Cooperative Agreement for CESU-affiliated Partner with Californian Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit
The USGS is offering a funding opportunity to a CESU partner for research topics in the potential and actual effects of environment stressors.This CESU will encompass science activities representing a wide variety of topics dealing with the potential and actual effects of environment stressors on species of concern. It will represent collaborative studies between USGS and the recipient for a series of individual projects that represent discreet entities which have unique objectives and anticipated products. Three projects will represent the initiation of the agreement. Future projects will be added by modification to the agreement.This funding opportunity is to establish a mechanism for cooperative scientific research, educational development, and technological collaboration to maximize contributions to scientific research and practical applications for solving environmental problems, benefiting local communities, school systems, governmental agencies and the general public in California and the western United States.Current university academic programs and facilities, under a cooperative agreement, will provide for joint research and consultation in scientific matters and participation by interested students and faculty involved in the following subjects:Fisheries and wildlife ecologyPlant ecologyUrban ecologyVertebrate taxonomyToxicologyPhysiology and biochemistryMethodologies for environmental chemistryEnvironmental educationResearch Objectives: PROJECT 1 Title:Wild Immunology: Polar Bears, Climate Change, and Oil ExplorationProject Goals: The overall goal of this project is to assess and monitor polar bear (Ursus maritimus) and arctic ecosystem health in the backdrop of climate change and increased oil exploration.Specific Objectives: Continue to develop diagnostic gene transcript panels using cutting edge molecular tools (i.e. tanscriptomics). Continue collection of polar bear blood (free-ranging and captive) for analysis. Apply gene transcript panels, as well as transcriptome technology, to specific questions relating to polar bear and arctic ecosystem health (e.g. nutritional state, contaminant effects on immune function). This project should continue for approximately 5 years. PROJECT 2 Title:Wild Immunology: Desert Tortoise Health Diagnostics in a Changing Desert EcosystemProject Goals: The overall goal of this project is to develop a gene transcript panel for desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) that will be useful in identifying physiologic perturbations within individuals and populations potentially affected by human disturbance, i.e., alternate energy development, military exercises, in the Mojave Desert environment. Specific Objectives: Determine if RNA can be successfully isolated from desert tortoise blood collected in PaxGene tubes (optimize extraction). Based on current state of knowledge of desert tortoise health issues, identify 20- 30 genes of interest best able to differentiate among different stress induced physiological changes. Isolate and sequence these genes in the desert tortoise. Develop realtime PCR systems for each gene of interest. Identify and obtain blood from captive desert tortoise samples for use as reference population. Run gene panel on 200-300 desert tortoise samples. Approximate duration of project: 5 yearsPROJECT 3 Title:Wild Immunology: Sea Otters, Climate Change, and Population HealthProject Goals: The overall goal of this project is to assess and monitor sea otters (Enhydra lutris) and nearshore ecosystem health in the backdrop of climate change and altered food web dynamics.Specific Objectives: Continue to develop diagnostic gene transcript panels using cutting edge molecular tools (i.e. transcriptomics). Continue collection of sea otter blood (free-ranging and captive) for analysis. Apply gene transcript panels, as well as transcriptome technology, to specific questions relating to sea otter and nearshore ecosystem health (e.g. nutritional state, contaminant effects on immune function). This project should continue for approximately 5 years.For the initial three projects, gene transcription contributes substantially to the understanding of the intrinsic health of individual organisms. Transcription examines the physiologic and metabolic effects of stressors on both aquatic and terrestrial organisms, which in turn can indicate overall population and subsequently ecosystem health. Stressors are physical (injury, temperature), chemical (organic xenobiotics), or biological (pathogens). The molecular response to stress is interpretable across diverse species ranging from mollusks to mammals that inhabit ecosystems from oceans to deserts. Gene transcription can simultaneously measure toxicological, pathological, and immunological responses to stressors and provide assessment of the general well-being of an organism and subsequently its population, as well as a reflection of the condition of its environment.This information in concert with health diagnoses, population demography and dynamics and environmental assessment can provide insight into an individual organism's likelihood for survival and population sustainability as well as an understanding of the effects of environmental impacts on populations In collaboration with the CESU Partner, USGS scientists are engaged in discovery of gene primers crucial to conducting transcription analyses. The transcription of key suites of genes representative of multiple stressors is being assessed in listed, high profile species such as (but not limited to) the sea otter (Enhydra lutris), Agassiz's desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) and sea turtles ( Cheloniodea), polar bear ( Ursus maritimus) and migratory birds as well as in important prey items such as the blue mussel; an important food web component and sentinel species.