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

Ethan Cissell, Ph.D. student

Advisor: Dr. Sophie McCoy
I am interested in linking marine microbial community ecology with that of the benthic communities within which they are embedded. More specifically, I am interested in evaluating the impact of anthropogenic stress on the composition of these communities. My research is focused on elucidating how these changes in community composition impact benthic nutrient availability and uptake, as well as understanding morphological and/or physiological responses to such changes. 

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.

Jasmin Graham, Ph.D. student
Advisor: Dr. Dean Grubbs
I am broadly interested in the ecology and conservation of coastal elasmobranch species. I am particularly interested in the identification of critical habitats and movement patterns of vulnerable species. For my project I am using acoustic telemetry to track the movements of Pristis pectinata, the smalltooth sawfish, which is a critically endangered elasmobranch species. The ultimate goal of this project is to identify where this species is spending most of its time and what areas are vital for the recovery and conservation of this species.

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.

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.

Katie Kaiser, MSc. student
Advisor: Dr. Janie Wulff
I am broadly interested in species interactions and distribution patterns. Particularly I'm interested in seeing how species distribution patterns have changed over time, what factors may be behind species distribution and abundance shifts, and how these affect tightly linked ecological interactions. My project address these interests by focusing on marine sponges. For my project I am recording the species distribution of marine sponges along the Florida Gulf coast, and seeing how current patterns compare to past studies as well as the individual distribution patterns of different species and genera. I'm also looking at ecological interactions involving local sponges, specifically predation by Echinaster starfish species, and sponges interactions with decorator crabs.

Chris Malinowski, Ph.D. student

Advisor: Dr. Felicia Coleman
I am interested in aquatic and marine ecology, particularly as it relates to interactions between fish and their environment. My research focus is in prey and habitat preference, demographic patterns, movement patterns, and spawning behavior. I have also in the past researched foraging ecology, niche partitioning, and nutrient selection in marine mammals. For my Ph.D. I will research the effects of shelf-edge marine protected areas on reef fish recovery, particularly the recovery of overfished species. This research will focus on economically and environmentally important coral reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. South Atlantic, primarily groupers and snappers.

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.

Bianca Prohaska, Ph.D. student
Advisor: Dr. Dean Grubbs
My research interests are in the ecological and physiological conservation of fishes. I am particularly interested in researching deep sea sharks, using plasma hormones to better understand their reproduction, and blood stress parameters relative to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. My past research has focused on developing non-lethal methods for studying the reproductive biology of elasmobranchs (sharks, skates and rays) using reproductive hormones extracted from skeletal muscle tissue. Recent Publications: Prohaska, BK, PCW Tsang, WB Driggers III, et al. 2013. Assessing reproductive status in elasmobranch fishes using steroid hormones extracted from skeletal muscle tissue. Conservation Physiology 1:doi:10.1093/conphys/cot028

Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Science

Adam Alfasso, MSc. 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.

Bryan Keller, Ph.D. student

Advisor: Dr. Dean Grubbs
My research interests are focused on spatial ecology of elasmobranch fishes. Specifically, I am seeking to assess the role of magnetic-based navigation in the seasonal migrations of coastal sharks. Many species are known to complete philopatric migrations, but the navigational mechanisms that facilitate this success are unknown. I hope that my work might elucidate some of this uncertainty.

Mackellar Violich, MSc. student
Advisor: Dr. Dean Grubbs
I am generally interested in deep-sea ecology and marine conservation. Specifically, I am interested in spacial ecology of deep-sea species distribution with depth and geographic ranges. My graduate research will focus on relative abundance of deep-water sharks in different depths temperature and geographical ranges. I will be monitoring the species through noninvasive methodologies; using a deep-sea camera to record abundance and biodiversity.

Barry Walton, Ph.D. student

Advisors: Dr. Charles Cotton and Dr. Mariana Fuentes
I am broadly interested in the ecology and life history of marine fishes. My graduate research will focus on the spatial ecology, reproductive biology, and behavior of two species of marine catfishes. Despite their high abundance and ubiquity throughout the southeastern U.S., the biology of these species is largely undocumented. Using acoustic telemetry I will determine sex-specific and seasonal movement patterns of these catfishes within Apalachicola Bay. I will also characterize the reproductive biology and investigate potential polyandry by genetic analysis of mouth-brooding males and their brood of eggs. My research on these healthy populations may become a vital benchmark for future comparisons with stocks that have declined.

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2018 at 2:37 PM