USA Graduate Students Win Top Awards at Coastal and Marine Symposium

Posted on December 19, 2016 by Arts and Sciences
Arts and Sciences

Each year Sea Grant holds a graduate student symposium meeting. This year's was in Biloxi and had participants from 6 states and 12 institutions. Graduate students studying coastal and marine sciences competed for the awards in two categories: oral presentation and poster presentation. This year, 3 of 4 the oral and 1 of the 3 poster awards went to graduate students from South.

In the oral presentation competition:

1st place went to Erin Bohaboy, a Marine Sciences PhD student working with Sean Powers
2nd place went to Trenton O’Neal, a Biology MS student working with Sinéad Ní Chadhain
Honorable Mention went to Molly Miller, a Marine Sciences PhD student working with me and Kelly Major

In the poster competition:
2nd place when to Alex Rodriguez, a Marine Sciences MS student working with Ken Heck

This year, there were about 40 oral presentations and 55 posters in the competition. Judges evaluated the students based on several criteria including presentation style, audiovisuals, organization and timing, understanding of subject matter and clarity of descriptions of their research methods and results.

Below is a summary of the results from Sea Grant.

"The student award winners for oral presentations are:

First place ($500): Erin Bohaboy, a Ph.D. student at the University of South Alabama/Dauphin Island Sea Lab and a Sea Grant-National Marine Fisheries Service population and ecosystem dynamics fellow, for "An assessment of spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus) stock status in Alabama waters." She performed the first age-structured stock assessment of spotted seatrout in Alabama, presented evidence of environmental influence on stock dynamics and suggested that this important recreational stock may be overfished.

Second place ($250): Trenton O'Neal, a second-year graduate student working toward his master's degree in biology at the University of South Alabama, for "Identification and characterization of bacterial genes utilized in Triclosan degradation." He evaluated the ability of naturally occurring bacteria to degrade the environmental contaminant Triclosan. His work employed molecular genetic approaches.

Third place ($150): Virginia Fleer, a Ph.D. candidate at The University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Lab, for "Examination of trophic relationships affecting oyster reef restoration success in the Mississippi Sound." She employed a mesocosm approach to understand the trophic relationships of the fauna inhabiting oyster reefs. Her work will inform management of these habitats by helping to understand how oyster predation is determined, in part, by habitat substrate.

Honorable mention ($75): Molly Miller, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of South Alabama, for "Subtle temperature differences may well determine who wins: A story of three submerged aquatic plant species." She evaluated the thermal optima of three species of submerged aquatic vegetation to understand how temperature patterns in a changing thermal regime will determine the flora characteristics of ecosystems.

There are three student award winners in the poster presentation category. The judges evaluated the poster presentations on presenter knowledge and enthusiasm, poster organization, project introduction, research methods, results, conclusion, audiovisuals and more.

Students who will receive awards for their poster presentations include:

First place ($350): Justin Blancher, a master's student at the University of Southern Mississippi, Division of Marine Science, for "Assessment of coastal elevation changes using unmanned aerial systems." He evaluated the utility of drone (unmanned aerial systems) to evaluate landscape change of coastal ecosystems. He showed that such technology has promise and is cost effective.

Second place ($125): Alex Rodriguez, a master's student with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab/University of South Alabama, for "Green sea turtle grazing pressure in a Florida bay." She documented the role of green sea turtle grazing on the sea grass habitats. Her work documents how impacts on sea grass habitats will increase as green sea turtle populations increase.

Third place ($50): Amy J. Mallozzi, Louisiana State University, a second-year master's student in Louisiana State University's Department of Oceanography and Coastal Science, for "Impacts of coastal acidification on the structure of Louisiana phytoplankton communities." She evaluated the role of ocean acidification and showed, using controlled experiments, that the impacts of increased carbon dioxide were sensitive to the taxonomic composition of the phytoplankton community."



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