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Florida Gulf Coast University

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Research Team


Michael Parsons

Florida Gulf Coast University
Fort Myers, FL

Dr. Parsons (PI) is a Professor of Marine Science at FGCU with a background in phytoplankton ecology. He has been involved in ciguatera and coral reef research since 1999, with particular interest in studying how Gambierdiscus interacts with other epiphytic organisms and how it responds to changing environmental conditions.  In CiguaHAB, the primary duties of Parsons include:

  • Overall project coordination and interaction with ECOHAB program managers
  • Field sampling and surveys at Tier 1 site (Florida Keys)
  • Field sampling and surveys at Tier 2 site (Bahamas)
  • Sample enumeration and cell isolations
  • Assistance with cytotoxicity screening
  • Physiological experiments (nutrients)
  • Model design and testing



Don Anderson

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole, MA

Dr. Anderson (co-PI) is a Senior Scientist in the Biology Department of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He has been studying harmful algal blooms for over three decades.   Anderson's research utilizes approaches ranging from molecular and cellular studies of toxin genetics and regulation to the large-scale oceanography and ecology of the blooms. He has worked on ciguatera, as well as several other HAB poisoning syndromes, and has been the lead PI on three large regional, multi-investigator projects.  In CiguaHAB, the primary duties of Anderson include:

  • Assistance with project coordination
  • Planning and coordination of field sampling and surveys at the St. Thomas Tier 1 site
  • Collaboration on DNA sequencing efforts
  • Planning and coordination of  physiological experiments on cultures



Deana Erdner

University of Texas, Marine Science Institute, Port Aransas, TX

Dr. Erdner (co-PI) is an Assistant Professor of Marine Science at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute.  Her general area of expertise is the molecular physiology and ecology of phytoplankton; for the past decade her work has focused on toxic dinoflagellates.  She is studying the connectivity of Gambierdiscus populations to understand how geographically disjunct populations are related, if there is ongoing exchange between areas, and if the range of this species is expanding.  Her primary duties in CiguaHAB include:

  • Development of microsatellite markers for Gambierdiscus spp.
  • Coordinating Tier 2 field sampling at Flower Gardens Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS)
  • Establishing cultured Gambierdiscus isolates from FGBNMS and oil platforms
  • Genotyping of Gambierdiscus cultures
  • Population genetic analysis of Gambierdiscus



Ron Kiene

University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL


Dr. Kiene (co-PI) is a Professor of Marine Sciences at the University of South Alabama (USA) and a Senior Marine Scientist III at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL).  He is a microbial biogeochemist with interests in studying the production and cycling of key metabolites produced by marine phytoplankton, particularly those metabolites involved in physiological stress responses. The primary duties of Kiene on the CiguaHAB project include:

  • Supervision of graduate students working jointly with co-PI Alison Robertson at the FDA
  • Field sampling and surveys at Tier 2 sites (oil & gas rigs off Alabama)
  • Carrying out ad-hoc experiments on relationship between ciguatoxin production and dimethylsulfoniopropionate production by Gambierdiscus



Yuri Okolodkov

University of Veracruz, Mexico


Yuri Okolodkov is an Investigador Titrular “C” in the Laboratorio de Botánica Marina y Planctología in the Instituto de Ciencias Marinas y Pesquerías at the Universidad Veracruzana.  He has been studying dinoflagellates for over a decade from the Arctic, Antarctic, Caribbean, and coastal waters of the southern Gulf of Mexico.  He has expertise in dinoflagellate taxonomy and ecology, and has been working on benthic dinoflagellates of Mexican coastal waters for the past several years.  Okolodkov’s primary responsibilities in CiguaHAB include:

  • Field sampling and surveys at Tier 2 sites (Yucatan, Veracruz)
  • Gambierdiscus cell isolations
  • Dinoflagellate taxonomy



Mindy Richlen

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole, MA

Dr. Richlen (co-PI) is a Research Associate in the Anderson lab at WHOI.  Her background includes research on the ecology and physiology of dinoflagellates associated with ciguatera, as well as work on the taxonomy and molecular biology of Gambierdiscus.  In CiguaHAB, the primary duties of Richlen include:

  • Diversity and taxonomy of Gambierdiscus spp. at Tier 1 and Tier 2 sites
  • Population genetics and spatial connectivity of Gambierdiscus in the GCR.
  • Sample enumeration and cell isolations
  • Physiological experiments (temperature, light, salinity)



Alison Robertson

FDA Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory
Dauphin Island, AL

Dr. Robertson (co-PI) is a Research Chemist at the U.S. FDA Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory with a background in biochemistry, pharmacology, and natural products chemistry. She has been involved in HAB research for the last 12 years with a specific interest in trophic transfer and mechanisms of toxicity, bio-conversion, and bio-accumulation, including molecular mechanisms of resistance in fish and shellfish. Robertson's primary duties include the following:

  • Coordinate field sampling and surveys at Tier 2 sites in the Gulf of Mexico (off the coast of AL, MS, LA) with the assistance of co-PI Kiene
  • Cell isolations and enumeration of dinoflagellates from field samples collected from Tier 2 sites in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
  • Cytotoxicity screening of dinoflagellate cultures, field isolates and fish collected from all Tier 1 and Tier 2 locations throughout the study period
  • Confirmatory toxin analysis and chemical profiling by LC-MS/MS



Tyler Smith

University of the Virgin Islands
St. Thomas, USVI

Dr. Smith (co-PI) is a Research Assistant Professor at UVI with a background in coral reef ecology. He has been coordinator of the the US Virgin Islands Territorial Coral Reef Monitoring Program since 2005, which incorporated ciguatera research in 2007.  He is interested in the bio-physical triggers of Gambierdiscus abundance and toxicity with the coral reef and specializes in the spatio-temporal dynamics of coral and macroalgal demographics.  The primary duties of Smith in CiguaHAB include:

  • Coordination of field sampling and data outputs for the four primary field sites in St. Thomas
  • Model parameter assimilation and output evaluation