Recent Research Highlights


Dr. Cameron Ainsworth

Dr. Cameron Ainsworth - Cam was selected as a Sloan Fellow, which is one of the most competitive awards in the country for researchers. He also broadcasted an ecosystem modeling course to 18 federal employees from 10 NOAA labs across the United States (Beaufort, Sandy Hook, Miami, Stamford, Pascagoula, Galveston, Panama City, Woods Hole, La Jolla, and St. Petersburg) as well as a for-credit UM student in Miami. He served as a Panelist at the 10th Annual Diversity Summit at USF Tampa (Faces of Success panel) and hosted an Atlantis training workshop (7 students from UM and USF).

Get to know Dr. Cameron Ainsworth.



Dr. Bob Byrne

Dr. Bob Byrne - The biggest news here is that Bob was elected in 2013 as an AAAS Fellow, which is a huge honor in our field. He also won the ARCS 2013 STEM Innovation and Research Award. He published a remarkable 14 papers and collected 678 citations for his published work in the past year. To highlight two especially noteworthy efforts, Bob published a manuscript describing the first in situ sensor for dissolved inorganic carbon measurements in seawater, and a manuscript describing a device that will make pH measurements in the coastal zone accessible to high school students and citizen scientists. He also served for 21st consecutive year as an Associate Editor for GCA, the world’s pre-eminent geochemical journal.

Get to know Dr. Bob Byrne.


Dr. Kendra L. Daly

Dr. Kendra L. Daly - Kendra published eight papers and completed 20 cruises (2010-2013) in the Gulf of Mexico as part of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill response. As part of a NSF grant Kendra completed three months of logistically complex field work on the Antarctic fast ice offshore of McMurdo base in the Ross Sea. She chaired the U.S. Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry (OCB) Steering Committee, which was established in 2006 as one of the major activities of the
U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program
. The OCB-SSC was created jointly by NSF, NASA and NOAA to provide critical leadership to the OCB community by helping to identify research priorities and promote, plan, and coordinate collaborative, multidisciplinary research opportunities in ocean biogeochemistry. Kendra helped to organize three community workshops: the OCB Summer Workshop, Gulf of Mexico Coastal Carbon Synthesis Workshop, and the Ocean Acidification PI meeting. She is a member of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative funded inter-consortia working group, Marine Oil Snow Sedimentation and Flocculant Accumulation (MOSSFA) and helped organize a community workshop. This is significant because an estimated 3 to 25% of the 200 million gallons of oil released during the 2010 oil spill accumulated on the Gulf of Mexico seafloor due to MOSSFA related processes, which was not accounted for in the Oil Budget Calculator.

Get to know Dr. Kendra L. Daly.


Dr. Boris Galperin

Dr. Boris Galperin - Boris and his students had an excellent year. Esa-Matti Tastula published a paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, wrote another paper to be submitted to Atmospheric Science Letters, is finishing another and was awarded the prestigious Knight Fellowship. Jesse Hoemann has been working on a manuscript that analyzes data obtained at the University of Rome that proposes a new way of looking at the conglomerate of anisotropic quasi-geostrophic turbulence and Rossby waves. This work may have a profound effect on the entire field of Geophysical Fluid Dynamics. Boris published a paper in a prestigious Philosophical Transactions A of the Royal Society of London and co-authored another with scientists from Israel and Oxford University in Icarus, a central journal for planetary physics. In the latter paper, Boris and his colleagues document the presence of the regime of zonostrophic turbulence in the atmosphere of Jupiter, which could be a major break-through in both planetological science and fluid dynamics. Finally, Boris made 6 presentations at various national and international forums, 3 of which were invited.

Get to know Dr. Boris Galperin.


Dr. Pam Hallock Muller

Dr. Pam Hallock Muller - Pam modestly says of her research that she has mostly lived vicariously through the data her students have generated that she gets to help them interpret and prepare for publication. Two papers were published by her current or former graduate students and a third by a colleague’s postdoctoral associate. In the latter case, Pam was a collaborator on the supporting grant, provided experimental specimens and advised on culture methods, data analyses and interpretation. In another collaboration, a Brazilian reef researcher asked her to assist with a manuscript and she discovered by reanalyzing his multi-year data set that the La Nina signal was as significant as the El Nino signal, which he had not discovered. One book chapter first authored by a former student is in press and her own book chapter is close to publication. In the past year Pam was asked to continue for another three-year term on the International Scientific Advisory Board for the ZMT in Bremen, Germany, and also served on the Scientific Organizing Committee for FORAMS 2014, which was held in Concepcion, Chile in January 2014.

