Top"Whatever Floats" Sails to Success!  
All the teams fighting for a good
lead after the air horn sounded.

Kudos to participants in the First Annual FSUCML Whatever Floats Your Boat Regatta! We challenged participants to create homemade "boats" constructed entirely of recycled material and they sure did use their imaginations on this one! Some of the materials used included wooden pallets, plastic barrels, plywood, plastic sails, milk jugs, beer cans, and many other items. After passing inspection and a quick test in the water for buoyancy, the seven boats headed for the starting line ready to race (after having to tow one whose sail filled prematurely and was blown clear across the course). With trophies by Koenig Bros. Design and four $50 gift cards up for grabs from our sponsors West Marine and Wal-Mart, the competition was fierce.


In the end, the Boy Scout Troop 8 took home the grand title of First to Cross the Finish Line with their boat, The WFV* FLO. The other winners were as follows: The WFV Splinter for Most Creative, The WFV HMS Carrabelle for People's Choice, The WFV Palletdrome for Most Spectacular Failure (Titanic Award), and an impromptu Best Costumes award to The WFV Miss Mary's Nemesis.  Between the live acoustic music performed by The New 76ers and delicious seafood sold by Posey's, it was definitely a blast. We had a great turnout, so thank you to everyone who made it out and supported the lab. This year's regatta was so much fun that we plan to hold another one next year. For more pictures and information about the boats click here.  Also, be sure to check out the WFSU-produced video


* WFV = Whatever Floats Vessel

New Ship Makes Steady Progress    

RV port side 10262012 Construction of the new as-yet-unnamed FSUCML research vessel is continuing at a steady pace. The deck, deck house, and pilot house are all in place and internal spaces are coming along as well. You can now see the galley, bunk room, full head with shower, dry lab, wet lab, and an aft head with shower becoming defined. Currently, those spaces are being wired and insulated. 

The dive platforms are in the design phase, and will extend from stairwells located at the stern of the vessel. These platforms can be folded against the stern when not in use. Also, an articulating A-frame has been mounted on the aft deck, and a knuckle boom mounted on the port side.  


All the electronics are going in place in the pilot house, the ROV has been ordered (thanks to a donation from Danfoss Turbicor), and the tender boat (a Zodiac and 25-hp four stroke engine) are on their way (thanks to a donation from the Dobes Foundation).   


On the web, we have added specs for the boat and developed a calendar for scheduling research cruises. The official unveiling of the vessel at the FSUCML will occur in mid-January 2013 (anticipating vessel arrival in late mid-December).   


Upgrades to the Lab
We are constantly making improvements to the laboratory to support the research and education missions. Read on to learn what is currently underway.  
Kitchen Addition to Grad Student House 
When Dan Overlin slammed a hole in the wall separating the grad student office and lounge from an old storage space in the Grad Student House, he started a project that will end with the installation of a fully equipped kitchen for grad student use. Dan is doing all the cabinetwork himself and is adding personal lockers so students can leave a few things at the lab. The idea is to make it easier (and far more comfortable) for grad students to stay at the lab while conducting their research. It is a much-anticipated reveal!


Pontoon Boats 
Three new pontoon boats (26' long x 10' wide) arrived at the lab about two months ago. Two of them have already been  outfitted and deployed while the last one is still being prepared for service. The hulls are wider  and the pontoons deeper than our previous boats, providing a better work surface that sits higher off the water than the old vessels. They are also slightly faster and can carry more weight. Maximum passenger capacity has increased from 15 people to 16 people.    
The Writing in Nature Workshop  
The Art & Science of Nature Journaling for the Observant Writer
with Peter C. Stone

November 18, 2012: 9am-4pm


According to author and artist Peter Stone, "Creative Nature Writing depends on how we fuel the stories we wish to discover. Journaling is a life skill that nurtures better attention, inner calm, and reflection. It also encompasses critical skills for Science, Math, Art, and Language Arts."


