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Seminar Schedule

Upcoming Seminars

Matthew Johnston, Ph.D.

NSU Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography Research Seminar - January 22, 2016 4:30PM at the Guy Harvey Oceanographic Center, COE Seminar room #307  - "Modelling generational connectivity of Marine Organisms using three-dimensional, Lagrangian computer simulation"

Modelling the connectivity patterns of marine populations requires a broad spatial and temporal understanding of ocean conditions, such as water flow and temperature profiles, and also the biological traits of the model species, such as their reproductive strategy and tolerances to their environment.  Through this understanding, models can be developed to forecast the dispersal of marine organisms over multiple generations.  In the context of invasive species such as the lionfish, this knowledge can help both to predict their spread as well as forewarn of impacts.  Further, these data are helpful to quantify the relationships between larval ‘source’ and ‘sink’ locations – relevant to both native and non-native species alike.  To facilitate this understanding, computer simulation can be used to quickly and efficiently assimilate large biological and oceanographic datasets into digestible products; useful when planning invasive species monitoring and control strategies and for delineating important fisheries stocks at risk.  In this talk, I will describe the mechanics and uses of a three-dimensional stochastic Lagrangian computer model that was developed to forecast multi-cohort connectivity of both native and invasive species.  The model has been used to describe marine invasions globally and reveals new insight into the hydrographic connectivity of the southern Gulf of Mexico. 

Matthew Johnston, Ph.D., is a research scientist at the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography.  He received his Ph.D. in Marine Biology/Oceanography from NSU in 2015.  Dr. Johnston’s research focuses on agent-based computer models that couple biological traits of marine organisms, such as their breeding strategy, with physical ocean characteristics in their environment, such as water circulation, to deliver forecasts of ‘source’ and ‘sink’ populations.  Johnston has modelled marine invasive species such as the lionfish, panther grouper, regal damsel, bluestripe snapper, and black sun coral in the Mediterranean Sea, Hawaii, the Gulf of Mexico, tropical Pacific, and throughout the Caribbean.  Continued work focuses on understanding the biophysical interactions that that drive marine and terrestrial invasions globally as well as generational connectivity patterns of native species. 


An SGA-sponsored happy hour will follow Dr Johnston's seminar.

Past Seminars

Ana Catarino, Ph.D.

NSU Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography - January 7, 2016 4:00PM at the Guy Harvey Auditorium  - "Investigating the Effects of Micro and Nanoplastics in Marine Organisms"

Contamination of marine environments by plastic debris is a visually obvious and undesirable consequence of dramatic increases in production and use of plastics in consumer products over the last 50 years. Pieces of plastic have been found in marine environments worldwide and the need to establish levels of contamination and consequences of plastic debris has become a high priority to inform policy. Micro (MPs) and nanoplastics (NPs) are manufactured (primary particles) for use in products or form by fragmentation of larger pieces (secondary particles). Both particles are ingested by organisms and the prominent concerns of this exposure include physical disruption of tissue surfaces, negative effects on digestive system processes, absorption across epithelial membranes and accumulation in internal tissues, trophic transfer in the food web and increasing the bioavailability of toxic substances (co-contaminants) that may be associated with MPs and NPs. Dr. Catarino will talk about her present research at the Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK, where she is investigating the effects of MPs and their co-contaminants in marine mussels and fish and a new project she is co-coordinating where the real environmental risks of NPs are being assessed.

Dr. Ana I. Catarino is currently a Marie-Curie postdoctoral fellow at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. After graduating in Marine Biology from the University of Lisbon, Portugal, she moved to Brussels, Belgium, to her PhD on the effects of ocean acidification in echinoderms. Before starting her post-doc in Scotland, she worked as a science communications consultant for Sustainability Consult in Brussels for over two and a half years. Dr. Catarino is engaged in various science outreach activities, including a collaboration with Native Scientist and Our Dynamic Earth.

