Meet the Scientific Divers

The Scientific Divers at Florida State University conduct research from the blackwater rivers of northwest Florida to the coral reefs of French Polynesia.  Let us introduce you to these incredible scientists and the star stuff that helps make Florida State University one of the top idea incubators in the nation. 

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    PADI OWSI Bobbie Renfro is generally interested in conducting research, teaching, and public outreach related to tropical marine ecology and anthropogenic disturbance. Specifically, her dissertation research explores the effects of nutrient enrichment on Caribbean reef sponges. She is also currently using her PADI Pro skill set to guide volunteer recreational divers on sponge restoration dives to restore the famous Alligator Reef in the Florida Keys with the Islamorada Conservation and Restoration Education group.

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    Graduate student Nika Blank 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. She's particularly interested in determining the possibility of range shifts to help them survive environmental changes due to climate change.

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    Graduate student Rachael Best is investigating how gorgonian octocorals in the northeast Gulf of Mexico are able to persist under variable and changing environmental conditions despite being unable to move. Octocorals are distributed globally, yet they are largely understudied. She is working out of the FSU Marine Lab on a species of gorgonian that is prevalent locally to evaluate how mechanisms, such as phenotypic plasticity, are driving observed patterns of their morphology and distribution between inshore and offshore limestone reefs.

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    Jackson's research focuses on how the rate of adaptive evolution can be slowed by several factors, particularly multiple life stages (larvae and adults). The rate of adaptive evolution can be used to predict if populations will persist if the rate is fast enough to allow a population to evolve quickly enough to keep up with changes to the environment, such as an increase in temperature and a decrease in pH. Knowing what could influence the rate of adaptive evolution improves our understanding of which populations will remain intact in the future. Additionally, organisms with multiple life stages are rarely studied at all life stages in spite of their abundance (Insects, crabs, sea urchins, oysters, marine gastropods, etc.).

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    FSU graduate student Nate Spindel aims to advance our understanding of how food availability, trophic dynamics, and environmental change affect the metabolic ecology of size-structured populations. He currently study benthic marine invertebrates such as urchins and abalone in temperate kelp forest ecosystems as model organisms for understanding these dynamics. In the past, he also studied the physiological ecology of tropical corals and calcifying algae under environmental pressure from ocean acidification.

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    Dr. Scott Burgess is a marine ecologist. His research focuses on larval dispersal, reproductive strategies, and adaptation in organisms such as corals and bryozoans, among others. He conducts field experiments and surveys using SCUBA in coastal waters off the FSUCML and at Moorea, French Polynesia.

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    FSU graduate student Ethan Cissell is documenting the short-term bloom dynamics of benthic cyanobacterial mats on the coral reefs in Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean. Benthic cyanobacterial mats are increasing in cover on coral reefs worldwide, and pose numerous threats to overall reef health. His research seeks a better understanding of the persistence and resilience of these mats.


Last Updated: Friday, July 2, 2021 at 4:45 PM