Undergraduate ReSEArch: Seagrasses in Florida Bay

Post by Kai Lopez

Among Everglades researchers, Florida Bay and the shallow seagass beds within it are often forgotten. However, much of Florida Bay is encompassed within Everglades National Park.Much of Florida Bay is dominated by seagrass beds, which provide importantecosystem services, such as vital nursery habitat for many fish species, sediment stabilization, and increased water quality, in addition to providing food to turtles and manatees. As an undergraduate technician in the Seagrass Ecosystems Research Lab (SERL), I have had the opportunity to get up close and personal with Florida Bay seagrasses. 
From fleeing smacks of jellyfish to almost being swallowed by liquid sediments in a canal, the adventure never stops in the seagrass lab. One time I even got to go mano-a-mano with a stone crab bigger than my head over a tidbit. But don’t get the wrong idea, everyone here in the seagrass lab has spent days engrossed in the monotonous work of scraping seagrass as well. As a wise man …

Diatom of the month: March 2017 - Mastogloia pseudosmithii

by Sylvia Lee, FIU & Periphyton lab alumna

Did you know that March 19 is Taxonomist Appreciation Day?

Fig. 1. Cartoon on what taxonomy is.Image credit: BuzzHootRoor from
Taxonomy is the study of organisms and their classification (or in more witty/punny terms in the image above, “how you phylum”). Recognizing and putting names to organisms may come easy to some natural-born naturalists, but taxonomy can be a challenging task requiring specialized knowledge. This is especially true for groups with many species, such as diatoms. Species identification may not seem like an important skill, but it can be thought of as an essential part of “ecoliteracy.” It is difficult to care about something if you do not know its name, and it can even become extinct without your knowledge.
As part of my Ph.D. research, I was able to do an in depth study of some of the diatoms in the Everglades, and described them as new specie…

The Carbonate Flow

Post by: Chris Lopes

The interest for my research began far from the boundaries of FCE. Swimming through the glistening waters off the Florida Keys in the reef tract, I saw a system that was teaming with life and full of surprises. As I grew older and gained exposure on the status of the reefs, it became clear that the surprises will not be as pleasant if we proceed with business as usual. As soon as I gained access to web of science in high school, I was digging and searching through the literature to better understand the dynamics systems of coral reefs. I wanted to know everything from what composed the communities to what was affecting the ecosystem form and function. It became clear that coral reefs and adjacent systems are changing and we are leaving our fingerprints on the gas handle.

As my exposure to science increased during my undergrad, global climate change was a paradigm that had shifted and was now in full effect. I remember a line that was used to describe environmental …

Diatom of the Month: February 2017

The Art of Diatoms
by Xavier Cortada
Artist-in-ResidenceFIU School of Environment, Art and Society

Fig. 1. Cortada’s one-hundred diatom works on tile (each 6″ x 6″), 2017.

I marvel at looking into a microscope. 
I focus in and see time. I see the past, really far into the past. I see beautiful small aquatic plants encased in glass that lived on our planet for many millions of years. Sitting inside Dr. Evelyn Gaiser’s Algae Research lab at Florida International University in Miami, I look at a slideand see diatoms. 
Diatoms transport me to a place so distant in time that it wouldn’t look like the Earth I know. They help connect me to an Earth I am trying to better understand. An Earth fluid. An Earth as process. An Earth completely interconnected. An Earth generating life forms across space and time. 

Fig. 2. Xavier Cortada, Drawings of Diatoms from the Everglades, 6″ x 6″, ceramic tile, 2017.
In diatoms I also see moments captured in time.  Scientists can determine the past salinity of wat…

Researching Algae, the Unsung Heroes of Aquatic Food Webs

by Luca Marazzi*
Why is it important to study algae? To start with, algae produce ~ 50% of the oxygen on planet Earth, they are food for small and large animals that in turn are eaten by people, but they also recycle nutrients and absorb CO2 from the air; by existing and doing their own thing, these microorganisms provide these so called ecosystem services to human beings (Fig. 1). Moreover, as algae reproduce fast and are often adapted to specific environmental conditions, understanding how many species of algae, and which ones, live where and why give us cues as to the health of aquatic ecosystems, such as rivers, lakes, and wetlands. 
Fig. 1. Simplified scheme of the role of algae in food webs (from my Ph.D. Thesis).

* Dr.Luca Marazziis a freshwater ecologist working inDr. Evelyn Gaiser’s research groupin the School of Environment, Arts and Society at Florida International University. His main interest is how biodiversity, ecology, and distribution of algae in subtropical wetlands cha…

Diatom of the Month: January 2017 – Amphora coffeaeformis

By Keely Mills*

I am a fan of hot temperatures and sunny climates. This may sound strange coming from someone who lives in a wet and grey part of the UK (Nottingham). However, hot weather is one of the main reasons I love researching tropical lakes, and a trait I share with the January 2017 ‘Diatom of the Month’. I would like to introduce you to my favourite diatom: Amphora coffeaeformis (Fig. 1) [now renamed Halamphora coffeaeformis] – a salt-tolerant species, indicating a shallow, slightly saline environment (Gasse, 1986).

Fig. 1. A specimen of Amphora coffeaeformis found in the sediments of Lake Nyamogusingiri, Uganda (photo: K. Mills).
So, how did I come to ‘discover’ this diatom, and how did it come to be my favourite? My story starts as a new Ph.D. student at Loughborough University in 2005. I was working with Dr David Ryves on a project focussed on the Ugandan Crater Lakes, where I would use a palaeolimnological approach to infer past climate and environmental changes that took pl…