Dr. John Ryan
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
University of Rhode Island
Research interests: ecology of plankton, fish, and marine mammals; physical-biological coupling; sensing and autonomous vehicle technologies
Fronts shape the structure and function of marine ecosystems. Drawing from studies in the northwest Atlantic, northeast Pacific, and equatorial Pacific, this talk will examine frontal phenomena in relation to the ecology of phytoplankton, zooplankton, and fish. Phytoplankton studies will focus on frontal processes that affect growth by enhancing nutrient supply to the euphotic zone, as well as processes that affect distributions by driving accumulation and layer formation. Zooplankton studies will examine interactions between frontal circulation and swimming behavior that accumulate larvae and transport them horizontally and vertically, thereby influencing patterns of recruitment. Fish studies will examine association of two species of gigantic fish, whale sharks and giant ocean sunfish, with thermo-biological frontal systems in open ocean and ocean margin habitats. All of these studies integrate multidisciplinary observations from remote and in situ sensing, as required to detect patterns and processes. Plankton studies further employ autonomous feature recognition and response onboard autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), to target observations and sampling within and around features such as fronts, plankton patches, and sediment plumes. AUV responses include (1) adaptive path planning to focus observations within and adjacent to the targeted features, and (2) water sample acquisition from within and outside of the targeted features. Together, these case studies describe a cross-section of the diverse ways that phenomenal fronts shape the structure and function of marine ecosystems.