Hi, Jess Glanz! Welcome to ReefBites.
Jess is currently a masters student in Dr. Robert Carpenter’s lab at California State University: Northridge. Her work focuses on understanding the association between crustose coralline algae and small epifaunal invertebrates, specifically in Mo’orea, French Polynesia.
Give an elevator pitch of what your research/project is about.
Symbiotic associations are pervasive in nature and can be critical to the persistence of organisms. Studies have shown how some of these associations can ameliorate stressor effects while others may destabilize under them. Crustose coralline algae (CCA), and especially structurally complex species of CCA, serve as important habitat to diverse and abundant assemblages. My research explores the association between a tropical branch-forming CCA species and mobile, epifaunal invertebrates and whether this association affects algal host functioning under current and future climate scenarios.
Why is this research/project important and timely?
Global climate change and the concomitant decrease in seawater pH are predicted to have negative effects on both calcifying algae and invertebrates, but whole assemblage responses are largely unknown. This highlights the need to understand the effect of epifaunal invertebrate presence on calcifying algae and how this effect interacts with an acidifying ocean.
What is the broader impact and implication of your findings?
CCA provides important structures on reefs that can support local biodiversity. Yet, the role of CCA as a biogenic habitat is threatened by local and global stressors. If epifaunal invertebrates influence algal host physiology or growth, my findings may reveal implications of their presence that have been relatively unexplored as well as identify mechanisms contributing to the persistence of this important habitat on current and future reefs.
How did you come to work in this field/project?
My passion for the marine environment started in San Diego, CA. I spent my adolescence in Imperial Beach where sewage from the Tijuana River flows into the local surf breaks and occasionally results in beach closures. Seeing how human activities could negatively affect the ocean, a seemingly vast landscape, motivated me to work towards understanding the causes and consequences of change in these ecosystems. This led me to pursue my undergraduate degree in Marine Biology at UC Santa Cruz. Here, I assisted with research that showed how mesograzers (i.e. sea hares and isopods) help ameliorate eutrophication in seagrass beds in California estuaries. Over the next few years, I worked as a technician at UC Davis, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute where my understanding and interest in the coupling between physical and biological processes that determine the state of ecosystems deepened.
My master’s project is an ideal extension of this, only concentrated on a CCA-invertebrate assemblage found on coral reefs. The current nature of this association could be influenced by the flow environment it occupies which I have investigated with surveys in both high and low flow areas on the reef and experiments in a unidirectional flume. The next time I’m in Moorea, French Polynesia, I will test the stressor effects imposed by ocean acidification with a mesocosm experiment.
What is your top graduate school life hack or survival resource?
My top survival resource has been grad students and postdocs, in my own and other labs, departments, and institutions. Being open to their advice and not being afraid to utilize them as a resource has helped me navigate funding, imposter syndrome, scientific presentations, life-work balance and so much more. Those who have been through grad school or at least more years of it have so much to offer so the wheel doesn’t get reinvented over and over.
Any additional information or comments you would like to share?
This may be re-emphasizing my previous answer but grad students and maybe people in general too often think they should know the answer or know what to do. But it’s ok if you don’t and there are people who are excited to be a resource and talk to you. I almost didn’t get my first tech job because they were afraid I wouldn’t ask questions. Forget about the stigma, asking questions and approaching people for help or support is how we learn and improve ourselves!