University of South Florida

USF College of Marine Science


CMS celebrates 40 years of Graduate Student Symposiums

IMAGE ABOVE: The seventeen student presentations covered research into biological, chemical, geological, and physical oceanography, from fish spawning to satellite monitoring. IMAGE CREDIT: Jessica Van Vaerenbergh.

Seventeen graduate students from the USF College of Marine Science shared their research through oral or poster presentations for the 40th annual Graduate Student Symposium (GSS) on Friday, February 2nd. The breadth of topics covered during GSS illustrates the impressive scope of science conducted at CMS.

“For forty years, the Graduate Student Symposium has given CMS students the opportunity to hone their science presentation and communication skills, and to engage colleagues in a professional setting,” said Tom Frazer, professor and dean of CMS. “I’m very proud of our students, who not only organized this year’s event but presented their research with clarity and composure, demonstrating the passion and scientific rigor that make CMS such an outstanding institution.

GSS kicked off with a presentation from Kara Doran, a CMS alum and oceanographer with the USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center. Doran’s research focuses on identifying, quantifying, and modeling vulnerabilities of the US shores to coastal change hazards.

The thirteen student presentations that followed included research into biological, chemical, geological, and physical oceanography, from fish spawning to satellite monitoring.

We noted a few fascinating facts shared during the presentations

  • Fish eggs are a good proxy for studying fish spawning patterns.
  • A counterintuitive cooling in the bottom temperature of some regions of the West Florida Shelf may be caused by the loop current.
  • A bright orange anal cone distinguishes Diadema setosum from Diadema antillarum, two sea urchin species experiencing die-offs.
  • A deadly ciliate that kills sea urchins has now been found in the waters of Oman, possibly spread through international boats, diving equipment, or the aquarium trade.
  • Ocean floats can be used to update satellite-derived sea level data.
  • Fish eyes contain isotopes that researches use to understand fish feeding habits.
  • Newborn squid are so small they’re adapted for life in plankton communities.
  • Deep learning models can help scientists detect red tide blooms from space.
  • Mangroves occupy 16 percent of Florida’s coastline, but they’re at risk due to stressors such as sea level rise.
  • Stingrays love Publix shrimp (but please don’t feed wildlife)!
  • Decomposing Sargassum smells like rotten eggs and comes at a huge cost to coastal marine habitats and tourism industries.


  • Alexis Mitchem, “Analyzing Spawning Patterns of Economically Important Fishes on the West Florida Shelf Through DNA Barcoding of Fish Eggs”
  • Jill Thompson-Grim, “Climate-Ready Fisheries: Spatially Defining Subsurface Climate-Vulnerable Regions of the Gulf of Mexico with High-Resolution Models”
  • Bella Ritchie, “The ciliate (Philaster apodigitiformis) responsible for the 2022 Diadema antillarum mass mortality event also induces scuticociliatosis in Diadema setosum”
  • Sara Jean Reinelt, “Investigating Steric Sea Level Anomalies: Combining satellite altimetry, GRACE/GRACE-FO, and Argo”
  • Kylee Rullo, “Stable Isotope Analysis on Yellowfin and Blackfin Tuna Eye Lenses Reveals Life History Patterns in the Gulf of Mexico”
  • Emily Kaiser, “Constraining the timing of and mechanisms forcing deglaciation along the Sabrina Coast, East Antarctica”
  • Shannon Riley, “Abundance and Vertical Distribution of Cephalopod Paralarvae in the Northern Gulf of Mexico”
  • Bostony Braoudakis, “Respirometry studies of oxygen supply capacity of an estuarine fish, spotfin mojarra (Eucinostomus argenteus), reveal physiological tolerance to elevated temperatures”
  • Yao Yao, “Remote detection of Karenia brevis blooms on the West Florida Shelf: accounting for spatial coherence”
  • Natalia Sawaya, “Quantification and diversity of a ubiquitous ssDNA phage group (Gokushovirinae) in the Red Sea”
  • Alejandra Aguilar, “Depth Matter: Insights into Peat Dynamic in Restored Natural Mangroves of Florida’s Gulf Coast”
  • Sophia Emmons, “Influence of salinity on the oxygen limitations of estuarine species Hypanus sabinus”
  • Sarah Sullivan, “Sargassum in the Florida Keys: Application of High-resolution Satellite Imagery and a Deep Learning Model”


  • Emma Graves, “Entrained Mississippi River Plume Shifts Phytoplankton Community Composition on the West Florida Shelf”
  • Samantha D’Angelo, “Implementation of the Tampa Bay Observing Network (TBON), a comprehensive approach to monitoring real-time water quality in Tampa Bay”
  • Delfina Navarro-Estrada, “Biological cycling of trace metals during the EXPORTS 2021 study of the North Atlantic Spring Bloom”
  • Keith Keel, “Exploring the Dynamics of September Fish Spawning on the West Florida Shelf Through the DNA Barcoding of Fish Eggs”

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