A pilot study of the extralimital West Indian Manatee population in Mobile Bay, AL

Project Leader: Dr. Ruth Carmichael Project Details Increased awareness of the importance of fringe habitats such as Mobile Bay has prompted demand for studies to guide development of management programs outside areas covered under the Florida Manatee Recovery Program (to date, the only approved guidance document to protect manatees as a federally listed Endangered Species in the continental U.S.; USFWS 2001). In accordance with this need, the objective of this project is to determine when and how extralimital manatees use habitat in Mobile Bay by.

Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network

Project Leader: Dr. Ruth Carmichael, Stranding Coordinator Mackenzie Russell, Assistant Stranding Coordinator Cristina Clark, Staff Veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Bloodgood, MS, DVM, PhD Project Details Overview The Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network (ALMMSN) is a cooperative regional stranding network partner, which works with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service to respond to dolphin and whale strandings in Alabama. ALMMSN also works closely with the US Fish & Wildlife Service to respond to manatee strandings in Alabama and Mississippi as well as provide aid to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in the Florida panhandle when needed.

Bivalve enhanced N removal from coastal waters

Project Leader:Dr. Ruth H. Carmichael Project Details This research quantifies N removal from estuaries through assimilation into tissues and through stimulation of biogeochemical processes by eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica). Work will define the effects of ontogeny and genetics (triploid vs. diploid stocks) on bioremediation capacity of oysters. Results are of high interest to inform aquaculture activities proposed to remediate the effects of eutrophication in coastal waters worldwide. Data from these experiments will help quantify this important ecosystem service for cultured and natural oyster stocks.

Development and integration of metadata and research data retention at DISL

Project Leader: Dr. Ruth Carmichael Project Details Through this project DISL served as a model institution to demonstrate how data management can be integrated into normal regular research protocols. This project is a collaboration with the DISL Data Management Committee , Data Management Center, and NOAA’s National Coastal Data Development Center (NCDDC). The project funds a Data Management Specialist to assist faculty, staff, and students at DISL with learning about, creating, and publishing metadata.

Effects of hypoxia on oyster growth and survival in Mobile Bay, AL

Project Leader: Dr. Ruth H. Carmichael Project Details This project seeks to guide and improve local oyster restoration and aquaculture projects by defining the effects of hypoxic stress on oyster physiology and, in turn, on oyster growth and survival. This work is novel in using N stable isotope ratios to detect physiological stress. This is an area of high promise for future studies. During the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill work was expanded to include assessment of oyster responses to oil exposure, including stress due to direct exposure to polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and changes in food supply and habitat quality.

Marine Mammal Research Program

Project Leader: Dr. Ruth Carmichael Project Details The Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Marine Mammal Research Program conducts primary research and monitoring of marine mammals (cetaceans and manatees) that reside in or visit the north-central Gulf of Mexico and surrounding waters through which they travel. Our research program focuses on marine mammal health and ecology, with a goal to understand the habitat and resource use, food web interactions, movement patterns and migration, and threats and causes of stranding or death.

Population Ecology of West Indian manatees in Alabama waters

Project Leader: Dr. Ruth Carmichael Project Details This suite of projects includes operation of the DISL’s Manatees Sighting Network, photo-identification, aerial and ground surveys, tagging and tracking manatee movements, habitat and food resource characterization (application of stable isotope techniques), analysis of population data and comparison to habitat and food supply data. We are particularly interested in the function of manatees in the northern Gulf of Mexico (nGoM), outside of Florida as sentinel species to detect and predict ecosystem level responses to environmental change, including how climate change may affect habitat and food resources while simultaneously promoting habitat or range re-expansion.

The effects of nutrient enrichment on oyster ecology in Mobile Bay

Project Leader: Dr. Ruth Carmichael Project Details Native shellfish and land available for harvesting or aquaculture are declining due to habitat degradation and shellfish area closures. Wastewater is the anthropogenic (human-derived) N source that has had the greatest documented effect on shellfish growth and survival by affecting food supply and habitat. For this project, we: Defined effects of N loads on food supply and habitat for oysters, Measured effects on oyster growth and survival, Linked shellfish responses to N sources such as wastewater, Identified nutritionally important components of oyster diet, and Determines the space and time scales of effects Project is funded by the Alabama Oyster Reef & Fisheries Habitat Enhancement Program of the University of South Alabama.

The trophic importance of land-derived organic matter

Project Leader: Dr. Ruth Carmichael Project Details This work employs natural abundance stable isotope ratios to define trophic linkages along a salinity and corresponding organic matter gradient in Mobile Bay. This study collected the first spatially and temporally explicit data on organic matter sources available as food to forage fish and invertebrates in Mobile Bay to define the contribution of land-derived OM to open-water fisheries via recycling through the Mobile Bay system.

Use of N stable isotope ratios in bivalve shell to trace anthropogenic N sources

Project Leader: Dr. Ruth Carmichael Project Details This work involves isolation and analysis of stable isotope ratios in organic material from whole shells or annual bands of bivalve shells. These data are applied to trace historical changes in land-derived N loads to estuaries and into estuarine ecosystems. The data are useful to discern the relative importance of anthropogenic change compared to natural environmental variation through time in coastal systems. This is a highly competitive area of research, and the ability to historically reconstruct N inputs to coastal waters is a valuable management tool.

Use of telemetry and GPS to monitor West Indian manatee movements in Alabama waters

Project Leader: Dr. Ruth Carmichael Project Details Radio-telemetry and global positioning system (GPS) technology are valuable to track and monitor manatee movements. The technology is attached as a tag that links the manatee to a remote monitor, but allows natural movement. Despite the need for spatial data to complement monitoring efforts, define fringe habitats and how they are used, and clarify relationships among populations, there have been no directed tagging studies of manatees in Alabama waters.