Thomas Dimino, 2015 Summer Research Update
Although I have no major updates from this summer’s research yet, I was able to do a significant amount of field work. Sampling this summer involved taking fish and habitat measurements from 4 different locations, with 3 to 4 stations at each. My focus has not changed greatly since the spring semester when we spoke about this last, as I am still primarily interested in investigating the evolutionary response to stream restoration. Since we expect that impoundments on streams reduce genetic diversity of stream organisms, my question is mostly focused on what happens when those impoundments are removed or remediated. Traditionally, questions surrounding restorations projects have been difficult to test experimentally, due to poor monitoring or lack of pre-restoration data. However, thanks to the Tidmarsh Living Observatory (http://tidmarshfarms.com/), we have been given access to the restoration of a cranberry farm before the restoration and will continue to have access after the project is complete. This allows us to develop an experimental design that will hopefully provide a great deal of insight into not only this project but other restorations.
It has been noted by some stream ecologists that there is a lack of multi-species studies that address the question of biodiversity with respect to restoration. This is the approach that I am taking to investigate the evolutionary response of the fish and macroinvertebrate communities. Advances in genomic techniques that can be applied to ecological and evolutionary questions are currently allowing for unprecedented resolution to study both model and non-model organisms. What this means for my project, is that I will be able to look at species that have been traditionally understudied in an attempt to measure the change in genetic diversity during and after the restoration. This summer was critical in collecting pre-restoration data from Tidmarsh as well as data from 2 control sites (positive control-active farm, negative control- conservation land). On top of the biological data I collected, I am also attempting to quantify the habitat changes at Tidmarsh and see if there is a correlation between habitat diversity and genetic diversity, and whether or not this relationship changes with time (as the restoration progresses). This required me to take several measurements through each macrohabitat at each sample station, which I will analyze and hope to have preliminary results this winter comparing the 3 treatments.
Other than field work, I was able to get much work done once the distractions of the semester were past. Getting a data management plan for my dissertation, keeping current on the rapidly changing field of molecular ecology, and putting together a proposal for a fellowship application were top priorities this summer that were accomplished. Development of skills ranging from molecular biology to bioinformatics are needed for this project, and are being actively worked on. The next steps include working out a genomic sequencing plan and computational strategy for my sequence data. In terms of disseminating my results, this project will be the main focus of my dissertation, so it will be presented through those channels. I am expecting to publish these results in peer reviewed journals as I work though this research. I would also like to begin sharing my research at local and national conferences in my field.