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Marine Science Seminars

Seminars held at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute

Departmental Seminars, 2021

Friday, September 24, 11:00 am

"Insight into the deep water region of the Gulf of Mexico: A perspective from Mexican waters"

Sharon Zinah Herzka Llona, Ph.D.
Department of Oceanography, Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education, Ensenada, Baja California (CICESE)

Seminar summary: Dr. Herzka will provide an overview into some of the research results that she and her collaborators have obtained within the CIGOM project, including studies on larval fish and zooplankton transport and community structure, diel vertical migration inferred through acoustics, and the detection of decadal-scale changes in the deep waters of the GoM.

Biographical sketch: Dr. Herzka studied for her master’s and doctorate degrees at MSI under the direction of Dr. Ken Dunton and Dr. Joan Holt, respectively. While her research focuses on marine fish ecology and isotopic ecology, she collaborates closely with physical oceanographers and biogeochemists to examine larval transport, connectivity, nutrient sources, and open water oceanography.

In recent years, Dr. Herzka has worked on various aspects of the oceanography of the Gulf of Mexico, with particular emphasis on the central deepwater region. Within the CIGoM (Gulf of Mexico Research Consortium) project (2015-2022), financed by the SENER-CONACYT Hydrocarbon fund, she coordinated a large multi-institutional research group tasked with establishing an environmental baseline for Mexico’s EEZ.  She was responsible for the integration of an extensive environmental database that includes data from 19 cruises that covered Mexican waters, as well as the monitoring of extensive seagrass meadows off Campeche and Yucatan. She also led an interdisciplinary team that developed an online platform for the management of oceanographic expeditions and the environmental database. Lastly, she coordinated the Atlas of the Environmental Baseline of the Gulf of Mexico, an 11-volume set that showcases part of the results obtained by CIGOM. Dr. Herzka is currently on sabbatical at Texas A&M University - Galveston.

Friday, September 17, 11:00 am

"ZIP9: A protein at the intersection of androgen signaling and zinc biology"

Aubrey Koch Converse, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
The University of Texas Marine Science Institute

AbstractAubrey works in a research group that recently characterized the zinc transporter protein ZIP9 as a membrane androgen receptor. The ability of ZIP9 to mediate both androgen actions and zinc dynamics is a characteristic unique to this protein and makes it a prime candidate to study in ovarian physiology. Ovarian cells produce androgens that act directly on ovarian cells and throughout the body to modulate processes critical to female reproduction. On the other hand, zinc is the most abundant transitional metal in the body and has recently been found to play an essential role in the fertilization of mammalian eggs. In this talk, Aubrey will review the group’s work on ZIP9’s role in the fish ovary, specifically highlighting how it mediates androgen and zinc signaling to regulate ovarian follicle survival and egg activation. 

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Friday, February 5, 1:00 pm, Zoom

"Microorganisms in the health and resilience of coral reefs"

Hannah E. Epstein, Ph.D.
NSF Postdoctoral Fellow 
Department of Microbiology, Oregon University
Vega Thurber Lab

Research:  Coral reef microbial ecology and its role in ecosystem health and climate resilience.

Abstract: Coral reefs are among the most extraordinary ecosystems worldwide. Now threatened by anthropogenic influences such as climate change and local human disturbances, it has become essential to identify and understand the processes that strengthen reef recovery, health and resilience. In this presentation, I will outline and discuss the role that microorganisms play in coral host and reef ecosystem health in the face of both global and local stressors, including how we may use this knowledge of the micro-scale to inform and improve restoration, conservation and management initiatives. Using two coral reef systems in the Pacific as examples, I will show time-series data on the dynamics of the coral microbiome and discuss new genetic and ecological data on the critical roles microbes play in reef resilience.

Bio: Dr. Hannah Epstein is a coral reef microbial ecologist and postdoctoral fellow in the Vega Thurber Lab at Oregon State University. Her scientific focus is on the microbial communities of tropical reef-building corals and coral reef ecosystems with an emphasis on the impacts of anthropogenic pressures that include climate change, local human disturbance and invasive species. Hannah completed her PhD in 2019 on the dynamics of the coral microbiome in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science under the supervision of Prof. Madeleine van Oppen, after which she completed her first postdoctoral position in the Baum Lab at the University of Victoria. She now holds an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology to conduct work on the impacts of invasive rat eradication on coral reef health.

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