Student Vignettes

Natalia Lopez Figueroa

About my research

Be very, very quiet… I’m hunting viruses! My research focuses on exploring viral diversity in aquatic vegetation. Currently, I am working on a viral discovery project at Florida’s springs Volusia Blue, Ichetucknee and Manatee springs where we are assessing the viral diversity in the aquatic vegetation associated to this ecosystem. Unfortunately, due to the increase of anthropogenic activity in the aquifer the health of the springs has been decaying over the years. Aquatic vegetation are the first responders to these effects and thus serve as important indicators to assess the health of the springs. It is imperative to understand the role of viruses in these organisms hence they provide important ecosystem services to the springs such as habitat for wildlife and nutrient cycling. In addition to working in the springs, I also investigate the ecology of the novel Turtlegrass virus X in Tampa Bay in seagrasss beds.

Why USF CMS?

I chose the College of Marine Science not only because of its convenient geographic location but also the academic and research excellence they are known for in the field of marine sciences. In addition, the financial and professional development opportunities available to help U.S. minority students has made it possible for me to pursue a graduate degree in a competitive institution like USF, which was ranked #44 among public universities in U.S. News and World Report. Finally, being able to work with Dr. Mya Breitbart and our team is truly the main reason why I chose CMS. Thanks to her support, mentorship and research opportunities this experience is the highlight of my career thus far.

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