Welcome to our research website!
Please have a look around and check out all of the cool things we’re working on now.
The research in our group focuses on using geochemistry to understand Earth’s past and protect Earth’s future. We study a number of unique systems and use a combination of isotopic and elemental geochemical approaches.
|Ocean acidification & Biomineralogy||Geochemical Fingerprinting and Population Ecology||Paleoclimate Change|
As ocean pH declines the availability of carbonate ion will also decline. This is an essential building block for organisms who build shells out of calcium carbonate. In our research group we are studying how ocean acidification will impact the growth of carbonate minerals in fish (ear stones) and invertebrates (bay scallop, lobster, and oyster).
This research is a partnership with New England Aquarium (Dr. Michael Tlusty), Roger Williams University (Dr. Andrew Rhyne), and UMass Boston (Dr. Robyn Hannigan) and is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF-CRI-OA 1220480).
The research involves rearing of larvae under controlled pH conditions until settlement age. Otoliths (3 on each side of the head of the fish) are removed and imaged by scanning electron microscopy. Images are then analyzed for morphometrics (shape and size), mineral habit and mineral composition.
Students involved in this project include former PhD student Eric Wilcox-Freeburg (PhD 2014, Post-doctoral Investigator, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory) and current PhD student Robert Holmberg.
Publications and Presentations of this work:
Holmberg R, Wilcox-Freeburg E, Tlusty M, Rhyne A, Bourque B & Hannigan R. 2015. Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Otolith Development in Larval Haemulon chrysargyreum. Goldschmidt 2015. Prague, CZ. Aug 16-21.
Holmberg R, Wilcox-Freeburg E, Tlusty M, Rhyne A, Bourque B & Hannigan R. 2015. Ocean acidification and the impact on biomineralogy of fish otoliths. Ocean Acidification PI meeting. Woods Hole MA. June 9-11.
Wilcox Freeburg, E., Rhyne, A., Robinson, W.E., Tlusty, M., Bourque, B., Hannigan, R.E. 2013. A comparison of two systems for dosing carbon dioxide into marine aquaria. American Society of Limnology and Oceanography: Methods. 11: 485-494.
Wilcox Freeburg, E. 2104. Exploring the link between otolith growth and function along the biological continuum in the context of ocean acidification. PhD Dissertation. Environmental Sciences, School for the Environment, University of Massachusetts Boston.
Wilcox Freeburg, E., Rhyne, A., Hannigan, R. A Picture is Worth 1000 Words: Image Analysis Tools for Otolith Studies. Larval Fish Conference 2013, Miami, FL. Oral presentation
Wilcox Freeburg, E., Rhyne, A., Hannigan, R. Laboratory Ocean Acidification Methodology using a Hobbyist Reef Tank Controller. Larval Fish Conference 2013, Miami, FL. Poster presentation.
Toxins produced by bacteria in the genus Vibrio are notorious for making human sick either by direct consumption of water containing the chemicals (e.g., Vibrio cholerae, cholera) or eating shellfish contaminated by Vibrio. In Massachusetts Vibrio outbreaks cost shellfishers millions of dollars a year as the bacteria’s presence can shut down farms and aquaculture facilities. In addition to making people VERY sick, some species of Vibrio can kill larval shellfish and these Vibrios can shut down production of shellfish entirely because if there are no babies there can be no adults.
As part of the Sustainable Seafood Collaboratory, a group of researchers fro across the UMass campuses, we are looking at how ocean acidification will impact larval and juvenile oysters and also how Vibrios respond to declining pH. We suspect that lower pH will favor the bacteria making them more abundant and that the stress of lower pH will make the larval oysters more susceptible to the bacteria.
This project is led by Dr. Michael Shiaris.
Lobsters are susceptible to bacterial infections that mar their shells leaving lesions that return even after multiple molts. Dr. Michael Tlusty‘s work on shell disease suggests that damage to the shell structure provides the ideal “breeding” ground for these bacteria. We know that lower pH changes the structure of shells and that lower pH often favors bacteria. This research combines the exploration of mineralogy and structure of lobster shells and bacterial ecology to evaluate the interactive impacts of increased temperature, lower pH and exposure to bacteria.
