Elena Flores is a graduate scholar at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center. She is currently conducting shrimp experiments to evaluate a new tag used in shrimp. These visible marks will help monitor shrimp growth over time. She monitors retention rate, and visibility of the tags, as well as shrimp survival.
This monitoring happens mainly in coastal marshes, mangroves, and oyster reefs. Elena works with her lab group to perform other duties such as rehabilitating the wet lab facility, conducting field work, boat maintenance, and helping with other shrimp projects. With a Bachelors in Biology, she is currently working on her Masters degree in Ocean, Coastal, and Earth Sciences at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Elena's thesis research is on coastal conservation investigating eutrophication effects on Black mangrove and soil gas fluxes in eutrophicated coastal blue carbon in South Texas.
The survey had three components: visual observations, passive acoustic monitoring, and oceanographic sampling. The primary goal is to obtain abundance, density, and g(0) estimates for marine mammals. We ran a double platform, with two independent visual survey teams reporting to one data recorder. One platform was on the flying bridge, the other was on the anti-roll tank deck, which is just forward and 3 ft lower than the bridge deck. When high priority species were sighted, we obtained photo-ID photos and potentially attempt to collect biopsy samples as well.
For the passive acoustic component, which was one of my main responsibilities, we deployed sonobuoys to acoustically monitor for marine mammals. Most of the time we just collected data and recorded whatever species we could detect. However, when a North Pacific right whale was detected, we broke from survey and attempted to locate the animal (depending on how far it is, how often it's calling, etc). The NPRW was the highest priority species during the cruise. We also retrieved and deployed one long-term bottom mounted acoustic mooring near Barnabus Trough. Seeing NPRW are extremely rare and I had the honor of seeing four. Majority of the scientist and crew had never laid eyes on one and most of them have been working in that area for decades. Hearing the right whales was surreal for me. My mentor prepped me for what the whales sounded like and after weeks of not hearing them it was relieving to finally hear them when I did. They have a unique call, called a gunshot and it has that name because it literally sounds like a gunshot. It’s very loud and distinct and followed by a series of pulses. Even though I wasn’t on acoustics when we discovered the first right whales it was extremely cool to be trusted to record and visually document the surfacing of the whales for the NOAA PR team to use in their press release. I truly enjoyed getting as close as I did to the whales. It was a once in a life-time experience. My favorite part about acoustics was listening to the Orca’s speak. They were very entertaining and made an array of different calls especially after a meal, sometimes they got so excited they breached the water. I gained a deeper appreciation from listening to them and seeing them up close and personal.
Finally, every evening after visual ops were done, we conducted a CTD cast. Which was another one of my responsibilities. We casted a CTD every night at the depths of 0, 25, 50, 100, 250, 500, 1000, and max depth. This was the oceanography of portion of my NERTO. I learned a lot about the purpose of conducting CTDs. I learned how to identify if there was anything off with the CTDs we conducted. One cool thing we did was draw on cups, put them in a bag, and attach them to the CTD machine. We then sent the cups down to max depths and when they returned the cups were crushed from the pressure of the ocean.
NOAA CCME scholar DeMarcus Turner was featured on Pro Fellow's website where he answered 3 major questions about his experiences with the program.
View the full article here: https://www.profellow.com/3-questions/the-noaa-center-for-coastal-and-marine-ecosystems-fellowship-experience/
Benjamin Ross received his Bachelor’s degree from Florida Atlantic University’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College and his MSc And PhD from the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science. He previously held a position as an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education fellow at EPA headquarters in Washington, DC as part of the Ocean Dumping team.
His research has focused on the use of foraminifera, single celled protists that often create shells of calcium carbonate, as tools for environmental monitoring. This has included the development of methods for employing symbiont-bearing benthic foraminifera as a coral-relevant bioassay organism, including the use of fluorescent microscopy to observe sub-lethal effects and to distinguish live test organisms from dead. During the development of these methods he discovered that the foraminifera in his experiments could survive stressful conditions by entering a dormant state. Further research demonstrated this reaction to multiple stressors, including toxic chemicals and over a year of complete darkness, and found evidence in the literature that this stress reaction could be widespread among foraminiferal species and may have widespread implications for interpretations of foraminiferal population patterns for environmental and paleoceanographic applications.
Ben’s interests lie in monitoring environments that are susceptible to anthropogenic influence, and especially in developing low-cost methods that can be effectively employed in some of the world’s most impacted areas. He is also passionate about the importance of effective science communication and outreach in creating positive environmental changes.
At NOAA CCME he is continuing to research matters related to improving the use of foraminifera for environmental monitoring, including comparing metal extraction methods and exploring physiological and biological stress responses. He is also planning to work with NOAA scientists at NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, FL to develop genetic-based tools for improving field monitoring of planktonic foraminiferal populations, and is going to join his NOAA mentor on the upcoming Gulf of Mexico Ecosystems and Carbon (GOMECC-4) cruise as part of this collaboration.
Diana Del Angel completed her PhD in Coastal and Marine System Science working with HRI Endowed Chair of Socio-economics, Dr. David Yoskowitz. She received a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Texas at Brownsville in 2008 and a M.S. from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in 2011. Diana has spent over seven years working in Texas coastal environments, focusing on mapping and remote sensing, barrier island processes, coastal change, and hurricane impacts.
In 2015 she was awarded the Gulf Research Program Science Policy Fellowship and spent one year working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. As a Science Policy Fellow she developed an ecosystem assessment framework for Florida’s coastal and aquatic managed areas. Her dissertation research will quantify wetland ecosystem benefits and values received by coastal communities in the Gulf of Mexico.