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Tracey Sutton, Ph.D.

Tracey Sutton
Associate Professor
Dept. of Marine and Environmental Sciences
(954) 262-3692


  • B.S. - University of South Florida, Tampa FL
  • M.S. - University of South Florida College of Marine Sciences
  • Ph.D. - University of South Florida College of Marine Sciences
  • Postdoctoral Scholar - Woods Hole Oceanography Institution

Research Interests:

My research focuses on the ecology of marine ecosystems, particularly those of the open ocean. I am interested in the connectivity of a variety of trophic levels, from the surface to great depths, with emphasis on the fauna and ecology of the deep-pelagic zone (200 to >5000 m depth). I combine observational, organismal and theoretical approaches to help understand Earth’s largest, but least known, ecosystem.

Research in my lab has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, NOAA Office of Exploration and Research, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Office of Naval Research, Sloan Foundation/Census of Marine Life, and the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative.

Current Topics of Research Include:

  • The ecological structure of large deep-sea ecosystems (Gulf of Mexico, Sargasso Sea and North Atlantic)
  • Global deep-pelagic biogeography, management and conservation
  • Oceanic food webs and trophic interactions
  • Benthic-pelagic coupling in oceanic ecosystems (deep reef, canyons, and slope habitats)
  • Taxonomy and systematics of deep-sea fishes

Major Projects Include:

DEEPEND (Deep-Pelagic Nekton Dynamics) Research Consortium

In response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the highlighted absence of baseline data for the deep Gulf of Mexico (200-1500 m) water column, the DEEPEND consortium is conducting a five-year sampling, sensing, modeling, and laboratory analysis program to assess ecosystem dynamics, identify drivers of variability, and investigate possible consequences of the spill on ecosystem attributes. Data obtained during the 2010-2011 and 2015-2018 periods will establish a time-series with which ecosystem shifts or responses can be detected. The DEEPEND multidisciplinary approach includes community ecology, organismal ecology, taxonomy, bioacoustics, numerical modeling, physical and chemical oceanography, optical satellite oceanography, genetics and genomics, biogeochemistry, advanced sensing technology, and high-resolution imaging, 

The DEEPEND Consortium, led by Dr. Tracey Sutton, currently has 70 participants from 22 institutions, including Nova Southeastern University, the US Naval Research Laboratory, Texas A&M Galveston, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service/Smithsonian Institution, the University of South Florida, Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University, Stony Brook University, LUMCON, Cornell University, and Resphera Biosciences. DEEPEND field research comprises 11 oceanographic expeditions using state-of-the-art sensing and sampling technologies on world-class research vessels (e.g., the Univ. of Southern Mississippi R/V Point Sur). DEEPEND also has an extremely active education and outreach component, conducted by the above-mentioned instutions in partnership with the San Antonio Zoo Department of Conservation & Research and WhaleTimes, Incorporated,

Project website:

Outreach website:

Sutton Lab website: 

DEEP SEARCH (Deep-Sea Research on Coral/Canyons/Cold seep Habitats) Research Consortium

As deep-sea communities along our continental margins become discovered and explored we can begin to ask questions about the processes that contribute to the rich diversity of life found in these ecosystems. The DEEP SEARCH program has been established to conduct research on these processes. One such process involves the ecological connection between organisms living on or near the seafloor (the benthos) and organisms within the water column (the pelagos). Studies of seamount and continental slope ecology have found that the intersection of pelagic animals and deep-reef assemblages provides important trophic subsidies that support enhanced biodiversity and biomass. In addition to the provision of food, the pelagic habitat also provides critical habitat for early life-history stages of near-bottom organisms. In short, the development and maintenance of outer continental shelf ecosystems are undoubtedly related to water column processes. Dr. Sutton’s part of DEEP SEARCH is to investigate the biodiversity, abundance, and distribution of pelagic animals relative to deep coral, canyon and cold seep communities along the US Atlantic continental slope.

Project Websites:

Current Students:

Vanda Carmo (Ph.D. candidate; University of the Azores). Co-advising with Dr. Gui Menezes
Drew Mertzlufft (M.S. candidate; Nova Southeastern University)
Michael Novotny (M.S. candidate; Nova Southeastern University)
Nina Pruzinsky (M.S. candidate; Nova Southeastern University)
Kristian Ramkissoon (M.S. candidate; Nova Southeastern University)
Natalie Slayden (M.S. candidate; Nova Southeastern University)
Matthew Woodstock (M.S. candidate; Nova Southeastern University)


Burdett, E, C. Fine, T.T. Sutton, A.B. Cook, and T. Frank (2017) Geographic and depth distributions, ontogeny, and reproductive seasonality decapod shrimps (Caridea: Oplophoridae) from the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Bulletin of Marine Science 93(3): 743-767.

