News and Events

New species named in honor of CMS Professor

UNIVERSITY OF BONN, GERMANY - Researchers at the University of Bonn, Germany, Meena Förderer and Martin R. Langer, in a paper published in PeerJ on 23 June 2016, described five new species, naming one Siphonapertra hallocki. Quoting from their paper "Etymology. In honor of Pamela Hallock Muller for her extensive work on tropical foraminifera".

The paper is available at:

New, effective DNA method for discovering fish spawning grounds

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - Towing a plankton net to scoop up fish eggs may be routine, but determining the species is a different matter altogether.  A collaboration of two labs at the College of Marine Science uses a new method to discover fish spawning grounds through analysis of the DNA in fish eggs. 

The vast majority of fish in the ocean are broadcast spawners –the female releases eggs in large quantities to float around until the larvae hatch and swim away on their own.  A problem facing many fisheries managers is the time it takes to estimate fish populations.  A new method utilizing DNA will likely reduce that time from years to months. 

Dr. Ernst Peebles realized that existing fish population methods could be extended to a much larger number of species through new technologies and new databases like FISH-BOL (fish barcode of life).  With the development of the Marine Resource Assessment program in 2010 here at the college, Dr. Mya Breitbart was eager to collaborate with fisheries ecologists on gaps in the body of research that molecular biology methods might fill. 

A process called DNA barcoding focuses on a segment of DNA that is short enough to be efficiently sequenced but long enough to allow for identification of species.  While most fish eggs look alike, their DNA does not.

Working in one of Dr. Breitbart’s microbiology labs, USFSP senior Makenzie Burrows performs much of the hands-on DNA work related to this project.  Dr. Breitbart explains the process further, “When we sequence this gene, we can then compare it against the database and that tells us what species each fish egg belongs to.”

From the original proof-of-concept study done in small Terra Ceia Bay (near the mouth of Tampa Bay), the DNA barcoding of fish eggs has expanded to cover the entire Gulf of Mexico. 

With the identification data from Dr. Breitbart’s lab, fish population researchers can use the number of floating eggs, compare that with the rate of egg production and calculate the number of females releasing eggs for each species.

Dr. Peebles points out that this method is not only rapid, but could be very cost effective in comparison to conventional methods.

The most exciting aspect of this project for fisheries scientists is the discoveries that await them.  Dr. Peebles notes, “This method is one of the best, if not the best, methods of detecting spawning in marine fish.” 

And by identifying new spawning grounds, resource managers have the ability to increase protection of spawning habitats to ensure the longevity of ecologically and economically important species.

Breitbart Lab Website 

Last modified on Monday, 08 May 2017 13:13

Nitrogen Dynamics in Tropical Coastal Ecosystems: A Case Study in Guam


Speakers/Affiliations: Kiho Kim, American University

Seminar Title: Nitrogen Dynamics in Tropical Coastal Ecosystems: A Case Study in Guam

When: Mar. 9, 2017 3:30pm EST

Where: MSL Conference Room (134)

Host: Chris Simoniello

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NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program


Speakers/Affiliations: Erica Hudson Ombres, NOAA

Seminar Title: NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program

When: August 24, 2017 3:30pm EST

Where: MSL Conference Room (134)

Host: Don Chambers

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NOSB 20th Anniversary

CORVALLIS, OR - The Annual and 20th Anniversary National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB) National Finals Competition will take place next week on April 20-23, 2017, in Corvallis, OR. This year’s Finals are hosted by Salmon Bowl and Ocean Leadership member, Oregon State University.  As 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the NOSB, they are celebrating with a retrospective on the program via social media. Their '20 days of NOSB' campaign launched a couple of weeks ago.

During this 20 day period, leading up to the Opening Ceremony of the 2017 Finals on April 20th, they'll be sharing photos, participant stories, historical and fun facts, and more. 

Join them on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and Tumblr, using @NOSBRocks, #20DaysNOSB, #NOSB17, and #NOSBturns20.

