C.U.R.E. Mentor

B-CU’s Center for Undergraduate Research Excellence (C.U.R.E.) was established to enhance the student’s undergraduate experience by engaging in summer research opportunities with a faculty mentor.

Dr. Krejci and two undergraduates, Alyssa Stubbs and Jonathan Johnson, were selected to study the impacts of superblooms on zooplankton within the Indian River Lagoon during summer 2018.

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CURE researchers, Alyssa Stubbs and Johnathan Johnson, on site  in the Banana River, summer 2018

Project Background

The Indian River Lagoon (IRL) is a 152 mile long system on the east coast of Florida irlstretching from Ponce de Leon Inlet in the north to Jupiter inlet in the south. The IRL is divided into several subsections based on geographical features and variations in water residence time. The Banana River subsection was once considered a pristine area of the IRL, but was the starting point of an algal “superbloom” which began in winter 2010. During this period there was an 87% loss of seagrass within the Banana River (Indian River Lagoon Consortium, 2015). Changes in bacterial and zooplankton communities were also observed. Bacterial loads increased, while zooplankton species decreased and shifted from large grazer species to smaller filter feeding groups such as rotifers (Indian River Lagoon Consortium, 2015).

The IRL developed a brown tide bloom of the pelagophyte Aureoumbra lagunensis, in 2012. During the 2012 bloom in the Banana River, over 30 fish kills were documented within the IRL (Gobler et al., 2013). In 2016 a massive bloom of A. lagunensis, developed in the lagoon again leading to a hypoxic event which occurred from March 17-21 and resulted in an extensive fish kill that spanned multiple subbasins (FWC, 2018). An additional bloom began in winter 2018 in the Banana River, at cell density levels that occurred during the 2016 bloom, raising concerns of additional fish kills (Wayner, 2018).

The extensive and repeated superblooms, continued stress from a variety of anthropogenic disturbances the IRL system is on the verge or is currently experiencing an ecosystem collapse. The frequency and intensity of disturbances, may be leading to a reduction in biodiversity and abundances of critical species.

The goal of this project is to determine differences in zooplankton density between superbloom sites in the Banana River and control sites within the Mosquito Lagoon.

Project Products

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1st place finish at CURE symposium
  • Alyssa and Jonathan won 1st place for their final presentation at the CURE symposium in Summer 2018.
  • Jonathan was selected to present a poster of the project during the Florida Classic in Fall 2018 Florida Classic Poster
  • Jonathan presented his research at the ShORE Symposium in Fall 2018 and won 2nd place!
  • Jonathan continued the project will a resampling during his BI 440 course in Fall 2018. All data will be used for his senior thesis
  • Sophomore undergraduate, Lakean Mcgregor, Dr, Krejci and our geneticist Dr. Albert Hayward will begin genetic testing on the zooplankton in Spring 2018.
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Jonathan Johnson, 2nd place oral presentation, and Lakean McGregor, 3rd place oral presentation, at the ShORE Symposium November 29, 2018