Course Blogs MNS152S – 12Su

Class blogs in the form of interview reports with the seminar speakers conducted by individual groups

 Interviewing Dr. Skye Woodcock

Posted by Victoria Congdon at Tuesday, June 26, 2012 9:50:34 PM CDT
Last Edited:Friday, June 29, 2012 7:29:13 PM CDT

Watch Video

Tarpon Fly Fishing – Crazy Tarpon Jumps!!!

Duration: (1:29)
User: mtbpt – Added: 12/29/09

G’DAY MATES!!! (By: Victoria Congdon, Sylvia Garza & Wayne Hall)

INTRODUCING Dr. Skye Woodcock living life dangerously!

Dr. Skye Woodcock is a post-doctoral fellow and is currently working with Dr. Ben Walther at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute at Fisheries Science and Mariculture Laboratory (FAML). Dr. Woodcock recently completed her research on isotopic analysis of otoliths using Murray cod and Golden perch; the isotopes enabled marking of the otoliths, therefore identifying their origination. On Friday June 22nd, Dr. Woodcock shared this prior research at UTMSI, as well as her current research regarding the migration patterns of tarpon; she plans on using isotopic analysis on tarpon scales opposed to the otoliths as a way to preserve the life of the fish. Little is known about their near shore and off shore life cycles, which makes this a ground breaking research. Though, for her research she needs a lot of tarpon fish, so please catch a tarpon for her analysis!



Who or what inspired you to study marine biology?

My father and grandfather inspired my love for aquatic life as a child. We used to go out on the boat and fish for snapper, whiting, and flathead (looks like a salamander without legs) which was loads of fun; this hobby helped shape my keen sense for the ocean and the marine life inhabiting it.


What is your favorite marine organism? (Wayne’s favorite question…)

I love big, terrible sharks and the beautiful, playful killer whales, which are amazing creatures! I had initially wanted to focus my Honours project on the feeding behavior and attack responses of sharks, but that would have entailed me to work in a museum. Instead, I desired field work and being hands on so I decided to swap research and never looked back.


Where in Australia is a must to go?

It depends on what you are looking for….if you are looking for a popular place, then head to the East Coast. You are located near Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef, which make great sight seeing. For a quieter note,head south and stop by Adelaide where you can find things bigger than in Texas, like giant rocking horses, lobsters, pineapples, bananas, and oranges!


What is the craziest thing you have done?

Bungee jump! I was in Costa Rica and decided to take the 80 foot leap up faith while I was an undergraduate (when we asked her if she would recommend doing it again she said….YES! see above picture).


Do you have a favorite research moment?

Well, the last research trip I was on I was sea sick 😦 but the most fascinating moment dealt with work on my Murray cod. We had ponds with nets set out every couple of meters to test the release and recapture of shrimp; a particular cod would follow me from net to net waiting for the release of shrimp into the pond and then ate them. It was crazy to see the response behavior!


What happens to the fish that have died for a good cause in your tagging research?

Well first off, we were given a permit to catch the undersized fish for the otolith removal; for the record, we wanted to catch legal fish but rest assured we made good use of fish. Let me just say we fried a lot of fish!

What research do you want to ultimately work on? 

Before transferring to UTMSI, I was studying isotopic analysis of otoliths in “marked” Australian freshwater fish to determine impacts of fish stock and hatchery programs. I was interested in continuing the isotopic marker analysis so decided to apply for the post-doc position with Ben. I was selected (yay) and am here now doing what I love. Studying otolith chemistry continues to raise more and more questions on differences in uptake and species environment, which is why I continue to strive for the answers.


What are your future plans?

Well, currently my plans are up in the air. I am staying here at UTMSI for 1 year but I hope I can stay longer, it depends on research funding. If not, I would like to travel to Europe and continue doing research work there.


Dr. Skye Woodcock was born in Adelaide, Australia, where she drove a pretty cool bright, yellow Chrysler Galant.The South Australian first job was as a sideline field analyst for a TV production company for Australian’s number one sport…football! (which is not related to soccer, American football, or Rugby, so it’s a mysterious sport with four goals!). Growing up, she realized she had a passion for the sea and decided early on that she would dedicate her life to research.
Dr. Woodcock graduated from Flinders University with a bachelor’s in marine biology in 2005. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree, she picked up a part time position as a laboratory tech at the University of Flinders and studied to obtain an Honour’s degree; her thesis on diets of juvenile whelks during her Honour’s program led to a publication in 2008. In 2007, she began her doctorate program at The University of Adelaide, where she did research on Murray cod stock and survival. After completing her doctorate program, she moved to Port Aransas, Texas to pursue further analysis of isotope markings on tarpons.

