Fish At Night Symposium – Day 1

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The Bulletin of Marine Science hosted an international symposium aimed at shedding light on all things, fish at night. The conference drew scientists, as well as delegates, from around the world to share their findings and discuss what fish do in the dark. The conference was held in Miami from November 17-20, 2015. Talks were, appropriately, given at night!

As a Pisces myself and a student in marine science, how could I not be intrigued by the Fish at Night logo and the conference? This was my first time attending a scientific conference as “Media.” I even got the badge to prove it!



The first session I attended was about larval fish at night. Erica Staaterman, a Rosenstiel School alumna, made an accidental discovery during her Ph.D. research. She was trying to listen to the reef at night, but heard “knocks” and “growls” within her instrument. It turns out that the Gray snapper larva was making sounds. The sounds are similar to what the adults make, but interestingly, are only heard at night. Could it be the group trying to stick together in the dark? It certainly opens up for a lot more research in the future.

A recording of Gray Snapper “knocks” and “growls” looks something like this:



The other ballroom had talks all focused on Deep and Polar Sea Fish and Fisheries. These regions have “Perpetual Night,” if you will. Tiffany Sih studies fish communities on deep reefs by installing “security cameras” on the reef. These cameras are called Baited Remote Underwater Video Stations (BRUVS). Her feeling is, “If we don’t know how much we have, how do we know how much we have to lose?” That is why she is monitoring these deep reefs on the Great Barrier Reef. Sih watches the videos, creates new records of fish, and sometimes even identifies new species.

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After a short break, it was back to the ballroom to hear about nocturnal fish behavior and ecology.


Christopher Koenig talked about the spawning behavior of Goliath Grouper. (I think the name “Goliath” is fitting for these massive fish, don’t you?)

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Spawning requires perfect conditions for the Grouper, with the peaks being at new moon in August, September, and October. Koenig collected embryos to examine in the lab, and joked with us that these 1mm embryos are “the smallest Goliath Grouper ever caught!”


I noticed throughout the talks that some fish prefer new moon phases, while others are most active or spawn during full moon phases. There are lots of interesting components to the night.


Did you know that Nassau Grouper can migrate hundreds of miles to spawn on a specific coral head? The predictability of Nassau Grouper aggregations for spawning makes them very susceptible to fishing. Kristine Stump studies their movement and behavior throughout the Bahamas in order to better understand, where they might go to spawn and how to then protect them.


A recurrent theme throughout the talks is conservation. Many of the scientists’ goals are to better understand their respective locations and species to better conserve and mitigate the area.


Have you ever tried performing surgery underwater? Did I mention that it is surgery on a lionfish? Most would steer clear of such a task, but Michael McCallister is familiar with this kind of surgery.


Lionfish are collected and tagged with acoustic tags, underwater. This makes it possible to track their movement throughout the Florida Keys. Michael has been interested in what these lionfish are doing at night, since so little is known about the invasive species. This behavior information could be useful for lionfish management.


The evening was an exciting first day of the Fish at Night Symposium! I realized the importance of having eyes in the water to understand what happens beneath the surface. Studying fish at night requires special technology and unique field practices. It also requires passion and patience.

The scientists who presented today have made great advances in their field, but there is still a lot more to do. NOAA estimates that as much as 95% of the world’s ocean is unexplored. Time to get wet and get exploring!


Back in 1951, FG Walton Smith, the founder of RSMAS, founded of the Bulletin of Marine Science, with the goal of furthering scientific knowledge of the world’s oceans. The Bulletin publishes high-quality, peer-reviewed science research from around the world. Next year, the Bulletin will publish a special issue for the “Proceedings of the 2015 International Fish at Night Symposium.”

-Viki Knapp

Viki Knapp is pursuing her Masters of Professional Science at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Weather, Climate, and Society in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences.





Faculty, Student and Alumni Updates

Professor Amy Clement Named 2015 AMS Fellow

Amy Clement 1UM Rosenstiel School Professor Amy Clement has been elected a 2015 Fellow of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), the nation’s leading professional society for scientists in the atmospheric and related sciences. The award was presented at a special reception on Jan. 4 2015 at the AMS annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.

Clement, an associate dean and professor of atmospheric sciences, leads a climate modeling research group at the UM Rosenstiel School, which aims to better understand various aspects of Earth’s climate, from Saharan dust and clouds to El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which is the largest mode of variability in the modern climate. Clement’s research focus is on fundamental aspects of the climate system, including understanding why the climate changed in the past, and predicting how it will change in the future.

Grad Student Gives Keynote at Sailing Symposium

waterlust-nsps-2 (1)Rosenstiel School Ph.D. student Patrick Rynne recently gave a keynote lecture at the National Sailing Programs Symposium in New Orleans. His talk focused on the inherent connection between sailing and the ocean and how decisions we make impact that relationship and how his cause-based organization, Waterlust, came to be and what small (or big) steps that organizations can take to help promote environmental awareness.

Patrick founded Waterlust, a student-run project aimed at inspiring the world to consider their relationship with water through online film and photography, while a student at RSMAS.

