Dr. Kevin Boswell

Marine Sciences Program

Department of Biological Sciences

I am a marine ecologist, with general interests in the ecology and behavioral dynamics of coastal and marine nekton and surface-oriented vertebrates. My research program broadly focuses on the interacting factors that mediate the distributional patterns, behavior, habitat use, energetics, and natural ecology of coastal and oceanic animals, including the implications of ecosystem variability, particularly for rapidly changing environments. To address many of these interests, my lab integrates advanced sampling techniques, such as active and passive underwater acoustics, with observations from autonomous aerial and aquatic platforms to collect high-resolution data to simultaneously describe spatial and temporal patterns of interest, ranging from individual-level interactions to broad ecosystem dynamics. The observational and analytical techniques my lab employs are robust across an array of ecosystems and animal types facilitating a high-level interdisciplinary and collaborative research program.

 

Areas of Interest:  Active and Passive Acoustics; Estuarine, Coastal, and Pelagic Ecology; Behavior; Population Biology; Habitat Loss; Oil and Gas Development; Biological Oceanography

Dr. Marta D'Elia - Post Doctoral Researcher

Marine Sciences Program

Department of Biological Sciences

I come from Italy with a degree in Environmental Science and general interests in how environmental factors structure marine organisms. I love to conduct research and travel is my passion. My experience as a researcher began at the Institute for the Marine Coastal Environment, in Sicily where I studied the behavior of fish in the Sicily Channel considering the importance of seabed properties and plankton aggregations using hydroacoustics. As part of my PhD research, I developed and applied  post-processing techniques to utilize multiple acoustic frequencies to extract data and aid in the classification of anchovy, sardine, and horse mackerel. By utilizing echo trace analysis coupled with the species-dependent back scattering properties, I was able to isolate the various species to describe the spatial distributions of these important species.  Another aspect of this research was the development and application of  statistical methods to aid in the classification, specifically focusing on classification tree and random forest methods (developed in R).

 

I am currently focusing on the application of multifrequency analyses to classify and characterize the spatial and temporal variation of the mesopelgic region (i.e., the deep scattering layer) in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Our aim is describe and quantify the acoustic signals belonging to different classes of mesopelagic species to better understand the factors that structure the patterns in mesopelagic biomass (i.e., oceanographic conditions, water mass mixing, pelagic production, etc.).

Dr. Camilo Roa - Post Doctoral Researcher

Marine Sciences Program

Department of Biological Sciences

I am an ocean and electronic engineer with experience in underwater acoustics, acoustic modeling, signal processing, and machine learning. Over the last four years with the lab, I have worked on processing the swim bladder’s backscattering response of several fish for species classification; on acoustically estimate the oil flux of marine seeps, on modeling the acoustic response of gas bubbles and oil droplets in the water column, on applying machine learning techniques to different stages of the data processing pipeline, on developing an intelligent detector and classifier of fish, based on visual images, and on leading the implementation of an ASV fleet for monitoring the health of the Biscayne Bay.

Areas of Interest

  • Underwater Acoustic Modeling

  • Seabed Geoacoustic Modeling 

  • Signal Processing 

  • Acoustic-Visual Machine Learning Detection 

  • Classification Systems 

  • Environmental Monitoring 

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Dr. Benjamin Binder - Post Doctoral Researcher

Marine Sciences Program

Department of Biological Sciences

I received my bachelor’s degree from Coastal Carolina University in May of 2010 and immediately left for the Florida Keys to begin working for Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. As an FWC biologist, I was fortunate enough to participate in a range of research projects; including long term telemetry based MPA connectivity effort in the Dry Tortugas, lionfish recolonization and removal projects throughout the Keys, and various other studies that allowed me to interact and collaborate with different agencies from the region. Most relevant to my current thesis work, we studied historically known reef fish spawning aggregations (FSAs) in the lower Keys using various acoustic technologies, telemetry techniques, and diver surveys. My thesis work is an extension of the FSA work in the Keys, focusing on using local fishermen to locate and quantify the density, spatial distribution, temporal predictability, and age structure of FSAs along the contiguous reef tract in S. Florida. Along with the spatiotemporal aspects of FSAs, I am interested in the reproductive behavior and biology of aggregating fish, and their potential to alter local nutrient cycles and influence benthic organisms. Aside from my research I am an avid waterman and hope that my research will contribute to the protection and preservation of our local fisheries resources.