She recently presented her PhD thesis research at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI). Her objective was to find an effective combination of isotopes that the otolith would absorb and act as markers. In her experiments she used different isotopic combinations of barium, magnesium and strontium and two species of fish. The results showed that three barium isotopes created seven distinctive markers and reflected the water chemistry; strontium also created unique signatures and both Ba and Sr isotopes were able to display isotope shifts that happened in the water. Though, shift in the magnesium ratios could not be detected. Because Mg was not reflected in the otolith of the fish, her next experiment was to test the primary source of Mg, which was determined to be from water rather than diet.
Her current research is performed on Atlantic tarpon. Because of economic importance of Atlantic tarpon and the fishery collapse, obtaining migratory patterns and information is important. Her objective was to assess onshore-offshore residence patterns, coastal food webs, and migratory and trophic dynamics of individual tarpon. Analysis is being completed using tarpon scales for isotope analysis. These results open a new method for scientists to apply markings to fish that is easily identifiable.

Dr. Woodcock loves her job and has been working on researches since she graduated from college! But during the little free time she has left, she enjoys sleeping, watching movies and cooking! Even though she is passionate about her work, she continues to miss her family, dog and British black cat that live in Australia. Her words of advice for all of us… your strengths and find something you are interested in; follow your heart and network as much as possible!!


Interviewing Dr. Kiersten Madden

Posted by Sylvia Garza Reyes at Tuesday, June 19, 2012 9:16:50 PM CDT


Dr. Madden is currently the Stewardship Coordinator for the Mission-Aransas Research Reserve (NERR) at the University of Texas Marines Science Institute (UTMSI). As Stewardship Coordinator, Dr. Madden’s main goal is to protect costal lands by educating the public and conducting site profiles for Mission-Aransas NERR. Her other duties include: improving animal rescue programs like A.R.K., and maintaining land protection and debris collection programs. She conducted a research on fur seals’ behavior in South Georgia, island near Antarctica, which she presented in UTMSI seminar.


Where did you study college and what was your major?

Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. I was studying physical therapy.


Where you born in Rock Island?

No, I was born in Missouri, but I went to that college because they had a really good program for physical therapy. Actually, they had a really good biology program in general. I also wanted to join the volleyball team, so that was another reason why I went there.


How did you switch from physical therapy to marine biology?

When I was studying as an undergrad I took an aquatic biology class that really interested me and then what really got me into marine biology was an invertebrate zoology class.


What is your favorite part about your current position?
The best part about my job is that it is so different. One day I’m creating signs to put up in a park and the next day I’m out in the field doing hardcore research. I kind of have to be a jack-of-all trades but I enjoy learning new skill sets.

What is the most challenging part?
Well, funding is always an issue, as anyone in our field will tell you. Especially long term research projects. And also general time-management problems, but they are not bad problems to have.

Why are you so busy this week?
The Gulf of Mexico Alliance is meeting later this week in Corpus Christi, Texas. It is a very influential group of people who have made a major impact on issues related to the Gulf of Mexico. Also, the head of the National Ocean Service is coming to visit our site this week and preparations must be made.


Do you like what you are doing right now? Or do you wish you were doing something else?

I’m very happy with what I have right now and even though I would like to make millions of dollars, this job is more rewarding.


What are your hobbies?

Yes, I’m on a softball team, I fish and I surf occasionally. I do activities that are normally done at a beach.


Do you have a dog?

Yes, his name is Chance; he is a mutt that looks like a black lab.


What is your favorite food?

Well, that is a hard question, but I think I would say Mexican food.

Dr. Madden was born and raised in Missouri and after completing high school she began her college career at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. She received a B.A. in Biology in 2002 and pursued her environmental science career in Texas, where she received her Ph.D. in Marine Science from the University of Texas at Austin in 2007.


Dr. Madden’s Ph.D. thesis involved the foraging behaviors of Weddell seals in the Antarctic fast-ice, where she worked with Lee A. Fuiman. Currently, Dr. Madden works and resides in Port Aransas, but spends some time in Houston visiting her boyfriend.


Dr. Madden spent three months in South Georgia observing fur seals’ behaviors, which included information about their swimming patterns, time spent underwater, the relationship between their swimming speed and the amount of flipper strokes, where and how they capture their pray, etc. The most challenging part of the research was attaching the camera and radio transmitter to the seals; the seals were wrapped with a net and injected with anesthesia. Then they had to shave the spot where they attached the apparatus in order for the glue to stick.


