ribosomal DNA internal transcribed spacer. Conclusions: The combination of freely available genome resources and our design criteria have uncovered four single-copy nuclear intron regions that are useful for phylogenetic reconstruction of Burseraceae taxa. Because our EPIC primers also amplify Arabidopsis, we recommend their trial in other rosid and eudicot lineages.
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    Prevalence of External Injuries in Small Cetaceans in Aruban Waters, Southern Caribbean
    (Public Library of Science, 2014-02-19) Luksenburg, Jolanda A.
    Aruba, located close to the coasts of Colombia and Venezuela, is one of the most densely populated islands in the Caribbean and supports a wide range of marine-related socio-economic activities. However, little is known about the impacts of human activities on the marine environment. Injuries in marine mammals can be used to examine interactions with human activities and identify potential threats to the survival of populations. The prevalence of external injuries and tooth rake marks were examined in Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) (n = 179), bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) (n = 76) and false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) (n = 71) in Aruban waters using photo identification techniques. Eleven injury categories were defined and linked to either human-related activities or natural causes. All injury categories were observed. In total, 18.7% of all individuals had at least one injury. Almost half (41.7%) of the injuries could be attributed to human interactions, of which fishing gear was the most common cause (53.3%) followed by propeller hits (13.3%). Major disfigurements were observed in all three species and could be attributed to interactions with fishing gear. The results of this study indicate that fishing gear and propeller hits may pose threats to small and medium-sized cetaceans in Aruban waters. Thus, long-term monitoring of population trends is warranted. Shark-inflicted bite wounds were observed in Atlantic spotted dolphin and bottlenose dolphin. Bite wounds of cookie cutter sharks (Isistius sp.) were recorded in all three species, and include the first documented record of a cookie cutter shark bite in Atlantic spotted dolphin. This is one of the few studies which investigates the prevalence of injuries in cetaceans in the Caribbean. Further study is necessary to determine to which extent the injuries observed in Aruba affect the health and survival of local populations.
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    Abundance and Size of Gulf Shrimp in Louisiana's Coastal Estuaries following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
    (Public Library of Science, 2014-10-01) van der Ham, Joris L.; de Mutsert, Kim
    The Deepwater Horizon oil spill impacted Louisiana's coastal estuaries physically, chemically, and biologically. To better understand the ecological consequences of this oil spill on Louisiana estuaries, we compared the abundance and size of two Gulf shrimp species (Farfantepeneus aztecus and Litopeneus setiferus) in heavily affected and relatively unaffected estuaries, before and after the oil spill. Two datasets were used to conduct this study: data on shrimp abundance and size before the spill were available from Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). Data on shrimp abundance and size from after the spill were independently collected by the authors and by LDWF. Using a Before-After-Control-Impact with Paired sampling (BACIP) design with monthly samples of two selected basins, we found brown shrimp to become more abundant and the mean size of white shrimp to become smaller. Using a BACIP with data on successive shrimp year-classes of multiple basins, we found both species to become more abundant in basins that were affected by the spill, while mean shrimp size either not change after the spill, or increased in both affected and unaffected basins. We conclude that following the oil spill abundances of both species increased within affected estuaries, whereas mean size may have been unaffected. We propose two factors that may have caused these results: 1) exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) may have reduced the growth rate of shrimp, resulting in a delayed movement of shrimp to offshore habitats, and an increase of within-estuary shrimp abundance, and 2) fishing closures established immediately after the spill, may have resulted in decreased fishing effort and an increase in shrimp abundance. This study accentuates the complexities in determining ecological effects of oil spills, and the need of studies on the organismal level to reveal cause-and-effect relationships of such events.