Current Graduate Students

Graduate students are the life blood of the marine lab, coming from the departments of Biological Science and Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences to work with resident faculty. Their enthusiasm, inquisitiveness, and creativity are contagious to everyone with whom they interact on the laboratory campus, including the staff, each other, and the faculty.

Biological Science

Laura Anthony, Ph.D. student (Advisor Dr. Sandra Brooke)                         
I am broadly interested in the ecology of deep-sea coral and sponge habitats. The majority of earth’s surface consists of deep-sea environments, yet little is known about the organisms that live there. Thus, I aim to understand how environmental processes impact deep-sea coral community distribution, reproduction, and more. I particularly hope to work towards the conservation and stewardship of these understudied ecosystems.

Donaven Baughman, Ph.D. student (Advisors Dr. Joel Trexler and Dr. Dan Okamoto)                         
My research interests are mainly focused in coastal ecology and how larval and juvenile invertebrates respond to environmental change. The juvenile stage is critical to survival and recruitment, and ultimately to the success of wild populations. My current work with the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) aims to understand how salinity regime effects juveniles ability to induce morphological defenses in response to their predators. I also hope to look at reef structure and density on the survival of juvenile oysters to provide useful insight for management and aquaculture purposes. 

Rachael Best, Ph.D. Candidate (Advisor Dr. Don Levitan)
I am broadly interested in the ecology of marine invertebrates and how they respond to environmental stressors. I am investigating how high macroalgal cover or sedimentation affect gorgonian octocorals in the northeast Gulf of Mexico. Despite their global distribution, octocorals are largely understudied. Thus, I will evaluate the mechanisms driving observed patterns of their distribution, abundance, and population dynamics on limestone reefs and how increasing stressors alter these populations.

Rachel Biton, MSc. student (Advisors Dr. Josh Breithaupt and Dr. Tom Miller)                      
My research interests focus on mangrove ecosystems, and I am broadly interested in studying the above ground structure, biomass accumulation and productivity in mangrove communities across multiple barrier islands located in Apalachicola Bay. I am also interested in exploring how various physical and chemical factors influence mangrove dispersal and establishment dynamics. This information will help to better understand how various environmental factors influence mangrove species and their shift in distribution patterns to help future management strategies and predict dispersal responses to environmental changes in an ecosystem.  


Annais Muschett-Bonilla, Ph.D. student (Advisor Dr. Dean Grubbs) 
I am interested in studying sexual behavior and less common phenomenons such as parthenogenesis and capture-induced parturition in elasmobranchs. My goal is to uncover the biological and evolutionary forces behind these topics and help discover fishing gear types that result in lower mortality and bycatch rates. My research will fill a large knowledge gap in this field and provide insight into how anthropogenic factors can affect organismal fitness and behaviors. This information may be applied to conservation methods to amplify threatened shark populations.


Ashley Dawdy, Ph.D. student (Advisor Dr. Dean Grubbs)
I am primarily interested in elasmobranch movement ecology, particularly for species of conservation concern. My past research used active and passive acoustic telemetry to investigate drivers of movement behavior in coastal sharks. My MS research includes the use of acoustic telemetry to investigate social and mating behavior in the critically endangered smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) in the Florida Keys, as well as to study the habitat use of Atlantic cownose rays (Rhinoptera bonasus) in Apalachicola Bay, FL. This work contributes to the delineation of essential fish habitat and informs the building of successful species conservation plans.

Jessica Dehn, MSc. student (Advisor Dr. Dean Grubbs)                       
My research interests lie in fish ecology, specifically their trophic ecology through stable isotope analysis. My past research focused on determining the time in which diet is reflected in the tissue of sharksuckers, Eceheneis naucrates, using such analysisWithin my time in marine biology, I have become increasingly interested in deep sea fishes and determining their trophic and community structure. My MSc research will utilize stable isotope analysis in order to form a standard for these deep sea fishes' structures in the Gulf of Mexico.

Adin Nahoa Domen, MSc. student (Advisor Dr. Sandra Brooke)                     
I am generally interested in how marine communities are adjusting and adapting to oyster reef restoration efforts done by the Apalachicola Bay System Initiative.

Chenoah DuBree, MSc. student (Advisors Dr. Jeroen Ingels and Dr. Amy Baco-Taylor)                      
I have broad interests when it comes to ecology, however, I have come to love benthic ecology from working in the Meiolab at FSUCML. Meiofauna are goldmines when it comes to researching ecological changes and offers many opportunities to stay flexible between studying coastal and deep-sea environments. For my current work, I will be investigating the impact of recycled water from Orange County Sanitation (OCSAN), looking into it’s affect on nematode communities. I will use DNA barcoding and taxa to determine what species live there and how that might change over the years. My hope is that this work will convince other sanitation programs to consider using nematodes and other meiofauna as bioindicators for monitoring their impact.

Emily Fuqua, Ph.D. student (Advisor Dr. Sandra Brooke) 
My research interests are based in applied ecophysiology. I am interested in how anthropogenic changes to the environment, such as increasing ocean temperature and increasing anoxic zones, affect an organism’s physiology, and in turn, how physiological changes affect an organism’s behavior and ecology. My PhD research will focus on Eastern oyster health in the Apalachicola Bay system, and my goal is to assist fisheries managers and conservationists in restoring and preserving a healthy oyster population in Apalachicola Bay.                      

