FIU Marine Science Graduate Students Laura Bhatti and Mark Ladd named to FL Sea Grants Scholars

Two FIU Marine Science doctoral students from Dr. Deron Burkepile's lab, Laura Bhatti and Mark Ladd, have been named to Florida Sea Grants first group of Florida Sea Grant Student Scholars. The Florida Sea Grant Scholars Program is a new program that provides financial support to exceptional graduate or undergraduate students enrolled full time at Florida universities. Research projects selected for this program need to align with one more goals in Florida Sea Grants Strategic Plan.

Laura Bhatti: "I am investigating the effect of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) on the trophic ecology of coral reef fishes. MPAs have been established to combat the unprecedented declines of coral reefs and have been documented to increase the abundance of targeted species. However, indirect effects mediated through food web interactions emerge as targeted species recover. My goal is to elucidate indirect consequences of MPAs by revealing important changes in species interactions and food web dynamics resulting from protection. Ultimately this information is needed to fill serious gaps in our knowledge of how different management strategies affect trophic interactions and the functioning of coral reef systems. The results from this work can be used to parameterize predictive models identifying how these systems will change under different management scenarios."

Mark Ladd: "My research is focused on the the direct and indirect effects of outplanting different densities and arrangements of the threatened Staghorn coral for coral restoration in the Florida Keys. The goal of this project is to investigate the influence of colony density and arrangement on coral growth, survival, predation, fish community development, and cascading influences on the surrounding benthic community. The results from this project can be used to inform future coral restoration efforts in Florida and throughout the Caribbean."