Nina Pruzinsky 

Current position: Research Assistant for the Oceanic Ecology Lab, Seascape Ecology Lab, and Marine Microbiology & Genetics Lab at NSU

ThesisIdentification and spatiotemporal dynamics of tuna (Family: Scombridae; Tribe: Thunnini) early life stages in the oceanic Gulf of Mexico

Selected publication citation: Pruzinsky NM, Milligan RJ and Sutton TT (2020) Pelagic Habitat Partitioning of Late-Larval and Juvenile Tunas in the Oceanic Gulf of Mexico. Front. Mar. Sci. 7:257. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2020.00257

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I became a member of the DEEPEND Consortium when I started working as a Graduate Research Assistant in Dr. Tracey Sutton’s Oceanic Ecology Laboratory at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in August 2015, and I completed my master’s thesis in May 2018. During this time, I gained skills in database management, research/sample processing (e.g., deep-sea and larval/juvenile tuna identification methods), website management, and effective team working and communication skills. Through DEEPEND, I have received several research and travel grants, assisted with multiple publications, and was named an Invited Speaker at the GOMOSES Conference and a GOMRI Scholar in 2019.

Since graduating, I am working as a Research Assistant and Lab Manager in Dr. Sutton’s lab. Since I am still working with the DEEPEND Consortium, I am continuing to investigate both tuna early life stages and deep-sea organisms. I also manage the DEEPEND and NOAA-NRDA ONSAP databases, manage sample collection/processing/storage, participate in research cruises, write and collate cruise reports, and participate in outreach/education activities. Mentoring the lab’s graduate (PhD and master’s level) students and volunteers is also another aspect of my job that I thoroughly enjoy; educating students about the deep-sea is an exciting experience. It has been the most rewarding decision to attend graduate school at NSU under Dr. Sutton and to continue to work with DEEPEND. In addition to Dr. Sutton's lab, I also working as a Research Assistant for Dr. Rosanna Milligan's Seascape Ecology Lab (focusing on analyzing DEEPEND/NRDA data) and Dr. Lopez's Marine Microbiology & Genetics Lab (focusing on work with the Aquatic Symbiosis Genomics Project).



Laura Timm 

Current position: Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Pollock Lab, Computational Biosciences Program, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Colorado - Anschutz Medical Campus

Thesis:  Evolutionary and Population Dynamics of Crustaceans in the Gulf of Mexico 

Selected publication citationTimm LE, Isma LM, Johnston MW and Bracken-Grissom HD (2020) Comparative Population Genomics and Biophysical Modeling of Shrimp Migration in the Gulf of Mexico Reveals Current-Mediated Connectivity. Front. Mar. Sci. 7:19. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2020.00019 

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The research I completed in collaboration with DEEPEND focused on utilizing comparative population genomics to better understand the health and resilience of midwater invertebrates (shrimp and squid) in the Gulf of Mexico. I was particularly interested in the role of environmental factors in establishing and maintaining genetic structure in natural populations. In collaboration with other DEEPEND scientists, we integrated population genomic data and biophysical oceanographic modeling results to better understand the role of the Gulf Loop Current in connecting the Gulf of Mexico to the greater Atlantic.

My current research focuses on elucidating transmission dynamics of the parasitic trematode worm, Schistosoma japonicum, in the re-emergence of the parasite transmitted disease schistosomiasis in rural China. Utilizing the same high-throughput genomic techniques I developed in my DEEPEND research, I am analyzing population genomics of the parasites to better understand why and how the disease persists, despite decades of aggressive control measures. As in DEEPEND, this work is greatly benefited by integrating additional data, including data on genome architecture and estimates from epidemiological models of transmission. The broader goal of my postdoctoral research is to develop novel analysis methods to 1) extend the utility of data produced through reduced representation library methods and 2) probabilistically identify extended familial relationships in populations of non-model organisms lacking reference genomes.





Michael Novotny

Current position: Natural Resources Specialist at Broward County – Water and Wastewater Operations Division

ThesisThe Assemblage Structure and Trophic Ecology of a Deep-Pelagic Fish Family (Platytroctidae) in the Gulf of Mexico

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My time as a Graduate Research Assistant with DEEPEND in Dr. Sutton's Oceanic Ecology Laboratory helped refine my scientific interest and career aspirations.  Aside from the emersion into the meso-and bathypelagic ecosystems, I became familiar with environmental practices such as mitigation banks, environmental impact assessments (EIA), a multitude of monitoring techniques, and natural resource damage assessments (NRDA).  My desire to practice the fundamental DEEPEND tenants of faunal assessment, time-series analyses, and impact mitigation, upon graduation lead me to the field of environmental consulting and enforcement.

Currently, as a Natural Resources Specialist within the Compliance & Enforcement Section of the Water and Wastewater Operations Division, I am responsible for the collection of groundwater, surface water, and drinking water throughout Broward in accordance with FDEP standard operating procedures.  A variety of environmental parameters are collected at each site as determined by the permit.  The standard water quality parameters taken are temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, pH, and turbidity. Depending on the permit and collection source, various tests may be conducted to monitor nutrient concentrations, bacterial concentrations, metals, disinfection byproducts, or chlorine residuals. Beyond my work in the field, I also review environmental permits and compliance reports for consistency with federal, state, and local environmental laws, such as the Clean Water Act and the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.





Sebastian Velez

 Current position: Program Analyst as a Federal Contractor for NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement

ThesisJuvenile Population Dynamics of Families Lutjanidae and Serranidae in the Gulf of Mexico, with Respect to the Loop Current and other Hydrographic Features.

