Smithsonian postdoctoral fellow joins FIU faculty, visits Bermuda for research

Dr. Justin Campbell began his career at FIU in 2006 working on tropical seagrasses as a PhD student with Dr. James Fourqurean’s lab. After graduating in 2012, he became a Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History postdoctoral fellow.

More than a decade later, he has returned to FIU as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and a researcher in the Institute of Water and Environment’s Center for Coastal Oceans Research.

His recent research has focused on how marine ecosystems, specifically seagrasses and coral reefs, are impacted by human driven changes in climate. The importance of seagrass meadows, particularly their ability to store tons of carbon and prevent it from reentering our atmosphere, motivates Campbell. 

Travelling throughout the Western Atlantic, he has established a network of 13 different sites in the Caribbean, northern Gulf of Mexico and Bermuda to study the future health of the region’s seagrass meadows. He uses a series of identical experiments to understand how changes in light and temperature at different latitudes influence the way seagrasses respond to climate-driven pressures, namely, increases in grazing by tropical herbivores.   

On a recent trip to one of his sites in Bermuda, Campbell and Fourqurean documented the effects that tropical herbivores are having on the health of these nearshore meadows. Field observations were conducted and samples were collected and returned to FIU for further analysis in the laboratory. 

“Bermuda is a unique site in our network, because its high latitude subjects it to some of the lowest light levels and temperatures relative to our other sites,” says Campbell. “It will be interesting to use the data generated by this comparative network to understand how latitudinal position influences seagrass response to increased grazing”.   

The research that Campbell and others in the Institute are pursuing will help protect and conserve seagrass meadows and other vulnerable and invaluable ecosystems. Campbell’s seagrass project is supported by the National Science FoundationSmithsonian National Museum of Natural History and Florida International University.