DV-13-13 Food Web Dynamics in Cobscook Bay

Carrie Byron
Marine Sciences Department
University of New England

Cobscook Bay hosts a diverse marine ecosystem, many components of which support commercial, recreational, and sustenance fisheries as well as aquaculture and tidal energy generation. With some of the fisheries on the decline, local communities and resource managers could benefit from a clearer picture of the ecological relationships within the bay. Byron proposes to use stable isotope analysis of fish and invertebrates (using samples already collected by Sea Grant researchers) to determine food web dynamics of Cobscook Bay, Maine.

Stable isotope analysis is based on the principle “you are what you eat”, which assumes that the isotopic composition of a consumer’s body tissue is a direct consequence of the isotopic composition of its food sources. Measuring stable isotopes can show who eats whom, and where—the pathways of matter and energy transfer in the ecosystem. Elucidating these relationships is crucial for understanding ecosystem functioning as well as predicting potential effects that different stressors such as human activity have on ecosystems.

Sea Grant funds: $3,000