Students involved in this research include PhD student Christine San Antonio.
PhD student Aaron Honig and summer CREST-REU student Mary Margaret Stoll are studying how ocean acidification impacts the growth and survival of blue mussel (Mytelis edulis). They found, as we often find, that under “business as usual” CO2 conditions, larval and juvenile mussels grow little and show low survival. However at the most extreme pH (7.3) they seem to recover.
Interested in other ocean acidification research topics?
A number of research programs in the School for the Environment center on impacts of ocean acidification on organismal systems. These include the work of Dr. William Robinson on the impacts of ocean acidification on metal biochemistry in blue mussel, Dr. Helen Poynton’s research on transcriptomics and genetics of marine invertebrates reared under low pH conditions, Dr. Juanita Urban-Rich’s work on marine jellies, food webs and ocean acidification, and the work on Dr. Michael Tlusty on impacts of multiple stressors including ocean acidification on lobster shell development and lobster physiology.
Environmental life history reconstruction of Nantucket bay scallop (Argopecten irradians, Lamarck 1819), using shell geochemical fingerprinting provides significant information regarding recruitment, and survival. Recruitment and survival of bay scallop stocks to the populations in Nantucket waters is primarily mediated by larval dispersal. Therefore recruitment and survival are highly dependent upon spatial and temporal distribution and quality of essential habitat. Despite the recognition that essential habitat directly impacts year-to-year fluctuations in bay scallop populations no study, to date, has evaluated the environmental life history of bay scallop. The research involves field collections of larval, seed, and adult scallops in Nantucket waters and reconstruction of life histories using the geochemistry of shells. Shells are analyzed by laser ablation ICP-MS and data are modeled using multivariate statistical models. Students involved in the project include PhD student Steve Nye. The work builds upon the research of Dr. Bryanna Broadaway (PhD, 2012; Research Scientist, FDA).
Publications and Presentations of this work:
Nye, Steven, Oktay, S. and Hannigan, R. 2015. Environmental life history reconstruction of the Nantucket Bay Scallop, Argopecten irradians, using LA-ICP-MS to determine shell geochemical fingerprinting. Goldschmidt 2015, Prague CZ. Aug 16-21.
Broadaway, B., Hannigan, R., 2009. Shell chemistry used to identify essential habitat for Bay Scallops in Nantucket, MA, AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts, p. 0909.
Broadaway, B.J., 2011. The role of sulfur in biomineralization| Argopecten irradians and the impact of ocean acidification, Environmental, Earth and Ocean Sciences. University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA, p. 103.
Broadaway, B.J., 2012. The relation among essential habitat, ocean acidification, and calcification on the Nantucket bay scallop (Argopecten irradians), Environmental, Earth, and Ocean Sciences. University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA, p. 283.
Broadaway, B.J., Hannigan, R.E., 2012c. Elemental Fingerprints used to Identify Essential Habitats: Nantucket Bay Scallop. Journal of Shellfish Research 31, 671-676.
This collaborative research explores the role of across-shelf mixing in the connectivity of blue mussel populations in eastern Maine. We hypothesize that northeastern populations are seeded mostly from up-shelf sources, while a significant component of self-seeding (local retention) exists in southwestern populations. Larvae settling in intervening bays are expected to be derived from a mixture of local and up-shelf sources, with some net southwestward transport of larvae produced within the region via nearshore currents, inshore of the EMCC front. We are testing these hypotheses via a combined empirical and theoretical approach. Our part of this project tests the population connectivity predicted by the hydrodynamic models using independent empirical estimates of connectivity based on elemental fingerprinting.
This research is a partnership with Downeast Institute for Applied Marine Research and Education (Dr. Phil Yund), University of Maine (Dr. Huijie Xue), and UMass Boston (Dr. Ron Etter and Dr. Robyn Hannigan) and is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF-OCE 1333797, NSF-OCE 1458154).
