As a master’s student working in Dr. Tracey Sutton’s Oceanic Ecology Laboratory at Nova Southeastern University (NSU), I am fulfilling a childhood dream of studying deep-sea fishes. My thesis research focuses on describing the diet and ecology of the family Melamphaidae, otherwise known as "bigscales," whose ecology remains unknown for the Gulf of Mexico. By using data and specimens collected during DEEPEND cruises, my project aims to use gut content analysis to evaluate evidence that Melamphaidae may represent a missing trophic linkage to gelatinous zooplankton and the poorly understood “jelly food web.” Currently, gelatinous organisms exist as a “black hole” in our understanding of deep-pelagic trophic structure. Although we know gelatinous organisms are a significant sink for organic matter and carbon, how the carbon permeates through, or reincorporates into, the food web post-consumption by gelatinous organisms remains unresolved.
In addition to my thesis, I am a Graduate Research Assistant for Dr. Sutton in the Oceanic Ecology Laboratory. I perform various tasks for DEEPEND, such as collection and database maintenance, organizing and providing requested DEEPEND data, and collaborating with other members of the DEEPEND Research Consortium.