Graduate Students

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Allison White

Ph.D. Student

For as long as I can remember, I've always been fascinated by marine life. As early as high school I knew that my true passion was fisheries research. Reading about the rapidly deteriorating state of global fisheries, I became determined to help improve the sustainability of fish harvesting. I began working towards this goal at Texas A&M University at Galveston, where I received Bachelor's degrees in Marine Biology and Marine Fisheries. During this time, I also completed an undergraduate research project with the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium comparing fish and invertebrate assemblages on natural and artificial reefs. After graduating, I received a Master's degree in Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. For my thesis, I examined the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of life history and productivity trends in Atlantic Weakfish (Cynoscion regalis). My thesis project happened to coincide with the stock assessment for weakfish, which provided me with the opportunity to observe the stock assessment process first hand and even participate in it.

I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Biology, focusing on the possible application of acoustics to a multispecies fishery-independent survey of reef fishes. Through this work, I am hoping to design a survey that will improve the quality and quantity of data available in the Southeast United States. Outside of my research, I am interested in diving, caving, cave diving, and generally anything having to do with fish and/or caves.

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Nicholas Tucker

Ph.D. Student

I received my Bachelor of Science from Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage. During my experience there, I had a hand in many marine science projects. I worked with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game assessing stocks of razor clams (Ninilchik) and scallops (Kodiak). I used ROV footage from NOAA to identify rates of symbiosis between basket stars and sea whips. Post-graduation I've worked with NOAA in two facets- one as an acoustic technician for the National Marine Mammal Laboratory and also as a Fisheries Observer for the National Marine Fisheries Service. Here at Florida International University, I have worked with Red Snapper identifying their relative abundance and distribution. I have also helped process some data for the DEEPEND project. 

I am currently working on my Ph.D. I have been working in both the Gulf of Mexico and the northwest Atlantic studying the spatial relationships between foraging baleen whales and their prey. In general, I would like to better understand the trophic ecology of these areas as well as develop more robust models to characterize this dynamic. 

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Savannah Labua

M.S. Student

I have been enticed by marine ecology from a very young age. As a kid, my family would travel from New York to the Florida Keys for vacations, and being able to observe such a vastly different environment compared to the upstate scenery I was accustomed to was the foundation of my interests. 

I received my Bachelor of Science from Stony Brook University (Stonybrook, NY) in Marine Vertebrate Biology. Immediately, I started working as Dr. Kevin Boswell's lab manager where I had the opportunity to be involved in numerous projects in a variety of roles consisting of but not limited to field operations, logistics management, data processing, manuscript composition, and proposal writing. While I was more than ecstatic to participate, I wanted the opportunity to contribute as an equal, rather than an employee. Pursuing graduate school was a necessity to achieve my long term research goals. 

As I shifted from Dr. Boswell's position as lab manager to NOAA contractor and acoustic consultant, I continuously applied for funding opportunities. I received the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program award in 2019 which enabled me to return to FIU as a Ph.D. student. My current research combines the use of acoustics and genomics to examine the shifts and declines of Pacific herring in Southeast Alaska. My overarching research goals are to further examine current hypotheses of continuously failed recruitment/recovery, identify the degree of shifts/declines, and illuminate any adaptive potentials that could provide ecological insight and supplement assessment models.

Savannah is currently working visiting and working under one of her committee members, Dr. Andres Lopez, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in his Ichthyology & Evolution Lab.

Haley Glasmann

Ph.D Student

Since my first SCUBA diving experience at age ten, I knew I wanted to pursue an education in marine science. In June of 2020, I completed my Bachelor of Science in aquatic biology with high honors from the University of California, Santa Barbara. My first and most memorable field experience was collecting biometric data from nesting female Olive Ridley sea turtles in Costa Rica. During my time at UCSB, I conducted research within the Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology (EEMB) department, from tropical marine ecology to fish physiology. Having interned for the Burkepile Lab with photo analysis of coral-algal interactions and the Moorea Coral Reef Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Lab with video data analysis for species interactions between herbivorous fishes surrounding coral bombies in the lagoons of Moorea, French Polynesia. I also volunteered for the Eliason Lab, where I assisted the efforts in examining the physiological thresholds of salt marsh fishes by means of respirometry and participated in the local Santa Barbara education outreach program, CURIE-osity. In 2019, I completed my AAUS scientific diver certification and secured the top internship position to assist Dr. Deron Burkepile with his research exploring the role that fishes play in nutrient cycling on coral reefs in Moorea. The culmination of my undergraduate field work and laboratory research solidified my desire to pursue a graduate program. After graduating from UCSB, I interned for the US Navy Marine Mammal Program where I assisted in the unclassified training of bottlenose dolphins and California sealions. During summer, I worked for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park leading educational tours focused on the adaptations of terrestrial African animals.   

