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Collaborative research: Copepod life history and lipid strategy in a changing Arctic - A new trait-based approach to data synthesis, modeling, and end-to-end integration


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Ocean & fiord systems
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Many people have argued that the diminishing summer Arctic sea ice extent will result in enhanced growth of small aquatic plants and, consequently, the small marine animals (zooplankton) that feed upon these plants. These animals are the preferred prey of larger animals that are important sources of subsistence and commercial harvest for local Arctic residents. This proposed project explores the idea that the nutritional value of the zooplankton may be altered as their numbers and total mass increase. Thus, predicting the impact of an increase in zooplankton may not be as straightforward as previously assumed. This proposal is motivated by the hypothesis that the impact of future climate change on high-latitude planktivores, such as seabirds, fish, and bowhead whales, will come as much through changes in their prey quality (individual size and lipid content) as through changes in their prey biomass' with decreases in quality often accompanying and outweighing increases in biomass. To explore this hypothesis, the PIs will develop and apply a new kind of model that links climate forcing to impacts on planktivores via the life-history patterns of large zooplankton. A set of coordinated regional and large-scale model applications will examine specific, local versions of the central hypothesis as it applies to calanoid copepods and their predators, in the process refining the model, ensuring its cross-region portability, and also integrating a number of rich US and European zooplankton datasets for the first time. The project will initiate and expand an array of collaborations among researchers in the US and Denmark. These collaborations include capacity-building and a postdoc exchange with the Centre for Ocean Life at the Technical University of Denmark, the leading center of trait-based marine research. Furthermore, using leveraged support from the IGERT Program on Ocean Change at the University of Washington, the PI will visit the Greenland Climate Research Centre (Nuuk) to work with M. Simon and other colleagues on formulating a new, student-centered collaboration on indigenous seafood security and human dimensions of climate change. This is also an opportunity to share early model results with zooplankton, fisheries, and marine mammal researchers there, and develop new applied research directions.