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, MSc. 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.

Rachael Best, Ph.D. student (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.

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.


Ethan Cissell, Ph.D. Candidate (Advisor Dr. Sophie McCoy)    
My research explores symbioses between endolithic bacteria, viruses that parasitize them, and their coralline algae hosts, and how climate change affects their interactions. It also includes how viral top-down control affects community composition and abundance. Focus at the community level will reveal the effects of nutrient exchange on host ecology and bioerosion. I will use empirically-based models to analyze the effects of viral burden on bacterial population dynamics and to explore the consequences of changing ocean chemistry on bacteria-host-virus interactions.  

FSUCML shines spotlight on Cissell

Ashley Dawdy, MSc. student (Advisor Dr. Dean Grubbs)
I am primarily interested in elasmobranch ecology and behavior, particularly in dynamic systems. My past research used active and passive acoustic telemetry of bonnetheads (Sphyrna tiburo) and bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) in Apalachicola Bay, FL, to investigate movement and habitat use patterns along diel and tidal cycles. I plan to use acoustic telemetry to investigate social and mating behavior in the critically endangered smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata). This work contributes to the delineation of essential fish habitat and informs the building of successful species
conservation plans.

Abbey Engleman, Ph.D. Candidate (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.

Jake Ephron, Ph.D. student (Advisor Dr. Sophie McCoy)                         
I am broadly interested in how anthropogenic stressors affect marine invertebrate fisheries on a population level. I am interested in taking theoretical and applied approaches to oyster reef and fisheries management and utilizing them within a global change context for the Florida Gulf Coast and Salish Sea. 

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.                      


Blake Hamilton, MSc. student (Advisor Dr. Dean Grubbs)
My interests lie in the field of fisheries ecology and natural resource management, which drives my research on trophic and community ecology of elasmobranchs in the Apalachicola Bay system. I am investigating various organic matter contributions to consumer biomass in this system with the aim of quantifying the relative importance of floodplain and fluvial based nutrients for higher trophic level fishes in the bay. I also coordinate the Grubbs Lab’s GulfSPAN survey which investigates coastal shark communities along Florida’s Big Bend. 

Alex Hooks, Ph.D. Candidate (Advisor Dr. Scott Burgess)
My research in evolutionary ecology combines molecular genetics with experimental ecology, areas in which I have had experience as an undergraduate studying hybridization of imperiled species and as an MSc student conducting predator-prey experiments. My PhD research uses both approaches to investigate polyandry in Florida crown conch to describe polyandry in field populations, to examine its effect on sibling interactions, and to understand whether the level of polyandry tracks with the intensity of parent-offspring conflicts.

Joseph Horacek, Ph.D. student (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, particularly in their foraging and movement ecology, using innovative technologies to study them. 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 to the lower continental slope. I am also evaluating methylmercury contamination in these sharks relative to their trophic ecology, habitat, and proximity to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Josh Manning, Ph.D. Candidate (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. 

FSUCML shines spotlight on Manning

Sean McCollum, Ph.D. student (Advisor Dr. Sophie McCoy)
I am interested in how marine invertebrate physiology and behavior is impacted by shifts in coastal ecosystems. Particularly, I am interested in the direct and indirect effects of ocean acidification on reef-associated invertebrates. 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.

Kevin Olsen, Ph.D. Candidate (Advisor Dr. Don Levitan)
I am interested in the evolutionary ecology of marine invertebrates, in particular whether biotic and environmental factors act together or in isolation to influence the recruitment of reef-building corals (Olsen et al. 2013-2016; Ross et al. 2013, 2015). For my PhD, I'm studying the adaptive value of inbreeding in marine inverts using a common species of seasquirt in the Gulf of Mexico (2020). The goal is to better understand the reproductive dynamics of sessile organisms in the ocean. See pubs in Google Scholar.

FSUCML shines spotlight on Olsen

Cheston Peterson, Ph.D. Candidate (Advisor Dr. Dean Grubbs)
My primary interest is in the ecology of large marine fishes, which informs my current research on the natural history and ecology of coastal sharks in the Florida Big Bend seagrass habitats. Here, I use fishery-independent surveys to document fish assemblages, and stable isotope analysis to describe trophic structure. Additional interests include the trophic and isotopic relationships of commensal diskfishes (Family Echeneidae)., elasmobranch ectoparasites, and their hosts, as well as the effects of highly mobile and migratory species on ecological systems.

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

Aaron Ridall, Ph.D. student (Advisor Dr. Jeroen Ingels)                          
I am broadly interested in how anthropogenic pollution affects marine environments. In particular, how microplastics change 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 (Dr. Sandra Brooke) 
My research explores the biological diversity of shallow-water invertebrates of the northern Gulf of Mexico, both within the region itself and on a larger spatial scale. I am particularly interested in determining whether they have any  behavioral or physiological adaptations that would help them survive changes to the ecosystem due to climate.  My goal  overall goal is to increase the scientific community's understanding  of this largely unexplored region of the Gulf.

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.


Jenny Bueno, MSc. 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, October 27, 2020 at 3:51 PM