B.S. Biological Science with concentration in Marine Biology 2014
As an NSF-funded undergraduate (Southern California Ecosystems Research Program scholar) in the Zacherl lab, my independent project focused on quantifying habitat distributions and densities of Olympia (Ostrea lurida) and Japanese oysters (Crassostrea gigas) in southern California. The Olympia oyster is the only oyster native to the west coast of the United States and has been a recent conservation focus with multiple groups aiming to restore their natural habitat. The Japanese oyster has recently been introduced to southern California and their potential to rapidly colonize may negatively affect future Olympia oyster populations. Therefore, a baseline study quantifying remnant oyster populations is crucial.
The presence of juvenile Japanese oysters during field surveys was inconsistent with popular belief that populations were not locally sourced. Though a commonly accepted statement, this had not been scientifically investigated. Therefore, in order to fill this common knowledge gap, Dr. Zacherl and Nicole teamed with Dr. Kristy Forsgren in May 2013 to determine the reproductive potential of Japanese oysters in southern California through paraffin histology examination of gonadal tissue. These tissues were collected monthly for a year and Nicole examined them for developmental staging and maturation. So far, results from early summer 2013 suggest Japanese oysters have the potential to be reproductive, as their staging is consistent with the literature for remnant populations throughout the world.
While Nicole was an undergraduate here at CSUF, she presented her data at many conferences including Benthic Ecology (2014), Western Society of Naturalists (2013) and the Southern California Academy of Sciences (2012) conferences, as well as at the 2012 Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference in Seattle, WA where she won a Best Student Poster award in Ocean and Marine Sciences. Nicole is drafting a manuscript with Dr. Zacherl and former undergraduate Thomas Parker, based upon their survey work. Currently, Nicole is pursuing her Master’s degree at Cal Poly Pomona under the supervision of Dr. Jayson Smith.