DEEPEND researcher Dr. Isabel Romero awarded 2019 Early-Career Research Fellowships by National Academies’ Gulf Research Program.  Read more here.



The DEEPEND Consortium's Research Associate Nina Pruzinsky, M.S. was  recently named a GOMRI scholar and her work is now featured on the GOMRI website:

"The Deepwater Horizon oil spill overlapped with the spawning activities of many ecologically and economically important tuna species. However, the significant knowledge gap regarding early life stage tuna taxonomy and distribution makes it difficult to understand how the spill may have affected them.

As a graduate student, Nina Pruzinsky examined the abundance, distribution, and morphological characteristics of larval and juvenile tunas (Scombridae) and identified primary drivers of their distribution to help fill this gap and inform future management and conservation efforts.

Nina, who recently completed her graduate studies, was a master’s student in Nova Southeastern University’s Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences and a GoMRI Scholar with the Deep-Pelagic Nekton Dynamics of the Gulf of Mexico (DEEPEND) Consortium.

The GoMRI community embraces bright and dedicated students like Nina Pruzinsky and their important contributions. The GoMRI Scholars Program recognizes graduate students whose work focuses on GoMRI-funded projects and builds community for the next generation of ocean science professionals."

Her story can be found by clicking this link.


Congratulations Nina from the entire DEEPEND team!!





Dr. Edie Widder did it again! With her colleague, Dr. Nathan Robinson, Edie used her MEDUSA camera platform to capture video of a live giant squid deep in the Gulf of Mexico during a recent NOAA Ocean Exploration and Research-supported cruise. This is the first recording of a live giant squid in the Gulf of Mexico (Atlantic Ocean, for that matter), and only the second such filming ever. Of course, the first was done by none other than…  Dr. Widder, who also captured the first-ever footage of a live giant squid in the waters off Japan. The research cruise, entitled “Journey into Midnight: Life and Light Below the Twilight Zone,” was led by Dr. Sönke Johnsen of Duke University. Please read Sönke’s story here. Regarding DEEPEND, five of the twelve scientists onboard were DEEPENDers, including Co-PIs Tammy Frank, Heather Judkins, Heather Bracken-Grissom, Danté Fenolio, and DEEPEND Director/PI Tracey Sutton. Dr. Heather Judkins was first to identify the animal in the video as a giant squid, with this diagnosis later confirmed by DEEPEND Co-PI Dr. Michael Vecchione. Adding to the DEEPEND vibe was the fact that the cruise was conducted on the R/V Point Sur (University of Southern Mississippi, operated by LUMCON), on which all of the DEEPEND deep-trawling efforts have been based. Spectacular ship-time services, as always.

The giant squid story has been a global media sensation, featured by the NOAA Office of Exploration and Research; Discovery Channel; NY Times; Washington Post; USA Today; OCEANX; and CNN, among hundreds of others.

In addition to MEDUSA deployments, the Journey into Midnight science team had a number of other exploratory operations, including midwater trawling below 1000 m depth, ROV video transects with specimen collection, and shipboard measurements of the vision, bioluminescence, and reflectivity (color) of animals inhabiting the bathypelagic realm, earth’s largest and least-explored habitat. With respect to trawling, Dr. Sutton collected specimens for 14 ongoing projects, demonstrating the importance of sampling in addition to observation. Without such sampling, taxonomy (the science of knowing what species you are observing) would not be possible! We would instead be left wondering, “Oooh, that thing in the video looked so cool! What was it?” In total, 129 fish, 57 crustacean, and 13 squid species were collected, including many rare species, some of which we suspect are new records or new to science.

Among other scientific achievements of the cruise, Drs. Sutton and Fenolio were able to record the bioluminescence display of the Threadfin Dragonfish (Echiostoma barbatum) – something so fantastic it is hard to believe it is real.  Owing to the skilled collection abilities of the ROV pilots, many specimens made it to the surface in near perfect condition, allowing for a range of high-resolution anatomical studies. With respect to vision in the midnight zone, a primary aim of the crustacean survey was to assess the ability of deep-sea shrimps to visually identify each other (i.e., conspecific recognition). Achieving this aim included measuring eye size to body length ratios across 15 species of shrimp, modeling the distances at which their bioluminescent signals remain detectable, and predicting the appearance of these signals in context of their visual acuity.