The research involves rearing of larvae in the Gulf of Maine, collection of juveniles and adults from habitats throughout the Gulf of Maine and elemental analysis of shells by laser ablation ICP-MS.
Publications and Presentations of this work:
Honig, A., Etter, R., and Hannigan, R. 2015. Determination of Larval Dispersal and Population Connectivity in the Blue Mussel Mytilus edulis along the Northern Gulf of Maine Using Trace Element Fingerprinting. Goldschmidt 2015. Prague CZ. Aug 16-21.
Bulseco-McKim, A., Hannigan, R., Yund, P. Etter, R. 2014. Inferring connectivity among populations of the Blue Mussel using trace element signatures: spatial resolution and larval connectivity. Ocean Sciences. Honolulu HI. Feb. 23-28.
Sorte, C.J.B., Etter, R., Spackman, R., Boyle, E.E., and Hannigan, R.E. 2013. Elemental Fingerprinting of Mussel Shells to Predict Population Sources and Redistribution Potential in the Gulf of Maine. PLoS ONE 8(11): e80868. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080868 .
Interested in other ecology research topics?
Environmental life history work is done throughout the School. Check out the work of Dr. Solange Brault who studies marine mammal population ecology, Dr. Helen Poynton’s work on coastal invasive tunicates, Dr. Gene Gallagher’s research on benthic invertebrates, and Dr. Mike Rex’s work on the biogeography of deep sea invertebrates.
Faculty and students in School have been working in Étang Saumâtre (a.k.a. Lake Azuie, Haiti) since Fall 2009. The research in our lab centers on the exploration of the geochemistry of lake sediments and the study of climate change and land-use/land-cover changes on the lake’s history. Étang Saumâtre plays an important socio-economic role for the communities living around its borders, particularly in the communities (Communes) of Thomazeau, Ganthier, and Fond Parisien. Prior to the 01-12-2010 earthquake the lake had been severely impacted by hurricanes with the lake level rising 2m in 2005. The lake level has not receded. The lake itself was once a productive lake supporting fisheries and hosting significant biological diversity.
Team members include PhD candidates Alex Eisen-Cuadra and Katie Flanders who are working with Dr. Robyn Hannigan and PhD student Helenmary Hotz who is working with Dr. Alan Christian on the land-use/land change and limnology of the lake. Faculty researchers on the project include team leader Dr. Alan Christian, Dr. Robyn Hannigan, Dr. Crystal Schaaf, Prof. Jack Wiggin, and Dr. Emmanis Dorval from NOAA.
Publications and Presentations of this work:
Eisen-Cuadra, A., Herron, J., Broadaway, B., Christian, A., Dorval, E, Hannigan, R., 2013. Metal Geochemistry of a Brackish Lake: Étang Saumâtre, Haiti, in: Medical Geochemistry: Geological Materials and Health. Springer, pp. 149–166.
Eisen-Cuadra, A, Christian, A., Dorval, E., and Hannigan, R. 2013. Historical trends in productivity and the role of global change in lake sediment geochemistry: a case study of a brackish closed lake. American Society of Limnology and Oceanography Aquatic Sciences Meeting. Feb. 17-22. New Orleans, LA.
Christian, A. D., Hotz, H., Eisen-Cuadra, A., Dorval, E., and Hannigan, R. E. 2013. Physical and chemical analysis and productivity classification of a global change influenced brackish Caribbean lake: 2 years of data on Etang Saumttre, Haiti. American Society of Limnology and Oceanography Aquatic Sciences Meeting. Feb. 17-22. New Orleans, LA.
Flanders, K. L., Eisen-Cuadra, A. M., Christian, A. D., and Hannigan, R. E., 2013. The paleolimnological reconstruction of Etang Saumatre: a fatty acid biomarker analysis of Haiti sediments. American Society of Limnology and Oceanography Aquatic Sciences Meeting. Feb. 17-22. New Orleans, LA.