In this day-long workshop, participants will be combining visual and literary disciplines, including journaling for daily living, and learning ways to foster a deepened sense of connection with the environments in which we live. Along the shores of Apalachee Bay, participants will explore methods for cultivating inspiration; finding their story-finding their voice through several writing exercises; practice visual thinking strategies, including observing how they observe intuition, inference, literal and visual expression, objectivity/subjectivity, and the language of symbolism in living systems. In conceiving and developing a new writing project, they will honor and delight the observer and writer in all of us.


What is provided:

  • Free copies of Peter C. Stone's book, The Untouchable Tree 

What to bring:

  • Pens or pencils and writing paper (suggested: lined) 
  • A journal (suggested: double wire spiral sketchbook, unlined white paper, 9" x 12")
  • Drawing pen (suggested: Uni-ball 120 Micro Pen -Black) 
  • Lunch and something to drink
  • A hat, insect repellent, sunscreen, walking shoes, folding beach chair, and a wish!  


  • $75 per person; $55 per student

 Register online.  

FeaturedArticleFeatured Article
In the Grass, On the Reef
Dr. David Kimbro and Dr. Randall Hughes have been collaborating with WFSU for the past two years to produce a blog called In the Grass, On the Reef that follows their work in coastal habitats. One of the areas covered by the blog is their research on the effect of predators on oyster reefs. This collaborative study includes investigators from a number of different academic institutions and covers the reefs from North Carolina through Florida. What their research reveals is that the oyster reefs in different states can look very similar, but behave very differently. In fact, the local environment affects the types of predators found in the reef and also their behavior within the reef itself. Predators can affect oysters in more than one way, either by consuming them directly or by simply being present. Kimbro and Hughes hope to establish which activity has a stronger effect on the oyster reefs.
Also covered by the blog is Hughes's research on the biological diversity of salt marshes. She is investigating how plant diversity can affect marsh life. Many salt marshes are dominated by one
type of plant, but, as she explains, that plant can have tremendous genetic diversity. This can be very important for organisms that depend on salt marshes for their livelihood, an aspect that Hughes is investigating using an experimental approach.
Both Kimbro and Hughes describe their work with the blog as a learning experience. They are discovering how best to present their research findings to their audience in a way that will not leave readers scratching their heads -- both a challenging and a rewarding encounter. They are thrilled to be promoting something that interests them and they hope to inspire the public to think of oysters as something other than just a meal.  
An hour-long documentary is in the works that will detail their last three years of research conducted on oyster reefs. Stay tuned for more information on this!
Note - the research, blog, and documentary are made possible through funding from the National Science Foundation.
All About Oysters   

Everyone knows oysters (Crassostrea virginica) provide a tasty meal, but what else is there? Oysters are also filter feeders. This makes them largely important to both the water quality and sediment quality in their ecosystem. Poor water quality has been found in areas in which oysters have declined.     


Unfortunately, their yummy taste has been a little too enticing. Oyster populations are in severe decline all over the world. Their reefs once stood about 12 feet tall and as long as football fields, but that is now a thing of the past. Their decline is largely contributed to over-consumption by humans. Studies of oyster population levels in comparison to human population growth have revealed a direct negative correlation. As human populations increase, oyster populations decline. As the years have progressed, other factors have effected oyster populations as well, such as climate change, water pollution, invasive species, and destruction of habitat. Indeed, in the southeast U. S., oyster decline has been compounded by long-term drought throughout the region as well as freshwater removal in some areas. 


Oysters, like a surprising number of other organisms, change sex from male to female over the course of their lifetime. In some areas of the world, they can switch back and forth, but on the east coast of the U. S.,  they only make the change once. If oysters are harvested before they reach sexual maturity or before they have changed sex, it can dramatically skew the male to female sex ratio, resulting in reproductive issues.  


State regulations that limit the amount, size, or time of year that oysters can be harvested have helped oyster populations rebound. These protections are critical for maintaining a sustainable oyster fishery. So keep in mind that oysters are more than just tasty morsels! 