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I currently work as a federal contractor for NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) as the International Program Analyst, specifically focusing on capacity building activities in Southeast Asia. These activities aim to assist these countries in the implementation and enforcement of the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) with programs that currently encompass Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. The objective of the PSMA is to prevent, deter, and eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing by preventing vessels engaged in these activities from using ports and landing their catches. These activities require that I manage the logistics for several projects simultaneously and coordinate between multiple parties (both foreign and domestic). As a result of my previous work experience and my research as a member of the DEEPEND Consortium, I am often consulted about suspicious behavior surrounding various fishing fleets as well as providing biological context for reported catches/exports/imports of international fisheries. 




Richard Jones 

Current positionAssociate Researcher at the FAU Center for Environmental Studies

ThesisEcology of the barracudinas (Aulopiformes: Paralepididae), a ubiquitous but understudied mesopelagic predatory fish family, in the Gulf of Mexico

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Since graduating with a master's degree from Florida Atlantic University in 2018, I have continued to work at the university as an associate researcher with the Center for Environmental Studies. I have been involved with numerous projects related to coastal resilience in South Florida, working with engineers and architects to help plan resilient flood infrastructure and development standards that consider the daunting challenges posed to Florida by sea-level rise. My work involves the development of novel methods of flood control using ecological solutions, such as mangrove shorelines and constructed wetlands, to help make the south Florida urban landscape more resilient to floods while improving the quality of life for both residents and wildlife. Recently my work has been awarded funding from Florida Sea Grant. 

My work with DEEPEND has helped me tremendously in my early career, most notably by gaining experience with data management and working with a large, diverse team spread over multiple institutions. 




Matthew Woodstock

Current position: Doctoral Student at Florida International University

ThesisTrophic Ecology and Parasitism of a Mesopelagic Fish Assemblage 

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I am a PhD student at Florida International University working under Dr. Yuying Zhang ( My current focus is to develop ecosystem models of marine ecosystems (including the oceanic Gulf of Mexico) to simulate changes in ecosystems caused by changes in species’ populations and anthropogenic impacts. The objectives of these models are to assess potential changes in the trophic structure of the ecosystems when shifts in intermediate and upper-trophic level organisms are observed over time, and to assess the potential impact of proposed management decisions within the regions. Further dissertation aims are to estimate fish-mediated carbon transport by mesopelagic fishes and the role cetacean fecal matter plays in the influx of nutrients in the oceanic Gulf of Mexico. Results of these models will be useful in refining our understanding of ecosystem processes in the open ocean, and how population changes of commercial and non-commercial species can affect the rest of the ecosystem. 

Previously, I worked as a part of DEEPEND while earning a master’s degree from Nova Southeastern University. Working under Dr. Tracey Sutton, my thesis was focused on the diet and parasites of mesopelagic fishes in the Gulf of Mexico, connecting the parasite fauna of select fish species (migrators and non-migrators) to their stomach contents ( I also worked for the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program doing daily beach surveys, relocations, and excavations of sea turtle nests, and the Coastal Marine Education and Research Academy where I helped tag sharks and rays in an effort to understand the size and age structure of elasmobranch populations near Tarpon Springs, Florida. DEEPEND served as my introduction to highly collaborative research, which provided opportunities to grow in academia. I credit DEEPEND as the foundation for both my master’s and PhD projects, and hope to continue investigating the Gulf of Mexico beyond my dissertation.



Devan Nichols

Current positionALES lab research technician at Stoney Brook University

ThesisA Temporal Analysis of a Deep-Pelagic Crustacean Assemblage (Decapoda: Caridea: Oplophoridae and Pandalidae) in the Gulf of Mexico After the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill 

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I graduated from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in May of 2018 with a masters in marine biology. During my time at NSU, I worked as a Graduate Research Assistant in Dr. Tamara Frank's Deep Sea Biology Laboratory. During this time, I was also a marine sea turtle specialist with the Broward County Marine Sea Conservation program, and a naturalist instructor with the company build a field trip. After graduating from NSU, I decided to move back home to Massachusetts where I started working as both a scientific diver and an aquarist with the New England Aquarium.  

After these temporary positions ended, I was offered a position at Stony Brook University in New York as a research technician working under Dr. Joe Warren. I am currently working on a 10-year state-funded project using active acoustics to study the biology in the water column in the New York Bight. My responsibilities include being chief scientist on the night shift for our four annual research cruises, preparing scientific crew and equipment for all research cruises, maintaining the database where all graduate students and PI's upload various data from the project, writing annual and quarterly reports of our findings for the Department of Environmental Conservation, and identifying various zooplankton and fish caught on board. The skills that I obtained from working in Dr. Frank's lab with the DEEPEND Consortium undoubtedly played a role in obtaining my current position.

Working on the DEEPEND project, I gained ample experience in both identifying micronekton and zooplankton and operating as a researcher on various cruises. Additionally, my current boss also worked with DEEPEND’s acoustic sampling. Though we did not meet while I was in graduate school, this provided us with a commonality from the start. My experiences with DEEPEND while at NSU helped me prepare for my current position and will continue to do so throughout my career. I am very grateful for my time at NSU and the privilege to work as a part of the DEEPEND Consortium!




Lindsay Dollard 

Current position: Validation Analyst at Abbott Informatics 

Thesis: Characterization of the Bioluminescent Symbionts from Ceratioids Collected in the Gulf of Mexico  

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As a Validation Analyst at Abbott Informatics my primary responsibilities are to test new features and tools, investigate and identify software bugs, and generate user documentation for our laboratory information management solution. While my day to day no longer involves deep-sea organisms, I rely on the laboratory experiences as well as coding and writing skills that I gained as a graduate student working with the DEEPEND Consortium. My hope is that the product I currently support will help others process samples in a more efficient and organized manner in order to improve both the turnaround time and quality of their results.