Marine Ecology

Remembering Susan Williams

Susan Williams

At the Bodega Marine Laboratory and CMSI, we couldn’t be more honored and humbled to have Dr. Susan Williams a part of our community for so long. On the 26th of October, over 180 people from around the world gathered to celebrate the life of Dr. Williams.  

“I wanted to be an oceanographer since second grade, without understanding what that meant other than being fascinated by "things" that washed up on the beach during seaside family vacations.” - Dr. Susan Williams in her CMSI Spotlight.

“Scientific discoveries help people understand our world and galaxies beyond, predict the future, fuel economic growth and reconnect all of us back to our childlike wonder.” - Dr. Williams for The Conservation on science advocacy.

CAMEOS Fellows J Bean and R Fontana

As program director of CAMEOS, Coastal, Atmospheric, and Marine Environmental Observation Studies, from 2010 to 2016, Williams helped build on national ocean and science literacy initiatives and broadens participation of underrepresented graduate and K-12 students in inquiry-based STEM education.

 

 

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Dr. Susan Williams helped protect countless coral in Indonesia. Learn about the development of a new “spider” conservation technique. 

Another study revealed that a quarter of fish sold in markets contain man-made debris.

 

marine debris workshop

Above, Katie Dubois and Dr. Susan Williams in Indonesia from Dubois’s blog post, Encountering the Marine Debris Crisis in Indonesia.

Dr. Williams’ team also illustrated that restoration efforts could be improved by using diverse array of seagrass transplants rather than a single founder species.

Williams shared her research in the short documentary, The Time is Now, the Future is Here.

CERF presidents

 

 

Dr. Williams served as President-Elect, President, and Past-President of the Coastal & Estuarine Research Federation.

 

 

Susan Williams"She is a great listener and peacemaker. She has integrity and compassion. But she's very forthright and candid. She's a leader. People respect her." - Rick Grosberg when Williams became BML director in 2000.

“Dr. Williams was recognized as one of the most renowned marine ecologists in the US and globally, and she was a cherished mentor who encouraged women to pursue careers in marine science.” - The Press Democrat on Williams life.

market sampling
Sampling fishes in market, Makassar, Indonesia.

“Her legacy is absolutely one of an incredibly hard-working, rigorous scientist who worked at the interface of some of the most interesting science, but also science that mattered to people and impacted people. She cared very deeply about making sure that people had access to that science, that any person — senators, members of the media, students — had access to it.” - Tessa Hill via The Aggie

“Her scientific excellence, outstanding teaching and caring mentoring will be missed.” - Mark Winey for The Scientist.

A fund has been established in honor of Dr. Susan Lynn Williams. Find more here.

Learn more about her life here.

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Volunteer/Research Credit Opportunity Observing Krill Abundance and its Role in Fisheries Dynamics

The Morgan Lab is seeking volunteers and students needing undergraduate research credit to assist in a project to examine variation in krill abundance and its role in fisheries dynamics in the California Current System.

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Blog Post: Where has all the bull kelp gone?

by Jordan Hollarsmith

Under the unseasonably warm June sun with the Seattle Space Needle as our reference point, Dr. Jamey Selleck and I don our thick wetsuits. The air may be warm, but the water is still frigid. Our small boat bobs in the water as our captain, Brian Allen, scans our surroundings.

“Nothing.” He remarks with resignation.

We sigh, finish connecting our hoses and checking our gauges, then plunge into the icy water.

urchin barren
A small urchin barren dominated by green urchins (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) which have grazed all of the kelp.

While others may visit the Puget Sound looking for orcas, I was here looking for bull kelp (Nereocystis leautkeana). Bull kelp is a large seaweed that attaches at the sea floor and floats on the surface, creating something akin to a forest underwater. And just like their terrestrial counterparts, kelp forests provide critical habitat for many species of marine animals. For millennia, the bull kelp forests of the Puget Sound provided bountiful food for people who lived in and traveled through these inland waters. But slowly and subtly, bull kelp beds started shrinking and disappearing. Now, the once-common sight of bull kelp bobbing on the waters’ surface is a rarity. The million-dollar question is, why?

I’m out on the boat with Jamey and Brian trying to answer that very question. Jamey is a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency charged with managing our nation’s marine resources. Our boat captain, Brian, works with the Puget Sound Restoration Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving marine ecosystems in the Puget Sound. Also involved are experts in remote sensing, Kate Tiedeman and Aniruddha Ghosh from the University of California-Davis, resource managers with the Washington Department of Natural Resources, and the many tribal nations whose ancestral lands abut the sound. The potential consequences of kelp loss at such a huge scale make this is an all-hands-on-deck situation.

puget sound
Brian Allen (Puget Sound Restoration Fund) adjusting the anchor with a backdrop of the Seattle skyline.

As Jamey and I settle onto the bottom with 25 feet of green-tinged water above us, I begin to understand why the cause of kelp disappearance remains so elusive. We visit three sites, all of which used to have bull kelp, none of which do now. The first site is covered in green urchins (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis), kelp-eating invertebrates infamous for their ability to turn kelp forests into barrens of rock. Maybe it’s all a giant urchin barren! The lightbulb alights in my head as I picture the millions of acres of urchin barren currently stretching across the Northern California coast. But the next site is covered in an invasive seaweed (Sargassum muticum) that dominates the canopy without an urchin in sight. Could bull kelp be outcompeted by the invasive? The lightbulb starts to flicker. The final site is a rich diversity of native algae with no urchins or invasive species, but none of these native algae grow to the surface and create the important underwater forest habitat. The light bulb flickers and dies. What is going on here?

Back on the boat, my eyes drift to the land surrounding the Puget Sound. It is scarred by clear-cut patches marking recent and decades-old logging sites. For over a century, people have denuded the steep hillsides in this rain-soaked region, leaving watersheds prone to landslides and rivers choked with mud. That mud combines with other land-based nutrients and pollutants and eventually travels to the sea where can reduce the light that bull kelp needs for energy and deposits those nutrients and pollutants, upsetting the careful natural balance which determines which species thrive and which suffer. Some of my colleagues and I think that this mud from clear-cut logging, combined with ever-warming temperatures from global warming, may be a major reason the kelp is disappearing. However, like anything in ecology, the full answer will be anything but straightforward. 

sargassum
A forest of the invasive seaweed, Sargassum muticum.

 

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