SEA Currents: News
November 28, 2016
SEA alumni present Sargassum findings at Gulf & Caribbean Fisheries Institute conference
Recent SEA graduates Maddie Taylor (C-264) and Corey Wrinn (C-257), and former SEA Associate Professor (and SEA alumna, C-142) Dr. Amy Siuda (now at Eckerd College) attended a meeting of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) in Grand Cayman earlier this month to present the results of their research related to drifting Sargassum.
The GCFI is a forum that brings together scientific, government, and commercial stakeholders to share scientific findings to better understand and manage the marine ecosystem of the Caribbean and Gulf region.
The SEA alumni presented data and findings from the last two years of Caribbean and Sargasso Sea cruise tracks, including C-256 and 257 (Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean), C-263 (Oceans and Climate), C-264 (CCC) and C-266 (Marine Biodiversity and Conservation).
With renewed awareness that drifting Sargassum are not all the same, students on these voyages focused their research on morphological variations. At the conference, Wrinn presented a taxonomic field guide he created to help scientists recognize and identify four different morphological forms of Sargassum (S. natans I, II, and VIII and S. fluitans III).
Professor Siuda, with the help of her MBC class, has shown, through DNA testing, that there are consistent genetic differences among Sargassum forms and associated fauna found on these different forms. This is supported by research presented by Taylor that showed that communities of organisms (shrimp, crabs, snails, nudibranches, etc) that occur in Sargassum vary according to the form of Sargassum.
Why is it important? Dr. Jeffrey Schell, Associate Professor of Oceanography at SEA, noted that while Sargassum, whose distribution has recently been expanding into the Caribbean, is often considered a nuisance when it washes ashore, it is also a vitally important habitat for large fish, seabirds, and turtles. A better understanding of Sargassum is therefore essential in order to fully evaluate its ecological and commercial value.
“GCFI was the perfect forum in which to share our research advances. Not only was the meeting a great opportunity to exchange ideas among those leading the efforts to understand recent Caribbean inundations of Sargassum, but the meeting also brought scientists together with local and regional managers to discuss best practices for coping with the inundations as well as associated public outreach and education strategies,” said Professor Siuda.
The conference was an opportunity for Taylor to deliver her first formal scientific talk. “Preparing for GCFI was a ton of work, but it ended up being a blast. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to conduct and present on meaningful and impactful research as an undergrad,” she said.
Wrinn said that listening to the scientific presentations on current marine research and the state of the changing ocean was both “stunning and encouraging.”
For more details on the GCFI presentations, please go to the Sargassum Ecosystem research section of SEA website.