Assistant Professor of Biology Ryan Ferrer recently received a $40,000 grant from the Murdock Foundation under its "College Research Program for the Life Sciences.” The grant will fund his project titled “Paralytic Shellfish Toxins and the Seastar-Mussel Interaction.” He explains:
“This project examines two prominent features of the Pacific Northwest, tide pool ecology and harmful algal blooms. Biodiversity in tide pool habitats is predominantly shaped by predatory starfish. Mussels are excellent competitors for space in tide pools and can overrun the community if left unchecked. Because starfish feed so efficiently on mussels, they open up space for a diversity of other organisms.
Now enter algal blooms – mussels become extremely poisonous during harmful algal blooms, posing a health risk to all sorts of vertebrate animals, including humans. Our lab is interested in how algal toxins, when sequestered by mussels, affect the predator-prey interaction between starfish and mussels. The consequences of toxin-induced changes may not only include shifting biodiversity in Washington tide pools, but also the living landscape for humans harvesting shellfish.”
Congratulations, Professor Ferrer!