Posts filed under 'Fall 2019'

Economic Value and Trends of Commercial Fisheries at CNREP by Jim Delbene

At night, the brass band and crowds of Bourbon Street rung through the hotel walls. But, during the day discussions on coastal resilience flowed throughout the conference rooms reserved for the Challenges of Natural Resource Economics and Policy: 6th National Forum on Socioeconomic Research in Coastal Systems (CNREP).

UnknownNot only is New Orleans ground zero for combating sea-level rise and land subsidence, but it is regularly exposed to natural disasters. This was my third time visiting the city, but first time learning about how Louisiana and other states are working to increase the resilience of their coasts and communities.

CNREP brought scholars, students, state and federal resource managers, and non-profits together to foster and share socioeconomic research focused on coastal resilience and fisheries. As a graduate student from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at William & Mary, I immersed myself in new ideas and presented my research during the session titled, “Economic Value and Trends of Commercial Fisheries.”


My research on commercial crabber preferences for derelict (i.e., lost or abandoned) blue crab pot mitigation activities intrigued attendees from other states, such as Louisiana and Texas. These states have productive blue crab fisheries that are also dealing with the issue of derelict pots in their waters. Derelict pots can capture and kill valuable recreational and commercial organisms, and even reduce blue crab harvests by attracting blue crabs away from pots that are regularly baited by commercial crabbers. I used a mail survey to engage with Virginia commercial crabbers and provide an avenue for their collective voice to be heard on the issue. It is essential to include commercial crabbers in developing effective management practices that can reduce negative impacts caused by derelict pots.

The importance of stakeholder engagement and science communication echoed throughout many of the conference’s talks. Whether encouraging homeowners to fortify their homes to resist hurricane wind damage or urging policymakers to draft legislation that addresses climate change, there was a clear need for engagement.

At a conference full of economists, money was ranked as the best tool to promote engagement. Money is universally valuable and can attract the attention of almost any audience. Dr. Pawan Patil, Senior Economist for the Environment at the World Bank, preached this message during his Keynote Presentation. Dr. Patil stressed the importance of treating the ocean as an economy, a “blue economy,” that we must value and protect through sustainable practices. He conveyed the power of money through examples of countries that resisted change to improve coastal resilience and human health but jumped into action whenever change ensured an increase in their gross domestic production (GDP).

I left CNREP with a newfound network of likeminded individuals and a broadened understanding of coastal resilience and fisheries. The sounds and flavor of New Orleans may have filled the air at night, but during the day, thought-provoking discourse shed hope for enhancements in coastal resilience and fisheries that will sustain future generations.

October 22nd, 2019

Study on Milkweed and Pollinator Population in Virginia- By Jason Robinson

This summer I have been a part of an ongoing study of Asclepias syriaca (Common milkweed) and how changes in population affect known pollinators. To study this, a crew and I traveled to different field sites across Virginia: Blandy Experimental Farms, Sky Meadows State Park and Presquile Wildlife Refuge. At these sites we took plant demographic data (i.e. height, number of flowers, number of leaves, herbivory, etc.) as well as observation videos. The observation videos consisted of 20 minutes of footage focused on a single inflorescence. In addition to observation videos, we conducted and recorded in-person observations. In both sets of observations, the researcher recorded what insect visitors came (if possible, down to species) and how long they stayed. After we collected all the footage, I watched the videos from this summer, last summer, and the summer of 2014.

To analyze what we had gathered, I learned a data analysis programming language called R and used it to synthesize and create detailed graphs that compare the insect visitors between the years and between experimental sites. So far, the most interesting things I have observed are that there are 5 major insects that visit the milkweed plant: brown-beltedbumblebee(Bombus griseocollis), soldier beetle (Chauliognathus marginatus), flies, unknown hymenopterans, and European honeybees (Apis mellifera). Although, from what we have seen the common milkweed beetle, which we previously hypothesized to be a pollinator, is not a significant pollinator. In fact, it’s almost useless as a pollinator. Among the major pollinators, we have also seen inconsistencies in their appearance. For example, while the bumblebee was the most common pollinator in 2014, in 2018 it dropped to fourth in the list of five major pollinators and remained there in 2019 as well.

Previously, a study done by the graduate student in the lab, Nichole Gustafason, related the number of flowers on an inflorescence to the type of pollinators that show up to that plant. Fewer flowers on an inflorescence attracted honeybees while more flowers attracted more soldier beetles, bumblebees, and flies. With further research we may be able to establish similar links between milkweed characteristics and how they influence pollinator behavior.

In addition to the research I have been doing on pollinator behavior, this summer we have been investigating the effects of cardenolides on microbial growth. Cardenolides are toxins in milkweed that deter herbivores by poisoning them. However, sometimes these toxins can end up in the nectar of a plant, (e.g. studies have shown nicotine in the nectar of tobacco plants) which could negatively impact the reproductive success of the plant by repelling pollinators. We are investigating whether cardenolides have antimicrobial properties, providing an advantage to milkweed plants that was previously unknown. The experiments so far have been inconclusive, but this is another study we will continue to pursue during the year.

Attached below is an itemized list of expenses. While we only spent $700.00, the remainder will be spent on computers to replace the inoperative ones in the lab.




September 1st, 2019


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