College of Marine Science, University of South Florida
Primary Advisor: Dr. Frank Muller-Karger
Committee: Dr. Steve Gittings and Dr. Chris Stallings
The composition of marine ecosystems are impacted by human activities and changing climate. In order to preserve natural resources provided by marine ecosystems it is vital to understand how the marine environment is changing over time. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FBNMS), Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS), are collaborating with the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON) as part of a national effort to monitor marine biodiversity.
Chapter 1: This study aims to overcome the many variables along the analytical pipeline to determine if environmental DNA (eDNA) can be used to adequately monitor reef fish biodiversity in coral reef ecosystems. The study is guided by the hypothesis: eDNA can be used to reflect the taxonomic composition of reef fish communities along the Florida Keys reef tract. To test this hypothesis, we collected water samples in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) from April 2015 to September 2016 for processing and analysis and then compared the species detected to data obtained from SCUBA methodologies. The results will be used in collaboration with the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON), a five-year project that collects and processes eDNA in the FKNMS. The study further compliments the MBON objectives to determine if novel genetic techniques can be used to synoptically assess the characteristic biodiversity within the sanctuary as well as help update the FKNMS Condition Reports on the status and trends of biodiversity.
Chapter 2: Here I examine the potential effects of lionfish predation on the density of reef fish in the FKNMS coral reef ecosystem. I hypothesize that the introduction of invasive lionfish in 2009 has significantly reduced the abundance of small reef fish through predation. To determine if lionfish are impacting the biodiversity of reef fish I plan to compare the natural variability in reef fish abundances and biodiversity from 1994-2009, 15 years prior to the first lionfish detected in the sanctuary, to changes in reef fish abundances 5 years after the invasion. The results will be relevant to inform the process of developing the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) condition report, specifically on the status and trends of living resources including invasive species, keystone species, and biodiversity as well as compliment the Marine Biodiversity Observation Networks (MBON) objectives to measure changes in marine biodiversity in the FKNMS.
|Collecting and filtering water samples along the Florida Keys on the R/V Walton Smith|
|(Left to Right) Brady Booton, Lonny Anderson, Bill Goodwin, Kelsey Jeffers, Megan Hepner, Nancy, and Enrique Montes sampling water at Molasses Reef, Looe Key, and Western Sambo in August 2015|
Research scientists at the FKNMS are using a hand deployed niskin bottle to sample water at Molasses Reef. The niskin bottle is lowered to a meter above the seafloor and sends a messenger down, which springs the caps on the two ends of the niskin bottle shut. Watch the curious filefish follow the niskin bottle to the surface.
A time series capturing research scientists aboard the R/V Walton Smith collecting and filtering water samples along the Florida Keys Reef tract in July 2015
|The FKNMS team assisting in the collection of water samples to be processed for Chl-a, HPLC, CDOM, phytoplankton and environmental DNA (eDNA)|
This work was supported by the NASA grant NNX14AP62A ‘National Marine Sanctuaries as Sentinel Sites for a Demonstration Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON)’ funded under the National Ocean Partnership Program (NOPP RFP NOAA-NOS-IOOS-2014-2003803 in partnership between NOAA, BOEM, and NASA).