Alumna Joins MPS Program, Awarded Suncoast Emmy®

JulieHUM Rosenstiel School alumna Julie Hollenbeck recently joined the Master of Professional Science (MPS) Program team as associate director. Julie has extensive experience within and among the University of Miami community and has worked in TV broadcast journalism, communications, project management, and outreach and education.

Julie was honored in December 2014 with a Suncoast Emmy® for her work on Living Fossils, an episode from WPBT2’s original television series Changing Seas. Hollenbeck worked as an associate producer for Changing Seas.

The episode, Living Fossils, produced by Changing Seas series producer Alexa Elliott, features research on deep-sea crinoids, a flower-like animal related to starfish, urchins and other echinoderms. Crinoids can be traced back to the Paleozoic era yet very little is known about this enigmatic creature. Researchers featured in the episode explored the depths from a deep-sea submarine, filling in previously unknown details on the lives of crinoids.

Julie is also a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Exeter’s European Center for Environmental and Human Health program.

Everglades Pilot Whale Standing

As a student in the MPS marine mammal science track, I was fortunate enough to be one of the volunteers to respond to the recent mass stranding of pilot whales in Everglades National Park. I was a little apprehensive, as this was my first stranding experience. No one knew what to expect. After the early morning drive out to the Everglades, as well as an hour and a half boat ride, we arrived to the stranding site where we found about 50 pilot whales in barely three feet of water. All of the volunteers, law enforcement, NOAA officials, scientists, and even some concerned patrons huddled to generate an effective rescue strategy. It was truly inspiring to see so many people utilizing their precious time and resources in order to create the best possible outcome for the distressed whales.

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Throughout the day, I was assigned various tasks to assist with the collection of samples acquired from live whales, as well as a necropsy of an expired whale. I was fascinated by the way the veterinarian and her team effectively tagged the animals and collected important blood and tissue samples, all while hanging off of the side of a flat bottom boat! I helped record the relevant data, which was a great first-hand experience in the amount of diligence that is put into collecting the samples, as well as keeping them all organized. Observing the necropsy also opened my eyes to the complexity and importance of these operations; various tissue samples from each organ must be obtained to send out to the appropriate laboratories for examination. This way, scientists are able to maximize the number of test results generated from a single sample, which will hopefully aid in discovering the reason for the stranding event.

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After this experience, I am looking forward to being a regular member of the volunteers who respond to marine mammal strandings in southern Florida. I have a newfound respect for the scientists and veterinarians who organize these response efforts, especially after witnessing the amount of valuable scientific data that can be garnered just from one stranding incident. Our efforts to herd the group offshore on Wednesday proved to be successful, as the whales were recently spotted offshore, in deeper water, and swimming freely.

— MPS student Samantha Tufano

Photo credits: RSMAS/MPS student Maureen Duffy

Studying Abroad at RSMAS: A Student Perspective

Since studying as an international student in Adelaide at Flinders University in 2009 I have been interested in studying and working with marine mammals and more specifically within cetaceans. After graduating in July 2011, I moved to Vancouver to volunteer at the Vancouver Aquarium teaching intertidal marine biology and also working at their off-site marine mammal rescue center.  While there, I had the opportunity to work with the rehabilitation of stranded harbor seals and I also was extremely lucky to be able to help extensively with the rehabilitation of a very small juvenile harbor porpoise.


I then spent three months as an intern at Cetacea Lab on a remote island in Northern British Columbia to gain research experience on humpback, fin and killer whales.  It was while at Cetacea Lab I developed an interest in the Northern Resident Orca and since that point I have been interested in research on killer whales.

When I first made the decision to return to university for graduate school I spent a considerable amount of time seeking out universities across the world that would allow me to undertake either a specific marine mammals program or a marine biology program with faculty currently working in cetacean research. When I decided to apply to Fulbright I had already spent some time researching schools that had reputable marine biology programs all over the United States.  Having wanted to specialize in cetaceans for some time, I knew that only RSMAS provided a masters program specifically on marine mammals.  After researching further into the MPS program and finding out that it was a condensed program that could be completed in one year with an internship, I knew that it was the program that I wanted to attend.

Aaron Kirkpatrick

What does it mean to be a Fulbright scholar?  Well in terms of official requirements to apply I had to meet certain criteria set out by the Fulbright commission.   These included:

  • demonstrable ambassadorial skills with evidence of cultural sensitivity and a genuine desire to learn more about the United States and share with American citizens aspects of British culture,
  • experience and interest in a range of extracurricular and community activities,
  • leadership potential, and a desire to further the Fulbright Program and give back to your home country upon returning.

Further to this the commission looks for students who show academic excellence and students who have no prior experience living in the United States.

What does it mean to be a Fulbright scholar personally?  To me it is a great honor to be selected as a postgraduate scholar as the UK-US program is one of the most competitive exchange programs in the world.  To know that 43 previous Fulbright scholars have gone on in their careers to be awarded a Nobel Prize is a great inspiration to me.

