Presentation Date


Hosting Institution

California State University, Fullerton


Fullerton, California

Document Type



Natural Sciences

Supporting Program


Faculty Mentor

Steve Moore, Christine Huffard, Ken Smith


dep-sea, acorn worms, climate change, carbon, time-series, POC flux, detrital aggregates, behavior, population densities


Over the past 10 to 15 years, there has been an increase in particulate organic carbon (POC) flux reaching the seafloor at Station M (4000 m depth) in the Northeastern Pacific. This increase correlates with changing surface conditions associated with changing climate. The deep-sea enteropneust, Tergivelum baldwinae, has increased in population density allowing us to observe enough individuals to test hypotheses, particularly how these organisms are changing with changes in surface conditions. Enteropneusta are known for fecal trails, found in a spiral or switchback pattern. Given the deep sea is the ultimate depository of large fractions of surface-derived carbon, it’s important we understand how the carbon cycle might impact deep-sea animals. As a deposit feeder, T. badwinae plays an important role within the carbon cycle by consuming carbon, their main food source, that has settled to the benthos. We test correlations between T. baldwinae fecal trails, food availability (POC and detrital aggregates), and individual footprint area; and carbon influences (POC and detrital aggregates) on population. Time-lapse images taken at Station M were annotated using the open-source software program VARS (Video Annotation and Referencing System). Results suggest a correlation between detrital aggregates and population in short term time periods (2011-2017), and POC flux and population in long-term time periods (1989-2004, 2011-2017). An increase in carbon was followed by an increase in population. No correlations between type of path and carbon inputs were found. No correlations between size and fecal formation were found. This suggests populations have been increasing in recent years due to increases in carbon associated with changing climate. Influences on behavior are still unknown. Studying T. baldwinae allows for a better understanding of how climate change is affecting deep-sea communities.

Additional Files

Assad_SummaryNarrative_SRC2019.pdf (279 kB)
Summary Narrative