So, from all of the DEEPEND team, our deepest congratulations to Edie and Nathan! This was a testament to your hard work and ingenuity!



The DEEPEND Consortium just had an image from their field work make the cover of one of the most significant scientific journals in the world - Science. Dr. Fenolio took the image during one of the research cruises out on the Gulf of Mexico. The deep-sea fish featured on the cover possesses highly modified eyes and the article in the journal depicts how some deep-sea fishes can see in color (it was thought they were color-blind, only seeing shades of blue). More on the fish featured on the cover: This fish, the tube-eye (Stylephorus chordatus), is known from tropical and subtropical waters across the world’s oceans. One hypothesis explaining the strange binocular eyes is that the structures serve as an adaptation helping these fish detect faint bioluminescence in the dark depths of the oceans - where this species is found. The light these animals might be looking for would be produced by small crustaceans (copepods) that they target as food items. Remotely operated vehicles and subs documenting the deep-sea fauna have captured this species oriented vertically in the water column. It is also believed that this species is part of the “deep scattering layer” (DSL) – a community of marine organisms that migrate from deeper waters toward the surface every night, where they feed in the productive epipelagic zone under the cover of darkness. At dawn, the DSL heads back down to deeper and darker waters. Interestingly, this DSL represents the largest migration of wildlife on Earth and said migration takes place every day. One other oddity involving the DSL, it is entirely reliant on ambient light conditions to begin their movements toward and away from the ocean’s surface. During an eclipse of the sun, the DSL was documented to start moving toward the surface!



On April 18th, an art exhibit was opened at the Nelson Poynter Library on the USFSP campus to highlight work that USF System researchers have been conducting related to the DWH oil spill. DEEPEND and C-Image scientists gathered with the public to discuss current findings and answer questions related to our work. It was a fantastic opportunity to share our science and link it through the arts which included twenty images taken by Dante Fenolio for the DEEPEND portion of the exhibit.




DEEPEND will be joining several other non-profit organizations focused on ocean conservation to educate fans and promote ways to save our oceans. The festival will take place in the sand on Fort Lauderdale Beach this weekend April 12-14. Fans will be able to learn about life in the deep-sea and the creatures that live there by playing some interactive games and conversing with our outreach coordinators. They will also have a chance to share their knowledge on social media in our photo booth while making a pledge to help #RockTheOcean. Be sure to get your official glow-in-the-dark DEEPEND anglerfish tattoo!

Learn more 








DEEPEND members attended and presented their research at the seventh Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science (GOMOSES) Conference held in New Orleans, LA, from February 4-7, 2019. This year’s conference theme was “Minding the Gaps: Research Priorities for Response, Restoration, and Resilience.” DEEPEND’s participation began with Director Dr. Tracey Sutton giving a presentation at the “Responding to Future Deep Oil Spills - Fighting the Next War” Workshop on Monday. On Tuesday, April Cook attended the Consortium Project Manager meeting, and Dr. Matt Johnston attended the GRIIDC Data Management meeting.

In total, there were seven oral presentations and 11 poster presentations. Isabel Romero (USF) led off DEEPEND presentations on Wednesday morning and discussed her research on bioaccumulation of PAHs in mesopelagic fishes.

Tracey Sutton, Rosanna Milligan, and Estrella Malca (all NSU) chaired Session 17: Out of the blue: what have we learned about the pelagic Gulf of Mexico, what remains unknown, and how can we use the information? NSU Research Associate, Nina Pruzinsky, was the Invited Speaker and addressed environmental drivers affecting the distributions of tuna early life stages in the Gulf. This session also included oral presentations on novel DEEPEND products by Sutton (NSU; DEEPEND oceanic fishes synthesis) and Ron Eytan (TAMUG; deep-pelagic fishes DNA barcode library). Also, Estrella Malca presented results on larval tuna growth between spawning grounds.