Grad Student Spotlight  
Focus:  Chelsie Counsell  

Recently married grad student Chelsie Counsell, formerly known as Chelsie Wagner, has been quite successful in her graduate career. She is about to complete her Master of Science degree in the Department of Biological Science at FSU (with her defense in spring 2013), where she is studying the indirect and direct effects  of hypoxia (low dissolved oxygen) on marine animals  in the northern Gulf of Mexico. For the last two summers, she and her colleagues (including former FSUCML faculty member, Dr. Kevin Craig) have been conducting aerial surveys out of Houma, Louisiana, in a small, 4-seater plane for 4-6 hours a day, gathering information on the number and position of shrimp boats, dolphins, sharks, turtles, rays, and fish schools.  The intent is to to investigate the effects of hypoxia on the presence, absence, and movement patterns of a number of marine animals as well as their potential interactions with the shrimp fishery. 


Part of her work includes  an analysis of the effect of dissolved oxygen, temperature, and salinity on the distributions of these large marine organisms. While other studies have shown that hypoxia can be fatal for bottom-associated sessile organisms and can cause mobile organisms such as demersal and pelagic fish to shift their distributions, Counsell's work focuses further up the food chain. She and her colleagues can also use their data to investigate hotspots of biological diversity and the environmental factors that may be creating these types of areas.


This isn't all that Counsell has done. During her time at FSU, she also worked with Dr. Chris Koenig on goliath grouper populations, observing animals during their spawning aggregations, and on gag grouper, identifying the topographic and benthic characteristics of their habitat. For four seasons she worked as an instructor in the ever-popular Saturday-At-The-Sea Program teaching middle school students about basic marine ecology around the lab. She has presented her research at the American Fisheries Society (AFS) Southern Division Meeting (2011), the 8th International Florida State University Mote Symposium (2011), the AFS Florida Chapter Meeting (2012), and the AFS Tidewater Chapter Meeting (2012). She leaves FSU having been awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship which will enable her to pursue her Ph.D. at a new university starting in the fall of 2013.

Program in Marine Biology & Living Marine Resource Ecology 
Undergraduate students accepted into FSU's competitive Program in Marine Biology and Living Marine Resource Ecology learn many things about being a scientist over the two years they are engulfed in studies of the marine environment. The program is designed to instill in them the ability to critically evaluate research conducted by professionals in the field, to allow them to conduct their own hands-on original research under the guidance of professional scientists, to introduce them to different types of marine-related careers, and to provide guidance in making career choices, including how to apply to graduate school.   

The course includes instructor-student discussions as well as opportunities to talk in a relatively casual atmosphere with professionals from a variety of marine or other natural resource related fields, including conservation law, policy, enforcement, and ecology.  


Students enrolled in the program (directed by Dr. Coleman) conducted hands-on research projects that ranged from studying biodiversity in both protected and unprotected reefs in the Florida Keys to examining fecundity in the goliath grouper to following aerobic decomposition of crude oil in permeable sediments as part of the FSU Deep-C Consortium to tracking changes in tissue isotopic signature in sharks along the west Florida coast. Here's what some of these budding young scientists had to say about their experiences:

"I've learned more here in one summer than I have in my entire college career. The amount of field work, statistical analysis, and research that was required taught me valuable skills I'll be using for the rest of my life." - Jess Melkun

"My internship was conducted at the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program in Sarasota, Florida [where] I studied dolphin encounters with crab pots and crab traps. My experience with this study has inspired me to continue to work toward a career dedicated to marine mammal research and conservation." - Jenna Testa

"I learned a lot this summer; it was my first chance to set up an experiment of my own and to see it through til the end. I learned that experiments do not always go as planned and you must make adjustments accordingly. This summer was an invaluable experience that I owe all to the Marine Certificate Program and Dr. Felicia Coleman and Dr. A. Randall Hughes." - Shannon Dunnigan  