Get to know Dr. Pam Hallock Muller.


Dr. Al Hine

Dr. Al Hine - After publishing a book last year (Hine, A.C., Geologic History of Florida—Events that Shaped the Sunshine State: Gainesville, FL, University Press of Florida, 229 pgs.), Al started on his next one. His new book proposal has been accepted by University Press of Florida and a reviewable draft is due to the University of Florida Press on 1 August 2014.

Get to know Dr. Al Hine.





Dr. David Hollander

Dr. David Hollander - In 2013 David’s group focused on 4 major scientific areas: 1) paleoclimate and paleohydrologic research based on the analyses of waters and sediments from the Cariaco Basin, Venezuela, the Amazon river delta offshore Brazil, the Pigmy and the Orca Basin, NGoM , 2) biogeochemistry of actively-accreting microbialites from Cuatro Cienegas and Laguna Bacalar, Mexico, 3) chemical ecology/ecosystem-based research on the structure, function and food-web dynamics of Florida estuaries and the west Florida Shelf, and 4) molecular organic geochemical research assessing the deposition, degradation, fate and impacts of hydrocarbons associated with the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil-well blowout event. David is currently the PI or co-PI on 6 grants related to the Deep Water Horizon disaster that, cumulatively, have generated more than $13 million dollars of funding to the CMS. In addition, he is also PI or co-PI on 4 federal proposals focusing on paleoenvironmental/paleoclimate and chemical ecology research that account for an additional $650K in funding. In 2013 David has been involved with 16 manuscripts (3 published, 11 in press, 2 in review) and has made 19 presentations at national/international meetings in 2013. He has also given 2 keynote lectures and was an invited seminar speaker at 5 different academic institutions.

Get to know Dr. David Hollander.


Dr. Chuanmin Hu

Dr. Chuanmin Hu - Chuanmin received a Gulf Guardian Award from the U.S. EPA in 2013 and was involved with a remarkable 20 papers published in refereed journals and another 25 papers submitted to refereed journals. Three of these papers are particularly noteworthy. In the first Chuanmin and his co-workers showed for the first time that NASA’s SeaWiFS and MODIS missions had met their design goals. In the second paper, they showed a close relationship between weather fluctuations and Tampa Bay’s phytoplankton biomass. In the third, Chuanmin and his colleagues demonstrated a human impact (i.e., the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in China) on downstream water quality. Also, Chuanmin served as an associate editor at Applied Optics, which is one of the premier journals of the Optical Society of America.

Get to know Dr. Chuanmin Hu.


Dr. Mark Luther

Dr. Mark Luther - In the past year Mark has been working to start a new area of emphasis of the College of Marine Science. Specifically, his current research interest is aimed at what we might call Sustainable Ports. He has established a Center for Maritime and Port Studies through partnerships with the Tampa Port Authority, the National Association of Waterfront Employers, the NOAA Coastal Service Center, and others. Mark is also the USF and CMS lead on a Port Sustainability initiative being undertaken as part of the Florida Climate Institute.

Get to know Dr. Mark Luther.



Dr. Gary Mitchum

Dr. Gary Mitchum - Gary co-authored a paper with a student in 2013 that may turn out to be extremely important for understanding climate change. A major question in this field has always been how human activities might be changing storm patterns. In this paper, which was written in late-2012 and appeared in December 2013, Gary and his student showed that the severe storm pattern we saw this past winter, which has been all over the news and attributed to the “Polar Vortex”, has become more frequently during the 20th century. And note that this paper was written before this, supposedly unusual, past winter happened.

Get to know Dr. Gary Mitchum.



Dr. Frank Muller-Karger

Dr. Frank Muller-Karger - In 2013 the CARIACO Ocean Time Series project that Frank created and continues to lead celebrated its 18th year of monthly cruises and continued funding from the NSF and the Venezuelan government. Frank and his colleagues have recently received notice of an additional 3 years of support from the National Science Foundation. Frank also received a grant from the Belmont Forum to initiate an international program with Brazil and the UK focused on understanding people values in coastal communities that may help adapt to climate change scenarios. This is an excellent example of the type of international projects that our college is hoping to become involved with in the future.

Get to know Dr. Frank Muller-Karger.



