Invertebrate Lab

About the Lab

Judkins Invertebrate Lab logo

The Invertebrate Lab at USF St. Petersburg campus focuses on Mollusca, specifically the cephalopods: squids, octopods, and their relatives; as well as pelagic snails. Past and present projects include investigating the biodiversity, systematics, biogeography, genetic diversity, and physiology of the group.

LAB News

DEEPEND/RESTORE cruise in JULY 2022

DEEPEND logo

SUCCESS AT CIAC 2022

Heather and Lisa

The CIAC 2022 conference was held in Sesimbra, Portugal and was a success! It was the first attempt at a hybrid format for this event and overall it went very well! One hundred sixty people attended in person and over 100 people joined remotely for the week-long conference and workshops. There is some great cephalopod science going on around the world and there will be a special section in an upcoming Frontiers in Marine Science edition to highlight many of these efforts. Heather presented some preliminary work that she and Mike Vecchione are working on as part of their DEEPEND/RESTORE award focusing on gut content analysis of deep-sea cephalopods in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Looking forward to the next CIAC conference which is tentatively set for Okinawa, Japan in 2025!

WELCOMING SHANNON RILEY TO THE LAB THIS SEMESTER!

Shannon Riley

Shannon Riley is joining the Judkins Invertebrate Lab as a Master’s student in marine science. She discovered Dr. Judkins’ research while exploring current research on cephalopods and wanted be involved with it. Shannon will be studying the distributions of cephalopod paralarvae in the Gulf of Mexico and examining the effects of environmental conditions on their abundance.


WELCOMING CLAIRE DE NOYO TO THE LAB THIS SEMESTER!

Claire de Noyo

Claire de Noyo is joining the Judkins Invertebrate Lab as a conservation biology master’s student. Claire comes all the way from Oregon State University, where she contributed to research involving rocky intertidal ecology and conducted an independent gray whale habitat use project. Claire is interested in researching the impact of climate change stressors on marine invertebrate population and community dynamics. She’s loving Florida so far and is enjoying getting settled into her first semester of grad school.

CONGRATULATING HALEY HOLLOWAY ON A SUCCESSFUL MASTER’S THESIS DEFENSE!

Haley Holloway and Dr. Judkins

On June 1st, Haley Holloway successfully defended her thesis: “Examining the Presence of a Possible Species Complex of Octopus joubini (Cephalopoda: Octopodidae) in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico”. She is working on her publication for Marine Biodiversity and plans to continue her career in marine conservation at the Fish & Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, FL.

WELCOMING A NEW STUDENT TO THE LAB THIS SEMESTER!

Andrea Murray

Andrea (Andie) Murray is in her first semester in her graduate career in the lab as a Conservation Bio student. She has worked alongside Dr. Judkins at The Florida Aquarium and was a part of a research trip on the Weatherbird II back in September 2019. After that, she knew that Dr. Judkins would be an incredible resource to help her advance in her professional pathway. She plans on working to measure microplastic ingestion in Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) and how this may impact water quality of Tampa Bay.


WELCOMING A NEW STUDENT TO THE LAB THIS SEMESTER!

Lisa in front of research ship

After taking a few courses and Marine Field studies with Dr. Judkins, Lisa knew she wanted to work in her lab. Lisa has completed her first semester as a Master’s student with USF CMS and will be working with Dr. Judkins, Dr. Murawski, and Dr. Romero. She will be studying predator-prey connectivity by examining contaminants of mid-water squid and pelagic fish in the Northern Gulf of Mexico to identify pathways of bioaccumulation. The Gulf is home to this Florida native and she’s looking forward to starting her project in the coming months.

CONGRATULATING OUR RECENT GRADUATE AUBREY HETZLER, M.S.!

Aubrey in cap and gown

On June 23rd, Aubrey successfully defended her thesis: “Dendrogyra cylindrus (Pillar Coral) of the Florida Reef Tract: An Ex Situ Growth Study, and In Situ – Ex Situ Bacterial Assemblage Assessment”. 

Following her graduation in August, Aubrey is working on the publication of two manuscripts based on her thesis work, and is pursuing Ph.D. opportunities.