Richard Aronson, Ph.D.

NSU Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography - April 24th, 2015 4:30PM - "Climate Change, Biological Invasion, and the Future of the Antarctic Marine Fauna"

Rich Aronson is Professor and Head of Biological Sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne. He grew up in Queens, New York and got interested in marine biology at an early age, collecting shells at Jones Beach, Long Island. He received his A.B. from Dartmouth College in 1979 and his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1985. Rich’s research program combines paleontology and ecology to reconstruct the response of marine communities to environmental changes in deep time. He brings this information to bear in predicting the impacts of climate change on modern biotas and the communities they comprise. He focuses on coral reefs and subtidal communities in Antarctica. Because seasonal temperature variation is narrow in the tropics and at the poles, the ecological impacts of climate change are being seen earliest and most clearly at the latitudinal extremes. Along with research and teaching, Rich is active in outreach. He visits K‒12 classes regularly, works with journalists, and produces short videos on climate change and other environmental issues.

Terry Gosliner, Ph.D.

NSU Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography - March 13th, 2015 6:00PM -  "Biodiversity Exploration and Conservation in the Center of the Center of Marine Diversity"


Modern expeditions not only have a fundamental component of novel scientific research, but involve community outreach, foster collaborations and further more positive conservation outcomes. This approach is not only becoming a new standard for working in biodiversity hotspots around the globe, it is a strategy that leverages far more impact for the research being undertaken. Describing this model, the discoveries being made,  the impact of the scientific research and its significance to marine conservation are the focus of this work.

Omar Eldakar, Ph.D.

NSU Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography - Feb. 20th, 2015 4:30PM - "Sex and Tragedy: How social evolutionary theory provides insights to the evolution of sexual conflict"

A little background on myself. I did all my schooling (BS-PhD) at Binghamton University under David Sloan Wilson, and my postdoc in the Center for Insect Science at the University of Arizona. I began exploring the conflict between altruism and selfishness in humans, then theoretically using mathematical and computer simulation models, and eventually studying non-human animal systems. I still research in these fields in addition to studying yawning, and any other topic of interest (toxin production in algae, winner-loser effects, etc). I consider myself an evolutionist, not necessarily only an evolutionary biologist, as I am quite simply motivated to look at any and all things from an evolutionary perspective.

Charles Messing, Ph.D.

NSU Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography - Feb. 6th, 2015 4:00PM - "Dark Reefs and Ancient Gardens: Research on Crinoids and Deep-Sea Corals"


Professor Charles G. Messing has been a member of the Nova Southeastern University Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography faculty for 25 years and has been part of the South Florida marine biological community since 1970. He earned both M.S. (1975) and Ph.D. (1979) degrees in Biological Oceanography from RSMAS, followed by a Smithsonian post-doctoral research fellowship, and a brief stint as Acting Coordinator of the Univ. of Miami’s Undergraduate Marine Science Program. His research focuses on the ecology and evolution of crinoids (sea lilies and feather stars) and on the ecology of deep-sea coral reefs and rocky-bottom habitats. He has led over 20 manned submersible and ROV expeditions and led or participated in over 30 other research and educational expeditions as far afield as Papua New Guinea. His research has been funded by NSF, NOAA, and FFWCC, among other sources, and he is the author or co-author of 57 scientific papers. Prof. Messing is currently a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institution and at Scripps Institute of Oceanography and has been a repeated Visiting Scientist at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris. He has written and hosted educational videos (e.g., Messing with Nature, 2010; Hidden Oases: Florida’s Deep-Sea Reefs, 2008) and was recently featured in WPBT Channel 2’s Changing Seas: Living Fossils (2013). He is a scientific illustrator, member of the Explorers Club, and wrote and performed the one-person My Beard Toward Heaven: a Play of Michelangelo.

Anabela Maia, Ph.D.

