Current Graduate Students

Graduate students are the life blood of the marine lab, coming from the departments of Biological Science, Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, and Geography 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

Rachael Best, Ph.D. student

Advisor: Dr. Don Levitan
I am broadly interested in the ecology of marine benthic invertebrates and the effect that environmental stressors have on their population dynamics. I am particularly interested in how stressors, such as high macroalgal cover or sedimentation, effect gorgonian octocoral population dynamics in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Despite their global distribution, octocorals are largely understudied. I intend to shed light on the mechanisms driving observed patterns in gorgonian distribution, abundance, and population dynamics between limestone reefs, as well as how increasing stressors will alter these populations.


Randi Bowman, Ph.D. student                                                        Advisor: Dr. Sandra Brooke                                                                                          I am broadly interested in studying how biodiversity affects ecosystem functioning in coral reef ecosystems. For my PhD research, I will use a combination of observational, field, and lab studies to identify and predict spatial and temporal shifts in coral functional diversity in response to anthropogenic stressors. My goal is to determine which aspects of functional diversity are key to maintaining high levels of coral reef ecosystem functioning in the face of regular disturbance regimes. In doing so, I hope to use my research to better inform coral reef conservation and management strategies

Ethan Cissell, Ph.D. student

Email:                                                                Advisor: Dr. Sophie McCoy                                                                                           I am broadly interested in exploring tripartite symbioses between bacteriophage, bacteria, and their hosts, with emphasis on how these interactions are altered in the context of climate change. For my Ph.D. research, I will study interactions between endolithic bacteria and their host coralline algae, as well as viral top-down control on endolithic community composition and abundance. My focuses will be: nutrient exchanges between the endolithic community and the host coralline, impacts of nutrient exchange on host ecology, and bioerosion of the living host. Empirically based models of bacterial population dynamics in conjunction with viral titre will be constructed to run cost-benefit analysis of bacterial colonization for the host, as well as to explore the consequences of changing ocean chemistry on bacteria-host-virus interactions.

Abbey Engleman, Ph.D. student
Advisor: Dr. Sandra Brooke
My research interests are rooted in understanding coral reef ecology, resilience, and response to changes in environmental parameters. I am particularly intrigued by how anthropogenic influences- such as climate change, coastal development, artificial reef development, and recreation and tourism uses- impact coral’s response rate and reproductive success. I aim to produce research that can be applied to future conservation and management of coral reef ecosystems.

Blake Hamilton, MSc. student

Advisor: Dr. Dean Grubbs                                                                                        My research interests lie in the field of fisheries ecology, more specifically with respect to elasmobranchs and their interactions with other fishes. My past work has been focused in fishery-independent monitoring, ranging from inland salmonid surveys in the Pacific Northwest to surveying and sampling commercially and recreationally important coastal species via commercial trawler from Cape Hatteras, NC to Martha’s Vineyard, MA. As part of my research, I will be coordinating fishery-independent gillnet and longline surveys in Florida’s Big Bend to continue the long-term monitoring of shark and teleost communities in this area. In addition, I hope to investigate temporal variation in trophic interactions with the help of stable isotope analysis, and supplement this with spatial data via acoustic telemetry to identify the movement of sharks between environments that may reflect different stable isotope signatures.   

Alex Hooks, Ph.D. student
Advisor: Dr. Scott Burgess
My interest is in the field of marine evolutionary ecology, a field that combines molecular genetics with experimental ecology. Previously I have gained experience in both of these areas through the use of genetic markers to study the hybridization of imperiled species during my undergraduate and through the use of manipulative ecological experiments to study predator-prey interactions during my Masters. For my dissertation, I am using a combination of genetic markers (microsatellites), manipulative experiments, and field studies to investigate polyandry in the Florida crown conch. In doing so I will be able to examine the degree of polyandry in the field as well as examine its effects on the interaction of siblings and the potential parent-offspring conflict that may occur as the level of polyandry increases.

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.

Johanna Imhoff, Ph.D. student

Advisor: Dr. Dean Grubbs
I am broadly interested in the ecology of marine fishes, mainly the elasmobranch fishes (sharks and rays). I am particularly interested in foraging and movement ecology of fishes, and the use of innovative techniques or technologies for studying them. In the past my research topics have included the use of accelerometer transmitters to study feeding and movements of aquatic animals, the movements of estuarine elasmobranchs, and ecology and conservation of endangered sawfishes. My current research focuses on the trophic ecology of six species of sharks in the northern Gulf of Mexico, ranging from the continental shelf edge (75 meters) to the lower continental slope (1000 meters). I am also studying levels of methylmercury contamination in these sharks relative to their trophic ecology, habitat, and proximity to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Josh Manning, Ph.D. student

Advisor: Dr. Sophie McCoy
I am broadly interested in algal ecology, particularly the ecology of crustose coralline algae (CCA) on coral reefs. I am also interested in how anthropogenic change is altering coral reef communities, and how human stresses are interacting with natural processes such as herbivory and competition. My MSc thesis research focused on the effects of ocean acidification on CCA common to the coral reefs of Mo'orea, French Polynesia, and I hope to build upon this research working with Dr. McCoy.

