Welcome to the Lab!
February 1, 2017
Today the lab has grown by a lot. We are excited to have postdoc Dr. Zara Cowan joining us from James Cook University in Australia, master's student Jennifer Joseph from San Diego State University and master's student Taylor Deemer from University of Delaware joining the lab. Both Zara and Jen will be working on projects based in Belize investigating the role chemical cues play in the recruitment processes and reef health, while Taylor will be working to understand the role chemical cues play in the local temperate environment. So excited to have new productive members joining the lab!
Congratulations to Dr. Rohan Brooker for receiving a grant from the Fisheries Society of the British Isles.
November 21, 2016
Funding has been awarded to Dr. Brooker, a post doc in the Dixson Lab, to continue with a very interesting research project on the link between humans, mangroves and the fish communities in Belize. This year the committee received the largest ever number of submissions. Great work, Rohan! Can't wait to hear the results and see the pictures when you return from the fieldwork.
Congratulations to Dr. Dixson for receiving funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation's Synergy Grants
October 25, 2016
Funding has been awarded to help improve the conservation strategies used on coral reef systems. Working in partnership with the Smithsonian, Monmouth University and the Nature Conservancy, Dr. Dixson will lead a 3 year long research project titled, "Chemical cues used in settlement site selection on coral reefs could lead to more effective marine management". This work will focus on understanding chemically mediated behavior, work to isolate specific chemical compounds important in reef selection and inform the local Belizean government on the information being collected.
Shark project up and running with the help of a FL business
August 5, 2016
The smooth (Mustelus canis) and spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) are common to Delaware Bay and coastal waters through the spring and fall, migrating to the area for pupping and foraging. Despite their abundance in research, there have been few studies done to better understand the two species in terms of their physiological responses or behavioral changes in relation to anthropogenic climate change. Relying on evolved sensory organs for food and predator detection as well as navigation, acidic water conditions could drastically affect these traits and reduce their ability to survive. We are starting a research project investigating the impact of ocean acidification and temperature on local shark species. Supported by Delaware mini-SeaGrant and Citimarine Store in Doral FL who donated a Garmin Striker 4dv to help with efforts in shark collection the project is up and running. Research conducting in this project will be part of Lane Johnston’s Master’s thesis and undergraduate research by University of Delaware's Taylor Deemer.
Remember the true message of Disney's Finding Dory
June 3, 2016
Disney's Finding Dory is set to hit theaters this month. The movie will bring the ocean to life for million of people, highlighting the beauty and life found on coral reefs. It is important to remember the main point of both Finding Dory and Finding Nemo- fish belong in the ocean. Seawater tanks in your home can be an amazing addition. They are a fun hobby, but do require a considerable financial investment and work. Remember if you own a saltwater aquarium to purchase captive breed fish when stocking a fish tank. This means the fish were not removed from the wild population, reducing stress on the coral reef ecosystem. Removal of individuals from a population can be harmful to the species itself, and the reef in general due to destructive collection methods used in some countries. In addition, wild caught fish (especially those featured in Finding Dory) are being shipped across the world- not an easy process.
Anemonefish/clownfish (Nemo) can easily be breed in captivity and require a small amount of space to be happy. There is no need to purchase clownfish that have been collected from the wild caught. The Regal Tang (Dory) is NOT able to be breed in captivity. Regal Tangs also require a lot of space to be happy and therefore are not suitable for home aquariums. Hear more about this in a interview with Dr Dixson on Delaware Public Media.
Bleached anemones could me bad news for Anemonefishes
A recent study published in Proc B by Dr. Anna Scott (Southern Cross University, Australia) and Dr. Danielle Dixson described the impacts climate change may have on the habitat selection of anemonefishes. Fish were tested for their ability to distinguish between healthy and bleached anemones through smell alone. All 5 species of anemonefish preferred the healthy habitat cue over the bleached anemone smell. Anemonefish are habitat specialist, they only live in anemones. Within the group of anemonefish species, some are more specialized than others. The spine-cheek anemonefish is only found in one species of anemone whereas the orange anemonefish is able to use 4 host species. When fish in this study were presented with the chemical cues of a bleached host species compared to a healthy anemone that is not a host, fish chose the bleached habitat. This results indicates that anemonefish are very 'hardwired' in their habitat preference and are not flexible in their choice. If anemonefish live on bleached anemones, they are more vulnerable to predators and could lose their anemone home if the bleaching event is long term.
