Showing posts from 2013

Carbon dynamics from reconstructed (LILA) tree islands in the Everglades

This post was written by guest blogger Alexandra Serna, a post-doctoral researcher in the FIU Freshwater Biogeochemistry Lab (, about some of her work on tree islands and carbon dynamics in the Everglades.

A few weeks ago, I attended the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America Annual Meetings in Tampa, FL. What a huge conference! My colleagues and I presented our most recent data on tree island Carbon (C) dynamics. Tree islands are one of the most prominent landscape features of the Everglades system.

Flow Day!

Mike Bush is a guest blogger and a PhD student in the Trexler aquatic ecology lab at FIU (
                Everglades restoration can come in many forms, from ensuring that water heading south through the Everglades Agricultural Area is stripped of excess nutrients before it hits the more natural areas of the Everglades to shuffling around huge amounts of water under Alligator Alley into Fakahatchee Strand.

Why do we still know so little about common species?

This guest post was written by James Stroud, Ph. D. student in Dr. Ken Feeley's lab at Florida International University.  He is a regular blogger on the Feeley lab blog upwithclimate.

South Florida is a wild place for lizards. And at the moment, as the region’s most abundant native lizard, life sucks for the American green anole Anolis carolinensis.
In the recent past a wealth of invasions have occurred from exotic Caribbean Anolis leading to the establishment of up to 10 non-native species around the Miami area, annually creeping further outwards towards the Everglades. The effect of congenerics on American green anoles has been well studied; the presence of an ecologically similar competitor – such as the now widespread Cuban brown anole Anolis sagrei (Fig. 2) – has forced them higher up into the trees and off the ground.

August Shark Sampling

This guest post was written by Phil Matich, a graduate researcher in Dr. Mike Heithaus' lab at Florida International University.
We just got back from an amazing trip in August!As always, we left early in the morning and were fortunate enough to catch the tail end of the Perseid meteor shower as we drove to the boat ramp.On our way to the field site we saw the sun rise over the water and the mangroves, and then got right to work catching sharks.On the first live, we caught two sharks, 79 and 85 cm total length, and surgically implanted the smaller individual with an acoustic transmitter so that we could track its movements.Surprisingly, the larger shark was an individual we had caught and tagged in July, and is one of the first sharks we’ve recaptured in the last three years!

Three new Everglades diatom species named

Recently, my colleagues and I named three new Everglades diatom species after much morphological analyses and taxonomic detective work. While the Everglades diatom community may not be as species-rich as lakes in more temperate environments, there are many species waiting to receive a proper name and publication. The reason that so many species continue to be called "species number 17" or "looks like this other species but not quite" is because there just has not been the kind of focused taxonomic research here in subtropical and tropical places in the Western hemisphere. Contrast this to the hundreds of years of research on European diatoms. The Everglades diatom community offers great opportunities for graduate students, like me, to investigate and describe new species!

For the FIU News article, click here:

For additional pictures of the new species, see below:

7 Ways to Make to Most Out of Your First National Conference

A few weeks ago, I attended my first national conference, Botanical Society of America’s Botany 2013 Celebrating Diversity! (BSA) in New Orleans, LA. Here are 7 lessons I learned along the way:
1 )Go to the big conferences, even if you don’t have a lot of data yet I just finished up my first year of my PhD program, and I didn't have a lot of “real” data to speak of. So I did what I could, and presented a poster outlining my doctoral thesis proposal. Unexpectedly, I got so much valuable, constructive feedback from experts in my field.  I really valued this experience, because at this stage in my program, that feedback provided me with new perspectives on my project before I execute it. Plus, I got to know PI’s, post-docs, and graduate students from other universities that expressed interest in collaborating with me in the future.

2 )Attend the student professional development luncheons, mixers, etc. At BSA, there were ample opportunities provided to us as students, to get involved w…

What is Algae?

What is algae?

This seems like a very simple and easy to answer question. Surprisingly though, many people (even those doing research on specific groups of algae like me), have a tough time answering this question. Mainly, I think this is because we rarely get this question from other people (scientists or laypeople). Also, since science often encourages you to focus your research questions, we rarely have to even think about how a specific group of algae is related to other groups of algae, or how algae fits into the evolutionary scheme of other living organisms (are algae plants or animals?...).

The Next 4-7 Years of My Life of Working in the Greater Everglades—Will It All Be Lost to Sea Level Rise?

As I start the first field season of my dissertation research, I am starting to get the sensation that I have jumped onto a sinking ship1. My chosen ecological system, the pine rocklands (see photo Big Pine Key), has a laundry list of complex and entangled threats—invasions of plant and insect species, habitat fragmentation, climate change, hurricanes, floods, fire suppression, and of course, since it is only found only within south Florida and Caribbean islands, sea level rise (SLR).

