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  1. Eelgrass creates critical coastal habitats worldwide and fulfills essential ecosystem functions as a foundation seagrass. Climate warming and disease threaten eelgrass, causing mass mortalities and cascading ecological impacts. Subtidal meadows are deeper than intertidal and may also provide refuge from the temperature-sensitive seagrass wasting disease. From cross-boundary surveys of 5761 eelgrass leaves from Alaska to Washington and assisted with a machine-language algorithm, we measured outbreak conditions. Across summers 2017 and 2018, disease prevalence was 16% lower for subtidal than intertidal leaves; in both tidal zones, disease risk was lower for plants in cooler conditions. Even in subtidal meadows, which are more environmentally stable and sheltered from temperature and other stressors common for intertidal eelgrass, we observed high disease levels, with half of the sites exceeding 50% prevalence. Models predicted reduced disease prevalence and severity under cooler conditions, confirming a strong interaction between disease and temperature. At both tidal zones, prevalence was lower in more dense eelgrass meadows, suggesting disease is suppressed in healthy, higher density meadows. These results underscore the value of subtidal eelgrass and meadows in cooler locations as refugia, indicate that cooling can suppress disease, and have implications for eelgrass conservation and management under future climate change scenarios. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Infectious disease ecology and evolution in a changing world’. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 27, 2024
  2. Abstract Field courses provide transformative learning experiences that support success and improve persistence for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics majors. But field courses have not increased proportionally with the number of students in the natural sciences. We conducted a scoping review to investigate the factors influencing undergraduate participation in and the outcomes from field courses in the United States. Our search yielded 61 articles, from which we classified the knowledge, affect, behavior, and skill-based outcomes resulting from field course participation. We found consistent reporting on course design but little reporting on demographics, which limits our understanding of who takes field courses. Cost was the most commonly reported barrier to student participation, and knowledge gains were the most commonly reported outcome. This scoping review underscores the need for more rigorous and evidence-based investigations of student outcomes in field courses. Understanding how field courses support or hinder student engagement is necessary to make them more accessible to all students. 
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  3. The Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) sponsors Eco-DAS, which is now in its 30th year. The program aims to unite aquatic scientists, develop diverse collaborations, and provide professional development training opportunities with guests from federal agencies, nonprofits, academia, tribal groups, and other workplaces (a previous iteration is summarized in Ghosh et al. 2022). Eco-DAS XV was one of the largest and most nationally diverse cohorts, including 37 early career aquatic scientists, 15 of whom were originally from 9 different countries outside the United States (Fig. 2). As the first cohort to meet in-person since the COVID-19 pandemic, Eco-DAS participants convened from 5 to 11 March 2023 to expand professional networks, create shared projects, and discuss areas of priority for the aquatic sciences. During the weeklong meeting, participants developed 46 proposal ideas, 16 of which will be further developed into projects and peer-reviewed manuscripts. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 3, 2024
  4. Wolfe, Benjamin E. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Coupling remote sensing with microbial omics-based approaches provides a promising new frontier for scientists to scale microbial interactions across space and time. These data-rich, interdisciplinary methods allow us to better understand interactions between microbial communities and their environments and, in turn, their impact on ecosystem structure and function. Here, we highlight current and novel examples of applying remote sensing, machine learning, spatial statistics, and omics data approaches to marine, aquatic, and terrestrial systems. We emphasize the importance of integrating biochemical and spatiotemporal environmental data to move toward a predictive framework of microbiome interactions and their ecosystem-level effects. Finally, we emphasize lessons learned from our collaborative research with recommendations to foster productive and interdisciplinary teamwork. 
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  5. Seagrass meadows provide valuable ecosystem benefits but are at risk from disease. Eelgrass ( Zostera marina ) is a temperate species threatened by seagrass wasting disease (SWD), caused by the protist Labyrinthula zosterae . The pathogen is sensitive to warming ocean temperatures, prompting a need for greater understanding of the impacts on host health under climate change. Previous work demonstrates pathogen cultures grow faster under warmer laboratory conditions and documents positive correlations between warmer ocean temperatures and disease levels in nature. However, the consequences of disease outbreaks on eelgrass growth remain poorly understood. Here, we examined the effect of disease on eelgrass productivity in the field. We coupled in situ shoot marking with high-resolution imagery of eelgrass blades and used an artificial intelligence application to determine disease prevalence and severity from digital images. Comparisons of eelgrass growth and disease metrics showed that SWD impaired eelgrass growth and accumulation of non-structural carbon in the field. Blades with more severe disease had reduced growth rates, indicating that disease severity can limit plant growth. Disease severity and rhizome sugar content were also inversely related, suggesting that disease reduced belowground carbon accumulation. Finally, repeated measurements of diseased blades indicated that lesions can grow faster than healthy tissue in situ . This is the first study to demonstrate the negative impact of wasting disease on eelgrass health in a natural meadow. These results emphasize the importance of considering disease alongside other stressors to better predict the health and functioning of seagrass meadows in the Anthropocene. 