NSU Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography - Jan. 9th, 2015 4:00PM - "Biomechanics of fish locomotion: from shark fins to seahorse tails"

Fish locomotion is essential to vast majority of fish behaviors; foraging for food, escaping predators, migrations, and finding suitable mates all depend on the efficient used of fins and foils to propel fish. However fish swimming has not received as much attention as other behaviors since it was hard to study in the laboratory setting. With the advances in 3D kinematic analysis and flow visualization techniques this field has grown quite considerably in the last decade. Here, I present my research on fish swimming, especially on the role of fins as foils during steady swimming and maneuvering in sharks, swimming impairment by streamwise turbulence and other perturbations in bluegill sunfish and the biomechanics of the grasping behavior of seahorse tails. Using a combination of biomechanical and physiological techniques, together with morphological analysis we can study the functional morphology of fish appendages and hypothesize their role in fish evolution.

Angela Rosenberg, Director of Programs & Policies

NSU Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography - Dec. 5th, 2014 4:00PM - "SeaKeepers DISCOVERY Yachts Program:  A New Research Platform for Scientists"

The International SeaKeepers Society strives to increase current knowledge about the oceans, promote and facilitate scientific discovery and raise awareness about critical ocean issues. SeaKeepers works directly with the yachting community as an essential component and contributor to ocean research and conservation efforts. The organization runs several yacht-involved programs to accomplish this mission.
The SeaKeepers DISCOVERY Yachts Program is the organization’s foremost initiative in accomplishing its mission and goals.  The program is comprised of scientific expeditions, instrument deployments and educational outreach events, all of which occur on private vessels.  SeaKeepers collaborates with numerous organizations, academic institutions and government agencies to accomplish its DISCOVERY Yacht missions.

Jeffery Alan Plunkett, Ph.D.

NSU Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography - Nov. 21st, 2014 4:00PM - "Zebrafish: A model for CNS axon regeneration after injury"

There are no therapies available that restore motor impairments resulting from spinal cord injury (SCI). Many patients with SCI are permanently paralyzed and in need of lifelong care. Promoting axon regeneration after SCI may lead to the formation of axon circuits that may be involved in (or recruited for) motor functions. In the mammalian spinal cord, axon regeneration is frustrated by inhibitors such as chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs) expressed by reactive astrocytes present at the injury site. The current focus of my laboratory involves investigation of the role CSPGs play in the CNS regenerative abilities seen in teleost fishes.  Our studies have led to the development of in vitro and in vivo methodologies to study CNS regeneration in the zebrafish, Danio rerio. In adult zebrafish, some brainstem neurons are able to grow their axon beyond a spinal cord injury, even though inhibitory CSPGs are present. Based on these findings we have developed an overall working hypothesis that the ability to grow an axon over CSPGs is intrinsic to the zebrafish brainstem neurons and entails the expression of a distinct set of genes.  

Peter J. Edmunds, Ph.D. 

NSU Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography - Friday, October 10th, 2014 6:00PM - "The role of coral ecophysiology in a warmer and more acidic world"


Peter Edmunds is a Professor at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). Originally from England, he did his Bachelor degree in Marine Biology at the University of Newcastle upon-Tyne, and PhD at Glasgow University in Scotland. His research focuses on the physiological ecology of tropical reef corals at the organismic, population, and community levels. He studies the ecology and long-term dynamics of coral reefs in Moorea, French Polynesia in order to identify temporal trends and provide a rich ecological context within which mechanistic research can be designed. He also studies the biology of individual corals in order to better understand their basic functionality, specifically to establish mechanistic links between organism performance and community dynamics, such as the mechanistic basis of the effects of temperature and ocean acidification on early life history stages. Prof. Edmunds is a contributing editor for Marine Ecology Progress Series and is on the editorial board of Coral Reefs.

There will be a meet and greet dinner after the seminar in the COE cafe', and OC students will have first opportunity to sign up for the event, after which it will be opened to faculty and undergraduates.  There will be limited seating, so we urge all students to RSVP for the seminar to BEFORE Sept 26, 2014.