This paper received attention in the popular press. Links are included below.
Clownfish Conundrum (UDaily)
Nemo can sniff out bleached homes (Cairns Post)
Saving Nemo (Geographical)
Clownfish vulnerable to increased bleaching (charity owl)
Nemo may be lost (Pittwater News)
Nemo can smell when coral is bleached (The Advocate)
Coral bleaching puts pressure on the survival of iconic anemonefish (Scimex)
Clownfish vulnerable to anemone bleaching (Delaware Public Media)
The Dixson lab is growing!
March 26, 2016
We are so excited to be expanding this summer and upcoming Fall semester! Emily Ruhl and Paul Leingang have accepted offers to begin their master's research next semester. Over the summer we have also accepted 3 University of Delaware Summer Scholars- Lucas Pensinger, Megan Cain and Melanie Brennan. Lucas and Megan will continue to work with the Dixson lab as Fall Semester in Resident students. Additionally, two REU students have also accepted offers to work in the Dixson lab. We are gearing up for a very busy and very productive summer research season!
Dr. Dixson's radio interview on the importance of outreach
January 8, 2016
It is challenging for scientists to communicate their findings, especially to the general public. Dr. Dixson has developed a new outreach program geared to describe the scientific findings her lab discovered to young children. Hear the entire interview here.
New study finds that coral and seaweed interactions affect coral associated reef fishes.
January 4, 2016
Dr. Rohan Brooker's paper appears in the Nature publication, Scientific Report, is the first to critically evaluate the impact coral-seaweed interactions will have on coral associated reef fishes, a key component of coral reef resilience. Click here to watch a video interview with Dr. Brooker and Dr. Dixson.
Dr. Dixson interviewed on educational marine children's books for outreach
December 17, 2015
In trying to make her research more accessible to individuals of all ages and backgrounds, Dr. Dixson has begun to turn her research papers into stories for young children. She was interviewed by DelmarvaNow on this outreach program. Read the article here.
Dr. Dixson briefs White House legislators on ocean acidification
December 2, 2015
Dr. Danielle Dixson had the opportunity to speak with legislators from the House and Senate on her research about ocean acidification while climate talks continue in Paris at COP21. Invited by U.S. Rep. Mark Takai and U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Dr. Dixson spoke alongside Rusty Brainard, head of NOAA Hawaii.
Learn more here.
University of Delaware highlights their female research faculty
October 12, 2015
Dr. Danielle Dixson and her work was highlighted in UD's Research Online Magazine among several other women conducting research at the University of Delaware.
Check out the article here: http://research.udel.edu/2015/10/12/ud-women-of-research/
And for Danielle's individual interview, listen and read here: http://research.udel.edu/2015/10/12/danielle-dixson/
Molly Reichert places 2nd in UD's Pitch:90 competition!
November 12, 2015
Molly won second place during UD's elevator competition to explain her research project in 90 seconds or less. She spoke about the importance of understanding coral larvae sensory systems in the face of changing ocean conditions. Congrats Molly!
Dr. Dixson interviews with WVUD Campus Radio
October 1, 2015
Check out Dr. Dixson's talk on the impacts that climate change and ocean acidification are having on fish and coral larvae!
Dixson Lab moves to University of Delaware!
June 1, 2015
The Dixson Lab is excited to announce that we have made the move north to the University of Delaware. Danielle Dixson has started an Assistant Professor position in the School of Marine Science and Policy. Danielle, Rohan (post doc) and Molly (PhD student) are very excited to join the Blue Hen community!
Dixson to feature in NOVA's Lethal Seas documentary on PBS
April 20, 2015
A unique coral garden in Papua New Guinea shows what the future may hold as oceans acidify. This feature will air on May 13, 2015 at 9:00 pm on PBS. For more details, visit this link.
