Scientist-Educator Collaborative Workshop
When Marine Grazers Evolve Resistance to Toxins in Prey,
How Could Whole Ecosystems be Affected?
Held at the University of Connecticut Avery Point Campus, Groton, CT
Thursday, October 8, 2009 through Saturday, October 10, 2009
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Original concept map created by David Avery
Digital concept map created in the COSEE Concept Map Builder
Consensus concept map created using the COSEE-OS Concept Map Builder
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Presentation Videos & Maps

About this Workshop:
For this workshop, 15 educators from the New England area, Texas, and Illinois were matched with ocean and climate scientists from the University of Connecticut to improve their collective understanding of Earth's major ocean - climate systems. [more]

About this Scientist:
David Avery is a biological oceanographer who is interested in zooplankton ecology and life history evolution. As a student, he worked on the USGLOBEC project, and his dissertation research centered on the quantitative genetics of diapause or dormancy in the calanoid copepod Acartia hudsonica. David is currently Assistant Professor in Residence at the University of Connecticut where he conducts research on the evolution of toxin resistance in copepods. He also studies zooplankton nutrition, population biology, and how planktonic organisms cope with life in a dynamic fluid environment. [more]
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Who Worked on this Concept Map
Kristen Andrews
James Backus
Kim Martino
David Avery
Scientist David Avery explains the concept map and its development:

I started by making a concept map that describes the effects of toxic phytoplankton blooms (also known as Harmful Algal Blooms or HABs) on grazing animals -such as copepods- that eat toxic algae, and how those effects interact with the ecosystem as a whole. Some HABs contain organisms that if ingested by another organism -such as a clam- can have harmful effects due to toxins produced by the HAB organism. HABs are responsible for the local shellfish closures in the Long Island Sound, which has far-reaching impacts both on the environment and on the local fishery industries. Like clams, copepods are grazers of the algae that produce these harmful toxins, and we now know this has many effects on the planktonic food chain.

There are two possible scenarios for what happens when copepods evolve resistance to these toxins. The first is when a population of copepods does not evolve resistance to a toxin. These grazers are then subject to the full effects of the toxins, and have a higher likelihood of being eaten or dying due to the toxins in their food. The reduced population of the grazers allows the HABs to continue to grow, which could have further consequences for other organisms, including humans. On the other hand, when a population of copepods evolves resistance to the effects of the toxins, they have longer life spans and increased fitness. The grazers can continue to keep the HABs in check, but may accumulate more toxins in their tissues through their lives. The predators eating copepods, including many marine mammals, may then have negative repercussions from eating the toxic prey.

In my original concept map, I showed the cycle of feedback loops that may occur. Because this is very current research, some of the arrows are hypothetical and not yet proven - that is what I study. The relationships between different parts of the ecosystem itself can change the whole picture.

When working with our team of educators, they suggested an alternative arrangement for my concept map, showing the different paths that could be taken. The linear approach was something that helped my point to be more clear, and the educators helped me to see why feedback loops could be a confusing concept for their audiences.
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Concept map