A. Forbesi, the common sea star, are dying out in New England and possibly along the east coast. Help us figure out why and how to save them!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

THE PROBLEM:  A. forbesi, the common sea star, are dying in New England and possibly all along the east coast.  Help us figure out why and how to save them.

Hello and welcome to Asterias forbesi central, the blog about the "Forbes sea star" (or starfish).  It is the common brown/purple starfish found along the East coast:

I am a Brown University rising sophomore, research assistant, and NSF and EPSCoR-funded SURF fellow in Dr. Gary Wessel's molecular oogenesis lab (studying the development of eggs, primarily at the molecular level): http://www.brown.edu/Research/Wessel_Lab/#.

One of my projects this summer is to determine the cause behind the die-off of this beloved marine creature in New England.  It began when Gary mentioned that he heard from someone at MBL of Wood's Hole that the collectors couldn't find enough sea stars to send off to labs (like ours) to study them (we use starfish and sea urchins as model organisms to study development).  I went down to the docks at Allen Harbor in Quonset, Rhode Island near my home in North Kingstown that very night with my trusty net and bucket, hoping to find some starfish to study at the lab-but alas!  There was only one measly, runty starfish to collect.  I've seen starfish at that very harbor on those very pillars my entire life in relatively high abundance, so I was puzzled.  My goal now is to find out what's going on with these starfish-whether there is an easy explanation or a complex one, whether there are other implications of a starfish die-off on the ecosystem and its denizens, whether humans will be affected by it (is there something in the mussels that the starfish-and we-eat that is harming and killing the forbesi?), and whether we can do anything to help the starfish get back on their many tube feet.

Come one, come all to A. forbesi central and put your two cents in.


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