Ph.D. students go beyond the surface at FLL Boat Show

Every year, the Ft. Lauderdale Boat show exhibits a vast array of the industry’s latest boats and yachts of all sizes plus a myriad of marine products and accessories to enhance the nautical lifestyle.

Beyond the surface, there is an educational component where over the course of four days, multiple scientists and researchers share marine projects that are protecting our most valuable resource and fueling tomorrow’s growth.

Dr. Elizabeth Whitman talking about sea turtles at the boat show.

Heithaus Lab memberElizabeth Whitman talked about the effects of predation risk and invasive seagrass on Caribbean green sea turtles.

Green turtles are endangered on a global scale, but conservation efforts are leading to increases in some regional populations. Whitman explores the factors affecting the feeding behavior and habitat use of Caribbean green turtles, whose primary food source is seagrass, using in-water and aerial drone video surveys of their distributions and behavior across multiple contexts. Her research suggests that the effects of food availability and nutrient content, predation risk, and environmental stressors such as an invasive seagrass species on green turtle behavior will determine, at least in part, the trajectory of their populations and their role in seagrass ecosystems.

Student, Katie Flowers talking about sharks and rays at the boat show.

Ph.D student, Katie Flowers touched on shark and ray science at FIU and how the Predator Ecology & Conservation Lab is making a difference for sharks, rays and reef fish around the world.

With some shark and ray populations declining rapidly, researchers estimate one quarter of all species are at risk of extinction. Recent advances in tagging and survey technologies have vastly improved our ability to study these animals in the wild. The College of Arts, Sciences & Education is at the forefront of this research, using cutting-edge methods to positively impact conservation including the recent protection of all ray species in Belize. We have developed a new genetic tool that quickly identifies threatened species in shark fin imports at the border and we work with local stakeholders through Global FinPrint to identify key areas for sharks and rays on coral reefs around the world.

South Florida is known as the Marine Research Hub. Our students, researchers and faculty are providing the science to ensure oceans remain healthy. We’re solving problems around the world while learning more about the ocean and how we can protect it.

See a glimpse of our research in this video.

Katie Flowers and Elizabeth Whitman contributed to this article.