Home
Research
People
Publications
Graduate Studies
Teaching/Outreach
  Dr. Mike Heithaus, Florida International University
I grew up in Mt. Vernon, OH and attended Oberlin College from 1991-1995 where I was a member of the swim team and played water polo. I completed my PhD under Larry Dill at Simon Fraser University where I initiated the research that grew into the Shark Bay Ecosystem Research Project and developed many of my interests in the role of non-consumptive predator effects on marine community dynamics. From 2001-2003 I was a postdoctoral scientist and then staff scientist in the Center for Shark Research at Mote Marine Laboratory (Sarasota, FL). For part of that time I was on loan to National Geographic as a Research Fellow in the Remote Imaging Program where I conducted research using their "Crittercam" systems and hosted a 13-part series on the National Geographic Channel. I came to FIU in the Fall of 2003 as part of the Marine Biology Program. In 2008, I became the director of the Marine Sciences Program and received tenure in the Department of Biological Sciences. In my spare time I spend time with my wife and two boys and play Australian Rules Football for the Ft. Lauderdale Fighting Squids.
Postdocs
   
  Dr. Jeremy Kiszka
My research interests focus on marine top predator ecology, including habitat and resource use and community ecology. I am particularly interested in the effect of environmental parameters on habitat and resource selection, as well as the influence of these parameters on grouping strategies. Recently, I have been mostly working on tropical dolphin behavior and ecology, but also on their interactions with human activities (particularly fisheries in the western Indian and South Pacific Oceans). As predation risk is a significant factor driving tropical dolphin habitat use and grouping behavior, I started investigating the ecology and ecological roles of sharks in various ecosystems, particularly coral reefs. At FIU I am working on a number of taxa and questions, including the non-consumptive (risk) effects of predators on mesopredators.
  Dr. Jordy Thomson
My research interests are relatively broad and lie a the intersection of behavior, ecology and conservation in marine systems. I have been working on marine turtles with the Shark Bay Ecosystem Research Project since 2005. My Ph.D. work (Simon Fraser University) focused on quantifying spatioteporal variation in the dive-surfacing behavior of gren and loggerhead turtles in Shark Bay and examining its implications for detection probabilities during transect-based population surveys. My postdoctoral research examines the effects of tiger shark predation risk on turtle behavior and uses stable isotope analysis and video data logging technology to study turtle foraging ecology. Recently, I have also begun investigations of a recent dieback of seagrasses in Shark Bay.
Graduate Students  
  Adam Rosenblatt, PhD Candidate
I am interested in linking an understanding of behavioral decisions to conservation and management strategies. My current research focuses on the Florida Everglades, which is a heavily managed ecosystem that is in the process of being restored. I am studying how movement and habitat use patterns and trophicinteractions of American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis), are influenced by both biotic factors and environmental variables like salinity and patterns of freshwater flow. Understanding how alligators respond to current variation in biotic and abiotic conditions will aid in Everglades management and conserving alligator populations. In addition, my work will test the efficacy of two tracking methods (passive acoustic telemetry and GPS telemetry) for studying habitat use of crocodilians and assess turnover rates of stable isotopic signatures in various alligator tissues.
  Phil Matich, PhD Candidate
My research interests focus on the roles animals play within their ecosystems and how changes in biotic and abiotic factors can influence the spatiotemporal pattern of predator effects in ecosystems. My current research focuses on the habitat use and foraging ecology of juvenile bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) in the Shark River Slouth (Florida Coastal Everglades) using acoustic telementry, stable isotope analysis, and predator and prey sampling. The main objective of this project is to understand the factors responsible for driving shark foraging and movement decisions and how spatial and temporal variation in these factors my affect the role of bull sharks in the ecosystem. Additionally, I am hoping to elucidate the usefulness of comparing and contrasting isotopic signatures from multiple tissues for elucidating feeding patterns of sharks.
  Cindy Bessey, PhD Candidate
My broad research interests are in the field of animal behavior and how animals modify their behaviors in changing conditions to meet their life history requirements. Specifically, I am interested in how lower trophic level organisms are impacted through trophic cascades. My current research will focus on habitat use of the facultative herbivorous fish Pelates sexlineatus (Six-Lined Trumpeter) in the seagrass beds of Shark Bay, Australia. I will investigate what conditions occur that promote or discourage herbivory in these fish. I would like to investigate which seagrasses are preferred, as well as the changes in intensity of grazing in both the presence and absence of megagrazers and piscivores. I will also investigate the variation in abundance of these fish in structurally diverse seagrass habitats, and the structural changes to the seagrass bed that result from the grazing behavior of P. sexlineatus.
  Diana Churchill , PhD Candidate
My current research is focused on the effects of the Deepwater Horizon Spill on the trophic structure of deep-sea communities in the Gulf of Mexico. I am studying both upper trophic level predators (sharks) and benthic scavengers (crabs, isopods, hagfish) as sentinels of food web changes. I will use both stable isotope and gut contents analysis to assess both spatial and temporal variation in trophic structure. I hope to not only help elucidate the community structure of sharks and scavengers in deewater regions of the Gulf of Mexico, but how these shark communities and food webs in general have changed, and will continue to change, as a result of such a significant ecological disaster.
  Rob Nowicki , PhD Candidate
My research interests are focused on the interface of behavioral and community ecology. Specifically, I am interested in behavioral shifts that consumers make in response to predation risk, and how these behavioral shifts interact with other factors to shape ecosystems. These interactions are particularly important to understand as large bodied marine predators continue to decline worldwide. For my dissertation work, I intend to mimic both tiger shark loss and disturbance regimes in seagrass beds in order to investigate the importance of tiger sharks in facilitating ecosystem resilience. This work will make use of a large-scale seagrass dieback (likely due to temperatue stress) that occurred in 2012.
  Elizabeth Whitman , PhD Candidate
Elizabeth joined the lab in the Fall of 2012. She will be working on the behavior and ecology of sea turtles.
Staff Scientist  
  Kirk Gastrich
My past work includes studies of muscle biochemistry, physiology, and swim ming performance of fishes. Currently, I am involved in multiple research projects in Shark Bay. Most of my work has focused on ensuring that long-term datasets, including those based on transects and shark fishing, continue to be collected and maintaining and monitoring seagrass exclosure experiments. I also am heavily involved in seagrass transplant experiments and studies of fish communities. In Florida, I have worked with Adam and Phil on their studies in the Everglades and now am helping to lead our studies on deepsea communities in the Gulf of Mexico.
Lab Alumni  
  Dr. Aaron Wirsing, University of Washington
Aaron was a postdoc in the lab from 2006-2008 and worked on predation-sensitive foraging behavior in Shark Bay’s dugongs and the influence of dugong and turtle foraging on the bay's seagrass community. He also spent time working as part of the Long Term Ecological Research Project in the Florida Coastal Everglades. He is now an Assistant Professor in the College of Forest Resources at the University of Washington where he is continuing his studies of predator-prey interactions.
  Dr. Shomen Mukherjee, University of Cape Town
Shomen was a postdoc in the lab from 2010-2011. He worked on foraging decisions of predators hunting dangerous prey and conducted experimental studies investigating the impacts of predation risk on reproductive parameters of freshwater fish. These studies included investigation of how life history variation in prey influences their responses to predation risk.
  Dr. Derek Burkholder, Nova Southeastern University

