Graduate Student Spotlight
Summer 2015 - Alejandra Mickle
I came to the FSUCML as an undergrad intern in 2009 to work with Dr. Chris Stallings on various projects related to the faunal communities of the Big Bend seagrass meadows. I eventually worked my way to a lab manager position for Dr. Stallings lab and later on, worked as a research technician for Dr. Jeff Chanton in the FSU Department of Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences and Dr. Dean Grubbs at the FSUCML. These jobs allowed me to gain field and laboratory experience collecting and processing samples for various projects related to feeding ecology of coastal bony fish and sharks, mercury bioaccumulation in coastal fishes, deep sea sediment geochemistry and the potential effects of the Deep Water Horizon (DWH) oil spill on deep sea communities. After 4 years of tech-ing, I decided to go back to school to obtain my M.S. in Oceanography and apply the research techniques I had learned as a technician to my own research projects.
My research focuses on an unusual organism: the hagfish. There are three species found in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM), two of which are endemic to the Gulf, and yet very little is known about basic aspects of their biology and ecology. Found at depth ranges between 400-1200 m between the West-Florida Slope and the Louisiana Slope, hagfish are assumed to be mostly scavengers and so, it is believed that most hagfishes provide critical ecosystem services like the removal and recycling of organic matter by consuming bycatch discards and carrion falls. The roles of different feeding behaviors within each species can drastically change the energetic demands of a local population, potentially altering trophic interactions and estimates of substrate turnover and energy transfer for the ecosystem they inhabit. I will look at spatiotemporal mediated differences in feeding ecology and diet composition between and within species using stable isotope analysis, stomach content/prey DNA identification techniques and lipid composition index to identify whether these species exhibit predatory or scavenging behavior and if they occupy different feeding niches. I will also analyze mercury concentrations along the same spatiotemporal parameters and investigate any potential effects of the release of oil from the DWH spill on mercury concentrations in muscle tissue.