Lab

Postdoctoral Scientists

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Dr. Jeremy Kiszka, Ph.D.

My research interests focus on marine top predator ecology, including habitat and resource use and community ecology. Particularly, the effect of environmental parameters on habitat and resource selection, as well as the influence of these parameters on grouping strategies. Recently, I have been mostly working on tropical dolphin behavior and ecology, but also on their interactions with human activities, particularly fisheries in the western Indian and South Pacific Oceans. As predation risk is a significant factor driving tropical dolphin habitat use and grouping behavior, I investigate the ecology and ecological roles of sharks in various ecosystems, particularly coral reefs. I am working on a number of taxa and questions, including the non-consumptive (risk) effects of predators on mesopredators.

Dr. Mark Bond, Ph.D.

Mark’s research focuses on the effects of marine reserves on sharks and rays. He employs a variety of techniques to examine questions regarding ecosystem dynamics and the ecological role of sharks. His doctoral research used baited remote underwater video (BRUV) surveys to assess the effectiveness of marine reserves for sharks and rays in Belize. His post-doctoral work will expand this research to the wider Caribbean region.

 

Graduate Students

 

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Rob Nowicki, Ph.D. Candidate

My research interests are focused at the interface of disturbance ecology, predator ecology, functional ecology, and community ecology. For my PhD I have used a widespread seagrass die-off in the world’s largest seagrass ecosystem (Shark Bay, Western Australia) to answer general ecological questions about the effects of resource loss on seagrass associated communities from multiple angles and at multiple scales. This includes determining how seagrass loss influences fauna abundance, community composition, trophic relationships, habitat use patterns, and predation risk effects within the bay’s community- from herbivorous fish to tiger sharks. I am also interested in ecological resilience in seagrass ecosystems and what modifies it- particularly in the face of climate change. I have used the Shark Bay die-off to investigate the recovery of Shark Bay’s seagrass ecosystem since 2012 with the goal of predicting likely recovery trajectories of the seagrass assemblage. I have also used this die-off as a “natural experiment” to conduct a manipulative field study examining the role of tiger sharks in facilitating ecosystem recovery. In addition to my two main research areas, I also engage in research on stable isotope analysis of elasmobranchs. Outside of research, I have a love for engaging with the public and in mentoring students at various stages of their scientific careers.

 

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Elizabeth Whitman, Ph.D. Candidate

I am broadly interested in the foraging ecology and in-water behavior of marine turtles. In Abaco, Bahamas I am studying the top-down and bottom-up factors that may affect green turtle (Chelonia mydas) distributions through surveys of habitat, food availability, predators (sharks) and green turtle densities. I am also studying the top-down effects of green turtle grazing in seagrass communities using a multi-year megagrazer exclosure experiment.  In the French Antilles (Guadeloupe, Martinique and St. Martin) I am expanding this work to investigate the role that green turtles may play in the spread of the invasive seagrass Halophila stipulate. I work closely with non-profit organizations such as Friends of the Environment on Abaco, to share scientific knowledge with local communities and inspire future generations.

 

Camille-edCamila Cáceres, Ph.D. Candidate

My research interests range from behavioral ecology to small-scale fisheries and conservation. My background has been focused on cognitive evolution and behavioral research, but my recent projects are centered around the interactions between human communities and their ecosystems. Through interdisciplinary methods, I study how small-scale and artisanal fisheries affect coastal elasmobranch populations in various regions in the world. By understanding the social and economic importance of shark and ray fisheries, I hope to improve conservation and management policies in order to preserve their populations as well as the human populations that depend on them.

 

AbrahamSmith-SpielgelGrove2007-(2)-woAbraham Smith, Ph.D. Candidate

My current research involves the development of innovative aquatic toxicity testing methods which use native aquatic organisms to assess the impacts of chemical stressors to an environment. The majority of my work is focused around the Natural Resource Damage Assessment of the Deep Water Horizon Incident. Using a variety of native organisms allows for a more complete understanding of the impacts of a chemical in a specific ecosystem. I’m also investigating the use of an estuarine anemone to study the impacts of toxicants, metals in particular, in estuarine ecosystems.

