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.
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.
Erica Atkins, Ph.D. student (Advisor Dr. Scott Burgess)
My research interests lie in the field of conservation genetics. My previous research utilized a combination of genomic approaches including massive parallel sequencing and sanger sequencing to examine connectivity and sex biased dispersal of a large marine predator in the Gulf of Mexico. My dissertation research will focus on the characterization of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data to understand the impacts of larval dispersal on population structure and genetic relatedness of a bryozoan in the Gulf of Mexico.
Danie Barnes, MSc. student (Advisor Dr. Scott Burgess)
My research interests lie in the ecology and evolution of dispersal and population structure of benthic marine invertebrates. I am specifically interesting in studying the kin structure of bryozoans in the Gulf of Mexico. My previous research examined predator-induced phenotypic plasticity of sand dollars and sea urchins across life history stages.
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 Bonilla-Johnson, 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.
Randi Bowman, Ph.D. student (Advisor Dr. Sandra Brooke)
I am broadly interested in studying how biodiversity affects ecosystem functioning in coral reef ecosystems. I 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 objective is to determine which aspects of functional diversity are key to maintaining high-level ecosystem functioning in the face of regularly occurring disturbances. My goal is to use my research to inform coral reef conservation and management strategies.
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 analysis. Within 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.
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.
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.
Sean McCollum, Ph.D. student (Advisors Dr. Joel Trexler and Dr. Sophie McCoy)
I am interested in the role of seagrass meadows as blue carbon ecosystems. These ecosystems help mitigate climate change by burying large quantities of organic carbon in their sediments. My research focuses on how anthropogenic activities such as nutrient enrichment impact the carbon sink capacity of seagrass meadows. Currently, I am investigating how nutrient enrichment influences the decomposition of buried organic matter within seagrass meadows. I earned my BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz where I researched the functional composition and diversity of invertebrate zooplankton communities off the coast of Santa Catalina Island, CA.
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.
Aaron Ridall, Ph.D. Candidate (Advisor Dr. Jeroen Ingels)
I am broadly interested in how anthropogenic pollution affects marine environments. In particular, I am interested in how microplastics change nutrient availability in subtidal sediments. My current research focuses on quantifying the effects of microplastics on ecosystem function, specifically bioturbation and denitrification, 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.
Noel Robinson, MSc. student (Advisor Dr. Joel Trexler)
The diversity and ecology of invertebrates consumes my research interests. Recreationally I study terrestrial and marine invertebrates while academically I focus on freshwater macroinvertebrates. My current research investigates aquatic invertebrate biomass transferred from wetted marsh to the surrounding terrestrial environment.
Selma Squafi, MSc. student (Advisors Dr. Josh Breithaupt and Dr. Joel Trexler)
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.
Barry Walton, Ph.D. student (Advisors Dr. Sandra Brooke and Dr. Joel Trexler)
I am broadly interested in elasmobranch and teleost ecology. Ecological questions pertaining to their trophic interactions, food web dynamics, community structure, and movements are especially interesting to me. My dissertation research will focus upon the teleost and elasmobranch communities associated with oyster habitat within the Apalachicola Bay System. Oyster reefs provide biogenic habitat to many ecologically and economically important fish and invertebrates which use the habitat for foraging, shelter, and spawning. Therefore, it is crucial that we understand and monitor the fish and shark communities which rely upon this habitat. My research will use stable isotopes and fatty acid profiles to examine trophic interactions between target species on oyster reefs, environmental DNA (eDNA) methods to investigate community structure present in oyster habitat, and acoustic telemetry to track fish movements and quantify the usage of local oyster habitat.
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.
Grace Westphal, Ph.D. student (Advisors Dr. Tara Stewart Merrill and Dr. Dan Okamoto)
My research interests are founded in eco-immunology, and I am broadly interested in the effects of environmental stressors on invertebrate health and disease. My current research focuses on understanding the role of genes and the environment in shaping invertebrate immunological traits, and the extent to which infectious disease drives clonal selection in Daphnia. Under the advisement of Dr. Stewart Merrill, I am interested in exploring how disease shapes Eastern Oyster populations in Apalachicola Bay. I hope that my research will contribute to the restoration and long-term health of oyster reefs in the bay.
Earth, Ocean, & Atmospheric Science
Adam Alfasso, Ph.D. student (Advisor Dr. Sandra Brooke)
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.