Jose Lopez, Ph.D. 

NSU Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography - Friday, September 26th, 2014 4:30PM - "Deep Sequencing: Microbiome and Genomics Profiling of Reefs and Reef Organisms"


Dr. Jose (Joe) Lopez is a Professor at the Nova Southeastern University Ocean Center (NSU OC) in Dania Beach Florida.  He earned a Master’s degree at Florida State University, and his doctorate at George Mason University studying the evolution of mitochondrial DNA and its transpositions (Numt) in feline nuclear genomes. Dr Lopez then applied his molecular evolutionary training in postdoctoral appointments characterizing the Orbicella (formerly Montastraea) annularis coral sibling species complex at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and sponge genetics at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, in Ft Pierce FL. The latter allowed him to use submersible technology to investigate deep sea sponges and corals. Since 2007, Dr Lopez’s current research at the NSU Center Excellence in Coral Reef Ecosystems Research, involves diverse projects on marine invertebrate-microbial symbiosis, genomics and metagenomics, gene expression of marine organisms, marine microbiology, and systematics/phylogenetics for placing marine sponges on a global Tree of Life ( His lab has recently initiated the novel “Global Invertebrate Genomics Alliance” (, that will apply genome sequencing of non-model invertebrate species, and Dr Lopez is also involved with the consortium of sponge biologists working on the global Earth Microbiome Project ( Overall, this research thread has resulted in over 40 peer-reviewed publications.

David Weinstein, Ph.D. Candidate

NSU Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography - Friday, August 15th, 2014 4:30PM - "Building structure in deep reefs: Carbonate budgets of mesophotic coral ecosystems"


The architectural complexity, spatial zonation, and geomorphic diversity created by coral reefs provide the vital foundational characteristics responsible for many of the ecological and economic benefits these habitats provide. Much research has shown that shallow-water coral reef geomorphology and structural sustainability is highly determined by chemical, biological, and physical constructive or destructive carbonate cycling processes that deposit or remove carbonate and regulate net calcium carbonate accumulation.  However, little is known about these processes and their relationship to reef structure in mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs), deep light-dependent reef communities (30-150 m) valued due to high biodiversity, large spatial coverage, and the potential connectivity and refugia potential for species threatened by continual global shallow coral reef deterioration.  Census-based carbonate budgets (summations of carbonate production and sedimentation minus carbonate loss through physical and biological erosion) were calculated at structurally dissimilar mesophotic reef habitats and shallow-water counterparts south of St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands to investigate the role of sedimentary processes in the structural development, maintenance, and habitat diversity of mesophotic reefs. 

Cheryl Hankins, Ph.D.

NSU Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography - Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 3:00-5:30PM - 4th floor seminar room #406 - "Effects of land-based stressers on different life stages of laboratory cultured coral"


I received a B.S. in Marine Biology from The University of West Florida (2002) after transferring from University of Memphis. I continued my studies at The University of West Florida and received my M.Sc. in 2007. I've been a coral biologist with EPA since 2010 but worked here previously as a Student Services Contractor while in graduate school. Current research involves studying effects of coral survival, growth, and recruitment due to land-based stressors, primarily sediment. Data collected will validate conceptual models which will assist with land management.

Vivian Cumbo, PhD

Research Associate, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Australia

NSU Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography - Thursday, June 19 at 4:30 pm at the OC Auditorium - "Establishment and development of symbiosis in corals"


Coral reefs thrive because of the symbiotic partnership between corals and Symbiodinium. While this partnership is one of the keys to the success of coral reef ecosystems, surprisingly little is known about coral symbiosis, in particular, the establishment and development of symbiosis. Most corals acquire Symbiodinium anew from the environment each generation (i.e., horizontal transmission) at the larval or primary polyp stage, thereby giving the host the opportunity to develop new symbiotic associations between generations. Symbiodinium diversity is high and different types provide different benefits to the coral. I used larvae of the genus Acropora to explore initial patterns of association between the host and Symbiodinium spp. I examined the flexibility of the association during the early life stage of corals, and how the prevailing environment and competition between Symbiodinium types affect the establishment and development of symbiosis. These results show that transgenerational changes in symbionts may function as a mechanism by which organisms that engage in flexible mutualistic relationships can rapidly adjust to changing environmental conditions. However, establishment of a stable symbiosis may be compromised as symbionts compete for space and resources within the host.


