University of South Florida

USF College of Marine Science


Natalia López-Figueroa gives a brief summary of her research and experience at OSM2018

Graduate Student - Natalia López-Figueroa

Graduate Student - Natalia López-Figueroa

PORTLAND, OR – My name is Natalia López-Figueroa, I am a first year Ph.D. student in the biological oceanography program under the advisement of Dr. Mya Breitbart. I recently graduated from Hampton University and obtained a Master of Science in Biology/Environmental Science.During the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting I presented my master’s research project at Hampton University, collaborating with Skidaway Institute of Oceanography (at Savannah, GA) under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center (LMRCSC) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).


My project was about studying the spatial and temporal trends of zooplankton communities in the South Atlantic Bight (SAB). Our main objective in this project was to understand how does the abundance and taxonomic composition of zooplankton is influenced by the hydrographic conditions, specifically upwelling events in two locations in the SAB: the 25 and 40m isobaths (located in the mid shelf portion). We conducted monthly duplicate quantitative tows using a 1m net with a 202µm mesh with an attached calibrated flowmeter and a filtering cod-end. Organisms were subjected to morphological analysis and DNA barcoding to confirm species identification to the lowest taxonomic level possible. Our results showed that during upwelling events there is a species shift in taxonomic composition and an increase abundance of the different groups. This is the first long-term zooplankton quantitative and taxonomic assessment in the SAB. Our assessment adds new information to the spatio-temporal trends of zooplankton related to the physical and chemical conditions, and contributes to the global data base of the DNA Barcode of life.

My experience in OSM:

I was able to assist to the Ocean Sciences meeting as part as the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography Multicultural Program (ASLOMP), which provided me full-funding for the meeting. This program strives to enhance diversity in both ASLO and OS conferences. This was my 5th year participating in this program and I owe very much of my formation as a scientist to ASLOMP. As first year Ph.D. student at USF-CMS, I have learned the fundamentals of oceanography in depth with the experts in the field and for the first time in my years of assisting this meeting I felt like an oceanographer. Also, to see my fellow colleagues presentations I got a great representation of the quality of the work that is being done in our department and how prepared are the students. Also, I reconnected with many professionals and colleagues that I usually see only at these conferences and it’s great to catch up with them. This is a great experience that I encourage all students to assist at least once to this meeting because even though it can be exhausting, it is a very enriching experience for our professional careers. 

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