Research / Sea Grant News

California Sea Grant researcher named 2013 AAAS Fellow

Ronald S. Burton

Ronald S. Burton

Ronald S. Burton, a professor of marine biology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and a currently funded California Sea Grant researcher, has been elected a 2013 Fellow of the American Association of the Advancement of Science, the nation’s largest general science organization.

He joins 388 new AAAS Fellows and is one of six UC San Diego professors honored this year. In selecting Burton for the honor, the AAAS Council cited his “distinguished contributions to molecular ecology, speciation, and evolutionary genetics of natural populations of marine organisms.”

Burton served as the interim California Sea Grant Director in 2010 and has been a frequent recipient of our competitive research awards. Some of his past work has looked at the population genetics structure of red sea urchins and conservation genetics of endangered abalone species. More recently, he has been working to apply molecular methods and sequencing technologies to better identify fish eggs and larvae in environmental samples.

The new fellows, who were announced by AAAS this week, will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue rosette pin (representing science and engineering, respectively) on February 15 at the 2014 AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Below is a summary of Burton’s current California Sea Grant-supported project with his contact information for those who would like more information about his research or to congratulate him personally.

Molecular Identification of Fish Eggs and Larvae: Enhancing the Value of Icthyoplankton Surveys in Monitoring and Management 
Feb. 2012–Jan. 2014
Ronald S. Burton, UCSD/SIO, 858.822.5784, rburton@ucsd.edu

The distributions and abundances of fish eggs and larvae off the coast of California are used to help estimate spawning fish biomasses, from which harvesting guidelines are, in part, set. It is, however, often difficult to morphologically (visually) distinguish certain groups of fish eggs. That is, fish eggs can be misidentified. In work to date, the scientist and his students have developed a PCR-based fluorescent probe array to identify fish eggs and larvae in archived ichthyoplankton samples collected during the CalCOFI cruises. They are currently collecting fish eggs at the Scripps pier to identify the groups of fishes reproducing in the local marine protected area. When this is done, they will decide whether to develop a “tuned” probe array or employ alternate approaches, which will also be based on DNA barcoding principles. The ultimate goal is to be able to monitor fish reproduction more rapidly, accurately and cost effectively. A better understanding of fish reproductive success, as well as more information on the timing and location of spawning, would be of great value in fisheries management and in explaining natural variation in fish population sizes, as well as assessing impacts of environmental change.

Written by Christina S. Johnson, csjohnson@ucsd.edu

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