Brian Moe, Ph.D Student

Advisors: Dr. Chip Cotton and Dr. Joe Travis 

My research interests are broadly rooted in the ecology, life history, and population dynamics of marine fishes, particularly the elasmobranchs. My past research has focused on using biphasic growth theory to better model elasmobranch lifetime growth and more accurately estimate mortality rates and rebound potentials. My current research focuses on describing the growth and life history of deepwater sharks in the Gulf of Mexico, many of which are still poorly understood. I also plan to investigate the utility of near-infrared spectroscopy as a mechanism for aging sharks, as well as continue my investigations into the biological relevance of the Lester (biphasic) growth model.

Kevin Olsen, Ph.D. student
Advisor: Dr. Don R. Levitan
I am interested in the evolutionary ecology of marine benthic invertebrates. Previously, I have studied how biotic and environmental factors act together or in isolation to influence the recruitment of reef-building corals (Olsen et al. 2013; 2014; 2015; 2016; Ross et al. 2013; 2015). For my dissertation, I'm studying the potential adaptive value of inbreeding in marine inverts using a common species of seasquirt in the Gulf of Mexico. Through this research I aim to better understand the reproductive dynamics of sessile organisms in the ocean. Recent Publications: Olsen K., Sneed J.M., Paul V.J. (2016) Differential larval settlement responses of Porites astreoides and Acropora palmata in the presence of the green alga Halimeda opuntia. Coral Reefs 35: 521-525

Cheston Peterson, Ph.D. student
Advisor: Dr. Dean Grubbs
My research interests are broadly rooted in the ecology of large marine fishes, particularly the elasmobranch fishes. My current research involves the natural history and trophic ecology of coastal sharks in the seagrass habitat of the Florida Big Bend. I am using fishery-independent gillnet and longline surveys to document the shark and larger teleost assemblages in this area, and I am describing the trophic structure of this community using stable isotope analysis. Additional interests of mine include the trophic and isotopic relationships of commensal diskfishes (the sharksucker and common remora, family Echeneidae) and elasmobranch ectoparasites and their hosts, as well as the effects of highly mobile and migratory species on ecological systems.

Jackson Powell, Ph.D. student

Advisor: Dr. Scott Burgess
I am interested in the evolution of marine organisms that undergo metamorphosis and have multiple life stages. In particular, I aim to 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.

Aaron Ridall, Ph.D. student

Advisor: Dr. Jeroen Ingels                                                                                             I am broadly interested in understanding how anthropogenic pollution is affecting marine environments. I am particularly interested in how the presence of microplastics changes nutrient availability in subtidal sediments. My current research focuses on quantifying the effects of microplastics on marine biogeochemistry, specifically carbon and nitrogen cycling, in the subtidal sediments of the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. I also hope to assess the concentration of microplastics in the Gulf of Mexico and around the Florida peninsula to contribute to the on-going need for specific data on the presence of microplastics in the ocean.

Earth Ocean & Atmospheric Science

Adam Alfasso, Ph.D. student
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.

Nika Blank, MSc. student

Advisor: Dr. Sandra Brooke                                                                                          My research centers around the Northern Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and the biological variance between shallow-water invertebrates, both within the region itself and on a larger-scale.  I am interested in investigating the diversity of invertebrates in the Northern Gulf and any behavioral or physiological adaptations they may have to cope with changes to their ecosystem.  My hopes are to increase the scientific community's understanding of this largely-unexplored part of the Gulf of Mexico and identify behavioral patterns of these invertebrates to gauge how they might endure with the onset of climate change. 

Anthony Sogluizzo, MSc. student

Advisor: Dr. Sandra Brooke
I am broadly interested in coral reef ecology but more specifically in the interactions between coral host and photosynthetic algal symbiont (zooxanthellae). My project intends to reveal how symbiont communities change in coral tissues based on natural seasonal and latitudinal gradients from the Florida Panhandle to the Florida Keys. Ultimately, I want to show how corals and their symbiont communities might change in response to climate change.

Last Updated: Tuesday, June 16, 2020 at 10:07 AM