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  6. Raina, Jean-Baptiste (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Predicting outcomes of marine disease outbreaks presents a challenge in the face of both global and local stressors. Host-associated microbiomes may play important roles in disease dynamics but remain understudied in marine ecosystems. Host–pathogen–microbiome interactions can vary across host ranges, gradients of disease, and temperature; studying these relationships may aid our ability to forecast disease dynamics. Eelgrass, Zostera marina , is impacted by outbreaks of wasting disease caused by the opportunistic pathogen Labyrinthula zosterae . We investigated how Z. marina phyllosphere microbial communities vary with rising wasting disease lesion prevalence and severity relative to plant and meadow characteristics like shoot density, longest leaf length, and temperature across 23° latitude in the Northeastern Pacific. We detected effects of geography (11%) and smaller, but distinct, effects of temperature (30-day max sea surface temperature, 4%) and disease (lesion prevalence, 3%) on microbiome composition. Declines in alpha diversity on asymptomatic tissue occurred with rising wasting disease prevalence within meadows. However, no change in microbiome variability (dispersion) was detected between asymptomatic and symptomatic tissues. Further, we identified members of Cellvibrionaceae, Colwelliaceae, and Granulosicoccaceae on asymptomatic tissue that are predictive of wasting disease prevalence across the geographic range (3,100 kilometers). Functional roles of Colwelliaceae and Granulosicoccaceae are not known. Cellvibrionaceae, degraders of plant cellulose, were also enriched in lesions and adjacent green tissue relative to nonlesioned leaves. Cellvibrionaceae may play important roles in disease progression by degrading host tissues or overwhelming plant immune responses. Thus, inclusion of microbiomes in wasting disease studies may improve our ability to understand variable rates of infection, disease progression, and plant survival. IMPORTANCE The roles of marine microbiomes in disease remain poorly understood due, in part, to the challenging nature of sampling at appropriate spatiotemporal scales and across natural gradients of disease throughout host ranges. This is especially true for marine vascular plants like eelgrass ( Zostera marina ) that are vital for ecosystem function and biodiversity but are susceptible to rapid decline and die-off from pathogens like eukaryotic slime-mold Labyrinthula zosterae (wasting disease). We link bacterial members of phyllosphere tissues to the prevalence of wasting disease across the broadest geographic range to date for a marine plant microbiome-disease study (3,100 km). We identify Cellvibrionaceae, plant cell wall degraders, enriched (up to 61% relative abundance) within lesion tissue, which suggests this group may be playing important roles in disease progression. These findings suggest inclusion of microbiomes in marine disease studies will improve our ability to predict ecological outcomes of infection across variable landscapes spanning thousands of kilometers. 
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  7. Abstract

    Host‐associated microbes influence host health and function and can be a first line of defence against infections. While research increasingly shows that terrestrial plant microbiomes contribute to bacterial, fungal, and oomycete disease resistance, no comparable experimental work has investigated marine plant microbiomes or more diverse disease agents. We test the hypothesis that the eelgrass (Zostera marina) leaf microbiome increases resistance to seagrass wasting disease. From field eelgrass with paired diseased and asymptomatic tissue,16S rRNAgene amplicon sequencing revealed that bacterial composition and richness varied markedly between diseased and asymptomatic tissue in one of the two years. This suggests that the influence of disease on eelgrass microbial communities may vary with environmental conditions. We next experimentally reduced the eelgrass microbiome with antibiotics and bleach, then inoculated plants withLabyrinthula zosterae, the causative agent of wasting disease. We detected significantly higher disease severity in eelgrass with a native microbiome than an experimentally reduced microbiome. Our results over multiple experiments do not support a protective role of the eelgrass microbiome againstL. zosterae. Further studies of these marine host–microbe–pathogen relationships may continue to show new relationships between plant microbiomes and diseases.

     
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