I ultimately chose to attend RSMAS as a Fulbright scholar because I felt the marine mammal science program would give me the best opportunity to gain the knowledge and practical experience required to pursue a career in cetacean research.  The option to take an internship instead of writing a research thesis appealed to me as I have already undertaken different levels of research and felt that I would benefit more from a practical work placement.  Also, being on an exclusively marine science campus was also a big draw for me.

Aaron Kirkpatrick, MPS student, marine mammal track

Abess Center Joins Manned Submersible Hunt for Invasive Lionfish

From June 27 to 29, a five-person manned submersible, Antipodes operated by OceanGate, Inc., will take scientists on a series of dives to study the growing invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles) population in South Florida waters. The use of the submersible creates an unprecedented opportunity for real-time scientific observation of lionfish in areas below diver depth. The goal of the diving expeditions and ensuing panel discussions is to foster long-term collaboration among scientists to halt the unprecedented expansion of this species.

“We are looking forward to participating in this event because of the absolute need to understand the extent the species is spreading and how it affects these deeper environments,” said Keene Haywood, Director of Education for the University of Miami Abess Center for Ecosystem Science & Policy and the new Master of Professional Science –  Exploration Science program. “Using the submersible is a good example of basic exploration to document a problem. In the past, most manned submersible dives were for general observation or collecting. In this case, the technology is being used to look at a specific environmental problem, and try to come up with management strategies. This issue illustrates the unanticipated consequences of introducing non-native species and how its impact can go beyond areas where humans regularly visit.”

A predator known for its venomous spines, with no known aquatic predators and dramatically increased numbers in the waters of Florida, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, lionfish are creating serious threats to the ecology of the southern Atlantic seaboard. The spread of this invasive species could also have significant implications on Florida’s multi-billion dollar fishing and tourism industries.

Lionfish - Neil Hammerschlag

Lionfish – Neil Hammerschlag

“This expedition illustrates how exploration and conservation are interdependent and critical for tackling complex problems. In addition, we need to develop innovative policies for dealing with invasives. In the case of lionfish, some tasty recipes may go a long way toward getting fishing folks in the Atlantic to start targeting them for food, but we also need to explore other long term options for their elimination,” he added.

Antipodes will be launched from Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center in Port Everglades, Florida. The mission is supported by NSU and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, and will conclude on Saturday, June 29, with a panel of experts on aquatic invasive species, which will feature Haywood.

For the full agenda, click here.

MPS Alum Publishes Book About His Journey to Israel

Hug MeBorn in Cooper City, Florida, I have had a passion for science, nature, and the environment since I was a child. I grew up watching the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, and give credit to shows like “Wild Discovery,“ “Blue Planet,” and “Walking with Dinosaurs” for instilling in me an intense appreciation for nature. As I grew older, I began to study biology and soon became hooked.

As I studied marine affairs at UM from 2008 to 2012, I incorporated my love of science with my intense desire to help others. I was active in many student groups, including the student newspaper and a philanthropic organization, Random Acts of Kindness. I also honed my desire to express myself through artwork and writing, and have used science as a subject for many of my articles and paintings. My experience in nonprofit work landed me a position on the constituency board for the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at UM.

After graduating with my Bachelors of Arts, I started a blog called “The Written Blit” that showcases my artwork, my experiences, and my writings. I compiled my experiences and blog posts into my first book, “From the Blogosphere: Philosophy from My College Years.” A blend of introspective poems and philosophical essays, the book was my first epiphany. It is a coming-of-age piece that follows me as I try to make sense of myself and the world around me.

From May to December 2012, I worked for RSMAS’s Graduate Studies Office, which was my first true experience at RSMAS. I scanned, sorted, and copied files from the comfort of my own desk. As I did, I quickly bonded with my colleagues and supervisors. I fondly remember those days with the GSO team who profoundly enriched my life with their extraordinary work ethic, their interesting stories, and hilarious witticisms.

In August 2012, I lead RSMAS’ Fall orientation. This was a valuable experience that allowed me to connect with incoming graduate students. Because I was a new graduate student myself, I was able to establish a niche in the RSMAS community. Because I had spent my undergraduate period at the U, I was also able to give the incoming students advice about life in Miami.

Fall semester was a blur because I heavily invested myself in University activities. While I attended MPS events and worked for GSO, I actively participated in the Jewish community (such as Hillel and the Judaic Studies Center). At the same time, I pushed my writing to new levels through “The Written Blit.”

Birthright Cover 2

In December 2012, I traveled to Israel for the first time. When I returned in January 2013, I wrote and self-published my second book. “Birthright 2012: A Voyage into the Heart and Soul of Israel” follows my physical and spiritual journey in the Land of Milk and Honey. It is my second epiphany, the culmination of my search for identity. “Birthright 2012” combines personal anecdotes with science, history, and poetry, yet reads like a journal.

As I begin my second semester at RSMAS, I continuously strive to help others find themselves in our increasingly complicated world. I firmly believe that individuals have the power to change their circumstances for the better. I will use my experiences and my MPS degree to make that belief a concrete reality.

By: Andrew Biltman, MPS in Marine Conservation Alumnus