Behavioral thermoregulation in a slow marine invertebrate

In my doctoral research, I found that the intertidal whelk snail, Nucella ostrina, moderates its exposure to high temperatures (thermoregulates) by feeding on reliably cool days of the two-week tidal cycle. I tested the effect of temperature on feeding preference behavior in experimentally created habitats in the field, used radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to track snail movements in their natural habitat, estimated snail body temperatures in microhabitats using physical thermal models, and assessed thermal performance as recovery time after stress.

Key collaborators: Emily Carrington (UW), Sarah Gilman (Claremont Colleges), Michael “Moose” O’Donnell (UC Berkeley)


whelk with radio tag

Mussel fall-off in a changing ocean climate

slip pt mar 17

Hilary recording habitat information in a mussel bed in Clallam Bay, WA.

Marine mussels are important habitat-forming foundation species on rocky shores and important source of food and revenue for the people of Washington state. Increased temperatures and decreased pH associated with climate change have been found to decrease the strength of mussel attachment (Laura Newcomb dissertation 2015), which could lead to high levels of fall-off on shorelines and at mussel farms. (Sci comm video of our work by Abby Lunstrum.) Our team tracked mussel attachment strength and health/condition as well as physical and chemical water properties for 3 years at two WA shellfish farms. We are working to correlate environmental variables to seasonal and sudden fall-off events.

Key collaborators: Emily Carrington (UW), Molly Roberts (UW), Laura Newcomb (NOAA), Ian Jefferds (Penn Cove Shellfish), WA Sea Grant

Climate change, tolerance, & performance of intertidal snails

Ocean acidification disrupts growth

FHL Ocean Acidification Environmental Lab

We predicted that decreased seawater pH due to ocean acidification would reduce feeding and growth of the predatory whelk Nucella ostrina. We experimentally controlled seawater pH by altering carbonate chemistry (adding CO2) for a range of treatments from pH 7.0 to 8.0. Snails in lower pH treatments consumed slightly more barnacles than snails in higher pH treatments, however, growth of tissue and shell in low pH treatments was the same or lower than growth in higher pH treatments. We presented these findings at the 2018 SICB meeting.

Key collaborators: Matt George (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), Emily Carrington (UW)


Shell size and temperature change: using historical ecology to test climate change hypotheses

Hilary and Robin taught a research apprenticeship on this topic at Friday Harbor Labs in spring 2018 with open access to all course materials, including student results. Students C. May, C. Toler-Scott, & J.A. Fields presented their work at the Western Society of Naturalists Annual Meeting 2018 & the Mary Gates Undergraduate Research Symposium 2019.

Key collaborators: Robin Elahi (Stanford), Aaron Galloway (University of Oregon), Will King (UW)

Seasonal thermal tolerance

Seasonal changes in thermal tolerances in the intertidal snails Littorina spp. and Nucella spp. on San Juan Isalnd, WA.

Key collaborators: William Stickle (Louisiana State University), Emily Carrington (UW)




H.A. Hayford, M. J. O’Donnell, E. Carrington (2018) Radio tracking detects behavioral thermoregulation at a snail’s pace. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 499:17-25 Full text Recommendation on F1000

W.B. Stickle, E. Carrington, H. Hayford (2017) Seasonal changes in the thermal regime and gastropod tolerance to temperature and desiccation stress in the rocky intertidal zone at the southern end of the inside passage. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 488:83-91 Abstract

S.E. Gilman, H. Hayford, C. Craig, E. Carrington (2015) Body temperatures of an intertidal barnacle and two whelk predators in relation to shore height, solar aspect, and microhabitat. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 536:77-88 Abstract

H.A. Hayford, S.E. Gilman, E. Carrington (2015) Foraging behavior minimizes heat exposure in a complex thermal landscape. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 518:165-175 Abstract