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Students win presentation awards at Bays and Bayous

By: Melissa Schneider / Published: Dec 08,  2016

The Mississippi-Alabama Bays and Bayous Symposium Program Committee is announcing the winners of the 2016 Mike deGruy Bays and Bayous Symposium Student Presentation Awards. Graduate students studying coastal and marine sciences competed for the awards in two categories: oral presentation and poster presentation.

Students in the oral presentation competition presented their research on Nov. 30 as part of the larger Mississippi-Alabama Bays and Bayous Symposium in Biloxi, Miss. They gave 15-minute PowerPoint presentations that were followed by a 5-minute interactive question-and-answer session with the audience.

Judges evaluated the students based on several criteria including presentation style, audiovisuals, organization and timing, understanding of subject matter and clarity of descriptions of their research methods and results.

The student award winners for oral presentations are:

  • First place ($500): Erin Bohaboy, a Ph.D. student at the University of South Alabama/Dauphin Island Sea Lab and a Sea Grant-National Marine Fisheries Service population and ecosystem dynamics fellow, for “An assessment of spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus) stock status in Alabama waters.” She performed the first age-structured stock assessment of spotted seatrout in Alabama, presented evidence of environmental influence on stock dynamics and suggested that this important recreational stock may be overfished.
     
  • Second place ($250): Trenton O'Neal, a second-year graduate student working toward his master’s degree in biology at the University of South Alabama, for “Identification and characterization of bacterial genes utilized in Triclosan degradation.” He evaluated the ability of naturally occurring bacteria to degrade the environmental contaminant Triclosan. His work employed molecular genetic approaches.
     
  • Third place ($150): Virginia Fleer, a Ph.D. candidate at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Lab, for “Examination of trophic relationships affecting oyster reef restoration success in the Mississippi Sound.” She employed a mesocosm approach to understand the trophic relationships of the fauna inhabiting oyster reefs. Her work will inform management of these habitats by helping to understand how oyster predation is determined, in part, by habitat substrate.
     
  • Honorable mention ($75): Molly Miller, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of South Alabama, for “Subtle temperature differences may well determine who wins: A story of three submerged aquatic plant species.” She evaluated the thermal optima of three species of submerged aquatic vegetation to understand how temperature patterns in a changing thermal regime will determine the flora characteristics of ecosystems.

There are three student award winners in the poster presentation category. The judges evaluated the poster presentations on presenter knowledge and enthusiasm, poster organization, project introduction, research methods, results, conclusion and audiovisuals.

Students who will receive awards for their poster presentations include:

  • First place ($350): Justin Blancher, a master's student at the University of Southern Mississippi, Division of Marine Science, for “Assessment of coastal elevation changes using unmanned aerial systems.” He evaluated the utility of drone (unmanned aerial systems) to evaluate landscape change of coastal ecosystems. He showed that such technology has promise and is cost effective.
     
  • Second place ($125): Alex Rodriguez, a master’s student with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab/University of South Alabama, for “Green sea turtle grazing pressure in a Florida bay.” She documented the role of green sea turtle grazing on the sea grass habitats. Her work documents how impacts on sea grass habitats will increase as green sea turtle populations increase.
     
  • Third place ($50): Amy J. Mallozzi, Louisiana State University, a second-year master’s student in Louisiana State University's Department of Oceanography and Coastal Science, for “Impacts of coastal acidification on the structure of Louisiana phytoplankton communities.” She evaluated the role of ocean acidification and showed, using controlled experiments, that the impacts of increased carbon dioxide were sensitive to the taxonomic composition of the phytoplankton community.

The Mike deGruy Bays and Bayous Symposium Student Presentation Awards are named in memory of Mobile, Alabama, native Mike deGruy, who was a marine biologist and conservationist. As an award-winning filmmaker and television host, he specialized in underwater cinematography and had a passionate love for oceans and educating people about them. deGruy died in 2012 in a helicopter crash in Australia.

“He would be honored, maybe a little embarrassed, but ultimately thrilled,” said Mimi deGruy about her late husband and the award that bears his name. “Not so much that it be named after him, but that the awards exist in the first place. He always felt strongly about the importance of engaging young people in marine science, and just in relationship with the ocean. He lived to do that.”

Mike deGruy thought that far too few resources were dedicated to understanding and exploring the ocean, she said.

“Particularly after the oil spill in 2010, he was really struck and appalled, actually, by the amount of money and resources dedicated to pulling things out of the earth and out of the ocean, the amount of money spent doing that versus the amount of money spent understanding and caring for the ocean,” she said. “He just was enraged and really determined to bring that to people’s attention, but also to try to do something about it. I think the best place to start is to get kids involved and young scientists involved and encouraging them to pursue study of the oceans and marine science and the coastal habitat understanding. So, this is exactly what he’d be advocating for, so it’s great.”

Mike deGruy held a bachelor’s degree in marine zoology from North Carolina State University. He also studied for three years in a marine biology Ph.D. program at the University of Hawaii.

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