"My experience has been super fun and interesting. I'm learning so much about stable isotope analysis and how it can give information on not just one specific organism, but its place in the food web and the ecosystem." - Amanda Woolsey

On November 16th, they will present their results to a tough audience of their peers, grad students, faculty members, and incoming certificate students in what is known as the Marine Biology Undergraduate Research Symposium. To learn more about the internships and see what students have been doing over the last few years, visit the internship website.  
Special Events - Mark Your Calendar 
FSUCML Open House - April 20, 2013

Join us for our incredible bienniel fun-packed event. It starts at
10 AM and rounds up at 3 PM. The theme for this year's Open House is "The Ocean of Tomorrow," in which we recognize the importance of scientists from different backgrounds working together to solve problems related to the coastal and marine environments. The open house is a fun-filled event for the whole family, with exhibits, children's activities, boat rides, lab tours, mini-lectures, and more. All activities are free. A local vendor will have a food and beverage stand for your dining pleasure. Gather
your friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, and associates, and take a beautiful drive down to the coast for a day of fun!  Can't wait to see you again!

Conservation Lecture Series 
Talk, Talk, and More Talk
As ever, the Conservation Lecture Series runs the gamut on topics yearly from January through October. This year, we had some very notable speakers and interesting topics! The 2012 sequence of lectures included the following:
  • January 19, 2012. Dr. David Noakes, Professor and Senior Scientist, Oregon Hatchery Research Center, Oregon State University. "Steelhead, Smolts and Slime: the Oregon Hatchery Research Center".
  • February 9, 2012. Dr. Lon Wilkens, University of Missouri and FSU Alumnus. "The Natural History of Paddlefish and Scallops".
  • March 8, 2012. Dr. Yannis Papstamatiou, University of Florida. "What, Where and Why? Novel Tools and Techniques for Understanding Shark Behavior".
  • April 12, 2012. Dr. Paul R. Spitzer, Naturalist and Ecologist. "Dark Side of the Loon --Migration and Winter Biology of the Common Loon".
  • May 10, 2012. Harley Means P.G., Florida Geological Survey. "The Geology of Apalachee Bay and Vicinity".
  • June 14, 2012. Sharon McBreen, Pew Environment Group. "Conserving Fish in the Southeast".
  • July 12, 2012. Dr. Mark Albins, Auburn University. "Invasion of the Lionfish".
  • September 20, 2012. Dr. Mark Hixon, Oregon State University. "Alien Predators in Marine Waters".  
  • October 2, 2012. Dr. Dean Grubbs, FSU Coastal & Marine Lab. "Sharks and the BP Oil Spill".   
  • October 25, 2012. Toby S. Daly-Engel, University of West Florida. "The Evolution of Female Promiscuity in Aquatic Predators".   

Check here for upcoming talks.   

Return to Top 

In This Issue
Whatever Floats
New Ship Makes Progress
Upgrades to the Lab
Writing in Nature Workshop
In The Grass, On The Reef
All About Oysters
Grad Student Spotlight
Program in Marine Bio
Special Events
Lecture Series

Dir: Dr. Felicia Coleman
Assoc Dir: Mary Balthrop
Bus Mgr: Maranda Marxsen
Dir. Asst: Courtney Feehrer
Outreach: Brittany Sims

Mark Daniels
Bobby Henderson
Linda Messer
Dan Overlin
Dennis Tinsley  

DSO: Alex Chequer
Dive Tech: Sonja Bridges
Captain: Rosanne Weglinski

Dr. Felicia Coleman
Dr. Dean Grubbs
Dr. Bill Herrnkind (Emeritus)
Dr. Randall Hughes
Dr. David Kimbro
Dr. Christopher Koenig
Like us on Facebook
Points of Interest on the FSUCML Website

FSUCML scientists Kimbro and Hughes collaborate with scientists all along the U. S. east coast to study oyster reefs. Read all about it on WFSU's blog, In The Grass, On The Reef (research and blog funded by the National Science Foundation).