Published Research

Please see below for recent research and conservation publications by The Maritime Aquarium's staff.

Click Here for Our 2017-18 Research and Conservation Report

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First Records for Spawning of Caribbean Acropora Species in Colombian MPAs

Hudson, D.M., B.L. Christie, L.A. Gómez-Lemos, C. Valcarcel, D. Duque, J.C. Zárate Arévalo, J. Rojas, O. Reyes, M. Marrugo, M. Rosa, I.A. Caicedo Torrado, D. Tarazona, and C. Zuluaga. 2020

Estimates of Colombian Caribbean coral percent cover in the Southern Caribbean are consistent with those throughout the Caribbean Sea, which has declined to about 10% of historical levels in the last few decades. Human activities like destructive fishing techniques in the marine parks have degraded the reefs over the last few decades. Colombia’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have thousands of square kilometers to map and patrol and few resources to devote to scientific and restoration efforts. Efforts to implement sexual reproduction techniques for restoration are starting to successfully propagate and settle corals on ceramic plates for reef deployment in the area but require more natural history information for large-scale implementation in restoration. Past observations of captive endangered coral Acropora cervicornis in the nursery of the Oceanario Islas del Rosario indicate spawning 6 days after the August full moon for the previous 3 years. Coral spawn collection from the wild reef was completed each night from 2 to 7 days after the full moon in August 2019, and resulted in the first observation of A. cervicornis spawning on natural reefs in Parque Nacional Natural Los Corales del Rosario y de San Bernardo, a 1,200 km2 underwater national park and MPA established in 1977. Additionally, coral spawn collection from the nursery reefs in August 2019 provide the first reported observations of spawning for endangered coral Acropora palmata in Colombia.

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Your Coast Through New Eyes: Climate Interpretation and Real-Life Resilience

Avalon Bunge, M.S., Legacy Magazine, July/August 2020

The Maritime Aquarium's education program, "Sound Resilience - Get on Board!," was among the first wave of programs tackling climate change through resilence education. Resilience can be simply defined as the ability to bounce back from life’s challenges; NOAA’s definition is the ability to “anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from” negative events. Interpreting climate change through the lens of resilience is ideal for engaging learners at the middle- and high-school level, who are beginning to find their place in a changing world. Climate resilience education is sciencebased, but also rooted in personal observation. It transcends traditional subject areas, blending physical and social science, economics, and even psychology. Resilience is solutionsfocused, but emphasizes that there are no “perfect” solutions! Quality resilience interpretation helps learners grow comfortable with the uncertainty of climate change’s effects while developing flexible perspectives around human actions to combat this great challenge. 

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Two Non-Native Crab Species Found in Long Island Sound and Cape Cod Bay

Hudson DM, Schaefer-Padgett S, Christie BL, Harris R (2019) First record of introduction of Metacarcinus magister Dana, 1852 (Crustacea: Decapoda: Cancridae) and range extension of Eriocheir sinensis Milne-Edwards, 1853 (Crustacea: Decapoda: Varunidae) in the Long Island Sound. BioInvasions Records 8(2): 400–409

Invasive species have been found in the Long Island Sound since Europeans colonized its shores. The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk's scientists worked with local fishermen and oystermen to document two new records for male Dungeness crabs, Metacarcinus magister. One was collected in the Western Long Island Sound (2017) and the other in Massachusetts in Cape Cod Bay (2018). An additional male male Chinese mitten crab, Eriocheir sinensis (Milne-Edwards, 1853), was found in New Haven Harbor, Connecticut. Both species could potentially harbor nonnative epibionts and endoparasites, and Chinese mitten crabs have caused millions of dollars of damage to places they have invaded worldwide.

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Asian shore crab invasion facilitated by salinity tolerance

Hudson D.M, Sexton D.J., Wint D, Capizzano C, Crivello J.F. 2018. Physiological and behavioral response of the Asian shore crab, Hemigrapsus sanguineus, to salinity: implications for estuarine distribution and invasion. PeerJ 6:e5446

The invasive Asian shore crab, Hemigrapsus sanguineus, is typically the crab you will find in the Long Island Sound if you turn over a rock at low tide. Its invasion back in the late 1980s was likely helped by the fact that this species is able to withstand a wide range of salinities, and could, therefore, outcompete the resident crabs in the intertidal zone. This study investigated the salinity effects on this animal by observing its behavioral preference, physiology, and survival across a range of salinities.

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Invasive Crustaceans Found in the Long Island Sound

Hudson DM, Schaefer-Padgett S, Christie BL, Harris R. Accepted. First-record of introduction of Metacarcinus magister Dana, 1852 (Crustacea: Decapoda: Cancridae) and range extension of Eriocheir sinensis Milne-Edwards, 1853 (Crustacea: Decapoda: Varunidae) in the Long Island Sound. BioInvasion Records.

Invasive crustacean species have been present in the Long Island Sound for over two centuries. Two new species introductions were recored from collections by local fishermen. One record is for a male Dungeness crab, Metacarcinus magister, collected in the Western Long Island Sound off Norwalk, Connecticut in July 2017. The other record is that of a range extension documented by a single male Chinese mitten crab, Eriocheir sinensis (Milne-Edwards, 1853), found in New Haven Harbor, Connecticut. Both species are not native to the area, and both could potentially harbor other nonnative species and parasites that could affect local species. Additionally, the Chinese mitten crab, E. sinensis, is likely to establish, as it has in numerous locations in the region and worldwide.

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Urban Forests as Food Security for Wildlife

Bunge A, Diemont S, Bunge J, Harris S. 2019. Urban Foraging for Food Security and Sovereignty: Quantifying Edible Forest Yield in Syracuse, New York Using Four Common Fruit- and Nut- Producing Street Tree Species. Journal of Urban Ecology 5(1): juy028.

Urban foraging as a facet of the alternative food movement is explored in Syracuse, New York, using four common urban tree species: serviceberry, mulberry, apple and black walnut. Fruit from trees of each species was harvested and weighed weekly during the 2016 growing season. During sampling, foraging was also informally discussed with homeowners and passersby; strong interest in the practice was found across demographics. We conclude this study with recommendations for improving yields and designing a forage-rich urban forest.

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Food Safety for Wildlife: Lung Flukes in Crabs in Northern South America

Phillips G, Hudson DM, Chaparro-Gutiérrez JJ. 2018. Presence of Paragonimus species within secondary crustacean hosts in Bogotá, Colombia. Revista Colombiana de Ciencias Pecuarias. 

Human health is paramount in developing nations, but diseases that attack humans can hinder conservation efforts as well. The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk published about a mammalian parasite that can affect lung function in top freshwater predators like giant river otters and jaguars, but also could affect aquatic populations of snails and crustaceans.

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Vocalizations of North American River Otters (Lontra canadensis)

Walkley S. 2018. Vocalizations of North American River Otters (Lontra canadensis) in Two Human Care Populations. Master's Thesis. University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS.

Since there is a shortage of information regarding the vocal repertoire of North American river otters (Lontra canadensis), aquarium researchers studied video and audio recordings of two populations of North American river otters in human care to broaden the known vocal repertoire of river otters in various social contexts. This study is the first to examine the vocalizations produced in a male-male pair of river otters. Squeaks and whines were present during agonistic behaviors while chirps were produced during non-agonistic behaviors including investigating, standing still, and grooming. Results support that behavior likely plays a role in the type of calls produced by river otters in human care.

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