She intends to use environmental microbiology, and diagnostic metagenomics with a One Health focus to assess disease dynamics at the interface of human, animal, and environmental health. 

CONGRATULATING KATE LOWRY ON A SUCCESSFUL MASTER’S THESIS DEFENSE!

Kate doing a presentation

Kate Lowry successfully defended her thesis project titled “A Comparative Behavioral Analysis of Time Budgets of Sea Turtles at The Florida Aquarium Using an Ethogram” of Friday October 11th. She now plans on graduating this December and pursuing a career in marine conservation.


CONGRATULATING TIFFANY NICHOLSON ON A SUCCESSFUL MASTER’S THESIS DEFENSE!

Tiffany doing a presentation

In October, Tiffany successfully defended her Master’s thesis titled, “PAH exposure in Red Snapper (Lutjanus campchanus) collected at natural and artificial reef systems in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.” Her plan is to publish a manuscript in the American Fisheries Society journal and then after graduation to apply to some marine field research or environmental science jobs within the state of Florida.

NEW STUDENT JOINING THE INVERT TEAM

Hannah

Hannah Schwaiger is joining the Judkins invertebrate lab as a Master’s student. She learned about the Judkins invertebrate lab in the summer of 2019, while spending a week studying the open ocean at USF St. Petersburg campus through the FIO Marine Field Studies Course, and she has been excited about the research at USFSP since then. Hannah will be working with Dr. Heather Judkins and Dr. Ernst Peebles to study stable isotopes in the eye lense layers of Doryteuthis pealeii, a species of inshore squid, in order to map the locations of the squid throughout the Gulf of Mexico during different life stages.

POLYP EXTRACTIONS

Aubrey doing polyp research

In February, grad student Aubrey Hetzler proceeded with the next step in her research – collecting samples from Dendrogyra cylindrus (Pillar Coral) fragments at the Center for Conservation (CFC) in Apollo Beach. Aubrey collected polyp tissue from the fragments using a syringe. The samples were then filtered to capture the tissue and bacterial colonies. Aubrey is currently working on extracting DNA from the cells captured in the filters, which she will then amplify, sequence, and analyze to approximate bacterial species present within the coral polyps.


PRESENTATION AT GOMOSES CONFERENCE

Tiffany in front of presentation

In February, Tiffany Nicholson got the chance to attend The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spil and Ecosystem Science Conference (GOMOSES) in New Orleans, which was a great experience to meet new people and present her research. She also presented a poster on her Masters research project titled; “ PAH exposure in Red Snapper collected around natural and artificial reef systems found in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico” with other researchers across the nation and the world. Tiffany says it was great to hear all the various research projects going on to better understand and educate people about oil spills and its impacts on the marine life.

MOTHUR

MOTHUR logo

In December, grad student Aubrey Hetzler traveled to Detroit, Michigan. The 3-day workshop, taught by Dr. Pat Schloss, provided instruction for the program ‘mothur’ as well as an introduction to microbial ecology and bioinformatics. She will use ‘mothur’ to analyze the microbial community sequence data obtained from the Pillar Coral fragments in her study. This software will be used to assign operational taxonomic units that will be used to describe the α and β diversity of the bacteria within the Pillar Coral Polyps.

CIAC CONFERENCE WAS A GREAT SUCCESS!

CIAC 2018 logo

Two hundred and thirty people attended the 2018 CIAC Conference that was held here at USFSP and downtown St. Petersburg, Nov. 10-16th. The multi-day event highlighted new cephalopod research from 30 countries while providing the attendees time to network and explore the area. An unexpected piece of good news was that Heather Judkins was elected CIAC President at the meeting and her tenure in that role will be until the 2021 CIAC conference which will be held in Lisbon, Portugal. The conference wouldn’t have been a success if it weren’t for all the support for the Invert Lab, USF St. Petersburg campus support and our sponsors!

DP06 CRUISE COMPLETES THE DEEPEND PROGRAM’S CRUISE SERIES!

DEEPEND team

Heather Judkins and the DEEPEND team had a successful cruise this summer! The last DEEPEND sampling cruise is now complete and the team has accomplished the following: A wide diversity of species: 61 cephalopod species, 120 crustacean species and 627 fish species- very important as this region of the deep-sea is not well known to science.

