Cassie Ka’apu-Lyons

PhD Candidate
PI: Brian Bowen
Graduate program: Marine Biology

Annually, millions of marine organisms are imported to aquariums worldwide, with nearly 94% removed from the wild. Captive breeding of marine ornamentals may alleviate human induced pressures on coral reef ecosystems and provide healthier aquarium fish. However, few marine fish are captive bred for the aquarium trade, largely due to the inability to keep newly hatched larvae alive. Determining the nutritional requirements of larvae is an important first step for commercial breeders to overcome. Advancements in genetic technologies have allowed for detection of otherwise elusive prey lost to traditional stomach content analysis. I am interested in using this technology to identify prey preference in wild caught larvae of marine fish valuable to the aquarium trade, in order to overcome one of the major hurdles to marine aquaculture.

In addition, I am replicating a one year study examining the ichthyoplankton composition in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Hawaii. Kaneohe Bay has a rich anthropogenic history; by 1970 the bays coral ecosystems were gone. In 1979, after nearly half a century, the sewage outflow was eliminated. Impressively, the bay began to recover. Although the pressures have not been fully alleviated, coral reefs are returning in the bay and have remained stable in recent decades despite occasional bleaching and other effects of climate change. I am interested in comparing the present ichthyoplankton in Kaneohe Bay to the composition in the bay recorded in 1971 when the pressure on the reef was at its peak and coral cover had been reduced by roughly 85%. This offers a rare opportunity to examine recruiting fish larvae during a major disturbance and nearly 50 years later.