2011 Delta Science Fellowships Awarded

LA JOLLA – On behalf of the Delta Science Program, California Sea Grant is pleased to announce the 2011 recipients of Delta Science Fellowships, which provide paid support for research on priority issues for the San Francisco Bay-Delta.

They are:

Bryan Cole, a post-doctoral researcher at the Bodega Marine Laboratory, UC Davis, who will be studying the effects of endocrine disruptors on fish reproduction in the Bay-Delta.

Kathleen Fisch, a post-doc with the San Diego Zoo Institute for
Conservation Research, investigating ways to preserve the genetic integrity of supplemented wild fish stocks.

Kristy Forsgren, a post-doc in the Department of Environmental Sciences, UC Riverside, studying the combined toxicity of hypersalinity and pesticide contamination on aquatic life.

Julien Moderan, a post-doc at the University of La Rochelle, France, exploring carbon sources and phytoplankton food dynamics in the San Francisco Estuary

Calla Schmidt, a post-doc in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, UC Santa Cruz, examining the impacts of nutrient loading on food web dynamics.

Erin Bray, doctoral student at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, UC Santa Barbara, studying the potential to restore salmon habitats with flow releases.

Sarah Lesmeister, a doctoral student in the Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology, School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis, investigating the effects of pesticide pollution on aquatic life.

Jason Hassrick studies the migration of Chinook salmon through the Sacramento river.

To learn more about the Delta Science Fellowship program and how to apply for a fellowship, visit us on the web at http://www.csgc.ucsd.edu/EDUCATION/DELTA/DeltaIndx.html.


Bryan ColeEndocrine disruption in the Sacramento-San Joaquin watershed: laboratory and field experiments on a resident fish, Menidia audens, the Mississippi silverside

Bryan Cole, Bodega Marine Laboratory, UC Davis, bjcole@ucdavis.edu

Progress Report Year 1 [R-SF-44-Cole-2013.pdf]

Progress Report Year 2 [R-SF-44-Cole-2014.pdf]

Endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) are widely recognized as causing certain types of physiological abnormalities in fish, but could EDCs also be contributing to the pelagic organism decline in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta? The fellow plans to characterize the cellular detox defense mechanism of the resident Mississippi silverside and conduct a series of field surveys and outplanting experiments to assess the large-scale, population-wide effects of EDCs on fish in the delta. Findings will be incorporated into a model for forecasting the effects of EDCs on fish survivorship, relative to other human-induced impacts (e.g., entrainment into the state and federal water diversion systems).

Research mentor: Gary Cherr, Bodega Marine Laboratory, UC Davis

Community mentors: Rich Breuer & Dan Riordan, California Department of Water Resources


Roberto SchroeterSaving San Francisco Bay-Delta native fishes: hatchery management and reintroduction strategies

Kathleen Fisch, UC San Diego/San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, kfisch@ucsd.edu

Progress Report Year 1 [R-SF-45-Fisch-2012.pdf]

Progress Report Year 2 [R-SF-45-Fisch-2013.pdf]

Final Progress Report [R-SF-45-Fisch-Final.pdf]

Pelagic and migratory fish populations in the upstream reaches of the San Francisco Estuary are collapsing, to the extent that scientists have suggested establishing hatcheries for some of those now teetering on the brink (e.g., the longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, Sacramento perch, green sturgeon, delta smelt, Chinook salmon and steelhead trout). The release of hatchery-born fish, however, comes with the risk of altering the genetics of wild stocks. In this project, the fellow will study the genetic ramifications of various stocking approaches and identify management strategies for preserving the genetic integrity of supplemented wild populations. Findings may help both ongoing, mandated and proposed hatchery operations in the Central Valley.

Research mentors: Oliver Ryder, UC San Diego/San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research & Robin Waples, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Community mentors: Ted Sommer & Louise Conrad, California Department of Water Resources


Kristy ForsgrenThe effect of bifenthrin, under hypersaline conditions, on the long-term reproductive health and embryonic development of Oncorhynchus mykiss

Kristy Forsgren, Department of Environmental Sciences, UC Riverside, kristy.forsgren@ucr.edu

Progress Report Year 1 [R-SF-46-Forsgren-2012.pdf]

Progress Report Year 2 [R-SF-46-Forsgren-2013.pdf]

This project investigates the effects of the insecticide bifenthrin on salmon reproduction in the San Francisco Bay-Delta. The chemical is known to be highly toxic to fish and is categorized by the EPA as a “possible human carcinogen.”  Its use is banned in the European Union. The fellow will test the hypothesis that highly saline conditions exacerbate the chemical’s toxicity to fish. She will also characterize the combined effects of salt and chemical contamination on salmonid reproductive physiology. This work may lead to the identification of biomarkers of reproductive dysfunction that can be used to assess the long-term reproductive health of spawning fish exposed to the pesticide as juveniles.

