Four Florida Collegians Receive 2011 Florida Sea Grant’s Guy Harvey Excellence Awards

DAVIE, FL— MARCH 16, 2011— “The Guy Harvey Excellence Awards”, supported by the Florida Sea Grant and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, have been presented to four outstanding, young Florida students—all pursuing Master of Science degrees at Florida Universities.

In the announcement made by Karl E. Havens, Director and Professor of the Florida Sea Grant College Program at the University of Florida, the four students will receive a research award of $5,000, which will be applied towards their research on the effects the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill had on pelagic fishes in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Healthy oceans are essential for life on our planet. It is our collective responsibility to conserve the marine environment and maintain the biodiversity of the Gulf of Mexico and our oceans,” said Dr. Guy Harvey, one of the world’s leading marine conservationists. “Through the support of the Foundation’s many visionary friends and future scientists such as these students we will develop new strategies to preserve the life that remains and hopefully restore the marine life that has been destroyed.”

The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation aims to fund inspired research that seeks answers to how the oil is impacting the Gulf fisheries and other issues confronting our oceans.  Dr. Harvey is a marine biologist and has a broad network of researchers and scientific advisors.  He is constantly out on the water observing first hand the issues that fish are facing such as over-fishing and habitat destruction.

The students are:

Chelsea Bennice is a MS student in the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida Atlantic University. Her research project is entitled habitat selection among fishes and shrimp in the pelagic Sargassum community: the role of habitat architecture and the impacts of the DWH oil spill. Chelsea has a BS degree with Distinction in Evolution and Ecology from The Ohio State University. She was an eight-time member of the Dean’s List at Ohio State, a Student Scholar Athlete, and she has conducted extensive volunteer and undergraduate research work. As a researcher, she is interested in predator-prey interactions and habitat selection by marine fish, and in how understanding those dynamics might help guide sustainable management of fisheries.

Cheston Peterson is a MS student in the Biology Department at Florida State University. His research project is entitled investigating the effects of the DWH oil spill on the trophic ecology of sharks and teleost fishes of the Florida Big Bend using stable isotope analyses. Cheston has a BS degree, Cum Laude and with Honors in Biology from the University of North Carolina (UNC), Wilmington. He was a five-time member of the Dean’s List at UNC, a shark research intern at Mote Marine Laboratory, and has considerable research and teaching experience at UNC and Florida State. His research interests include the fisheries ecology of elasmo branch fishes, in particular their trophic ecology and patterns of habitat use.

Mark Squitieri is a MS student in the College of Marine Sciences at the University of South Florida (USF). His research project is entitled detecting fish oil spill exposure using elemental crude oil markers recorded on otoliths. Mark has a BS degree in Environmental Science with a Minor in Biophysics from USF Geography and Physics, respectively. He has considerable marine field and laboratory experience, both in the private sector and at USF, has been a 4-H instructor, workshop leader for the Tampa Bay Estuaries Program, and volunteer at the Florida Aquarium. His research interests focus on using stable isotope techniques in a manner that fish can be ‘live recorders’ of environmental perturbations such as oil spills.

Christina Walker is MS student in the Department of Biology at the University of North Florida. Her research project is entitled examining the effects of the DWH oil spill on four species of sharks using a biomarker approach. Christina has a BS in Biology from the University of Florida (UF). She has served as an intern at Mote Marine Laboratory, conducted independent research on sharks at the UF Program for Shark Research, and managed data for the International Shark Attack File. She is the recipient of several scholarships and awards and has presented the results of her work at professional conferences and in journal articles. Her research focuses on how molecular markers can be used to identify stress in sharks exposed to environmental pollutants.

To see a list of additional organizations supported by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, click here.

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