Dr. Steve Murawski

Dr. Steve Murawski - Steve, working with the COT and his students, developed and tested an innovative towed camera system (C-BASS – Camera-Based Assessment Survey System) capable of assessing the abundance and habitat requirements for reef fish populations on the West Florida Shelf, and elsewhere. Also, working with partners in the C-IMAGE consortium and students, Steve documented the declining prevalence of skin lesions and other diseases affecting fishes in the northern Gulf of Mexico, proximate to the Deepwater Horizon spill. His team also documented declining oil contamination in red snapper, consistent with an episodic pollution event, and the similarity of oil composition in Gulf fishes to the oil from the DWH well. Continuing in this theme, Steve and his colleagues at the Mote Marine Laboratory, along with USF students, documented the increase in pyrogenic hydrocarbons in red snapper after the Hercules Gas well blowout and fire off the Louisiana Coast. Finally, working with David Hollander and Sheryl Gilbert, Steve managed the C-IMAGE (Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis of Gulf Ecosystems) project, an $11 million, 3-year grant to USF and 12 other institutional partners aimed at a better understanding of marine oil spill pollution impacts.

Get to know Dr. Steve Murawski.


Dr. David Naar

Dr. David Naar - David co-published one paper, "Modeling the spatial distribution of commercially important reef fishes on the West Florida Shelf," in Volume 143 in the Journal of Fisheries Research. The first author of this paper was a PhD student from RSMAS at the University of Miami and the manuscript formed a chapter of his dissertation. Another paper is in press for 2014. This was first-authored with a previous non-degree seeking CMS student, Mark Mueller, who now works at the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. Two other manuscripts were submitted in 2013. These were first-authored by two PhD graduates of CMS, David Mallinson and Carrie Bell. All four manuscripts were related to benthic habitat and seafloor mapping projects completed over the past decade by David's Seafloor Mapping Laboratory. In addition, David was invited to make a presentation regarding, “A full summary of the past decade of seafloor mapping surrounding Florida” at the Workshop on the Interrelationships Between Coral Reefs and Fisheries, hosted by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council in May of 2013.

Get to know Dr. David Naar.


Dr. John Paul

Dr. John Paul - In 2013, JP hosted, organized, and executed an international conference, Aquatic Virus Workshop 7. He also published a DWH oil spill paper in Environmental Science and Technology that was truly controversial, which is a good thing in science. JP also reports work on determining patterns of transcription of phytoplankton in the Amazon River Plume and has reached a rather remarkable count of 160 refereed articles.

Get to know Dr. John Paul.




Dr. Ernst Peebles

Dr. Ernst Peebles - Ernst and his students and colleagues discovered reproducible isotopic patterns within fish eye lenses that indicate the lenses provide lifetime histories for 13C and 15N. Lifetime isotopic histories are useful for reconstructing changes in geographic location (movement/site-fidelity/migration) and trophic position of individual fish. The only other vertebrate tissue known to have these properties is the surficial cartilage of elasmobranch (shark and ray) vertebrae, but eye lens isotopes have a more universal application that likely extends to all vertebrates. In another area, after years of extensive testing and development, the students and staff in Ernst’s lab have produced a straightforward method for detecting oil exposure histories in fish. A manuscript describing the method is being prepared. Finally, state and federal environmental agencies, specifically the US EPA, have been criticized for basing aquatic ecosystem health on water quality alone. Ernst and his students are, however, developing a broadly applicable, biology-based, numeric criterion for assessing the trophic state of water bodies.

Get to know Dr. Ernst Peebles.


Dr. Amelia Shevenell

Dr. Amelia Shevenell - In 2013 Amelia received new NSF funding in a very competitive funding environment. She has had a paper accepted in a high impact journal and two additional papers have been submitted for publication. Amelia also assembled a diverse team of researchers from two USF colleges and attained one of two USF-wide instrument acquisition slots for an NSF MRI proposal. Although this was not funded, few people reach this level and it is a noteworthy accomplishment. She delivered two invited international talks, including one at the 11th International Conference on Paleoceanography, Stiges, Spain (September, 2013). Invited speakers for this conference are typically up-and-coming young researchers selected by the organizing committee, so this is a once in a career opportunity. We are also extremely pleased that Amelia has been selected by Ocean Leadership (via peer nomination) as an IODP Distinguished Lecturer for 2014-2015. We will also note that Amelia accomplished all of this while spending 56 days at sea on two NSF-funded US Antarctic Program research cruises to Antarctica.

Get to know Dr. Amelia Shevenell.


