Florida Institute of Technology

Researchers

Carly J. Randall

Postdoctoral Research Scientist

Carly J. Randall

Research Summary:

Research summary: My research focuses on understanding the complex, tripartite relationship among coral hosts, coral pathogens, and the environment. Climate change is dramatically altering the marine environment, particularly in the tropics, and changes in sea-surface temperatures have led to an increase in the incidence of coral diseases. Numerous coral diseases are significantly impacting the health of coral reefs, and have the potential to be of significant ecological consequence.

 I am currently involved in a project examining the role of the environment in determining coral-bleaching thresholds in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. In addition, I have ongoing collaborations with Mote Marine Laboratory and the National Park Service in the US Virgin Islands focusing on (1) evaluating the effectiveness of mitigation techniques to prevent the spread of coral diseases within Buck Island Reef National Monument, and (2) identifying long-term disease dynamics in permanently established study sites.

Education:

  • Ph.D. Florida Institute of Technology, 2016, Biological Sciences
  • M.S. University of North Carolina Wilmington, 2009, Marine Biology
  • B.S. University of North Carolina Wilmington, 2007, Marine Biology

Selected Publications:

Randall C. J., A. G. Jordan-Garza, E. Muller and R. van Woesik. 2016. Does dark-spot syndrome experimentally transmit among Caribbean corals? PLoS ONE doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0147493.

Randall C. J. and R. van Woesik. 2015. Contemporary white-band disease in the Caribbean has been driven by climate change? Nature Climate Change 5:375-379.

Randall C. J., A. G. Jordan-Garza, E. Muller and R. van Woesik. 2014. Relationships between the history of thermal stress and the relative risk of Caribbean corals. Ecology 95:1981-1994.

Randall C. J., A. G. Jordan-Garza and R. van Woesik. 2014. Marine ciliates associated with disease on two Caribbean corals. Coral Reefs doi:10.1007/s00338-014-1212-8.

Polato N. R., C. R. Voolstra, J. Schneitzer, M. K. DeSalvo, C. J. Randall, A. M. Szmant, M. Medina and I. B. Baums. 2010. Locations-specific responses to thermal stress in larvae of the reef-building coral Montastraea faveolata. PLoS ONE 5:6.

Randall C. J. and A. M. Szmant. 2009. Elevated temperature affects development, survivorship and settlement of the elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata. Biological Bulletin 217:269-282.

Voolstra C. R., J. Schneitzer, L. Peshkin, C. J. Randall, A. M. Szmant and M. Medina. 2009. Effects of temperature on gene expression in embryos of the coral Montastraea faveolata, BMC Genomics 10:627.

Randall C. J. and A. M. Szmant. 2009. Elevated temperature reduces survivorship and settlement of the larvae of the Caribbean scleractinian coral, Favia fragum (Esper). Coral Reefs 28:537-545.

Kathryn Smith

Postdoctoral Research Scientist

Kathryn Smith

Research Summary:

My research focuses on the eco-physiological thresholds controlling the distribution of marine benthic invertebrates. Understanding patterns of species range shifts is of particular importance due to current changes in climate envelopes. Both local and global shifts in habitat assemblages are currently occurring, which have the potential to be of significant ecological consequence.

I am currently leading a project examining the effects of climate change on the invasion of predators on Antarctic marine benthos. Benthic communities on the Antarctic shelf have been essentially devoid of durophagous (skeleton-breaking) predators, including king crabs, for millions of years. However, rapidly rising sea temperatures appear to be facilitating the bathymetric expansion of king crabs off the western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP). This could have a devastating effect on the vulnerable, endemic shelf fauna, which have evolved in isolation with limited defenses against durophagy. Using high-resolution photographs of the slope and shelf environments off the WAP, our team is investigating the current population status of king crabs and other megafauna. This data will provide a baseline for benthic assemblages around the WAP and will be used to facilitate understanding of the ecological mechanisms controlling the king crab distribution and the impact a population expansion may have.

In addition to my Antarctic research, I have ongoing collaborations with the University of Southampton, UK, focusing on:

Physiological thresholds affecting the bathymetric distribution of shallow-water marine invertebrates. Understanding the effects of ocean acidification on marine invertebrate development.