Vivian is from Sydney, Australia, where she completed a BSc in Microbiology (Hons) and Marine Biology at the University of New South Wales. Her honours thesis investigated the antimicrobial compounds in the scleractinian corals Montipora digitata and Montipora tortuosa. Her interests in corals and coral reef ecosystems saw her embarking on a PhD under the supervision of Prof. Terry Hughes, Prof. Andrew Baird and Dr. Madeleine van Oppen at James Cook University. Her PhD research explored the initial patterns of association between the coral host and Symbiodinium spp., and how environmental conditions affect the establishment and development of symbiosis. Vivian continued her research on coral as a NSF Postdoctoral Researcher at California State University, Northridge with Prof. Peter Edmunds.  There she focused on the area of global climate change and its effects on the early life stages of corals; specifically the effects of rising temperature and ocean acidification on the physiology of larvae, newly settled recruits and juvenile corals. Currently, Vivian is a Research Associate in the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, and her research is focused on coral systematics, coral reproductive biology, larval ecology and symbiosis. Vivian has conducted coral research in the Great Barrier Reef, Red Sea, Okinawa, Taiwan and Moorea.

Dr. Nick Funicelli

Thursday April 10, COE auditorium, 5:00 PM- "How to get a Job"

Friday April 11, COE auditorium, 4:30 PM- "Marine Protected Areas: Insights from Dr. Nick Funicelli"


Dr. Funicelli retired from federal service in 2007.   During his 30-year tenure he has held positions with the Corps Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Biological Service and U.S. Geological Survey.  He is currently a Researcher Emeritus with USGS, and also holds adjunct faculty positions with Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Florida, and the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography at Nova Southeastern University.  He teaches graduate classes at both Universities.  Since retiring he has graduated two masters candidates and currently directs four masters candidates.  Dr. Funicelli has authored over forty peer-reviewed publications as well as several book chapters and popular articles. He is considered an expert on Marine Protected Areas. He served on the task force that created the Tortugas National Sanctuary. He is currently a consultant to the Colombian government relative to the operation of the Star Flower Marine Sanctuary. His most recent research concerns the creation of “YY” males as means to control non-indigenous fish populations.

Dr. Nick Funicelli explains his "How to get a job" presentation.

"The job lecture is one that has really has taken on a life of its own.  About three years ago a fellow faculty member here at UF asked me to talk a bit about, how, when I was with the feds, I selected biologist for positions in my lab.  He figured since I had hired well over 100 biologist in my 30 year federal career I had some insights as to what students should know relative to how we selected biologist from entry level techs, to P.I.'s.  Well I suppose the students got something out of it as I've been asked to give the lecture every year, as well as requests,"

William Browne, Ph.D.

Friday March 14, COE auditorium, 4:30 PM- " Insights from the genome of an ancient metazoan lineage: the Ctenophora"

Univ. of Miami

Biographical Sketch:
Dr. Browne completed his PhD in Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology at the University of Chicago followed by Postdoctoral work at the University of Hawaii’s Kewalo Marine Lab.  He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Miami and a Research Collaborator with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.  His work is focused on patterns of change underlying organismal diversity.  His lab currently uses the lobate ctenophore Mnemiopsis leiydi and the amphipod crustacean Parhyale hawaiensis as model systems for both developmental and evolutionary investigations.  His talk will address recent genomics work in his lab.