Dr. Sang-ik Shin

Dr. Sang-ik Shin - Recent analyses of ocean bottom pressure (OBP) derived from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) and ocean general circulation models reveal substantial low frequency variability in the North Pacific. Although the low frequency OBP variability is known to correlate well with strong El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events such as one that occurred in 1997/98, the overall correlation is relatively weak. Previous studies attributed such weak correlation to the substantial low-frequency variability of surface winds beyond ENSO timescales. To further test the relationship between ENSO and OBP variability and understand the underlying mechanisms of such link, Shin developed an empirical model for low-frequency OBP variability by using the 20-year (1993-2012) NASA JPL ECCO simulation. This “pattern” based separation of ENSO-related and ENSO-unrelated OBP variability indicates that the low frequency OBP variability over the North Pacific can be explained by ENSO (periods less than 8 yrs) and North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO; periods longer than 8 yrs). The ENSO-related OBP signals in the subtropical North Pacific propagate following the characteristics of both barotropic and 1st baroclinic Rossby waves in the ocean as suggested in the previous studies, but the Rossby wave propagation in the subpolar North Pacific is too fast to be considered as the 1st baroclinic Rossby waves. A further diagnosis resolves this dilemma.

Get to know Dr. Sang-ik Shin.


Dr. Chris Stallings

Dr. Chris Stallings - The work of Chris’ group on Goliath Grouper will provide the most extensive data on the population in Florida waters, which is showing initial signs of recovery. Their non-lethal methods are a great advancement over traditional methods and will be of keen interest to ecologists, fisheries managers and those interested in rehabilitating species. His group’s study on Lionfish is the most spatially and temporally extensive to date and will provide managers with a prescriptive starting point to inform their Lionfish mitigation plans. Chris has teamed with researchers at FWRI to determine whether and how different data sources used to conduct stock assessments can be reconciled. Chris and his group are also testing a novel, “hybrid” approach, which blends aspects of the traditional methodologies. This study has the potential to be a game changer in how fisheries data are collected in the US and abroad and importantly, it facilitates greater stakeholder involvement in the fisheries management process. Finally, Chris’ group is also using passive acoustic monitoring to quantify the ecosystem services provided by artificial versus natural reefs in the eastern GOM and linking these data to the structure and diversity of fish communities that use these habitats. We should also note that Chris has had two students in two years awarded a highly competitive NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

Get to know Dr. Chris Stallings.


Dr. John Walsh

Dr. John Walsh - In 2013 John presented a global analysis of 110 oil spills in relation to poisoned copepod grazers and subsequent asthma and pneumonia morbidities and mortalities as part of the validation of a numerical model of toxins released by harmful algal blooms (HABs) that were no longer significantly grazed by the herbivores over the last 45 years on the West Florida shelf [1965-2010]. As shown by a set of follow-on 350 repeated worldwide physician-supervised surveys of asthma prevalence among sea-side school children after such oil spills, the aerosolized brevetoxins led to asthma episodes in 130 coastal cities within 350 km of the sea shore, depending upon the speed of prevailing winds of daily sea breezes and seasonal monsoons. A manuscript has been submitted describing these findings. A related study suggests that as much as 28% of the annual global asthma attacks of 235 million people during 2004 might have been the result of wind-borne, sea-spray HAB poison asthma triggers, as a consequence of zooplankton killed by regional combinations of overfishing, oil spills, pesticide applications, radionuclide dispersions, and heavy metal releases.

Get to know Dr. John Walsh.


Dr. Robert Weisberg

Dr. Robert Weisberg - Bob and his group are experts in observing and modeling the coastal ocean of west Florida. Three related applications establish the importance of the coastal ocean circulation for anything of an ecological nature on the continental shelf. The first application explains why there was no red tide on the WFS in 2010. Anomalously prolonged and intensified upwelling resulted in elevated inorganic nutrients that favored diatoms over dinoflagellates. The paper concludes that both the physics of the ocean circulation and the biology of the organism are each necessary conditions, but neither alone are sufficient conditions for a red tide bloom. The second application was to fish lesions found on the WFS subsequent to the DWH oil spill. Bob and his co-authors suggest that hydrocarbons of DWH origin transited to the WFS sight unseen beneath the surface. The mechanism (as in the first application) is a prolonged and intensified upwelling. By deploying a passive tracer in our West Florida Coastal Ocean Model (WFCOM) where surface oil was observed along Florida's northern coastline, with the assumption that some small portion of this surface oil was incorporated in the water column, they tracked where the hydrocarbons would have gone. The tracer pattern overlays the fish lesion observations very well. The third application concerns the conundrum of Gag Grouper larvae transport from offshore spawning to near shore settlement sites. The take away message from these three applications is that by studying coastal ocean ecology in a truly multidisciplinary way we begin to unravel many previously unsolved mysteries regarding our living marine resources. Weisberg’s group continues to serve real time oceanographic data and model forecasts to the public at The Ocean Circulation Group and
Coastal ocean monitoring and prediction system.

Get to know Dr. Robert Weisberg.

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