Evolution and Adaptation

The Effects of Stress on Fish: Environmental Physiology

If you’ve ever had the chance to explore a rocky intertidal ecosystem, you may have noticed quickly that all of the “cool,” colorful critters tend to reside in the deeper pool areas that are underwater, even when the surrounding rocks are exposed to the air. When many people go “tidepooling,” they are usually interested in exploring these pools because there typically resides a greater diversity of species. But have you ever wondered why it is that more species live in those pools than on the bare rocks? Or why some species can survive on the bare rocks while others seemingly cannot?

Inside the Kueltz Lab at UC Davis

Dr. Kueltz’s background

Dr. Dietmar Kueltz describes himself as  “...a comparative biologist and most interested in mechanisms of stress-induced evolution. My lab studies how fish and marine invertebrates counteract environmental stress.” Originally from Berlin, Germany, he grew up interested in aquatic life. “I was diving and swimming a lot,” he said, “and I am interested in watersports and just about everything aquatic.” Dr. Kueltz attributes this early love of aquatics to his interest in studying stress and evolution in aquatic organisms.

Species Resilience and Science Advocacy:

In the lab

Genetics, climate change, and conservation become highly intertwined in Dr. Andrew Whitehead’s lab. Although he works on a variety of research endeavors, he mainly focuses on how wild species respond to human-induced stress, such as the effects of climate change, and how that may affect an individual organism’s progeny. Essentially, Dr. Whitehead attempts to monitor how climate change and pollution will shape the genetic makeup of multiple generations.

Decisions, Decisions

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Tradeoffs: it’s an intuitive concept that we grasp and grapple with in our everyday lives. Any decision we make has some benefits but usually incurs some costs also. Do I buy this box of Oreos or use that cash to purchase some broccoli? (The answer is always Oreos). Do I go barhopping with friends or spend my time studying? The balance of costs and benefits are parameters we factor in every time we make a decision. And for the most part, these decisions are relatively easy.

Water weeds. Love ‘em and leave ‘em be.

Growing up I was no different than the rest when it came to water “weeds”. I was terrified to feel the slime and whip-like stalks wrap around my legs as I waded into streams and lakes. The horrifying mixture of slippery rocks (diatoms), feather-like strands of filamentous algae on my legs, and squishing sediments between my toes sent strains of panic up my spine. As kids we perpetually persevere; my focus at the time to remain as close to the water surface as possible so as not to contact the dark abyss of the stream bottom (and the horrific photosynthesizers) again.

It's good to be rare, for some species. Rarity can be key to survival, not just extinction.

UC Davis professors Rick Grosberg and Geerat Vermeij have studied how some key traits enable some species to be rare and may also hold the ticket to their survival.  Their perspective paper is published in the journal Ecology Letters and can help conservationists better manage both rare and common species. 

UC Davis News wrote about the paper here