Diatom of the Month – June 2017: Fragilaria synegrotesca

by Nick Schulte*
I think Fragilaria synegrotesca is a cute diatom. Although long and lanky (nothing wrong with that!), F. synegrotesca has an adorable, sometimes very slight, potbelly (Fig. 1). 

Fig. 1. a) Live frustules in a rosette colony ( b) Fragilaria synegrotesca in valve view (Schulte 2014).
Now, some boring diatomist (e.g., me) might describe that little bump in the middle right as “a unilaterally expanded, hyaline central margin” and that’s accurate enough. But I also like to think of it as F. synegrotesca’s belly pooch. It brings to my mind the potbellies of seahorses, pigs, puppies and toddlers, and it seems very boop-able.

But let’s move past the physical attributes of this diatom, as the allure of this species is in its “actions”. Fragilaria synegrotesca has so far only been reported from karstic wetlands of the Caribbean and is most well-known from the Florida Everglades. In the Everglades, F. synegrotesca is …

Affordable Robots in Environmental Science

Post by: Dong Yoon LeeEmail:
Let me start with some questions. Have you ever lost all of your samples in a freezer because of a power outrage? Have you made your family unhappy (or happy) because you spend more time with laboratory rats? Have you failed to collect soil samples after a long boat trip because of unpredicted high water levels? Have you found out that super high phytoplankton production was caused by your advisor accidentally turning on a light during dark cycles? It is not uncommon to hear these kinds of unfortunate events from fellow scientists. It seems almost inevitable for biologists to avoid them because nature is full of surprises and that’s why we love studying biology! But wouldn't it be nice if you had a robot preventing unwanted events from happening? In addition, wouldn't it be even better if a robot was easy to program, to make, and most importantly, affordable. We tend to think that a robot is an intelligent object with arms, legs, or at …

Diatom of the Month – May 2017: Navicula lanceolata

by Martyn Kelly*, in collaboration with Luca Marazzi

Navicula lanceolata(Agardh) Ehrenberg 1838 is a symmetrical biraphid diatom with lanceolate valve margins, broad in the central valve and slightly rostrate, rounded ends (Fig. 1, #1); the central area is an irregular oval (Fig. 1, #2), and striae are radiate, except at the ends where they become convergent (Fig. 1, #3). This species has two chloroplasts, one along each side of the girdle (Fig. 2) and is highly motile.

Fig. 1. Navicula lanceolata (Source:
Fig. 2. Navicula lanceolata in fresh samples with brown chloroplasts (Source:;
Image Copyright: E.J. Cox).
This is one of the most widely-distributed and frequently-encountered diatoms in both Europe and North America and is particularly abundant in winter and early spring; like a few other motile diatoms, it can form dark-brown patches on the top of biofi…

The Next Generation of Scientists

I know the reason I have pursued graduate school and a career in science is owed to the mentoring I received as an undergraduate student. My first mentor was Dr. Simmons, who I worked under in his lab on stream ecology. He encouraged me to apply for the Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) programs, where I went on to work with Dr. Rosi and Dr. Bechtold for a whole summer at Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies. It was this experience that gave me the confidence and background to apply for graduate school programs. In fact, Dr. Bechtold introduced me (virtually) to my current advisor!

Because of all the guidance and encouragement I got as an undergraduate I am highly motivated to continue the legacy and mentor the next generation of scientists. I am thankful that my advisor has given me the opportunity to work with three different REU students. For me, working with undergraduate students has many benefits. They are eager to help, they are curious, and they are enthusiastic. Th…

DOC or: How I learned to start worrying about carbon in water

Post by: Peter Regier

My research with the FCE-LTER works to better understand where organic carbon comes from, how it changes in the environment and where it ends up.  Organic carbon is the stuff that makes up all living things, and when plants and critters die, the organic carbon they are made of can be sequestered in soils or mobilize into the water or the air.  Since the Everglades is a subtropical system that usually doesn’t freeze and gets lots of sunlight (Florida is called the sunshine state for a reason…), plants can grow year-round.  This means we end up with ton of organic carbon moving in and out of environments like sawgrass marshes, mangroves and seagrass beds (all of which produce and store organic carbon).    

I’m interested in understanding how environmental drivers like hydrology and climate impact organic carbon dissolved in natural waters, aptly named dissolved organic carbon (DOC).  Since we can easily quantify DOC in the lab, we should be able to collect some water…