St. Petersburg College

Professors at St. Petersburg College (SPC) conduct research on local marine environments. A vital part of SPC research is the involvement of undergraduate students. FIO provides opportunities for collaboration with the college.

Biology professor Dr. Linae Boehme-Terrana is working with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to investigate seasonal variations in fish populations in Clearwater Harbor, FL. Not until after the BP oil spill did the scientific community realize that we lacked basic information about many Gulf of Mexico estuaries. This collaborative project works to fill that gap. Students not only collect new data but also analyze historical data.

Dr. Monica Lara and Dr. Heyward Mathews head up a multi-year research project comparing offshore artificial reefs with natural reef ledges. The first part of the project studies the effects of artificial reefs on the abundance and diversity of organisms in the surrounding sediments. The second part deploys larval light traps to study the recruitment of settling organisms to artificial reefs. The light trap project looks for trends in the types of recruits, their life stages as well as the impact of seasons on the supply of settling organisms. Our students participate in all aspects of the research. They collect samples from reef sediments and light traps. Under the direction of Dr. Lara, students identify the organisms in each sample. While the light trap research is currently being conducted offshore, students are designing modified traps for use in shallower mangrove environments.

Reef Monitoring, a non-profit group started by the above professors, involves students in campaigns to combat the invasive lionfish. Through their involvement in Reef Monitoring’s Lionfish Safari, students collect samples from lionfish for further study of life-history characteristics, feeding, growth and habitat use.

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