Last modified on Friday, 14 April 2017 13:44

Ocean acidification: ancient events and the future


Speaker: Dr. Lee Kump

Affiliation: Penn State

Seminar Title: Ocean acidification: ancient events and the future

When: Feb. 26, 2016 3:30pm EST

Where: MSL Conference Room (134)

Host: Eugene Shinn

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Last modified on Tuesday, 23 February 2016 15:38

Oceanography Camp for Girls 2017

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - The Oceanography Camp for Girls, which held its 25th anniversary last year, has just graduated another class of aspiring scientists and environmentally conscious thinkers.  The three-week camp teaches girls about science by having them be the scientist.  Hands-on work in the field and laboratory, as well as a strong focus on careers, gives participants a holistic view of what it means to be a scientist and what a future STEM career might look like.  Under the leadership of Dr. Teresa Greely and Dr. Angela Lodge and the teaching and mentoring of the graduate students of the College of Marine Science (CMS), the girls learn the social and technical aspects of working in science. 

Faculty members and researchers of CMS and scientists from the community fulfilled additional teaching roles and provided the girls further career insight.  Field excursions included Fort Desoto, Shell Key, Caladesi Island, Clam Bayou, Sea World and a research cruise aboard the R/V Angari.  Laboratory rotations throughout CMS demonstrated concepts from microbiology, advanced microscopy, seawater analysis, satellite remote sensing, fish physiology, marine medical services, ROV techniques, beach profiling, and geological sedimentary analysis.  The scientists put an exclamation on their camp experience with presentations of their projects at a ceremony held in FWC-FWRI’s Karen A. Steidinger Auditorium.  

Last modified on Wednesday, 05 July 2017 15:07

OCG alumni accepts internship at Center for Human Genetics Research

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - Jessie Green, a Biology student at Eckerd College, and Oceanography Camp for Girls alumni, has just accepted an internship at the Center for Human Genetics Research in Boston this summer.  Congratulations Jessica!

Operational wind wave and coastal hazard forecasting in the US


Speaker: Andre J. van der Westhuysen

Affiliation: NOAA NWS/NCEP/Environmental Modeling Center

Seminar Title: Operational wind wave and coastal hazard forecasting in the US

When: Nov. 17, 2016 3:30pm EST

Where: MSL Conference Room (134)

Host: Joseph Long (USGS)

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Last modified on Thursday, 01 December 2016 16:37

Oxygen Minimum Zones expanding

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - Recent research suggests that oxygen levels are declining, and oxygen minimum zones expanding, throughout the world's oceans as a result of climate change. Members of the Seibel lab have just returned from a month-long cruise aboard the R/V Sikuliaq in the Eastern Tropical Pacific studying the low-oxygen tolerance of marine animals. Zooplankton in this region display the lowest critical oxygen levels (highest tolerance) of any animals ever measured and live on the edge of oxygen limitation. 

Last modified on Thursday, 23 February 2017 19:39

PhD student Liz Fahsbender selected for NSF EAPSI Fellowship in Japan

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - PhD student Liz Fahsbender was selected to participate in the highly competitive NSF East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes (EAPSI) program, where she will study the viruses found in ticks alongside researchers at Hokkaido University in Japan this summer.

PhD student Michelle Masi collaborates with NMFS

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - On Oct 17, 2016, Michelle Masi successfully defended her dissertation entitled, "An ecosystem-based approach to reef fish management in the Gulf of Mexico". In collaboration with the National Marine Fisheries Service, she used an ecosystem model to evaluate potential harvest control rules for use in Gulf of Mexico reef fish fisheries management. Her results suggested that using an adaptive management approach has the potential to improve fisheries yields while simultaneously increasing abundance and biodiversity of the reef fish assemblage. Joining as members of her academic committee were Dr. Michael Schirripa of NOAA's Southeast Fisheries Science Center in Miami, and Dr. Isaac Kaplan of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. Michelle Masi is a PhD Candidate in the Marine Resource Assessment program. She was recently hired to a full-time stock assessment position at the Fisheries and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, FL. 

