Friday, June 17, 2016

Featured Scientists: LaTreese Denson and Sennai Habtes!

Today we'd like to introduce you to two collaborators that we've had the pleasure of working with for many years, LaTreese Denson and Sennai Habtes! 

LaTreese first teamed up with the FORCES lab in the summer of 2009 when she completed her Hollings Scholar internship in Miami. We were thrilled when she returned to Miami last year to start her PhD at the UM Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS), funded by the NOAA LMRCSC Fellowship
LaTreese shared with us about herself: "Since this is my first year, I currently take classes and experiment with data (e.g., fish abundance, environmental indices, etc ) and different population estimation models to help figure out what I will be using for my dissertation. At this point I basically sit inside all day and read. On the cruise, I am hoping to get more experience with data collection methods for the ecology of larval fish so that I have a better understanding of the quality of the data that is available for my population models. I also just want to be outside/at-sea.

Her research: "I am interested in modeling fish populations and the effect oceanography may have on their dynamics. Modeling fish populations and estimating their abundance is like putting together one of those insane 1000 piece puzzles with a three year old. The pieces might be everywhere or even missing, there is probably a lot of jamming of miss match pieces together and you won't finish it as soon as you thought but eventually you get close to putting the edges of the puzzle together. In the end its great because even those small steps are huge when you consider the magnitude of the problem."

We love LaTreese's passion and curiosity for marine science! Be sure to check out her personal blog as well, where she's currently sharing her own experiences on the Nancy Foster!

Dr. Sennai Habtes has been an honorary member of the FORCES lab since 2009 when he participated in the Spring SEAMAP plankton survey, and then throughout his PhD studies on larval bluefin tuna. He is now an Assistant Research Professor of Biological Oceanography at the Center for Marine and Environmental Studies (CMES) at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI).

Read more about Sennai's research! "As a professor at UVI, my time is split evenly between research, teaching, and running the Coastal Oceanography lab for UVI-CMES. My research falls primarily within the fields of fisheries oceanography and zooplankton ecology and is focused on using time series data to study patterns in, and impacts to marine organisms in tropical and subtropical regions. This often requires the development and analysis of data products from satellite, airborne and in-situ oceanographic sensors to understand large marine ecosystems at synoptic spatial and longer temporal scales. Here at UVI I am interested in studying the physical processes and environmental variability in coastal and pelagic ecosystems surrounding the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and to determine how these factors affect the abundance and distribution of marine organisms. In particular I am interested in larval fish and zooplankton, which are important life stages for most commercial and recreational fisheries. This information can be used to develop better tools for ecosystem based management and fisheries decision support systems. The Coastal Oceanography Lab or “Ocean Lab,”  is involved in a range of oceanographic research activities surrounding the USVI, including management of two coastal ocean buoy systems which are part of the CARICOOS buoy network, deployment and recovery for a host of oceanographic sensors used in conjunction with marine research for the Virgin Islands Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (VI-EPSCoR), and a time-series of zooplankton and oceanographic data used as part of an ecosystem analysis project within Brewers Bay, on St. Thomas. In addition I teach courses on Ecological Research Methods for the Masters for Marine and Environmental Studies program at UVI and a course in oceanography for the undergraduate BS/BA programs in Marine Biology and Environmental Sciences for UVI."

Goals for this cruise: "Beyond simply getting to interact with the cool and amazing scientists in the FORCES lab at NOAA SEFSC and Physical Oceanography Division at NOAA AOML, I am collecting zooplankton in conjunction with the surveys on larval reef fish to understand how oceanographic conditions affect patterns in zooplankton abundance, distribution, and community composition. In addition this data can be used to understand over time if there are changes in Caribbean zooplankton communities and to asses how this may impact larval fish habitat suitability and survival."
Sennai is excited for the waterspout that came near the ship!

We are grateful for the time we've had with LaTreese and Sennai, and look forward to collaborating with them for many years to come!

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