 

Bradley Strickland, PhD Candidate

DSC02782 copyBroadly, I am fascinated by the roles that predators have in structuring communities and affecting ecosystem processes. From my past experiences, I have developed an interest in questions rooted deeply in ecological theory that transcend a specific taxa or system.  For my PhD research, I will focus on on how top predators – including alligators and sharks in the Florida Coastal Everglades – can influence ecosystems through stimulating bottom-up processes or transforming the physical environment.  Ultimately, I hope that my research will address conservation challenges and mitigate the vulnerability of predators in altered landscapes due to global climate change or anthropogenic pressures.

Frances Farabaugh, PhD Candidate

untitled-44I am interested the behavioral ecology of marine predators. My goal is to understand how top predators, sharks in particular, structure reef communities. My research will take place in the Pacific focusing in and around French Polynesia and New Caledonia. I will investigate how predator identity and prey types interact to influence the strength of risk effects and whether these effects cascade to wider communities. Additionally, I will examine whether top reef predators are functionally redundant in coral reef communities using baited remote underwater video data to study how shark abundance and community composition varies across the region.  This work is part of the Global FinPrint Project.

 

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Valeria Paz, PhD Candidate

My research interests focus on top predator and community ecology.  My current research entails investigating habitat use, trophic interactions, and foraging ecology of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the highly dynamics Florida Coastal Everglades (FCE) using stable isotope analysis, passive acoustic monitoring, and focal follows. This project will contribute to previous research of top predators (American alligators, juvenile bullsharks) in the FCE, and to the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research program. Ultimately, I hope to use my studies on how predators respond to environmental variability to inform Everglades restoration and aid in management and conservation.

Staff Scientist

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Kirk Gastrich

My work includes studies of muscle biochemistry, physiology, and swimming performance of fishes. Currently, I am involved in multiple research projects in Shark Bay. My work has focused on ensuring that long-term datasets, including those based on transects and shark fishing, continue to be collected, and maintaining and monitoring seagrass enclosure experiments. I also am heavily involved in seagrass transplant experiments and studies of fish communities. In Florida, I have worked with Adam and Phil on their studies in the Everglades and now am helping to lead our studies on deep sea communities in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Lab Alumni

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Dr. Phil Matich, Ph.D.

I graduated with my PhD in 2014 investigating the extrinsic and intrinsic factors shaping bull shark habitat use and trophic interactions in the Florida Coastal Everglades to understand how environmental change attributed to restoration may alter their roles within estuarine ecosystems, a project I am still involved in as it progresses to answer more ecologically applied questions. Currently, I am a post-doctoral research fellow at Sam Houston State University, where I’m developing a coastal marine ecology program that is investigating how water management and sea level rise affect coastal food web dynamics and the roles sharks and other predators play within them. We are also developing terrestrial experiments and monitoring programs in piney woods ecosystems to test hypotheses derived from coastal research, including spill over effects of conservation areas, effects of disturbance on community structure in fragmented ecosystems, and the role environmental fluctuations play in shaping phenotypic divergence within populations. For more information on current and past research, please visit my website: https://sites.google.com/site/matichphilip/

Cindy-Bessey-1ed-weboptDr. Cindy Bessey, Ph.D.

My broad research interests are in the field of animal behavior and how animals modify their behaviors in changing conditions to meet their life history requirements. Specifically, I am interested in how lower trophic level organisms are impacted through trophic cascades. My current research will focus on habitat use of the facultative herbivorous fish Pelates sexlineatus (Six-Lined Trumpeter) in the seagrass beds of Shark Bay, Australia. I will investigate what conditions occur that promote or discourage herbivory in these fish. I would like to investigate which seagrasses are preferred, as well as the changes in intensity of grazing in both the presence and absence of megagrazers and piscivores. I will also investigate the variation in abundance of these fish in structurally diverse seagrass habitats, and the structural changes to the seagrass bed that result from the grazing behavior of P. sexlineatus.

Adam-Rosenblatt-ed-weboptDr. Adam Rosenblatt, Ph.D.

Adam graduated in 2013 after investigating the behavior and ecology of alligators in the Florida Coastal Everglades. He is interested in linking an understanding of behavioral decisions to conservation and management strategies. His PhD focused on how movement and habitat use patterns and trophic interactions of American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) are influenced by both biotic factors and environmental variables like salinity and patterns of freshwater flow. He found that alligators exhibited considerable individual specialization in movement tactics which were reflected in their diets.  Some individuals remained in relatively restricted areas with lower salinities while others commuted frequently between low-salinity habitats and higher salinity downstream regions where to feed.  Adam is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Yale.