Morgan Hawkins, Ph.D. student (Advisor Dr. Sandra Brooke)
My research focuses on using natural and artificial chemical cues oyster larvae use to set onto a substrate, and using those cues to increase settlement rates in a hatchery setting. Using these findings, I will be able to research which techniques are optimal for restoration purposes. I hope to also explore southern bay scallops, by developing a technique to use within our own experimental hatchery to better understand their diminishing populations, ultimately finding which restorative methods are the most successful in returning a healthy number of scallops to our bay.

Joseph Horacek, Ph.D. student (Advisor Dr. Jeroen Ingels)
I am primarily interested in the ecology of marine meiofauna, particularly metazoan meiofauna. My research at FSU primarily deals with investigating genetic and morphological connectivity between populations of meiofaunal nematodes. I am also interested in molecular ecology, evolutionary biology, and conservation biology. Meiofauna are an important yet often under-studied component of the benthic environment. I hope my research will help elucidate the role of meiofauna in the marine ecosystems.

Emma Jackson, Ph.D. student (Advisor Dr. Dean Grubbs)                    
My research interests include trophic dynamics and community structures related to Elasmobranchs. I am particularly interested in the influence climate change has on complex food webs and how it may change over time. Previously, I have studied the diet of sandbar sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus) off the Southeast coast of the United States which has driven my interests related to trophic ecology. I also have a broad background including paleoclimatology, marine mammal and sea turtle rehabilitation, and biogeochemical cycling.

Jeremy Levine, MSc. student (Advisor Dr. Joel Trexler)                   
My research interests are broad, but I intend to conduct research in relation to oyster reef ecology.


Marty Martinez, MSc. student (Advisor Dr. Scott Burgess)
My research interests are mainly focused on the ecology and genetics of marine invertebrates. I am currently interested in documenting the effects of environmental stress on the severity of inbreeding depression in Bugula neritina, a species of bryozoan located in the Gulf of Mexico. I have previously researched the interactions between marine microbes and carbon, sulfur, and energy cycles in the ocean.



Brian Moe, Ph.D student (Advisors Dr. Chip Cotton and Dr. Joseph Travis)
My research interests are rooted in the ecology, life history, and population dynamics of elasmobranchs. My past research focused on using biphasic life‐history trade‐offs to model elasmobranch lifetime growth and to estimate mortality rates and rebound potentials (still of great interest), whereas my current research describes the age (using near-infrared spectroscopy), growth and life history patterns of deepwater sharks in the Gulf of Mexico, many of which are still poorly understood.


Jackson Powell, Ph.D. Candidate (Advisor Dr. Scott Burgess)
I am interested in the evolution of marine organisms that undergo metamorphosis and have multiple life stages. I  investigate how selection across the planktonic larval and benthic adult stages of certain marine invertebrates presents the possibility of constraining adaptive evolution to novel or changing environments.  In doing so, I plan to highlight the importance of considering multiple life stages when attempting to predict how populations will respond to climate-change and anthropogenic effects.
FSUCML shines spotlight on Powell

Bobbie Renfro, Ph.D. Candidate (Advisor Dr. Janie Wulff)                          
I am generally interested in conducting research, teaching, and public outreach related to tropical marine ecology and anthropogenic disturbance. Specifically, my dissertation research explores the effects of nutrient enrichment on Caribbean reef sponges.

 Selma Squafi, MSc. student (Advisors Dr. Josh Breithaupt and Dr. Tom Miller)                    
My research focuses on the ways that sea-level rise impacts coastal ecology in critical habitats such as wetlands.  I am currently considering how sea-level rise and inland expansion of saltwater may modify the role of aquatic animals in biogeochemical processes related to wetland surface elevation change.


Michael Wintermantel, Ph.D. student (Advisor Dr. Sandra Brooke and Dr. Don Levitan)                        
My research interests focus on the organismal biology and physiology of marine organisms. I am particularly interested in larval and planktonic life-stages, and am working with the Apalachicola Bay System Initiative to help understand the challenges faced by the larvae of Eastern Oysters. I aim to understand how stress early in an oyster’s life affects its development, survival, and reproductive success as an adult. I hope to contribute my research to restoration efforts of the Bay’s ecosystems and to find a solution for future enjoyment of a healthy ecosystem and sustainable oyster fishery.

Earth, Ocean, & Atmospheric Science

Adam Alfasso, Ph.D. Candidate (Advisor Dr. Sandra Brooke)

My research interests are focused on marine and aquatic ecology, and the response of communities to changing environmental factors.  I am particularly focused on predictive habitat and distribution modelling for marine fishes and coral ecosystems.  My current project is creating a habitat suitability model for mesophotic corals in the Big Bend region.  I aim to produce research that can be applied to the protection and management of at risk marine habitats.

Kevin Engelbert, MSc. student (Advisor Dr. Josh Breithaupt)                        
My research focuses on sediment deposition, including carbon and nutrient burial rates, of the bay region. I could apply this focus to a variety of potential coastal environments including mangroves, marshes, oyster reefs, and benthic environments. Understanding these rates can bring insight into how ecosystems can contend with anthropogenic changes such as sea level rise and natural processes. This research could help elucidate the importance of coastal wetland contributions to greenhouse gases and nutrient availability in coastal soils on a regional and global scale.



Jenny Bueno, Ph.D. student (Advisors Dr. Sandra Brooke and Dr. Sarah Lester)                          
My research interests include marine conservation and restoration. I have previous experience using remote sensing techniques to detect coastal change in lacustrine environments. I am interested in applying these techniques and learning more ways to conserve and restore marine ecosystems. Co-advised by Dr. Sarah Lester and Dr. Sandra Brooke, I aim to research the decline and future restoration of Apalachicola Bay as part of the Apalachicola Bay System Initiative.

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2024 at 10:34 AM