After several weeks of observing juvenile fur seals, they collected the cameras and radio transmitters. The results showed the fur seals spent approximately 15 minutes underwater and stroked faster as they descended and ascended. They glided more when they reached 150-250 meters of depth, where they usually found their food.


Dr. Madden’s research provides essential information for other scientists about fur seals, which are hard to investigate because they live in really cold environments. Her work provides more insight of how to start a long-term monitoring of Antarctic fur seals and information about how climate change and human activities can affect them.


Interviewed by:
Nick Reyna
Sylvia Garza
Trey Godbolt

An Interview with Dr. Tara Connelly

Posted by Sara Cathey at Tuesday, June 12, 2012 11:20:29 AM CDT
Last Edited:Monday, June 18, 2012 11:48:59 AM CDT


Dr. Connelly while studying carbon and organic nitrogen utilization of heterotrophic bacteria in the Arctic. © University of Georgia

Dr. Tara Connelly is a post-doctoral fellow at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, TX. Her research is geared towards understanding the trophic ecology and nutrient cycling of the Arctic marine food web. Dr. Connelly recently studied these interactions on the Canadian Beaufort Sea shelf and presented her findings in a seminar last Friday at the Institute. Here’s what Institute news correspondents Madison Becker and Sara Cathey had to report:

What motivated you to get into the field of science?

It just happened. I always enjoyed science courses.


What has been your favorite or most memorable experience while being a research scientist?

Going to sea and experiencing an Arctic winter. One day while at sea we hit particularly rough waters, and at times we would go over the crest of a wave and when we came back down all I would see was a wall of water. I told a colleague I was pretty sure if we capsized here in the middle of the winter, we wouldn’t make it. She assured me we would be able to swim to shore. I said “we might be able to make it to shore, but there would probably be a huge polar bear waiting for us.” Well, we didn’t capsize, but when we finally came to the area of shore where we would have had to swim to, there was sure enough a polar bear the size of a house lying on the beach.


What do you feel is most rewarding about your career?

Introducing students to research and working with them in the lab.


Do you enjoy the teaching aspect?

When I first started teaching, it was at a community college which I loved because of the small classes and the one on one interaction with students. My next experience was teaching a core microbiology class of about 130 students, I did not enjoy this lecture based teaching style. I have also taught smaller field research courses, which I really did enjoy, again because of the personal contact and hands on experience with students.


What kind of work were you doing as a science fellow for the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)?

My work there dealt a lot with policy. There was a lot of meeting with people like lobbyists, lawyers and advocates on Capitol Hill. The topic of interest was sea ice melting as a result of climate change. My job was basically to educate policy makers on the scientific aspects so they could set the agenda for the Arctic.


Are you or have you ever been a gymnast?

When I was little I did gymnastics, probably until I was about 12. I did do a lot of rowing, though, throughout college and the process of getting my PhD.


In her seminar, Dr. Connelly presented her research experience from her recent trip to the Arctic, where she used carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes and lipids to study nutrient cycling and marine trophic ecology. Her research showed the Mackenzie River had a strong influence on the composition of suspended particulate material in near-bottom waters across the entire shelf. The low carbon to nitrogen ratios and high levels of bacterial fatty acid markers indicated that bacteria were also an important contributor to the suspended particulate matter on the shelf. The high levels of storage lipids and polyunsaturated fatty acids in zooplankton of the benthic bottom layer (BBL) suggested their dependence upon seasonal production. Varied food sources suggested the zooplankton of the BBL may play an important role in transforming organic material in this layer. Dr. Connelly’s findings illustrated the necessity of multiple biomarkers in dynamic ecosystem studies and illuminated the role zooplankton of the BBL play in marine trophic ecology and nutrient cycling.


Dr. Connelly grew up in Buffalo New York. After graduating from high school, she moved to Pennsylvania to pursue her B.S. in biology from Bucknell University. After completing her bachelors’ degree, she went on to get her master’s degree in oceanography from Florida State University. She received her PhD in biology from the Ocean Science Center of Memorial University for here work in biogeochemistry of the benthic boundary layer in the Beaufort Sea shelf. She is currently working as a postdoctoral research scientist at the UTMSI in Dr. Jim McClelland’s lab studying Arctic food webs.


