Dr. Halligan (Department of Anthropology) researches archaeological sites in North America to understand how and when the first Americans colonized the continent and how they lived. The best-preserved sites occur in Florida’s freshwater rivers where unique geological and chemical processes in play after the last ice age allowed them to remain intact. She also studies how human cultures and the environment in the Big Bend have changed over the past 15,000 years to understand human response to climate change.
Dr. Levitan’s diverse research on sea urchins includes conducting field experiments on gamete fertilization and reproductive isolation, molecular studies of paternity, hybridization and protein evolution, phylogenetic analysis of trait evolution as well as theoretical explorations of sexual selection and gamete evolution. He conducts research at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Center (British Columbia); the Virgin Islands Research Station in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and at the Smithsonian field stations in Panama and Belize.
Kevin Olsen is interested in the population genetics and reproductive biology of marine benthic invertebrates. He uses SCUBA to study the importance of genetic variation during mass spawning events of Caribbean corals, as well as the populations-level genetic organization of ascidians in local waters of the Gulf. Through his research, Kevin hopes to better understand the relative roles of spatial proximity and relatedness in determining the mating structure of these sessile animals.
Brian is a graduate student in the Department of Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences. He studies the biogeochemical settings in which hyrocarbon degradation occurs in the Gulf of Mexico related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, focusing on those factors that control degradation in sediments from shallow coastal environments to the deep sea. He hopes that his work will assist the public and policy makers with best practice decision making for future oil spills.
Dr. Huettel’s research addresses the cycling of carbon and nitrogen in the coastal ocean. A primary interest is the flux of oxygen across the sediment – water interface because oxygen consumption is a good proxy for organic carbon mineralization in marine sediments. This flux is measured with instrumentation that he has developed with his colleague, Dr. Peter Berg (University of Virginia). One of the primary study sites for this research is in the Florida Keys (photo of diver Lee Russell).
Chris, a graduate student in Biological Science, is interested in the anthropogenic effects of pollution, habitat destruction, and overfishing on population declines of reef fishes. Understanding the significance of such effects and how best to mitigate them is critical to conservation efforts. For his research, he will examine the effect of mercury contamination on the life history of the protected Goliath Grouper because of the potential consequences to human health in eating mercury-laden fish.
Dr. Morey (Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies) studies the circulation of the Gulf of Mexico, examining the connectivity between estuaries and offshore environments, oceanic responses to hurricanes, and the influence of topography on deepwater processes. These involve significant interdisciplinary collaborations with ecologists and meteorologists. His high-resolution ocean model for the Big Bend Region will integrate with a coupled ocean-atmospheric-biogeochemical model and an observational network.
Ryan, a graduate student in Biological Science, studies the social structure and ecology of Black Sea Bass along the Florida Gulf Coast. Little is known about the reproductive behavior of this species. His goal is to understand spawning behavior and the underlying mechanisms of sex change in this sequential hermaphrodite, providing important information to ensure sustainable management. Ryan uses diving as a tool to conduct observational studies in the wild on this understudied fishery species.
Austin is a graduate student in the Department of Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences. His interest is in the trophic ecology of Gag (a grouper) on the live-bottom habitat that they occupy after leaving the seagrass beds and before transiting to offshore reefs. He will compare the diets of juvenile Gag on natural and artificial reefs, using diving as a tool to classify the communities associated with both types of structure. The results will provide information essential for good management of these commercially significant fish.