June 2021

Using a unique historical baseline from the 1980s and comparing it to samples collected since 2010, researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and collaborators have discovered dramatic changes in the chemistry and composition of Sargassum, (floating brown seaweed) transforming this vibrant living organism into a toxic “dead zone." The findings were published in Nature Communications... Read More 

FAU researchers have conducted a comprehensive health assessment of gopher tortoises at two sites in southeastern Florida, which provides important baseline information on this vulnerable species. Results of the study, published in the journal Conservation Physiology, showed that overall, 42.9 percent of all tortoises tested had circulating antibodies to Mycoplasma agassizii, an infectious bacterium that causes upper respiratory tract disease... Read More

Our good friend and colleague, Mary E. Rice, Ph.D., died peacefully on April 29, 2021 at age 94. Dr. Rice was an American invertebrate zoologist specializing in systematics, evolution and the development of marine invertebrates. She worked at the Smithsonian Institution as a curator, educator, research advisor, and administrator from 1966 until her retirement in 2002. FAU Harbor Branch Research Professor Dr. Dennis Hanisak reflects on Dr. Rice’s lasting impact on Harbor Branch here.
When next you look at the sea, think of Mary. May she rest in peace.
Research Spotlight

FAU Harbor Branch Aquaculture and Stock Enhancement Researcher Sahar Mejri, Ph.D., in collaboration with Paul Wills, Ph.D., Martin Riche, Ph.D., and international collaborators, released a review focused on the nutritional requirements of tropical and cold-water marine fish in the larval and juvenile life stages. The team used Florida pompano and winter flounder as model species. This review hopes to aid future research aiming to develop nutritionally balanced micro-diets or live-prey enrichment diets to satisfy the physiological requirements of captive tropical and cold-water marine fish species. The review was published in Frontiers in Marine Science.

FAU Harbor Branch Researchers Aditya Nayak, Ph.D., Jim Sullivan, Ph.D., Malcolm McFarland, Ph.D. and collaborators recently published a Research Topic (special issue) on small-scale biological-physical interactions of aquatic particles, plankton, and other organisms. A total of 23 articles are included in this Research Topic that aims to bring together research efforts from a diverse set of authors across different disciplines, generally focused on the overarching theme of characterizing small-scale interactions of particles, plankton, and other aquatic organisms through different investigatory lenses. The Research Topic was published in Frontiers in Marine Science... Read More... Read More

FAU Harbor Branch Researchers and collaborators conducted the first robust study design surveys to estimate the population size for Indian River Lagoon dolphins. The study titled, “Abundance and demography of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus truncatus) in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida: A robust design capture-recapture analysis” was published in PLOS ONERead More

You can now follow along in real-time as researchers track potential harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Lake Okeechobee. Scientists at FAU Harbor Branch are using a data portal designed by the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) to provide the public with their latest research findings from the Harmful Algal Bloom Assessment of Lake Okeechobee(HALO) project. They will soon be releasing a bloom brief each month. Stay tuned... Website
Postdoc Spotlight

Iris Segura-García, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow in integrative marine and coastal ecology, FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College. Segura-García studies molecular ecology, which is understanding how animals structure ecosystems and respond to changes in their environment based on their genetic traits. She’s worked on everything from the connectivity of populations in the Caribbean spiny lobster to the evolution of wild dolphin populations and how they become distinct species… Read More
Outreach
Warmwater Marine Finfish Workshop

Aquaculture professionals gathered at FAU Harbor Branch this month for the 2nd annual Warmwater Marine Finfish Workshop. The workshop was designed to share research progress and garner insights from industry professionals and research colleagues. The event was co-sponsored by FAU Harbor Branch and the USDA Agricultural Research Service.
In the News
Marine Mammal Stranding and Population Assessment Team
Jumping Shark?

The FAU Harbor Branch Stranding and Population Assessment team caught this image of a jumping bull shark on one of its dolphin fin trail cameras! The motion sensor cameras are used by the team to collect opportunistic dolphin fin images in the FAU Harbor Branch channel. While the cameras have captured dolphins, birds and manatees this is the first time it has photographed a shark.

FAU Harbor Branch Marine Mammal Stranding and Population Assessment team was called upon by FWC to assist with a manatee rescue in February. The team later found out this was the famous "Chessie," whose story is described in the video. The team was excited to continue Chessie's story alongside the many partners that released him back to local waters.

Watch here.
FAU Harbor Branch, Steve Burton, M.S., was recently featured on WTTB

Steve Burton, M.S., the director of the FAU Harbor Branch Stranding and Population Assessment Program was recently featured on WTTB’s radio talk show, “Local News Magazine with Bob Soos.” Steve discusses the FAU Harbor Branch marine mammal stranding and population program and recent standings including a 18,000lb sperm whale.

Sperm whales are a depleted endangered species protected by the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. They can dive to depths of around 2,000 meters, which allows them to feast on the large squids of the deep. Marine debris, one of many threats to marine mammals, can be mistaken as prey and incidentally ingested, leading to possible injury or death. Other threats to sperm whales include vessel strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, and ocean noise.

If you ever see an injured, entangled, or stranded dolphin or whale in Florida, please call the FWC hotline 1-888-404-3922.
FAU Funder

FAU Funder, FAU’s crowdfunding platform, features several of FAU Harbor Branch’s research projects. You can help save the queen conch, support plastic pollution studies in local waters, fund beluga whale research in the Arctic or help researchers as they use deep sea molecules for potential life-saving medicines. Please visit FAU Funder for detailed information on each project. Your contributions can make a difference!
Mission: Ocean Discovery

Don’t miss the last lecture of The John & Barbra Ferrera Ocean Science Lecture Series – Spring Series. If you have not already registered, you can do so below. All lectures are free and open to the public; For more information, visit here.
Wednesday, June 16 at 4 p.m.
"Update on Manatee Mortality Events in the Indian River Lagoon"
Martine deWit, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The Indian River Lagoon is one of the most biologically diverse estuaries in the nation, and an important habitat to the threatened Florida manatee. The manatee carcass program of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission documents manatee mortality through a rigorous carcass verification process and monitors manatee health through necropsies. This presentation will summarize manatee mortality investigations and discuss health threats related to the loss of seagrass in the Lagoon.


A temporary display highlighting 50 years of ocean exploration at FAU Harbor Branch is now open to the public at the Manatee Observation & Education Center in downtown Fort Pierce. It will be on display through August.
Bring Ocean Science for A Better World® right into your home with virtual resources from FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute! Online offerings include lectures, interviews with marine scientists, activities for children and much more! Visit our virtual resources page to learn about these great opportunities for teachers, students and ocean lovers of all ages!... Learn More

As a health and safety precaution, FAU Harbor Branch Ocean Discovery Visitors Center is temporarily closed. Please check back for updates.

Visit FAU Harbor Branch social media channels for daily research highlights, facts and trivia questions.

Also, make sure to check out our new online gift shop!

Through FAU Harbor Branch Speakers Bureau, community organizations may request a virtual presentation on a specific research topic or a general overview of FAU Harbor Branch. This program provides an excellent opportunity to learn about the institute’s most recent discoveries and connect with marine science experts. There is no charge for scheduling a speaker, however an honorarium or donation is encouraged.

If you would like to request a virtual speaker for your group/event, please fill out FAU Harbor Branch Speakers Bureau request form.