Derek conducted his doctoral research in Shark Bay from 2006-2009. His work focused on the community and nutrient dynamics of the seagrass community of Shark Bay across multiple spatial and temporal scales. He also studied foraging behavior and trophic interactions of green turtles and conducted experimental studies to investigate whether tiger sharks initiate a behavior-mediated trophic cascade that is mediated by predation-sensitive foraging by green turtles and dugongs. He is now a postdoctoral scientist at Nova Southeastern University.

  Dr. Jeremy Vaudo, Nova Southeastern University


Jeremy conducted his doctoral research in Shark Bay between 2005 and 2007. His work included describing the diverse elasmobranch community of Shark Bay's nearshore sandflats. Jeremy examined the seasonal trends within this community as well as the habitat use and foraging ecology of the most abundant ray species. He completed his PhD in 2011 and

Jeremy completed his PhD in the lab in 2011and has published numerous papers from his dissertation as well as been an author and coauthor on book chapters. Jeremy continues be involved in the analysis of data on Shark Bay's elasmobranch populations and worked as a postdoc in the lab in 2012. He is now a Postdoctoral Scientist as Nova Southeastern University.

  Robin Sarabia, MS
Robin investigated spatial and temporal varition in the abundance and group sizes of bottlenose dolphins in the coastal Everglades. Her work also focused on residency patterns of individual dolphins and built the first catelog of individuals that will form an important component of future research on dolphins in the coastal Everglades.
  Katy Cameron, MS
Katy studied regional variation in the abundance and habitat use of tiger sharks in Shark Bay, Western Australia. She completed her MS in 2010 and was a coauthor on a paper published in Animal Behavior.
  Meagan Dunphy-Daly, MS
Meagan studied spatial and temporal variation in dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima) habitat use and group size off Great Abaco Island, the Bahamas.  She completed her MS in 2008 and published her results in Marine Mammal Science. Meagan is currently in the PhD program at the Duke Marine Laboratory.
  Bryan Delius, MS
Bryan conducted initial studies of bull sharks in the Floirda Coastal Everglades. His work focused on documenting spatial and temporal variation in catch rates of sharks within the estuary and analyzing stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes of bull sharks captured from the river mouth to 27 km upstream. Bryan received his MS in 2007 and his work formed the foundation for ongoing studies in the system. Bryan is currently working for the South Florida Water Management District. Bryan's work led to a publication in Limnology and Oceanography.