NWFSC Monster Seminar Jam: Jonathan Whitney
This seminar is part of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center's Monster Seminar Jam series.
Jonathan Whitney, PhD (NOAA Fisheries) is presenting a talk, "Exploring surface slicks as pelagic nurseries and ecological hotspots for diverse assemblage of larval fishes in Hawaii."
The fate of fish larvae during the pelagic phase has profound effects on replenishment of marine populations that are critical for human and ecosystem health. The survival and transport of larvae are expected to be tightly coupled to oceanic features. But, for the majority of fish species we have a poor understanding of where larvae go and what habitats they use. Therefore, we surveyed neustonic zooplankton and ichthyoplankton communities inside and outside of surface slicks along the west coast of the Island of Hawai‘i. Here, we provide evidence that surface slicks, a ubiquitous ocean convergence feature, provide nursery habitat for more than 100 species of commercially and ecologically important fishes. Our work shows that slicks are oases for food and shelter in an otherwise fluid desert, and that many larvae depend strongly on these nursery habitats for growth and survival. By providing these survival advantages, surface slicks enhance larval supply and replenishment of adult populations from coral reef, epipelagic, and deep-water ecosystems. Our findings suggest that slicks play a previously underappreciated, yet critically important role in enhancing ecosystem and fisheries productivity in tropical marine systems.
Dr. Jonathan Whitney is a Research Ecologist and Geneticist in the Ecosystem Sciences Division of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) in Honolulu, Hawaii. His research at NOAA is broadly focused on larval fish ecology, fisheries oceanography, population genetics/genomics, and ecology of both pelagic and coral reef systems. He received his B.A. in Zoology from Prescott College in Arizona, where he spent as much time as possible in the Gulf of California. He then earned his PhD in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where his dissertation combined population genetics/genomics, community ecology, and behavioral experiments to characterize a case of incipient speciation in a coral reef fish. Dr. Whitney is the former Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Joint Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR), the cooperative institute between NOAA and the University of Hawaii. During this joint position he investigated the biophysical interactions with larval fish and surface slicks in West Hawaii, which will be the topic of this seminar. He has worked at PIFSC since 2016, and just recently joined the federal workforce in the fall of 2020.
Whitney JL, Gove JM, McManus MA, Lecky J, Smith KA, Neubauer P, Phipps JE, Contreras EA, Kobayashi DR, Asner GP. (in press). Surface slicks are pelagic nurseries for diverse ocean fauna. Scientific Reports.
Smith KA, Whitney JL, Gove JM, Lecky J, Copeland A, Kobayashi DR, McManus MA. (in review). Physical mechanisms driving biological accumulation in surface lines on coastal Hawaiian waters. Continental Shelf Research.
Gove JM, Whitney JL, McManus MA, Lecky J, Carvalho FC, Lynch JM, Li J, Neubauer P, Smith KA, Phipps JE, Kobayashi DR, Balagso KB, Contreras EA, Manuel ME, Merrifield MA, Polovina JJ, Asner GP, Maynard JA, Williams GJ. (2019). Prey-size plastics are invading larval fish nurseries. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Nov 2019, 116 (48) 24143-24149.
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