University of South Florida

USF College of Marine Science


M.S. and Ph.D. candidates shine in 39th Graduate Student Symposium

USF College of Marine Science’s (CMS) 39th annual Graduate Student Symposium

39th Annual Graduate Student Symposium 

Written by Kristen Kusek, Former Communications Director for USF CMS

Fifteen CMS graduate students delivered oral or poster presentations summarizing their research projects as part of the USF College of Marine Science’s (CMS) 39th annual Graduate Student Symposium held on Friday, January 27th. A quick skim of the presentation titles, listed below, underscores the strongly interdisciplinary nature of the CMS research portfolio. The student presentations followed a helpful “lessons I’ve learned” kickoff keynote by CMS alum, Kara Radabaugh (Class of 2013), who manages habitat and oyster mapping and monitoring programs at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in St. Petersburg.

“It was an awesome day for the College,” said Tom Frazer, dean of the CMS. “The students did a phenomenal job organizing the event and delivering their presentations with clarity, passion, and professionalism – and it was a blast finally being able to enjoy the event in person.”

In case you missed it: read full abstracts of each presentation here, view the oral presentations below, and enjoy a scattershot of some of the random fun facts learned throughout the day:

  • Due to climate and coastal change, oyster reefs are transitioning to mangrove-dominated ecosystems in Tampa Bay
  • Iron limits primary production in at least 50% of the surface ocean and it’s challenging to study in part because it’s found in such small amounts in the ocean
  • A fish egg study on the West Florida Shelf is a good example of marine research that uses both sophisticated technology (e.g., DNA barcoding) and low-tech tools (toothpicks!)
  • According to reams of data collected from moored buoys over 23 years, the West Florida Shelf heats up between February through August and cools start from September through January.
  • In a mysterious mass mortality event in the 1980s, nearly 90% of the Caribbean’s long-spined sea urchin population died. A new mortality event that started in St. Thomas in 2022 benefited from the help of citizen scientists who helped collect valuable data still under investigation.
  • Eddies in the Southern Ocean can make your head spin because they contribute to both the uptake and outgassing of carbon dioxide
  • Jobos Bay, the only national research reserve in the Caribbean, is under threat from ocean acidification to sea level rise and pollution, requiring the development of rapid monitoring tools
  • Scientists are trying to understand why nickel, one of the least well studied trace metals, is found in persistent concentrations in the surface ocean
  • “Killing dots” is an actual scientific exercise associated with ocean map-making and research at sea sometimes offers new adventures beyond research: one lucky CMS student got to visit the gravesite of Sir Ernest Shackleton on South Georgia Island (oh, and see fur seals, elephant seals, and King penguins!)

Oral presentations

  • Olivia Blondheim, “Filtering friends: evaluating bivalve water filtration services
  • Caitlyn Parente, “Investigating marine phage as a potential form of dissolved iron in the ocean”
  • Keith Keel, “Assessing fall spawning dynamics of fishes on the West Florida Shelf using DNA barcoding”
  • Luis Sorinas Morales, “On the seasonal cycle of ocean-atmosphere heat exchange on the West Florida Shelf identified through analyses of surface meteorological and oceanographic data from long-term moorings”
  • Isabella Ritchie, “Investigation into the causative agent of the 2022 Diadema antillarum mass mortality event”
  • Nicola Guisewhite, “Exploring the impact of southern ocean eddies on biogeochemical structure using BGC-ARGO float observations”
  • Angelique Rosa Marin, “Benthic foraminifera as bioindicators of reef health in Jobos Bay, Puerto Rico”
  • Calyn Crawford, “Labile nickel (Ni) concentrations across biogeochemical gradients in the North Pacific Ocean: insights into Ni bioavailability”
  • Catalina Rubiano, “From the field in 2022: postcards from the poles”

GSS - Video 1

GSS - Video 2

Poster presentations

  • Rebecca Scott, “Modeling the impact of circulation-driven dispersal patterns on juvenile Kemp’s Ridley feeding on the West Florida Shelf”
  • Jessica Caggiano, “Quantifying wave error on SWOT sea surface height in the Southern Ocean” 
  • April Ellis, “A filter-feeder invertebrate chordate model to study the impact of plastics ingestion in the gut of animals”
  • Naja Murphy, “Seasonality of aluminum on the West Florida Shelf”
  • Shannon Leah Riley, “Influences on the variability of paralarval cephalopod beta-diversity in the Gulf of Mexico”
  • Macarena Martin-Mayor, “Ocean acidification in the Gulf of Mexico: a multi-decadal evaluation of pH and carbonate ion concentration”

View a short video montage of the 2023 GSS event.

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