Florida Coastal Everglades in the Classroom

PhD students at FIU are required to teach a lab for two semesters.  So, for the past two semesters I have been a teaching assistant (TA) forEcology lab and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  A typical ecology lab consists of a large majority of pre-professional students (pre -med, -dental, -vet, etc.) who need an upper-level elective.  Translation:  many students are enrolled in Ecology because they have to.  I don't expect my students to change their career paths and become ecologists; I simply want them to understand why ecology is important.Memorizing terminology and examples, while they have their place, are not as useful in the long-term – it’s the experiences and hands-on activities we remember.I am an ecologist and all I remember from my undergraduate ecology class is going out to my university’s nature preserve looking at species abundances and distributions.If a student who is preparing for a career in ecology and research doesn’t remember that she (or he!) learned …

Wildlife Documentaries

The following is a guest post by Richard Kern, a film maker, lecturer, and co-founder of Odyssey Earth.

I am not a scientist. I like to say I’m a student of life, a naturalist in training. Yet somehow I’ve fallen into a profession where science is the pivot-point of everything I do. Interesting career path for someone who took 8 credits of Shakespeare in college. So what, really, was the point of getting a degree in something called “Literary and Cultural Studies?!”

Birthday checks, hungry bears, and subsidy dynamics in the Everglades on the Oikos blog

Hi all,

Check out my post on the Oikos blog about subsidy regulation in the Everglades!

Click on the link below to read the entire story

Oikos blog full story

Climate Change in Everglades National Park: Sea Level Rise

I did this video, “Climate Change in Everglades National Park: Sea Level Rise”, at the request of my funding source, The George Melendez Wright Climate Change Fellowship. They wanted all the fellows to present a three minute video of their work at the 2013 George Wright Society Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites. I took this opportunity to create a video overview of my research and its importance to Everglades National Park and the rare plant communities being impacted by sea level rise. My hopes are to get this information out to a broader audience to engender a better understanding of how conservation research can be used to help protect rare plant species. -Kristie Wendelberger

The changing biology PhD job market

According to legend, the story of the career of a biology PhD used to go like this: 1) student joins a lab, 2) student spends 4-8 years doing research and honing specific skills in their chosen field, 3) student gets a tenure-track job at a college/university and becomes a professor after 5 more years or so, 4) with essentially a guaranteed job for life, professor gets to do interesting scientific research and live happily ever after. Somewhere along the way another step was added between steps 2 and 3 (step 2.5: the post-doctoral research position). This story, whether actually the norm or not back in the day, is clearly not the story today. And it's freaking a lot of people out.

4 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting Grad School

'Tis the season of grad school acceptances and major life choices. Two years ago (!) I was an overly confident undergrad preparing to become a graduate researcher. Late night Googling of "how to prepare for grad school" further assured me I was ready. Have experience in a research lab? Check. Know I may have weird hours? Check. Secured some kind of TA/RA funding? Check. Today, reflecting upon this time of year, I wish someone would have told me about a few aspects of grad school that seem to never be highlighted on those "What to Know about Grad School" websites:

What diatomists do to diatoms

My research is on the diatom communities of the Everglades. To study how the communities respond to environmental changes, I have to identify and count each of the diatom species I encounter under the microscope. To do that though, the diatoms have to be stripped clean of any organic material and other 'junk' in the sample. The diatoms go through a harsh bath of acid and heat, until all that is left of them are their empty but beautiful cell walls. This is possible because diatom cell walls are essentially glass.

From Swimming with Seagrasses to Statistics

Somewhere down the road ecology evolved from this:

To something like this:

Applying for the future: a guide to opening your doors

This guest post was written by Mari Soula, undergraduate researcher in Dr. Jenn Rehage's lab at Florida International University.


The most annoying thing for me to hear is “but I don’t know if I’m going to like it” or “they’re not going to accept me”. My mom has always said that I’d never know if I’d like something until I try it. (She’s a smart lady, so I assume the same could be said for the second statement.)
What’s even worse is when people let that simple “fear” get in the way and they don’t even try. I find that when it comes to applications for programs, awards, funding, conferences, etc. people use this “fear” as an excuse to cover up their laziness.
The way I see it, every application is a new door. And every door not taken is an opportunity wasted, an opportunity with the potential to change your life. We’re all ecologists here; this opportunity wasted i…

Extreme ecology: taking a look at the 2010 freeze

Happy new year folks! 
 I am writing today to discuss extreme ecology!
As much as I wish that “extreme ecology” is studying ecology while surfing or snowboarding, it is not. Rather, extreme ecology or the” ecology of extremes” is the study of how ecosystems change following very rare natural disturbances.   These disturbances are more like natural disasters, that include volcanic eruptions, biblical floods, hurricanes, super storms, and boiling heat waves.  Extreme disturbance events are so harmful because they often kill everything that happened to be in the path of the disturbance. On top of destroying ecosystems, these events incur billions of dollars of damages to humans.  The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens provides a good example of an extreme disturbance event. 

Mount St. Helens before and after the 1980 eruption

What's in a name?

I've always been fascinated with the names of places and the history behind those names. Why is Paris called Paris, and why did somebody in Texas feel the need to use the name again? Why is the big rock in the middle of Australia called Uluru by the native Aboriginals and why did a white guy rename it Ayers Rock in the 19th century? The coastal Everglades is full of fantastically obvious (Mud Lake) and wonderfully enigmatic (Willy Willy) place names and I have bumped into many of them during my research. Here is a list of some of those places and where the names come from (or at least where I think they come from):