Dr. Connelly will be accompanying Dr. Ken Dunton and Dr. Jim McClelland to the Arctic next Tuesday, where she will continue to study the trophic ecology of the Arctic marine food web. This trip, she hopes to expand her research to include measuring carbon stable isotopes in specific fatty acids.


Interview with Dr. Philip Bucolo

Posted by Kimberly Kurtin at Wednesday, June 6, 2012 1:18:18 PM CDT
Dr. Philip Bucolo is a post doctoral fellow at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas Texas. His work is heavily focused in chemical ecology. His research is most notable in algae, both fresh water and marine, as well as epiphytic and diatomic interaction with various algae. Dr. Bucolo most recently studied these aspects in western Antarctica and western Florida. This interview question and answer delves deeper into the riveting and chaotic life of an accomplished research scientist.


Why did you decide to become a researcher, and is this something you plan on doing for the rest of your career? I took my passion for being in nature and found myself asking questions about why things happened the way they did. I would like to be able to teach and continue to answer community ecology questions in the field.


What’s your favorite thing that you’ve done while being a research scientist? Probably Antarctic scuba diving. Not a lot of people can say they’ve done that. I went on a dive right where a glacier used to be, and we got to explore areas that no one had been to before.


What’s your favorite research/field memory? I was at my first conference with my new lab right when I started my PhD in Fort Pierce, Florida. We left in a department van and my buddy and I had to drive everyone (including my new boss) to the conference. Everyone was sleeping in the backseat. While they were sleeping, we ran out of gas! We also missed the last place to eat or stop for 100 miles, so we were literally putting down the highway while my new boss and the other scientists fumed in the backseat. At the conference, I accidentally dropped a glass of beer all over the floor while I was talking about my poster describing my Master’s work for my presentation. No one came to look at my poster after that.


Do you play any sports? What do you do for fun? What is your favorite team? I play soccer and I run and I just signed up for a softball team. My favorite team is the Phillies. I play guitar and I like to fish and cook.


What’s the most rewarding thing about what you do? Successfully publishing my research, but really, teaching people to think critically about ecology.


How do you like your steak? Medium-rare.


What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? Anything with peanut butter.


Do you have a dog? Cat? I have a beagle named Satchmo. I named him because I listen to a lot of Louie Armstrong, and his nickname was Satchmo.


What are you working on right now with Ken Dunton? Effects of climate change on algal communities of the Antarctic.


Dr. Bucolo’s seminar covered his most recent work done in the western Antarctic where he studied the possible chemical mechanisms behind the host-epiphyte relationship between Palmeria Decipien and Elachista Antarctica. He found that spore settlement, germination and chemotaxis are the key factors behind the preference of the E. Antarctica for the P. Decipien. He also discussed in his presentation his recent work in sensory chemical ecology in western Florida. Here he researched potential causes for movement of the diatom N. Salinicola in the seagrass beds of Johnson’s Beach Florida. He tested two kinds of sensory stimuli, light and nutrients, and found that neither of these were the cause behind diatom movement this lead to further questions that have not yet been analyzed. Although he is currently working in Ken Duntons lab at UTMSI, he hopes to one day continue pursuing this research.


Dr. Philip Bucolo was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. As a child, he spent most of his time outdoors and fell in love with fishing. After he graduated high school, Dr. Bucolo chose to remain the South and attended college at Loyola University in Louisiana, where he decided to turn his love for fishing and the outdoors into a lifelong career. Dr. Bucolo spent the next couple of years after that at Mississippi State University, where he obtained a Masters in Biological Sciences. At that point, Bucolo chose to continue pursuing his doctorate at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, where he worked closely with Dr. Charles D. Amsler both in Alabama and in the Antarctic. During his time in Alabama, Dr. Bucolo taught an undergraduate course in Environmental Science because although he loves research, Dr. Bucolo has a burning passion for teaching and making a difference in young students’ lives. Currently, Dr. Bucolo resides with his beagle in Port Aransas, Texas, where he works in a lab with Dr. Ken Dunton at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute.


Dr. Bucolo is very enthusiastic about his work and would love to answer any additional questions students may have!


By student reporters Kimberly Kurtin and Madison Becker.


An Interview with Dr. Saydur Rahman

Posted by Sara Cathey at Tuesday, July 3, 2012 1:20:58 PM CDT
Last Edited:Tuesday, July 3, 2012 1:26:33 PM CDT


“I am proud to work at UT Austin. It’s incredible to think about where I was born and where I am now. I grew up in a farm town. We had no car or electricity. It’s amazing to think about where I am now.” –Saydur Rahman

Dr. Saydur Rahman is a research associate at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, Texas.  His research is focused on the effect of hypoxia on the growth and reproduction of
Atlantic croaker in the northern Gulf of Mexico.  This species represents an important recreational fishery and is very vulnerable to the effects of hypoxia.