Education:

  • B.Sc. University of Plymouth, UK, 2003. Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology.
  • M.Sc. University of Southampton, UK, 2008. Oceanography.
  • Ph.D. University of Southampton, UK. 2013. Marine Biology.

Publications:

Smith, K.E., S. Thatje, H. Singh, M.O. Amsler, S.C. Vos, J.B. McClintock, C.J. Brothers, A. Brown, D. Ellis, J. Anderson, R.B. Aronson (2014) Discovery of a recent, natural whale fall on the continental slope off Anvers Island, western Antarctic Peninsula. Deep-Sea Research I 90: 76?80.

Smith, K.E., S. Thatje (2013). The subtle intracapsular survival of the fittest: maternal investment, sibling conflict or environmental effects? Ecology 94: 2263-2274.

Smith, K.E., S. Thatje (2013). Nurse egg consumption and intracapsular development in the common whelk Buccinum undatum (Linnaeus 1758). Helgoland Marine Research. 67: 109-120.

Smith, K.E., S. Thatje, C. Hauton (2013) Effects of temperature on early ontogeny in the common whelk Buccinum undatum (Linnaeus 1758): bioenergetics, nurse egg partitioning and developmental success. Journal of Sea Research. 79: 32-39.

Smith, K.E., S. Thatje (2012). The secret to successful deep-sea invasion: does low temperature hold the key? PLoS ONE. 7(12): e51219. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051219.

Cotton, P.A., S.D. Rundle, K.E. Smith (2004). Trait compensation in marine gastropods: shell shape, avoidance behaviour and susceptibility to predation. Ecology. 85, 1581-1584.

PhD Students

MS Students

Brittan Steffel

Master Student

Brittan Steffel

Research Summary:

My research focuses on the ecological impacts of climate change on benthic invertebrates in Antarctica. Shell-crushing predators have been absent from the Antarctic continental shelf for tens of millions of years. As waters are warming rapidly off the western Antarctic Peninsula, however, king crabs (Lithodidae) appear to be invading shallower depths. This invasion could restructure the endemic communities of the seafloor, which are dominated by sessile and slow-moving invertebrates. Because calcification rates are low in polar waters, the chelae of Antarctic king crabs could be weakly constructed compared with crab chelae from lower latitudes, limiting the potential for predation on the Antarctic shelf.

I began my research in the Marine Paleoecology Lab as a Florida Tech undergraduate by mapping the abundance and distribution of king crabs, sea stars, sea urchins, and snails off the western Antarctic Peninsula using image analysis. I also estimated the potential force of king-crab chelae to better understand the impact they could have on the Antarctic shelf. I am now comparing the potential forces generated by Antarctic king crabs with the forces their prey are able to withstand, and with the potential forces generated by crabs at temperate latitudes. I am also comparing the thickness and amount of calcium in the crab exoskeletons to understand the role of calcification in the predation at different latitudes. My research will help assess potential ecological impacts as king crabs expand their range into shallower waters.

Education:

  • B.S. Florida Institute of Technology, 2016, Biological Sciences

 

Elizabeth Whitcher

Master Student

Elizabeth Whitcher

Research Summary:

My research interests focus on the long-term geomorphic implications of changes in coral reef ecology, and the consequences for the future viability of ecosystem services provided by coral reefs. I was introduced to coral reef science as an undergraduate geology student at Oberlin College, where I studied fossilized Holocene reefs of the Caribbean and the taphonomic processes that play a role in reef-building. After completing my undergraduate degree, I spent three years working as a scientific diver for federal, academic, and non-profit groups working to conserve coral reef ecosystems of South Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

At Florida Tech, I am combining ecological assessments of reef-building and spatial modeling techniques to investigate how the balance of sea-level rise and reef growth may shape the bathymetry of shallow Caribbean reefs over the next century. This work is part of a collaborative effort to project coastal hazards in the U.S. Virgin Islands under climate change, led by the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service, and Florida Tech. I am also working with the Marine Paleoecology Lab to investigate how local oceanographic regimes and regional climate patterns control reef ecology in the tropical eastern Pacific. A deeper understanding of contemporary controls of coral reef growth improves our interpretation of the impacts of past climates and informs projections of reef growth under future climate change.

Education:

  • B.A. Oberlin College, 2012, Geology

 

Undergrad Students

 

Column 3

Column Content