I am currently a master’s student at Nova Southeastern University studying the age and growth of meso- and bathypelagic fishes of the Gulf of Mexico. For my thesis, I examine otoliths, which are stones located in the ears of fishes. Otoliths have increments that are similar to tree rings and can be counted and associated with age. My thesis involves developing protocols for otolith processing, examining otolith shape, investigating otolith microincrement patterns, and determining age. For deep-pelagic fishes, age and growth information is rare since these fishes live at depth (> 200 m deep). Likewise, it is unknown what otolith increments represent for these deep-pelagic fishes. It is important to understand the lifespans of deep-pelagic fishes since they play a key role in the carbon pump and are an important food source for marine mammals and economically important fishes, such as tunas and billfishes. While working on my thesis research, I have been recognized as a GOMRI (Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative) Scholar. If you would like to learn more about my research check out the link! (https://gulfresearchinitiative.org/grad-student-slayden-knows-age-is-more-than-a-number-for-oil-exposed-deep-sea-fishes/)
I am also a Graduate Research Assistant for DEEPEND working under Dr. Tracey Sutton. This has allowed me to participate on research cruises, assist with grant writing, learn data management skills, and collaborate with other DEEPEND scientists.