 

As a Ph.D. student in the Boswell Lab, I am investigating the effects of anthropogenic impact on pelagic megafauna foraging strategies in relation to the diel vertical migration and bioluminescence. Using a combined approach of ecology and marine technology to examine community and ecosystem level dynamics, I will apply my research to ocean management and conservation efforts.

Research Project Leader
Lab Technicians
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Evan Mularo

I am currently working as a lab research assistant after I completed my B.S. in marine science here at FIU. During my undergrad, I began volunteering at Frost Science Museum as an aquarist. Although I learned many necessary skills from my volunteership, I knew lab work was what I was more interested in. I took Professor Boswell’s course of field methods in marine ecology during my last semester, which led me to an internship in the Marine Ecology and Acoustics Lab. This internship introduced me to the world of underwater acoustics and all of the important research our lab is conducting. Once my internship ended, I wanted a way to continue to work and grow my knowledge of this field I knew little about. Now that I am working for the lab, I am a part of multiple projects including using a sidescan to monitor the West-Indian manatee population in Biscayne Bay. I also have spent time in the Everglades where we have used an ASV to map the bathymetry of the Tamiami Canal. Once my time at the lab is over, I plan to get my masters in marine conservation or continue my work using acoustics for marine research, since it is a relatively new field with growing importance.

Andrew Natter

My name is Andrew Natter and I am working as a research assistant in the Boswell lab. I received my undergraduate degree in Marine Biology and Environmental studies from Florida Southern College where I also played baseball. During my undergrad, I studied abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica for a semester. There, I worked on a project comparing the mitochondrial DNA of Costa Rican bull sharks and blacktip sharks to their counterparts around the world. I also participated in an REU at University of Massachusetts Boston Comparing predator abundance between substrates in the Boston Harbor subtidal zone using baited remote underwater video. My use of technology in my undergrad research attracted me to the Boswell Lab where I want to gain more experience using technology to gather data. In Dr. Boswell’s lab, I will be working primarily on the Amberjack project with Dr. Benjamin Binder, and assist other lab members as needed. 

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Gina Clementi, M.S.

I grew up fishing at the Jersey shore, which inspired me to pursue an education in marine biology. I received my Bachelor of Science from the University of Miami, during which I spent my summers in the salt marshes of New Jersey studying the effects of urbanization on fishes with Rutgers University. I then attended Stony Brook University for my Master of Science degree, where I worked on several projects that focused on marine ecology and conservation, ranging from estuarine predators in temperate bays to artificial reefs off the south shore of Long Island. For my master’s thesis, I used baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS) to assess anthropogenic and environmental drivers of reef-associated elasmobranch abundance and diversity in the Caribbean. After graduate school, I worked as the lab manager of the Predator Ecology & Conservation lab at FIU, where I worked on several BRUVS, eDNA, and acoustic tagging studies. Currently, I am working in the Boswell lab on a project assessing greater amberjack abundance in the Southeast US and a permit depredation study in the Florida Keys.

 

Undergraduate Volunteers
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Giuliana Debbaudt Gabarret

Giuliana has been instrumental in assisting our lab in processing data. She has worked on a number of projects, including helping Dr. D'Elia with her work in the Everglades, working on acoustic data processing with Nick and video processing with Allison. Giuliana is a current student at FIU.

Lab Alumni

Past Postdoctoral Researchers

Dr. Guillaume Rieucau- Currently Assistant Professor at LUMCON

Dr. Laura Catano- Currently the Adjunct Assistant Professor University of Missouri, St. Louis.

Dr. Erin LaBrecque - Currently a freelance scientist

Past Students

Ivan Rodriguez-Pinto (Ph.D. student). Dissertation title: "Structure, Control, and Communication of Collective Animal Behavior in Dynamic Environments". Position: Research Scientist, Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division. Contact: ivanrodriguezpinto@gmail.com 

 

Gabriel Diaz (Undergraduate/ Lab Technician). Working as a North Pacific Groundfish Fisheries Observer for NOAA in the Bering Sea/Gulf of Alaska. Contact: gdiaz094@fiu.edu

Mark Barton (Ph.D. student). Thesis title: "Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Arctic Nearshore Fish Community and Food Web Structures". Currently a post-doctoral researcher in Joel Trexler's Aquatic Ecology Lab. Contact: mbart034@fiu.edu 

Aubree Zenone (MS student).  Thesis title: "A Comparative Study of Concurrent Acoustic and Diver Survey Data, and Fish Community Descriptions of a High Latitude Coral Reef, Florida, USA."

Currently Assistant Manager for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Coral Reef Conservation Program.

Cristina Antonio (Lab Technician). Graduated with a BS in Biological Sciences. Currently an environmental technician with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.