Philanthropist Anne Von Rosenstiel tours the laboratories of the USF College of Marine Science

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - Anne Von Rosenstiel maintains the same passion for the marine sciences that her late husband Werner Von Rosenstiel held.  Their philanthropic efforts have supported roughly 100 students up to the present and will continue into the future as her recent visit demonstrates. 

Anne and her daughter, Kathleen Davis, were joined by fellow guests, Drs. Susan and Peter Betzer.  A tour of selected labs from the Marine Science Laboratory and the Knight Oceanographic Research Center was guided by Howard Rutherford and presentations of the equipment, devices, and applications of the science were given by students Alex Ilich, Susan Snyder, Kelly Vasbinder, Jordon Meyer, and Erin Cuyler, and by faculty member Robert Byrne. 

The presenters expressed current and future relevance of their research to society, specifically through advanced fish population monitoring, analysis of toxic ingredients in sea life, modeling ocean parameters to improve Marine Protected Areas, satellite observations of ocean circulation and mixing which signal changes in climate, and the development of affordable devices that will allow citizen scientists to observe the effects of ocean acidification in our coastal waters. 

By Sean Beckwith

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Last modified on Tuesday, 22 August 2017 13:19

Poop and perception: A transdisciplinary approach to managing coastal microbial water quality in Costa Rica


Speakers/Affiliations: Erin Symonds, Sackett Award winner

Seminar Title: Poop and perception: A transdisciplinary approach to managing coastal microbial water quality in Costa Rica

When: Oct. 5, 2017 3:30pm EST

Where: MSL Conference Room (134)

Host: Mya Breitbart/David Naar

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Port St. Petersburg: Marine Exploration Center

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - In conjunction with a renovated Port Saint Petersburg, the Marine Exploration Center is set to open by the end of this year.  As the public face of the St. Pete Ocean Team, the Center will bring awareness to the wonders of the ocean (carrying on the tradition of the Pier Aquarium) and also to ports, the maritime industry and all the marine related research occurring in a cluster of high-level institutions in the downtown Saint Petersburg area.  An estimated 1600 people are working in a field related to marine research and technology in St. Pete.  In addition to the College of Marine Science, there is the U.S. Coast Guard, FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Institute of Oceanography, USGS Coastal and Marine Science Center, NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office, SRI International and more. 

The Marine Discovery Center will gather scientists for community discussions by hosting Drink-and-Think events that will also include food trucks.  Visitors will have opportunities to tour maritime and oceanographic vessels.  Permanent attractions will include the following:  Live Coral and Fish Tank, Oceans Today Kiosk (NOAA funded), Corals on Acid (2 tanks; NOAA funded), Counting on Fish/Florida Sportfish Aquarium and Interactive Exhibit (FWC funded), Science on a Sphere (NOAA funded), NOAA Kiosk (NOAA funded), Energizing Research (Duke Energy funded), Coral Cat Shark Tank, Microscope Station, Touch Tank, and Ocean Tracker Exhibit.  Finally, a large space dedicated to revolving exhibits will also host movie screenings and other events.

Last modified on Wednesday, 24 May 2017 13:45

Production and Traceability of NIST Electrochemical Standard Reference Materials


Speakers/Affiliations: Kenneth Pratt, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Seminar Title: Production and Traceability of NIST Electrochemical Standard Reference Materials

When: July 3, 2017 3:30pm EST

Where: MSL Conference Room (134)

Host: Robert Byrne

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Last modified on Tuesday, 19 September 2017 16:28

Projections of climate driven changes on blood oxygen affinity in pelagic habitats


Speaker: Allison K. Smith

Affiliation: Univ. Washington

Seminar Title: Projections of climate driven changes on blood oxygen affinity in pelagic habitats

When: Apr. 21, 2017 3:30pm EST

Where: MSL Conference Room (134)

Host: Brad Seibel

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Rally Around Town - Feb 19, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - Our next food truck rally is this Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, from 6 to 10 pm.  It's co-sponsored by the college, FIO, and the Pormer Pier Aquarium, aka Secrets of the Sea

Last modified on Friday, 19 February 2016 16:21

Recent Antarctic expeditions uncover clues to Antarctic ice sheet evolution and climate sensitivity

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - Since she was an undergraduate, Dr. Amelia Shevenell has been interested in how ocean and atmospheric temperatures influence Antarctica’s ice sheets in the distant and not-so-distant past.

