Spring 2024 Graduates - Aaron Ridall and Armando Barsante Santos

Spring brings many things to the Tallahassee area – gorgeous blooms, mild weather, and Florida State University’s commencement weekend! Two exceptional students, Aaron Ridall, now newly minted as Dr. Ridall, and Armando Barsante Santos, also newly minted as Dr. Barsante Santos, have successfully defended their doctoral dissertations and will walk the stage this weekend! The FSUCML is so proud of Aaron and Armando, and we cannot wait to watch them continue to have a positive impact on the future of marine science. Congratulations, Aaron, and Armando!

Dr. Ridall (left) and Dr. Ingels celebrate Dr. Ridall's successful defense.In Aaron’s dissertation, ‘Ecosystem effects and magnitude of microplastics pollution in St. Andrew Bay, Florida’ he evaluated three aspects of microplastic pollution. First, he determined the seasonal and spatial variations of microplastic abundances and identities across the St. Andrew Bay estuary, a typical urban estuary in northwestern Florida. Then, using levels of microplastics from the previous work, he evaluated how nematodes respond to microplastics using sediment microcosms and how two ecosystem functions facilitated by meiofauna—bioturbation and sediment oxygen penetration—may shift in the presence of microplastic pollution.

During his time at FSU, Aaron was awarded over $60,000 in grants to support his research efforts. Three of the most notable are: (1) a research grant from the PADI foundation; (2) a research grant from the Friends of Gumbo Limbo; (3) a Planning Grant through FSU that Dr. Ingels and I co-wrote to conduct his microplastic experiments at the marine laboratory.

Aaron (middle) helps the Grubbs lab with their shark surveys.His favorite FSUCML memories are the times he was able to help the Grubbs lab with their research. While meiofauna are important organisms, they lack the charismatic nature of sharks and rays. He really enjoyed helping with their monthly surveys and learning about the lab member’s dissertations and thesis projects.

He is currently applying for positions across academia and governmental organizations. He hopes to establish a research lab focused on how microplastics affect ecosystem functions in coastal and estuarine fauna, with special interests in food web energetics, nutrient cycling, and shifts in community structures. You can keep up with Aaron and his work through his website: https://aaronridall.weebly.com


Dr. Barsante Santos presenting his doctoral defense.Armando’s dissertation "Integrating Research into Conservation: Using Satellite Telemetry and Population Monitoring to Inform the Management of Hawksbill Turtles in Brazil" focused on the conservation strategies for hawksbill turtles in Brazil, employing satellite telemetry and population monitoring. Through the application of advanced satellite telemetry and comprehensive population monitoring, his work illuminates critical aspects of demographic parameters and spatial ecology crucial for the conservation of this critically endangered species. The study reveals significant findings on the inter-nesting movements, migratory corridors, and foraging behaviors of hawksbill turtles, contributing to the strategic design of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Brazil. His findings underscore the need for spatially explicit conservation targets and advocate for the expansion and strategic management of MPAs, aligning ecological needs with conservation efforts. While focusing on hawksbill turtles, Dr. Barsante Santos developed frameworks that can be adapted to other marine species, highlighting the potential for wide-reaching impacts on marine biodiversity conservation.

Armando during one of the Fuentes lab turtle surveys.While at FSU, Armando spearheaded extensive fieldwork over four years in the Archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, Brazil, supported by a National Science Foundation grant. This work was part of Dr. Mariana Fuentes' project, "Mating Systems as Mechanisms for Resilience of Species with Temperature Dependent Sex Determination Under Environmental Change." Collaborating with the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, Oregon State University, and the Brazilian NGO Projeto Tamar, the project aimed to understand the number of males required to sustain marine turtle populations amid environmental changes. Armando's contributions included satellite tracking of adult green turtle males, conducting in-water transects, and beach monitoring to collect genetic samples from nesting females and hatchlings for paternity determination.

One of his favorite memories at FSU was the quite literal “hands-on” experience of catching turtles through the “turtle rodeo.” His next plan is to begin a postdoctoral fellowship at FSU within Dr. Fuentes’ lab. He will continue his work in marine conservation, focusing on applied research that informs policy and enhances the effectiveness of conservation strategies.