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Florida Gulf Coast University

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Student Involvement


Ashley Brandt

Undergraduate student, Florida Gulf Coast University

Ashley is an undergraduate student in the Marine Science program at FGCU. Ashley did her senior research on disease intensity of sea fans in the Florida Keys, and has since been an essential member of the dive team for CiguaHAB studies. Her responsibilities include conducting photo transects and analysis by Coral Point Count for seasonal changes in benthic cover. Ashley’s research interests fall within the field of coral reef ecology, including coral health and disease.

Lacey Heine

Graduate student, Florida Gulf Coast University

Lacey works as the Laboratory Manger in Dr. Parsons’ lab, coordinating sampling trips to the Florida Keys, coordinating lab work, and supervising other lab staff. Her duties specific to CiguaHAB include scientific diving, boat captaining, ciguatoxin extractions, cytotoxicity screening by N2a, Gambierdiscus counts in field samples, isolation and culturing of Gambierdiscus, and fish collections for toxin analysis. Lacey’s research interests involve the different preferences and/or growth responses exhibited by Gambierdiscus species in response to macroalgal hosts, macroalgal diet preferences of herbivorous fishes, and the role that these variations play in adding complexity to toxin flux scenarios.

Alex Leynse

Graduate student, Florida Gulf Coast University

Alex is involved in both field and laboratory CiguaHAB activities in Dr. Parsons lab. As a member of the dive team for Florida Keys sampling, Alex is involved in all aspects of the field work, including macroalgal sampling and trapping/spearing fish for toxin analysis.  His lab duties include Gambierdiscus counts in field samples, isolation and culturing of Gambierdiscus, and nutrient analysis of water samples. Alex’s graduate research involves determining nutrient source effects on growth rates of different Gambierdiscus species.

Katie Pitz

Graduate student, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Katie is a second year graduate student in Dr. Anderson’s lab. She is working on designing FISH probes to detect Gambierdiscus at both the genus and species level. Her interests include the genetic basis for diversity within Gambierdiscus and elucidating seasonal benthic community dynamics.