Well, it's been a crazy couple of weeks! Last week was the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference in Tampa. Along with Kelly Robinson (University of Louisiana at Lafayette) and Frank Hernandez (University of Southern Mississippi), Zan convened the session titled "Understanding the Drivers of Biological Patterns in the Pelagic Seascape of the Gulf of Mexico" which attracted some really great speakers discussing everything from the influence of environmental drivers on coastal fauna, to coupled, vertically-resolved ecosystem models aiming to describe the offshore Gulf from the surface through to bathypelagic.
Zan also presented some of her recent DEEPEND work in this session, describing the huge variability we observe in the vertical distribution patterns of lanternfishes. Lanternfishes are well-known vertical migrators, typically staying at depth during the day to hide from predators, and travelling to the surface waters at night to feed when it's a little safer. Some species of lanterfishes migrate every day, but others are far more choosy about when they migrate, and may only migrate 20% of the time. Thanks to our DEEPEND data, we have enough information now to start to better understand this variability and are beginning to be able to identify highly predictable rules that seem to govern diel vertical migration in the Gulf of Mexico. Given the hugely important role the lanternfishes play in sequestering carbon into the deep oceans, understanding why they undertake diel vertical migrations, when and where, will help us better understand the role they play in maintaining ecosystem structure and function in offshore ecosystems, and their value to humanity.
Of course we had a great turn out from other DEEPEND researchers as well, and it was fantastic to be part of some really exciting new research presented by Tracey Sutton, Tammy Frank and Nina Pruzinsky, all of which we are hoping to publish in the coming months, so watch this space! Outwith the DEEPEND group, I was also delighted to be part of MS student Derek Garvey's work on understanding and reducing bycatch in the Gulf of Mexico tuna fisheries, which he gave a great presentation on too.
Finally, back at NSU we have just finished the HCNSO Life Sciences Conference which gave faculty, staff and students the opportunity to present their research, and hear talks by Professors Jeremy Jackson and Nancy Knowlton on the current state of the World Ocean and some reasons to be optimistic about it! From the Seascape Ecology lab, MS student Thomas Ingalls presented his thesis work, which aims to compare traditional and computer-assisted imaging methods for aging Sciaenid fishes, with a view to improving their management.