High School Student Designs Website to Educate Public on Great Barrier Reef and Climate Change
Alison Whitehead, a student at Marriots Ridge High School in Marriottsville, MD, is trying to educate the public on the impact climate change will have on the Great Barrier Reef. As part of a class project, she has completed a research paper and a website to be presented at an environmental conference. Over the past few months, Dr. Dixson has served as a resource and expert on the topic. To see Ali's website click here.
Post-doc Position Available in Marine Microbiome Research
March 31, 2015
Dr. Frank Stewart & Dr. Danielle Dixson are looking for a postdoctoral fellow to study the microbiome of coral reef fishes. The postdoc will work jointly with both professors to understand the diversity and evolution of the reef fish microbiome and its role in fish health and ecology. Ideal candidates should have a Ph.D. emphasizing microbiome and/or symbiosis research. Additionally, knowledge or background in marine biology and microbial evolution is desirable. The position is targeted to begin in late summer/fall 2015 with funding available for two years pending satisfactory first year progress. Find more information on the position and application here.
Dr. Dixson Featured in Georgia Tech Research Horizons
March 26, 2015
Dr. Dixson's research was recently part of a feature focusing on Georgia Tech's Faculty Explorers. In the article, Dr. Dixson discusses some of the adventures that have arisen while working in remote places - such as getting stung in the leg by lionfish. The article also features photos from her time at the Carrie Bow Cay Field Station in Belize where she was study coral larval recruitment. Click here to view the article and photos of life on a tropical field station.
Congratulations to Dr. Dixson on becoming a Sloan Research Fellow!
March 05, 2015
The Sloan Research Fellowships seek to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise in the U.S. and Canada. These two-year fellowships are awarded yearly to 126 researchers in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field. Since 1955, Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to win 43 Nobel Prizes, 16 Fields Medals, 65 National Medals of Science, 14 John Bates Clark Medals, and numerous other distinguished awards. Visit this link for more information about the fellowship, and click here to see the 2015 winners listed in the New York Times.
The Dixson Lab welcomes William Feeney through the 2015 Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholarship
February 05, 2015
William Feeney is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland. He completed his PhD at the Australian National University, and held an Endeavour Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Cambridge. While working with Dixson at Georgia Tech, his research will focus on mutualistic interactions between coral reef fishes. In particular, he will investigate whether interspecies mutualisms predict resilience to a changing environment. For more information, visit this link.
Fish use chemical camouflage from diet to hide from predators
December 10, 2014
A species of small fish uses coral-scented camouflage to hide from predators, a new study has shown, providing the first evidence of chemical camouflage from diet in fish. “This is the very first evidence of this kind of chemical crypsis from diet in a vertebrate,” said Rohan Brooker, a post-doctoral fellow in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. To read more, visit this link.
Dixson is a partner in the Nifty Fifty program for the 4th USA Science & Engineering Festival
September 22, 2014
The Nifty Fifty (times 4) are over 200 of the most dynamic scientists and engineers in the United States. They were selected for their unique ability to inspire the next generation of students to pursue careers in the STEM fields. They were chosen from among thousands of candidates nominated by over 500 leading professional science and engineering societies, universities, research institutions, government agencies, STEM education outreach organizations and leading high tech and life science companies. Visit this link for more details.
Reduced odor tracking in sharks as ocean acidification increases
September 10, 2014
These findings show that shark feeding could be affected by changes in seawater chemistry projected for the end of this century. Understanding the effects of ocean acidification on critical behaviors, such as prey tracking in large predators, can help determine the potential impacts of future ocean acidification on ecosystem function.
Marine protected areas might not be enough to help overfished reefs recover
August 21, 2014
Young corals and fish turned off by smell of damaged habitats
Damaged coral reefs emit chemical cues that repulse young coral and fish, discouraging them from settling in the degraded habitat, according to new research. The study shows for the first time that coral larvae can smell the difference between healthy and damaged reefs when they decide where to settle.
“If you’re setting up a marine protected area to seed recruitment into a degraded habitat, that recruitment may not happen if young fish and coral are not recognizing the degraded area as habitat,” said Danielle Dixson, an assistant professor in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, and the study's first author.