DEEPEND had a strong presence at the posters session as well. Genetic and molecular topics were covered by Eytan (TAMUG; molecular evidence of deep-pelagic environmental change), Joe Lopez (NSU; microbial communities reflecting diel vertical migration), and Andrea Bernard (NSU; two posters on genetic discovery of a new anglerfish genus and population genetic dynamics of lanternfish). Rosanna Milligan summarized lanternfish ecology in the Gulf. Ph.D. candidate, Travis Richards (TAMUG), presented his research on food web structure of deep-pelagic micronekton assemblages, and M.S. student, Natalie Slayden (NSU), reviewed data gaps on age and growth of deep-pelagic fishes. Undergraduate student, Austin Boutilier (FAU), summarized barreleye and spookfish populations in the GoM.

DEEPEND-associated presentations included: oral presentations by Steve Murawski (USF; mesopelagic prey/epipelagic predatory fishes connectivity thru diel vertical migration) and Yannis Androulidakis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki; observations/modeling offshore pathways of Mississippi waters with eddy influence), and poster presentations by Dr. James Ruzicka (OSU; ecosystem model studying vertical exchange processes in the GoM food web) and V.H. Wang (USM; two posters on deep-pelagic ichthyoplankton vertical distribution patterns and community assemblage structure).

Masters students from Dr. Sutton’s NSU Oceanic Ecology Lab (Natalie Slayden, Rachel Eckley, Ryan McGonagle, Drew Mertzlufft, and Brandon Brule) also volunteered at the conference, assisting with the sessions and registration.

At the closing All-Hands Meeting Dr. Sutton, along with Dr. Murawski, presented a synthesis plan for GoMRI Core Area 3 (Ecology). All in all, a very busy and productive conference!








Members of the DEEPEND Consortium presented their research at the 15th Deep-Sea Biology Symposium held in Monterey, CA September 9-14, 2018. This conference is held every three years and organized by the Deep-Sea Biology Society, brings deep-sea researchers from all over the world together to share their findings and discoveries. There were seven DEEPEND oral presentations and eight poster presentations. Our DEEPEND Consortium Director, Dr. Tracey Sutton (NSU), gave a plenary talk, entitled “On the importance of baselines in deep ocean stewardship” and also served as co-chair for the Pelagic Systems session occurring over two separate days. The Pelagic Systems session included oral presentations by Dr. Rosanna Milligan (NSU) on lanternfishes and NSU Master’s student, Ryan Bos, on microplastic ingestion by deep-sea fishes and shrimp. Other oral presentations were given by Drs. Bracken-Grissom and Danielle DeLeo (FIU; deep-sea shrimps), Drs. Joe Lopez and Cole Easson (NSU; bacterioplankton), Ph.D. candidate Travis Richards (TAMUG; deep-pelagic food webs), and M.S. student Sebastian Velez (FAU; pelagic habitat use of juvenile snappers). Poster presentations were given by Dr. Sutton (bathypelagic fish feeding; mesopelagic fish parasites), April Cook (NSU; dragonfish reproduction), Joe Lopez (NSU; bacterial symbionts of anglerfishes), and Dr. Heather Judkins (USF; cephalopods of the Gulf of Mexico).

Florida Atlantic University graduate student, Richard Jones, won two travel awards, which funded his travel to this conference. One award was granted by DEEPEND, using funds from provided by Rock the Ocean’s Tortuga Music Festival. Proceeds from this event were donated back to the non-profit organizations (like DEEPEND), who participated in this educational and entertaining event. The other travel award was granted to Richard for winning Best Student Poster at the FAU Environmental Sciences Program retreat. We are very proud to announce that Richard’s poster presented in the Pelagic Systems session won Best Student Poster by the Judge’s Committee! The poster was entitled “Ecology of the barracudinas (Paralepididae) in the Gulf of Mexico.” The Deep-Sea Biology Society awarded him a one year membership and a £100 cash prize. You can read more about his experience on Richard’s blog here. You can read the abstracts for these posters on the Deep-Sea Biology Symposium website or go directly to the pdf here.