Epigenetic Explorations of TGP and its
Eco-evolutionary Dynamics in Kelp Forest Ecosystems
Under the theme Ecological and evolutionary consequences of kelp-induced changes in seawater chemistry of the Santa Barbara Channel LTER network, we are conducting experiments to test whether Macrosystis pyrifera kelp forests (i) significantly alter temperature and carbonate chemistry experienced by the kelp forest community and (ii) whether environmental variation in and out of the kelp forest influence TGP and the epigenetic inheritance of fitness-related traits. These studies include outplants of adult purple sea urchins in the field, collection of time-series oceanographic data, experimental conditioning of larvae, and an integration of physiological and epigenomic methods.
One avenue through which we are studying environmental epigenetics is the process of transgenerational plasticity: the influence of parental environment on offspring performance. Through a series of NSF-funded projects focused on the purple sea urchin Strongylocentrous purpuratus as a model system, we have tested whether maternal conditioning to simulated upwelling during gametogenesis induces variation in DNA methylation, gene expression, and the organismal performance of offspring larvae.
Ongoing investigations include efforts to (i) assess the epigenetic inheritance of paternal DNA methylation and its influence on TGP and (ii) further understand the complex relationship between DNA methylation and gene expression in the purple urchin.