We traveled 6495 miles on the big blue onboard the R/V Point Sur. This all translates to a lot of work to finish up back in the lab!


BLANKET OCTOPUS DISSECTION

octopus dissection

6-19-18: Heather Judkins, undergraduate Nathan Reiner, and grad student Sarah Shedler conducted a dissection on a rare Tremoctopus violaceus in May with help from professor Deby Cassill behind the lens. This octopus was found off the dock at Nova Southeastern University a couple of years ago and we know it’s a female as she was holding hundreds if not thousands of eggs at the time. Nathan is examining the egg mass as part of his USFSP research capstone project and we had the opportunity to dissect the animal to take various measurements that may help his project. Always exciting when these opportunities arise!


THE MARINE FIELD STUDIES COURSE WAS A SUCCESS!!

students working on Weatherbird II

6-13-18: The Marine Field Studies Open Ocean week at USF St. Petersburg campus was a success! The students had a long day of learning and practicing life-at-sea aboard the Weatherbird II and then they worked in the lab investigating plankton populations and animal behavior (at The Florida Aquarium) before finishing up the week with insightful data presentations. Looking forward to next years’ course already!


 

Aubrey, Kate, Kris, Sarah and Dr. Judkins

The summer is busy with on-going research. Aubrey and Kate are working with The Florida Aquarium collecting data. Tiffany is analyzing Red Snapper tissue at the College of Marine Science (USF). Kris and Sarah are working their magic on their mid-water snail groups.


CONGRATULATING OUR RECENT GRADUATES!
BRENNA MEATH, M.S. AND AMANDA SOSNOWSKI, M.S.

Brenna, Amanda and Dr. Judkins

It is an honor to congratulate Brenna Meath and Amanda Sosnowski in successfully defending their theses and graduating last month from the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Sciences Master’s Degree Program…  So proud of both Brenna and Amanda’s achievement!  It’s a reflection of their dedication, determination, and character. Take pride in your success, may it lead you on to even greater things. We acknowledge and appreciate these two graduates’ extended efforts in earning their degrees.

Posted on January 2, 2018

AMERICAN FISHERIES SOCIETY

Brenna and Dr. Judkins

The Florida Chapter of the American Fisheries Society hosted their annual meeting in Tampa, FL during August 20-24, 2017. AFS awarded opportunity for Brenna Meath to poster-present on her stable isotope research of Doryteuthis plei eye lenses. The research presented in Brenna’s poster used a novel approach of examining changes in stable isotope ratios within eye-lens layers over the lifetime of squid. This study identifies the natal origins, geographic patterns and spawning patterns of Doryteuthis plei in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

The AFS sessions shared interdisciplinary research and management approaches to continue improvements in marine and aquatic resources. Diverse symposia topics, contributed papers, and posters showcased many presenters’ research to a broad audiences with the goal of scientific advancements in fisheries management, conservation, and ecology.

Posted on September 5, 2017

AMERICAN MALACOLOGICAL SOCIETY 83RD ANNUAL MEETING

Brenna and Dr. Judkins presentation

Dr. Heather Judkins and and Brenna Meath, graduate student, presented their research of cephalopoda at the annual American Malacological Society 83rd Annual Meeting at the University of Delaware Laird Campus in July 2017.  Heather presented her work on newly described Bathyteuthis species of squid.  Brenna commanded the room as she presented her stable isotopes work of squid eye lenses of Doryteuthis plei.  Sharing and learning from fellow Mollusca scientists and student from around the USA was another wonderful opportunity to connect with this national community.

Posted on August 3, 2017

Another Successful DEEPEND Cruise!

lab at DEEPEND cruise

The 5th DEEPEND cruise was a success even with some challenging weather conditions at the beginning.  We completed 17 trawls, collected over 10,000 specimens, conducted 17 CTD drops, and picked up Murphy, our glider, who was out collecting data for 12 days.  The Judkins’ lab is gearing up for the DEEPEND All-Hands meeting that will be held at NSU on June 13-14th.