Mollusk shells are reliable archives of past environments because the organisms incorporate elements into their shell in different amounts and/or ratios depending on specific conditions. These shells are well preserved in the archaeological record and we can use the chemistry of the shells as a proxy for past environmental conditions to link changes in human culture to changes in climate. Geochemical proxies for past climate conditions can be used to provide important information about a region’s past environmental history. By linking these proxies to archaeological data it will be possible to evaluate the longer-term interactions between humans and natural resources in the Gulf of Maine, a region currently faced with significant changes in shellfish population distributions due to climate warming and ocean acidification. MS student Amy Johnson is reconstructing the marine paleoenvironment of the Gulf of Maine using midden shells from Maine and Nantucket. These data, which include elemental and isotopic fingerprints from shells, will yeild detailed information about the climate at the time of human occupation in the sites and allow us to understand past conditions of temperature and pH thereby informing our understanding of how the system will respond to climate change in the future.
To learn more about Amy’s research, which was crowd funded this past year, visit her site on experiment.com
Significant geochemical, stratigraphic, and paleontological work has allowed researchers to establish a global stratigraphy for the Permian-Triassic Boundary (PTB) and to identify global environmental conditions contributing to the end-Permian biotic crisis. Despite the significant body of work on PTB, there are many sections such as units preserved in the Spiti Valley (Himachal Pradesh, Indian Himalayas), Serbia, Iran, and other locations that are poorly studied and the information that they contain has not been fully integrated into the global perspective that this emerging regarding this important event in Earth’s history.
Since the Permian-Triassic represents the greatest mass extinction in Earth’s history understanding how climate change may have led to the extinction is critical to not only understanding the past but predicting the future.
The research involves evaluating the stable isotope and major/trace element geochemistry of sections collected throughout the Neo- and Paleo-Tethys oceans. Delving deeper into the geochemistry we are specifically focusing our attention on the geochemistry of the pyrite-barite mineral system and leveraging both wet chemistry and scanning electron microscopy to better understand the evolution of anoxia in the oceans of this time period.
Publications and Presentations of this work:
Schobben, M., Stebbins, A., Ghaderi, A., Strauss, H., Korn, D., & Korte, C. (2015). Flourishing ocean drives the end-Permian marine mass extinction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(33), 10298-10303.
Stebbins A, Algeo T, Hart R, Krystyn L, Williams J, Brookfield M & Hannigan R. 2015. The Early Triassic Sulfur Isotope Curve of Seawater Sulfate from Marine Carbonates in the Neo-Tethys. Goldschmidt 2105. Prague, CZ. Aug 16-21.
Williams, Jeremy C. 2014. Black Shales of the Neo-Tethys: The geochemical records of the end-Permian crisis. PhD Dissertation. Environmental Sciences, School for the Environment, University of Massachusetts Boston.
Stebbins, A., Holmes, S.E., Fernandes, G., Williams, J.C., and Hannigan, R. 2013. Utilizing pyritic δ34S to characterize the depositional conditions of the Neo-Tethys in the Late Permian. Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. San Francisco. Dec. 9-13.
Brookfield, M.E., Algeo, T.J., Hannigan, R., Williams, J.C., and Bhat, G.M. 20130. The Great End Permian Tsunamis: Recognition, Extent and Generation. Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. San Francisco. Dec. 9-13.
Williams, J.C>, Stebbins, A., Javonovic, D., Brookfield, N., Algeo, T.J., Berman, M., and Hannigan, M. 20103. The Geochemistry of a Newly Discovered Permo-Triassic Section in Serbia: A Tale of Catastrophic Events. Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. San Francisco. Dec. 9-13.
Holmes., S. Stebbins, A., Fernandes, G., Williams, J.C., and Hannigan, R. 20103. Sulfide isotope ratios as a method for examining environmental conditions leading up to the Permian-Triassic extinction. Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. San Francisco. Dec. 9-13.
Williams, J.C., Basu, A.R., Bhagarva, O.N., Ahluwalia, A.D., and Hannigan, R.E. 2012. Resolving original signature from a sea of overprint-The geochemistry of the Gungri Shale (Upper Permian, Spiti Valley, India). Chemical Geology, 324–325(0): 59-72.
