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Say hello to another graduate student!

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Post by Drew Mertzlufft

Heya!

My name is Drew Mertzlufft and I am pursuing a Masters degree in marine biology in the Oceanic Ecology lab at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) under the guidance of Dr. Tracey Sutton. The main goal of my thesis project is to describe the diet and ecology of pelagic juvenile scorpionfishes (suborder: Scorpaenoidei) from the Gulf of Mexico (GoM). In addition, I am creating a taxonomic key to aid in the future identification of Atlantic pelagic juvenile scorpaenoids. While the taxonomy, diet, ecology, and life history of adult scorpionfishes in the GoM are well documented, the identification methods, diet, and food web relationships of juvenile scorpionfish remain largely unresolved.

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      Drew in action (Photo:  H. Judkins)

Aside from my thesis, this is my first time out to sea on a research vessel. I must admit that it has been an extremely humbling experience thus far. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by an extremely considerate and compassionate team of highly distinguished scientists as well as the incredibly proficient and friendly crew. All of which have been helping me use the scientific method to figure out how to remedy sea sickness. Not to mention the chance to see and work with fishes that most people go their entire lives without knowing of their existence! I am very grateful to be able to assist with the collection and processing of all fishes captured during the seventh DEEPEND expedition as well as helping update the Cruise Track.

Some of my favorite animals so far:

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     Deep sea amphipod (Phronima) Photo: DM                    Lanternfish (Myctophid species)  Photo:  DM

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Cookie Cutter Shark (Isistius brasiliensis)  Photo: DM

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Dr. Heather Judkins is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. She received a Bachelors degree in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island, Masters degree in Science Education from Nova Southeastern University and her PhD in Biological Oceanography from the University of South Florida. Her research focuses on understanding the evolution, ecology, and biogeography of cephalopods with a main focus currently in the Wider Caribbean. Her role in this project includes the identification of deep-sea cephalopods, examining genetic diversity, and analysis of cephalopod ecology and distribution in the water column.

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Guest Monday, 25 October 2021