Schooling Behavior

May 15, 2018

CCS Biologist, supported by Worster Award, to conduct research in Mo’orea this summer

Elizabeth Jahn
Elizabeth Jahn

The College of Creative Studies (CCS) congratulates second-year CCS Biologist Elizabeth Jahn for receiving a 2018 Worster Award, a competitive award supported by philanthropic gifts from the Worster family. Each year, the Worster Award encourages the development of young, motivated scientists by pairing an undergraduate researcher with a graduate mentor to research in the field of ecology, evolution and/or marine biology.

“Elizabeth has a great project that is perfect for this award,” said John Latto, CCS Biology Program Coordinator. “We are very grateful to the Worster family for their continued support of undergraduate research at UCSB.”

Jahn is paired with Ana Guerra, a student in the Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology graduate program in the laboratory of Professor Doug McCauley. Jahn and Guerra will be studying potential effects of humans on schooling fish behavior. Fish graze on algae growing on corals. “We measure the different bite rates in solitary versus in schooling fish,” said Jahn. “Then we look at how grazing rates impact the algae communities, which can affect coral growth.” Since fishermen target schools of fish, there is a potential for there to be more solitary fish.

Jahn and Guerra will travel to Mo’orea, an island northwest of Tahiti and part of French Polynesia's Society Islands, in August to research this topic. The Worster Award will fund the entire trip. Guerra went to Palmyra, an atoll roughly one-third of the way between Hawaii and American Samoa that has no permanent resident population and no significant fishing activity, last summer. Since Mo’orea is a populated area and is overfished, Jahn and Guerra will be able to “see if places where humans aren’t and places where humans are have different schooling behaviors,” said Jahn.

While in Mo’orea, Jahn will also be able to work on an independent project. She will study the how different species of fish impact the growth of algae. Different species school differently and this may be a factor.  Explained Jahn: “I want to see if the growth rate and the density of the algae patches are different if there’s more schooling fish versus solitary fish.”

Jahn, an avid surfer, grew up on the beaches of Southern California. “My dad works on marine electronics, so […] I was basically on the water or in the water for my entire childhood,” noted Jahn. The young Biologist has a passion for protecting the ocean, and thus, the McCauley lab, which focuses on how ecological communities interact with one another, was a perfect fit. She started working with the lab early in her first year at UC Santa Barbara. “The ocean is beautiful and I love everything about it,” shared Jahn. “I want to protect it and keep it treasured for the generations to come.”

The 2018 Worster Award announcement comes on the heels of the 2017 Worster symposium, held on May 8, 2017. Recipients and CCS Biologists Calvin Davison and Sarah Amiri presented their findings at the Symposium. Next spring, Jahn, Guerra and the other 2018 Worster recipients will give a presentation on their work. It is safe to say Jahn will have plenty of exciting findings to exhibit at the Symposium.

Jahn indicated that after she graduates from CCS, she intends to pursue a Ph.D. and continue to do conservation research. Her career goal is to “help coastal communities build more sustainable programs and increase the quality of the education system so communities can improve the use of their resources and protect their local species."