Posted on May 26, 2017

GOMOSES

Amanda presenting with Dr. Judkins

DEEPEND team members Heather Judkins and Amanda Sosnowski represented “Team Ceph” at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science conference Feb. 6-10th in New Orleans, LA.  Amanda presented her work related to cephalopod genetics and possible genetic connectivity between the GoM and Bear Seamount (N. Atlantic).  Heather presented results of cephalopod vertical distribution highlighting the fact that cephalopod species are unique in their daily movements.

Posted on February 21, 2017

DID YOU GET YOUR SCIENCE ON AT THE ST. PETE SCIENCE FESTIVAL?!

St Petersburg Science Festival logo

Friday and Saturday, October 20th and 21st was the 6th Annual St. Petersburg Science Festival.  And our lab was right in the middle of the excitement sharing our DEEPEND CONSORTIUM research and work with all the families, friends, and colleagues who came out and joined in the festivities in the beautiful fall weather!  Did we see you there?  We hope so!  And we hope you enjoyed learning a little bit more about what we accomplish at DEEPEND.

We had several animal specimens of the strange and bizarre creatures we bring up from the deep sea.  Our huge, colored banner displayed many of the fishes, cephalopods, siphonophores, and crustaceans we research from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.  We played matching games with micro-photographs of deep-sea animals!  Did you get to see through our simulated submarine portholes illustrating how the color spectrum changes with water depth?  We had winners through out Saturday guessing the right number of Sergestes shrimp in a specimen jar AND Cyclothone fish in their jar.  An awesome time was had by all!

Dr. Judkins and student at St Petersburg Science Festival booth

Judkins' Invertebrate Lab working with children

Thank you, USF St. Petersburg campus, for hosting this very fun and educational event.  The Judkins’ Invertebrate Lab had a successful time sharing our projects and speaking about deep-sea research with all of the visitors at this year’s festival.

St Pete Science Fest
#StPeteSciFest
#ScienceInTheSun

Posted on October 24, 2016

ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL DEEPEND CRUISE

Dr. Judkins working with man at DEEPEND

Dr. Judkins participated in the fourth DEEPEND research cruise in the northern Gulf of Mexico in August where she identified cephalopods and processed them for multiple projects back in the lab.  There were 33 different squid and octopus species collected during this trip with some that the team was seeing for the first time during the DEEPEND project.

Posted on September 5, 2016

THE LAB IS REALLY BUSY WITH DEEPEND CONSORTIUM WORK!

The DEEPEND Consortium received a research grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) starting in 2015 for 3 years.   In response to the DWHOS and the highlighted absence of baseline data for the deep GoM (200-1500 m) water column, the DEEPEND consortium is conducting a three year sampling, sensing, modeling, and laboratory analysis program to assess ecosystem dynamics, identify drivers of variability, and investigate possible consequences of the spill on ecosystem attributes. Data obtained during the 2010-2011 and 2015-2017 periods will establish a time-series with which ecosystem shifts or responses can be detected.


Posted March 10, 2016

DEEPEND RESEARCH CONSORTIUM COMPLETES FIRST YEAR OF GRANT

Dr. Judkins doing research

The Deep-Palegic Nekton Dynamics of the Gulf of Mexico (DEEPEND), a consortium of which USF St. Petersburg Assistant Professor of Biology Heather Judkins and scientists from other member institutions from around the country are a part, has recently completed the first year of a multi-year Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative grant. The research aims to improve the science community’s understanding about the deep sea ecosystem and the impact of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Read more about the consortium and the research that is being done.

Learn more about our DEEPEND consortium

Posted March 10, 2016

CEPHALOPOD CONFERENCE COMING TO USFSP AND ST. PETERSBURG!

CIAC 2018 logo

Dr. Judkins attended the 2015 Cephalopod International Advisory Council Symposium in Hakodate, Japan and was awarded the bid to host the 2018 CIAC Symposium in 2018!  Stay tuned for more details! 

Cephalopod International Advisory Council

Posted March 10, 2016


GRANT NEWS

Research Grant banner

Dr. Judkins received a USF St. Petersburg campus Faculty Research Council Grant for 2016-17 to study various genetic and isotopic questions focusing on cephalopods of the Gulf of Mexico.

Posted March 10, 2016