For at least 34 million years, Antarctica has been partially or completely covered in ice. Plate tectonics positioned Antarctica over the pole more than 65 million years ago, and drove India, Australia, and South America northward during the breakup of the supercontinent, Gondwana. This tectonic break-up formed the Southern Ocean, which encircles Antarctica. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current now mostly isolates Antarctica from heat derived from lower latitudes, but not completely. South of the Polar Front, warm nutrient-rich waters formed in northern latitudes upwell, bringing heat to Antarctica’s ice sheets. Both modern and geologic observations indicate to Dr. Shevenell that oceanic and atmospheric warming influences Antarctica’s ice sheet stability. 

NSF funded research aboard the US ice-breaker R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer in 2014 is yielding new information on the role of ocean and atmospheric temperatures on East Antarctica’s ice sheet evolution.

US Icebreaker R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer

Photo By:  Amelia Shevenell

By studying the marine geologic record close to Antarctica’s ice sheets, researchers seek to understand the mechanisms by which glaciers retreat when climates were as warm or warmer than present. During the 2014 expedition to the Sabrina Coast, East Antarctica, Shevenell and her collaborators discovered that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is more sensitive to climate changes than previously thought. This is important because global sea level would rise 53 meters (174 feet) if the East Antarctic Ice Sheet melted completely. More realistically, ice melt from the most sensitive regions of East Antarctica could raise global sea levels ~19 meters (~60 feet). Glaciers along the Sabrina Coast are presently retreating and could contribute 3–5 meters (9–16.5 feet) of global sea level rise in a warming world.

Glaciers Along the Sabrina Coast

Photo:  Amelia Shevenell

Shevenell, USF graduate students, and collaborators collected evidence that ice expanded to the Sabrina Coast in the early-to-middle Eocene, much earlier than is traditionally accepted. They discovered deep channels carved into sediments and evidence for least 11 glacial advances and retreats across the continental shelf. These results indicate variability of regional glaciers may have been enhanced by large amounts of meltwater during the Oligocene and Miocene, geologic times when climate was warmer and atmospheric CO2 higher than at present. About seven million years ago as global climates cooled, regional glaciers expanded, stabilized, and were not influenced by meltwater. These results indicate that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet has long responded to climate variability. If meltwater increases as with continued warming, Antarctica’s ice sheets might respond more dynamically than expected.

In early 2018, Dr. Shevenell will return to Antarctica aboard the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) drillship, the JOIDES Resolution. Dr. Shevenell and her USF CMS Ph.D. student, Imogen Browne, will work with an international team of scientists to drill sites in the Ross Sea, which will enhance understanding of Antarctica’s ice sheet evolution over the past 20 million years. This cruise is particularly exciting because Dr. Shevenell has worked for over a decade on proposing and planning this Expedition.    

As researchers explore Antarctica, more data is generated that can be plugged into ice and climate models to improve our collective understanding of ice sheet response to ongoing warming. Model improvements will ultimately enable scientists to make accurate estimates of regional sea level rise, which are critical to policy makers, particularly those in low-lying regions, such as Tampa Bay.

Written By: Sean Beckwith

Last modified on Tuesday, 10 October 2017 18:13

Reconstruction of Aleutian seawater temperature since 1665 AD from the skeletons of coralline algae


Speaker: Dr. Branwen Williams

Affiliation: Claremont McKenna-Pitzer-Scripps Colleges

Seminar Title: Reconstruction of Aleutian seawater temperature since 1665 AD from the skeletons of coralline algae

When: Oct. 16, 2015 3:30pm EST

Where: MSL Conference Room (134)

Host: Ryan Moyer

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Red Tide Chek, the first hand-held device that can detect red tide in the field

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - John Paul, PhD, USF distinguished professor, is lead inventor of Red Tide Chek, the first hand-held device that can detect red tide in the field.  Red tide is one of Florida’s greatest environmental, ecological and economic threats. These harmful algal blooms can cause human health problems and hamper the economy in lost tourism dollars and damaged fisheries.