Caves, E.M., T.T. Sutton, and S. Johnsen (2017) Visual acuity in ray-finned fishes correlates with eye size and habitat. Journal of Experimental Biology. 220: 1586-1596; doi: 10.1242/jeb.151183.

Churnside, J.H, R.J.D. Wells, K.M. Boswell, J.A. Quinlan, R.D. Marchbanks, B.J. McCarty, and T.T. Sutton (2017) Surveying the distribution and abundance of flyingfishes and other epipelagics in the northern Gulf of Mexico using airborne LIDAR. Bulletin of Marine Science. 93(2): 591-609.

Drazen, J.C. and T. T. Sutton (2017) Dining in the Deep: The Feeding Ecology of Deep-Sea Fishes. Annual Reviews in Marine Science 9: 337-366.

Hammerschlag, N., C. Meyer, M. Grace, S. Kessell, T.T. Sutton, E. Harvey, C. Paris, D. Kerstetter, and S.J. Cooke (2017) Shining a light on fish at night: an overview of fish and fisheries in the dark of night, deep and polar seas. Bulletin of Marine Science 93(2): 253-284.

Mohan, J.A., T.T. Sutton, A.B. Cook, K.M. Boswell, and R.J.D. Wells (2017) Influence of oceanographic conditions on abundance and distribution of post-larval and juvenile carangid fishes in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Fisheries Oceanography 2017, 00: 1–16.

Porteiro, F.M., T.T. Sutton, I. Byrkjedal, A. Orlov, M. Heino, G. Menezes, and O.A. Bergstad (2017) Fishes of the Northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge collected during the MAR-ECO cruise in June-July 2004: an annotated checklist. Arquipelago. Life and Marine Sciences. Supplement 10: iii +125 pp.

Rees, D.J., I. Byrkjedal, and T.T. Sutton (2017) Pruning the pearlsides: Reconciling morphology and molecules in mesopelagic fishes (Maurolicus: Sternoptychidae). Deep-Sea Research II 137: 246-257. doi: 10.1016jdsr2.2016.04.024.

Reygondeau, G., L. Guidi, G. Beaugrand, S.A. Henson, P. Koubbi, B.R. MacKenzie, T.T. Sutton, M. Fiorini, and O. Maury (2017) Global biogeochemical provinces of the mesopelagic zone. Journal of Biogeography. DOI: 10.1111/jbi.13149.

Sutton, T.T., M.R. Clark, D.C. Dunn, P.N. Halpin, A.D. Rogers, J. Guinotte, S.J. Bograd, M.V. Angel, J.A.A. Perez, K. Wishner, R.L. Haedrich, D.J. Lindsay, J.C. Drazen, A. Vereshchaka, U. Piatkowski, T. Morato, K. Błachowiak-Samołyk, B.H. Robison, K.M. Gjerde, A. Pierrot-Bults, P. Bernal, G. Reygondeau. and M. Heino (2017) A global biogeographic classification of the mesopelagic zone. Deep Sea Research I 126: 85-102.

D’Elia, M., J.D. Warren, I. Rodriguez-Pinto, T.T. Sutton, A.B. Cook (2016) Diel Variation in the vertical distribution of deep-water scattering layers in the Gulf of Mexico. Deep-Sea Research I 115: 91-102.

Fisher, C.R., P.A. Montagna, and T.T. Sutton (2016) How did the Deepwater Horizon oil spill impact deep-sea ecosystems? Oceanography 29(3):182–195.

Gaither, M.R.,  B. Violi, H.W. Gray, F. Neat, J.C. Drazen, D. Grubbs, A. Roa-Varón, T.T. Sutton, and A.R. Hoelzel (2016) Depth as a driver of evolution in the deep sea: insights from grenadiers (Gadiformes: Macrouridae) of the genus Coryphaenoides. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 104: 73-82.

Grüss, A., E.A. Babcock, S.R. Sagarese, M. Drexler, D.D. Chagaris, C.H. Ainsworth, B. Penta, S. deRada, and T.T. Sutton (2016) Improving the spatial allocation of functional group biomasses in spatially-explicit ecosystem models: insights from three Gulf of Mexico models. Bulletin of Marine Science 92(4): 473-496.

Judkins, H., A. Cook, T. Sutton and M. Vecchione (2016) Diversity of midwater cephalopods in the northern Gulf of Mexico: comparison of two collecting methods. Marine Biodiversity DOI: 10.1007/s12526-016-0597-8.

Vereshchaka, A., G. Abyzova, A. Lunina, E. Musaeva, T.T. Sutton (2016) A novel approach reveals high zooplankton standing stock deep in the sea. Biogeosciences. 13: 6261-6271.  doi:10.5194/bg-2016-145.