Derek-Burkholder-2Dr. Derek Burkholder, Ph.D.

Derek graduated in 2012 after studying the dynamics of the Shark Bay seagrass ecosystem.  Derek’s work examined the ecological role of green turtles (Chelonia mydas), the community and nutrient dynamics of seagrasses across multiple spatial and temporal scales, and the possibility that tiger sharks initiate a behavior-mediated trophic cascade that is mediated by predation-sensitive shifts by turtles and dugongs. He found that risk-sensitive foraging by large grazers results in considerably different seagrass communities between safer and more dangerous habitats and that tiger sharks likely trigger behavior-mediated trophic cascades.

Jeremy-VaudoDr. Jeremy Vaudo, Ph.D. 

Jeremy conducted his doctoral research in Shark Bay between 2005 and 2007. His work included describing the diverse elasmobranch community of Shark Bay’s nearshore sand flats. Jeremy examined the seasonal trends within this community as well as the habitat use and foraging ecology of the most abundant ray species. He completed his Ph.D. in 2011 and has published numerous papers from his dissertation as well as been an author and co-author on book chapters. Jeremy continues be involved in the analysis of data on Shark Bay’s elasmobranch populations.

 

Katy-CameronKaty Cameron, M.S.

Katy studied regional variation in the abundance and habitat use of tiger sharks in Shark Bay, Western Australia. She completed her M.S. in 2010 and was a coauthor on a paper published in Animal Behavior

 

Meagan-2Meagan Dunphy-Daly, M.S.

Meagan studied spatial and temporal variation in dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima) habitat use and group size off Great Abaco Island, the Bahamas.  She completed her MS in 2008 and published her results in Marine Mammal Science. Meagan is currently in the Ph.D. program at the Duke Marine Laboratory. 

Bryan-DeliusBryan Delius, M.S.

Bryan conducted initial studies of bull sharks in the Floirda Coastal Everglades. His work focused on documenting spatial and temporal variation in catch rates of sharks within the estuary and analyzing stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes of bull sharks captured from the river mouth to 27 km upstream. Bryan received his M.S. in 2007 and his work formed the foundation for ongoing studies in the system. Bryan is currently working for the South Florida Water Management District. Bryan’s work led to a publication in Limnology and Oceanography.

Robin-web-opt-2Robin Sarabia, M.S.

Robin investigated spatial and temporal varition in the abundance and group sizes of bottlenose dolphins in the coastal Everglades. Her work also focused on residency patterns of individual dolphins and built the first catalog of individuals that will form an important component of future research on dolphins in the coastal Everglades.

 

Former Postdocs

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Dr. Jordy Thomson, Ph.D.

My research interests are relatively broad and lie at the intersection of behavior, ecology and conservation in marine systems. I have been working on marine turtles with the Shark Bay Ecosystem Research Project since 2005. My Ph.D. work at Simon Fraser University focused on quantifying spatioteporal variation in the dive-surfacing behavior of green and loggerhead turtles in Shark Bay and examining its implications for detection probabilities during transect-based population surveys. My postdoctoral research examined the effects of tiger shark predation risk on turtle behavior and uses stable isotope analysis and video data logging technology to study turtle foraging ecology. I have also begun investigations of a recent dieback of seagrasses in Shark Bay.

Aaron-WirsingDr. Aaron Wirsing (University of Washington)

A postdoc in the lab from 2006-2008, Aaron worked on predation-sensitive foraging behavior in Shark Bay’s dugongs and the influence of dugong and turtle foraging on the bay’s seagrass community. He also spent time working as part of the Long Term Ecological Research Project in the Florida Coastal Everglades. He is now an Assistant Professor in the College of Forest Resources at the University of Washington where he is continuing his studies of predator-prey interactions.

shomen-mukherjeeDr. Shomen Mukherjee

My primary research interests are in the behavioral dynamics of predator-prey interactions including habitat selection, anti-predator behaviors (e.g. time allocation and vigilance) and state-dependent foraging decisions. I have worked on model systems such as the desert rodents of Thar desert (India) and on desert gerbils and their predators (red fox and barn owls) in the Negev desert (Israel). Currently, I am investigating factors influencing the dynamics of predator-prey foraging decisions in a model aquatic system. Specifically, I am trying to quantify the risk of injury (from its prey) as a foraging cost to predators and how spatial structure/habitat configuration affects the patch and habitat use of both prey and their predators. 

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