Read the full USF article

Listen to the radio interview

Last modified on Tuesday, 22 August 2017 18:32

Remote Sensing, a necessary tool for studying biodiversity at effective scales

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - From local to global and micro to macro, the applications of remote sensing are integral to understanding biodiversity across regions and filling the data gaps that exist between them. 

Dr. Frank Muller Karger and his group at the Institute for Marine Remote Sensing collaborate with a larger network of scientists and resource managers to catalog biodiversity as it has never been done before:  with consistency of data from region to region and at scales that reveal the important connectivity among the gradient of marine habitats.

Sanctuaries Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (Sanctuaries MBON) is part of a global consortium of BONs that are building web portals of real-time and historical data through which scientists and environmental resource managers can assess the ecological well-being of the region they are tasked with studying, maintaining or improving. 

On-going bimonthly cruises in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) are conducted by NOAA AOML scientists and members from IMaRS to gather a suite of water quality data.  Pairing water samples with satellite observations, IMaRS member Megan Hepner uses GIS maps to display biodiversity of coral reef fishes along the entire reef tract of the FKNMS.  Simpson and Shannon diversity indices – statistical methods used to classify ecosystem integrity and resilience – show that greater diversity is found in the Lower and Upper Keys than in the Middle Keys.  Dr. Muller-Karger and assistant Dr. Enrique Montes oversee the assimilation of the sampling efforts and observations into the Sanctuaries MBON research initiative. 

Tools like infographics will be a key point of interaction on the sites for both resource managers and members of the general public to learn about the biological composition of some protected ecosystems and any changes in diversity over time.  GIS maps hosted on the MBON web portal provide further spatial and temporal visualizations of ecosystem health and diversity in three National Marine Sanctuaries:  the Florida Keys, Monterey Bay and Flower Garden Banks. 

An additional layer of sampling within the MBON initiative is environmental DNA (eDNA).  The Marine Genomics Lab led by Dr. Mya Breitbart at the USF College of Marine Science is responsible for analyzing seawater samples for trace amounts of genetic material left behind by anything from microbes to whales.  New methods allow for fast, affordable interpretation of the DNA present in concentrated water samples.

The size, depth, and unforgiving surface conditions of the ocean make it impossible to continuously monitor conditions from all desired locations.  Satellite-based remote sensing provides solutions at exceptional spatial and temporal scales.  Careful groundtruthing is required to match sea surface conditions to the data derived from sensors orbiting the earth, and once that is accomplished, the result is unparalleled coverage of terrestrial and oceanographic ecosystems. 

Analysis of satellite data has allowed researchers from IMaRS to study phytoplankton blooms off the Texas coast in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, explore outbreaks of Dengue fever in the Caribbean, and improve wetland mapping methods for coastal areas.  In addition, the lab is improving characterization of the impacts to coastal areas from red tides, storm-generated sediment plumes, water quality events, and land cover changes. 

Concurrent satellite observations of biological and physical variables from around the world allow observation networks to map the data in near real-time.  Some records span nearly three decades, and without these long term measurements, our understanding of changes throughout time would be lacking over much of the surface of the earth.  The list of global measurements includes:  vegetation biomass (land and ocean), winds, currents, waves, rainfall, cloud cover, land topography, and more.  As Dr. Muller Karger states, “This allows us to see how biological processes on land and in the ocean react to, or in some cases modify, environmental variables that force them.”

Understanding diversity of life in the oceans is crucial to managing and preserving these resources, and the use of remotely sensed data enables the study of biodiversity on the proper scales.


Written By: Sean Beckwith

Last modified on Wednesday, 29 November 2017 17:34