Research mentor: Daniel Schlenk, Department of Environmental Sciences, UC Riverside

Community mentor: Xin Deng, California Department of Pesticide Regulation


Julien ModeranCurrent and past trophic relationships among dominant zooplankton species in the San Francisco Estuary determined using stable isotope analysis

Julien Moderan, San Francisco State University, jmoderan@hotmail.com

Progress Report Year 1 [R-SF-47-Moderan-2012.pdf]

Progress Report Year 2 [R-SF-47-Moderan-2013.pdf]

Final Progress Report [R-SF-47-Moderan-Final.pdf]

Phytoplankton production in the upper San Francisco Estuary appears to be less than the bacterial carbon demand, which implies there is an as-yet-unknown source of carbon from other parts of the ecosystem. It has also been observed that the species of copepods sustaining delta smelt are feeding at much higher trophic levels than previously thought, meaning that food is too scarce to even hope for success at rebuilding depleted stocks. This project will use stable isotope analyses to search for carbon sources besides those from phytoplankton and reexamine the phytoplankton food chain and its potential to sustain larger fish populations. The fellow will also analyze archived zooplankton samples to characterize the evolution of the trophic status of the upper San Francisco Estuary and its relationship to major environmental changes in the last few decades. Results are applicable to fisheries management and recovery prospects for the endangered delta smelt.

Research mentor: Wim Kimmerer, Romberg Tiburon Center, San Francisco State University

Community mentor: Robin Stewart, U.S. Geological Survey


Calla SchmidtIn-situ measurement of differential nutrient utilization by phytoplankton and bacteria: impacts of nutrient loading on the base of the delta food web

Calla Schmidt, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, UC Santa Cruz, cschmidt@ucsc.edu

Progress Report Year 1 [R-SF-48-Schmidt-2012.pdf]

Progress Report Year 2 [R-SF-48-Schmidt-2013.pdf]

High levels of ammonium (NH4+) may limit the growth of larger phytoplankton (diatoms) by inhibiting nitrate (NO3-) uptake. The primary objectives of this project are to use stable isotope analyses to track the degree to which phytoplankton in the San Francisco Estuary absorb ammonium vs. nitrate and the sources of these nutrients (i.e., effluent from a nearby treatment plant, dissolved organic matter or river inputs). Of particular interest is whether the phytoplankton community switches from using NO3- to NH4+, as NH4+ concentrations rise, and whether diatoms are more sensitive to changes in NH4+ concentration than smaller phytoplankton species. Findings will have implications for determining the food resources available for pelagic fishes and for regulating the sources of nutrient pollution.

Research mentor: Carol Kendall, U.S. Geological Survey

Community mentor: Peggy Lehman, California Department of Water Resources


Erin BrayThe effects of flow releases on the San Joaquin River on abiotic drivers of Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) habitat

Erin Bray, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, UC Santa Barbara, ebray@bren.ucsb.edu

Progress Report Year 1 [BrayYr1.pdf]

Progress Report Year 2 [R-SF-49-Bray-2013.pdf]

Plans are underway to release water from Friant Dam on an interim, experimental basis, as part of an effort to restore the San Joaquin River ecosystem. This project investigates the effects of these releases on the physical properties, such as water temperature, that create viable habitat for Chinook salmon. The fellow seeks to develop a model to analyze the sensitivity of channel water temperatures to heat fluxes associated with near-stream temperature gradients. Ultimately, this research seeks to determine the degree to which, and how, flow releases regulate thermal minima and maxima and restore salmon habitats for a given length of stream.

Research mentor: Thomas Dunne, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, UC Santa Barbara

Community mentor: Leon Abimael, California Department of Water Resources


Sarah LesmeisterThe toxic effects of key pesticides on the calanoid copepods, Eurytemora affinis and Pseudodiaptomus forbesi, of the San Francisco Estuary

Sarah Lesmeister, Graduate Group in Ecology, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology, School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis, Salesmeister@ucdavis.edu

Progress Report Year 1 [LesmeisterYr1.pdf]

Progress Report Year 2 [R-SF-50-Lesmeister-2013.pdf]

Final Progress Report [R-SF-50-Lesmeister-final.pdf]

This project investigates the effects of pesticide pollution on two species of copepods in the San Francisco Estuary. These two copepods, Eurytemora affinis and Pseudodiaptomus forbesi, are the focus of the research as both are important prey items for larval fishes and pelagic organisms. If pesticides are harming them, there will likely be ramifications for higher trophic levels, including fishes of management concern. In the early stages of the project, the fellow will identify key pesticides in ambient waters and determine their toxicity to both copepods and the animals that feed on them. Laboratory experiments will also be conducted to verify and quantify key findings from the fieldwork. Results will help managers develop strategies for protecting sensitive aquatic organisms from nonpoint source pollution.

Research mentor: Swee Teh, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology, School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis


Jason HassrickTracking Migration Patterns and Mortality of Juvenile Spring, Winter and Fall Run Chinook Salmon in the Sacramento River and Delta

Jason Hassrick, UC Santa Cruz, hassrick@biology.ucsc.com

Progress Report Year 1 [R-SF-51-Hassrick-2013.pdf]

California Chinook salmon are in a state of crisis. Several runs in the Central Valley and Central Coast are in danger or threatened by extinction, and the remnant commercial Chinook fishery is maintained only through the rearing and release of huge numbers of Central Valley fall-run juveniles. All hopes of recovering wild stocks in the Sacramento River system are challenged by various forms of habitat degradation and mortality, direct and indirect, caused by water diversions. In this project, the fellow will implant miniaturized acoustic transmitters into sub-yearling winter-run Sacramento River Chinook. The smolts will be tracked on their outmigration to sea, using an existing array of monitors, updated with receivers capable of detecting the signals from the new miniaturized tags. The survivorship data gathered during this project will be combined and compared with a parallel tracking study of fall- and spring-run Chinook. Findings will allow managers to better evaluate the effects of different flow conditions and water management practices on salmon survival. Of particular interest will be to compare salmon survivorship when the Delta Cross Channel gates are open and closed.


Delat Science Council