ST. PETERSBURG, FL - Dinorah Chacin was awarded the National Science Foundation, Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW) fellowship to engage in international research collaboration with Stockholm University in Sweden. This six-month experience will allow Dinorah to work with Dr. Charlotte Berkström and conduct field studies in Mafia Island, Tanzania. Dinorah will be investigating the ecological roles of native algal beds in East Africa as well as those of introduced (through open-water farming) non-native algae. The study aims to 1) identify fish communities that utilize native and introduced algae as habitats, 2) identify herbivores that consume either algae, and 3) examine the connectivity of introduced and native algae to other shallow-water habitats. While conducting field research, local communities, especially fishermen and algae farmers, will be encouraged to participate and learn the importance of assessing the ecological influence of farmed algae through first-hand experience. The results of this study, along with the local’s ecological knowledge, will be used to design and implement an optimal management plan for algae farming in the area, focused on achieving a sustainable practice.
This experience will complement Dinorah’s ongoing doctoral research at the College of Marine Science, University of South Florida, which aims to understand how seascape heterogeneity influences ecological patterns and processes in coastal systems. Until now Dinorah’s dissertation has concentrated on work she has completed in the tropical/subtropical western Atlantic region. The GROW experience will therefore allow Dinorah to expand her research into international and highly understudied coastal systems such as those in African seascapes.