On October 25th, MEC partner the Florida Institute of Oceanography hosted the inaugural Florida Marine Science Symposium at the FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute! This event brought speakers from all over Florida to discuss their current research projects. The symposium opened with sessions on Hurricane Irma’s impact to Florida’s coastal habitats. A colleague from Tom Moore’s NOAA Coral office surveyed coral reefs and nurseries, some of which lost 100% of their nursery stock. What they also found was a large number of sponges that were clogged from the sedimentation that Irma brought along with her strong currents. The NOAA office estimates that all 400,000 of registered lobster traps in the Keys are now marine debris.

    The rest of the symposium was divided into a morning and afternoon session, each with two separate talks happening simultaneously. Holly Greening told participants about her research in evaluating, or assigning economic value to, Tampa Bay. The Bay was declared biologically dead in the 1970s by many environmental agencies, but decades-long restoration projects have risen its value to $22 billion dollars per year. This number includes the dollars that recreation, tourism, and commercial fishing bring in because of the now healthy watershed.

    Dr. Dean Grubbs of Florida State University spoke in the afternoon about his research in elasmobranch ecology. He began with facts about species found in coastal Florida and in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico. While most of his work is based in Florida, he has had a huge part in efforts to reduce consumption of the threatened cownose ray in the Chesapeake Bay. He’s also been a pioneer in smalltooth sawfish research and showed us video of him observing the first documented live sawfish birth!

    These three were just some of the wonderful presentations at the inaugural Marine Science Symposium. We hope to see just as many quality research projects at next year’s Symposium!