What is your favorite thing about doing research? Do you see yourself researching for your whole career? At some point, would you like to teach?

I love molecular biology and I really like the mechanistic work. However, I would like to teach if there was an opportunity. I worked in Bangladesh in the university as a teacher. Interaction with students is fun.
Where did you grow up? When did you decide to pursue a career in marine science?

I grew up near the coast in Bangladesh in Satkhira. Satkhira is located next to the world’s largest mangrove forest which is home to the Bengal tiger! Everyday we ate fish. Asia is the center of aquaculture, and I got inspiration from the artificial spawning and the aquaculture. When I was in high school I decided I wanted to go into fisheries. As a scientist, I wanted to continue my research and I was looking at a faculty position.
What is it like working and studying in Bangladesh and Japan versus the United States?

Oh my gosh. Bangladesh does not have a lot of research facilities. Japan and U.S. have a lot of research facilities. There is fairly good freedom to study what you want to study in Japan and in the U.S. But, in the U.S., when you receive a grant, you have to do what work they want you to. In Japan there is 100% freedom. At UTMSI, I have a grant and I need to study what they want me to study.
What languages do you speak?

I speak Bengali, Japanese, and English.

Do you have pets?

No pets. I live in an apartment and they don’t allow pets. I like dogs more, but my daughter loves cats.

Do you have any stories about funny things that happened to you while you were on a research trip?

Every year we go from UTMSI to sample in Louisiana. It’s a 20 hour drive to Pensacola Bay. On my first time on the road, I saw a big, big truck. I had never seen such a big truck because in Asia the trucks and roads are so much smaller. I am amazed at how big the roads and trucks in the United States are!

Have you started your work on the oil spills yet?

We have collected some samples but we have not analyzed them yet.

What’s your favorite food?

I like Japanese food in Japan and Indian curry in Bangladesh. In Texas, I like barbeque. Once I ate a whole barbequed chicken.

Is there anywhere in the U.S. you’d like to visit?

I’d like to visit all of the U.S. I’ve been to Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi too many times. I’d like to go to New York, Oregon, Michigan…I like to go places where there is a big university.

If you could choose where your next place of work would be, would it be here or someplace else?

I love the Southern US, and I love Texas! I like the temperature here because I am used to tropical temperatures. I’m happy here.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Play tennis. I’m addicted.

Do you have kids?

I have two daughters. They are 20 (pre-pharmacy) and 17 (electrical engineering). Both daughters go to A&M Corpus Christi.

In his seminar, Dr. Rahman presented the results from his research on the reproductive and molecular responses of Atlantic croaker within the northern Gulf of Mexico. The results of the study illustrated the low oxygen concentration within the hypoxic zone hindered gonadal development in both male and female croaker and retarded gamete production in both sexes as well. Dr. Rahman’s research also investigated the effects of hypoxia exposure to the expression of hypoxia-inducible factor-α (HIF-α), insulin-like growth factor binding protein (IGFBP), and nitric oxide synthase 1 (NOS1). The mRNA levels of all the factors, along with the protein levels of NOS1, were found to be upregulated in the dead zone of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Thus, hypoxia exposure in the Gulf may sufficiently induce marked physiological changes in Atlantic croaker. This research centered on the molecular response of croaker to hypoxia was successful in identifying potential biomarkers for the study effects of hypoxic conditions on other fish species.
Dr. Saydur Rahman was born in Satkhira, Bangladesh, very close to the world’s largest mangrove forest. He received a B.S. in Fisheries from Bangladesh Agricultural University and graduated with honors! After, he went on to obtain two Masters degrees, one in Fisheries Biology and Limnology, from Bangladesh Agricultural University, and the other in Marine Sciences, from the University of Ryukyus in Japan. Finally, Dr. Rahman received his Ph.D. in Marine and Environmental sciences from the University of Ryukyus. Dr. Rahman currently works as a research associate at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas. In his free time, Dr. Rahman enjoys a nice match of tennis or spending time with his two daughters.
Dr. Rahman’s research is vital to understanding the effects of hypoxia on the marine animals.  Events such as the BP oil spill have shown us the importance of understanding the effects of environmental accidents on the environment.  Dr. Rahman gave the interviewers a tour of his lab facilities and gave an enjoyable interview.