Brookfield, M.E., Algeo T.J., Hannigan, R., Williams, J.C., Bhat G.M.2013. Shaken and Stirred: Seismites and Tsuamites at the Permian-Triassic Boundary, Guryul Ravine, Kashmir, India. PALAIOSv. 28 no. 8 p. 568-582.
Williams, J.C., Hannigan, R., Basu, A.R., Ghosh, N., Brookfield, M. A Multi-approach in Assessing Post-Depositional Effects on Permian-Triassic Sections in the Himalayan Mountains. In Preparation for Chemical Geology.
Williams, J.C., Hannigan, R., Basu, A.R., Ghosh, N., Brookfield, M., Eitenne, E.D. Using Stable Light Isotopes to Identify Environmental Changes in the Neo-Tethys Ocean during the End-Permian Extinction. In Preparation for PALAIOS
Williams, J.C., Hannigan, R., Basu, A.R., Stebbins A.G., Ghosh, N., Brookfield, M., Episodic Changes in Trace Metal Geochemistry in the Neo-Tethys Ocean during the End-Permian Extinction: Formation of a Bath-Tub Ocean? In Preparation for Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, and Palaeoecology
Santistevan, F., Algeo, T. J., Hannigan, R., Williams, J.C. 2013. The role of the Siberian Traps in the Permian-Triassic mass extinction: Analysis through chemical fingerprinting of marine sediments using rare earth elements (REEs). Geological Society of America North-Central Section 47th Annual Meeting, Kalamazoo, MI, May 2. (oral)
Eitenne, E.D., Hannigan, R, Williams, J.C. 2012. Accounting for variations of delta-13-C isotopic record at the Lingti Permian-Triassic Section. Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Charlotte, NC, Nov 6. (poster)
Williams, J.C., Hannigan, R., Basu, A. R., Ghosh, N., Brookfield, M., Etienne, E.D. 2012. Using stable light isotopes to identify environmental changes in the Neo-Tethys ocean during the Permian-Triassic Extinction. Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Charlotte, NC, Nov 4. (oral)
Williams. J.C., Hannigan, R., Basu, A.R., Ghosh, N., Brookfield, M. 2012. Accounting for Post-Depositional Effects on a Neo-Tethyan Permian-Triassic Section in the Himalayan Mountains. Goldschmidt Conference, Montreal, QC, Canada, June 28. (oral)
Williams, J.C., Basu, A.R., Bhargarva, O.N., Ahluwalia, A.D., Hannigan, R. 2011. A paleo-environmental analysis of the Attargoo Permo-Triassic Section: a neo-Tethyan section. XVII International Congress on the Carboniferous and Permian, Perth, Australia, July 6 (oral)
Brookfield, M. E., Hannigan R., Algeo, T., Williams. J.C. 2011. Sedimentology and geochemistry of the Permo-Triassic boundary section at Guryul Ravine, Kashmir, India; a comparison of the with the Texas Cretaceous-Teritary boundary section. XVII International Congress on the Carboniferous and Permian, Perth, Australia, July 5 (oral)
Williams, J.C., Hannigan, R., Basu, A.R., Ghosh, N., Brookfield., M., and Stebbins, A. 2013. Episodic changes in the geochemical record of of the Late Permian : Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, Himalaya. IGCP572 World Summit on Permian-Triassic Mass Extinction & Extreme Climate Change. June 13-15. Wuhan, China.
Stebbins, A., Fernandes, G., Williams, J., and Hannigan, R. 2013. Utilizing C-S-Fe systematics to determine bottom-water oxygenation conditions of Spiti Valley Permian-Triassic sections. IGCP572 World Summit on Permian-Triassic Mass Extinction & Extreme Climate Change. June 13-15. Wuhan, China.
The past is the key to the future. No better example than the work of PhD student Steven Nye who is studying the biomineralogy of modern brachiopods and using the morphology and chemistry of these organisms to better understand the climate of the Paleozoic using the shells preserved in hard grounds across the world.