Carmo, V., T.T. Sutton, G. Menezes, T. Falkenhaug, O.A. Bergstad (2015) Feeding ecology of the stomiiforms (Pisces) of the northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge. 1. The Sternoptychidae and Phosichthyidae. Progress in Oceanography 130: 172-187.

Ingels,J., M.R. Clark, M. Vecchione, J.A.A. Perez, L.A. Levin, I.G. Priede, T.T. Sutton, A.A, Rowden, C.R. Smith, M. Yasuhara, A.K. Sweetman, T. Soltwedel, R.S., B.E. Narayanaswamy, H.A. Ruhl, K. Fujikura, L.A. Zettler, D.O.B. Jones, A.R. Gates, P. Snelgrove, S. Van Gaever, P. Bernal (2015) Chapter 36F: Open Ocean Deep Sea. In: The United Nations First World Ocean Assessment.

Pietsch, T.W. and T.T. Sutton (2015) A new species of the ceratioid anglerfish genus Lasiognathus Regan (Lophiiformes: Oneirodidae) from the northern Gulf of Mexico. Copeia 103(2): 429-432.

Vecchione, M., Falkenhaug, T., Sutton, T.T., Cook, A.B., Gislason, A., Hansen, H.Ø., Heino, M., Miller, P.I., Piatkowski, U., Porteiro, F., Søiland, H., and Bergstad, O.A. (2015) The effect of the North Atlantic Subpolar Front as a boundary in pelagic biogeography decreases with increasing depth and organism size. Progress in Oceanography 138: 105-115.

Hudson, J.M., D.K. Steinberg, T.T. Sutton, J.E. Graves, R.J. Latour (2014) Myctophid feeding ecology and carbon transport along the northern mid-Atlantic ridge. Deep-Sea Research I 93: 104-116.

Sweetman, C.J., T.T. Sutton, M. Vecchione and R.J. Latour (2014) Diet composition of Bathylagus euryops (Osmeriformes: Bathylagidae) along the northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Deep-Sea Research I. 92: 107-114.

Feagans-Bartow, J.N. and T.T. Sutton (2014) Ecology of the oceanic rim: pelagic eels as key ecosystem components. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 502: 257-266.

Lapointe. B.E., L.E. West, T.T. Sutton and C. Hu (2014) Nutrient excretions by symbiotic fishes support enhanced productivity of pelagic Sargassum in the western North Atlantic Ocean.  Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 458: 45-56.

Mengerink, K.J., C.L. Van Dover, J. Ardron, M. Baker, E. Escobar-Briones, K. Gjerde, J.A. Koslow, E. Ramirez-Llodra, A. Lara-Lopez, D. Squires, T.T. Sutton, A.K. Sweetman, L.A. Levin (2014) A Call for Deep-Ocean Stewardship. Science 344: 696-698.

Cook, A.B., T.T. Sutton, J.K. Galbraith and M. Vecchione (2013) Deep-pelagic (0-3000 m) fish assemblage structure over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the area of the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone.  Deep-Sea Research II. Topical Studies in Oceanography. 98: 279-291.

Gagnon, Y.L., T.T. Sutton and S. Johnsen (2013) Visual acuity in pelagic fishes and mollusks. Vision Research. 92: 1-9.

Priede I.G., Bergstad O.A. , Miller P.I., Vecchione M.,  Gebruk A., Falkenhaug T., Billett D.S.M., Craig J.,  Dale A.C., Shields M.A., Tilstone G.H., Sutton T.T., Gooday A.J., Inall M.E., Jones D.O.B., Martinez-Vicente V., Menezes G.M., Niedzielski T., Sigurðsson Þ., Rothe N., Rogacheva A., Alt C.H.S., Brand T.,  Abell R., Brierley A.S., Cousins N.J., Crockard D., Hoelzel A.R., Høines Å., Letessier T.B., Read J.F., Shimmield T., Cox M.J., Galbraith J.K., Gordon J.D.M., Horton T., Neat F., Lorance P., (2013) Does presence of a Mid Ocean Ridge enhance biomass and biodiversity? PLoS ONE 8(5): e61550. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061550.

Sutton, T.T. (2013) Vertical ecology of the pelagic ocean: classical patterns and new perspectives. Journal of Fish Biology. 83: 1508-1527.

Sutton, T.T., T. Letessier, B. Bardarson and A. Brierley (2013) Midwater fishes collected in the vicinity of the Sub-Polar Front, mid-North Atlantic Ocean, during ECOMAR sampling. Deep-Sea Research II. Topical Studies in Oceanography. 98: 292-300.

Sweetman, C.J., T.T. Sutton, M. Vecchione and R.J. Latour (2013) Distribution of the biomass-dominant fish, Bathylagus euryops (Argentiniformes: Microstomatidae) along the northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Deep-Sea Research I 78: 16-23.

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