Carmen Ablan Lagman, Ph.D.

Friday Feb 28, COE auditorium, 4:30 PM-  "What can genomics do for conservation in biodiversity hotspots?"

Associate Professor, Biology Department
Head, Biodiversity Unit
Center for Natural and Environmental Science Research
College of Science
De La Salle University
2401 Taft Avenue Manila, 1004 PHILIPPINES

Biographical Sketch:
Dr. Ma. Carmen Ablan-Lagman is a 2014 Fulbright Senior Faculty Fellowship awardee to Oregon State University in Corvallis to conduct research on population genomics and gene expression in the mud crab Scylla serrata. She is an Associate Professor at the De La Salle University in the Philippines, an affiliate of the Shields Ocean Center (SHORE) and a research associate of the Philippine National Museum of Natural History.  Prior to joining DLSU in 2007, Dr. Ablan was a Research Scientist at the WorldFish Center, one of 16 centers of Consultative Group for International Agriculture Research and was based in Malaysia, Japan and Thailand.

For the past 13 years, Dr. Ablan has been conducting research on population genetics and systematics of coral reef fish and invertebrates specifically for applications to for biodiversity conservation, fisheries management and aquaculture.  She has run several multi-site and multi-country collaborative projects, the most recent of which are the NSF-PEER funded PhilFishConnect project with 4 other research institutions in the Philippines, the John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Foundation funded Population Inter dependencies in the South China Sea Ecosystem (PISCES) initiative with 6 other universities in Southeast Asia and the Coral Triangle Partnerships for International Research and Education (CT-PIRE) project with the Old Dominion University, Boston University and Undayana University in Indonesia.  Dr. Ablan has been part of several international working groups on biodiversity and fisheries convened by the WorldBank, UNEP and the FAO, contributing to the discussions on conservation and management of genetic resources and population structure and connectivity for near shore marine habitats.  In her talk, Dr. Ablan will address the question “how could the ability to study genomes benefit efforts to conserve diversity in biodiversity hotspots” providing some insight into the context of science in the developing world.  

Mark T. Hamann, Ph.D.

Professor of Pharmacognosy and Chemistry/Biochemistry

Spring QEP seminar, Marine Natural Products Chemist - Dr Mark Hamann -  6 pm Friday Feb 21, 2014;  RSVP to

"Transforming harmful and nuisance algal blooms into innovative new treatments for cancer.  Drug Discovery and Microbial Ecology"


Dr. Hamann is a Professor of Pharmacognosy, Pharmacology, Chemistry & Biochemistry as well as a Research Professor with the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi and an Adjunct Professor with the Center of Marine Biotechnology (COMB), University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI). Dr. Hamann received his B.Sc. in Chemistry & Biology from Bemidji State University in Minnesota. He has several years experience in GMP pharmaceutical manufacturing and then completed a Ph.D. degree in Marine Natural Products Chemistry in 1992 at the University of Hawaii, Chemistry Department under the guidance of the late Professor Paul Scheuer -a pioneer in the discovery and chemical ecology of marine natural products. During his 20-year research career, Dr. Hamann has published over 100 scientific papers, reviews and book chapters. He has received numerous awards and honors, organized numerous scientific symposia and meetings and frequently delivers keynote or plenary presentations at international conferences. Dr. Hamann's research program includes an extensive array of collaborations with the Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology industry as well as Federal research programs focused on the development of treatments for infectious, neurological diseases and cancer from marine derived secondary metabolites. Dr. Hamann's group has a small pipeline of marine natural product drug leads. The most advanced product currently investigated by his research group are the kahalalides. The lead compound, Kahalalide F is covered by U.S. patent number 6,274,551 which is assigned to PharmaMar S.A., a pharmaceutical company in Madrid. PharmaMar is developing this novel class of anticancer agents, and Kahalalide F is currently in phase II clinical trials.

Cheryl Hankins

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