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  • September 08, 2023 2:22 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Maria Harvey will be speaking about her research on whale sharks in Hawai'i through her organization Hawai'i Uncharted Research Collective (HURC). HURC was originally formed in 2017 as a citizen science effort to gain valuable insight in the movements of whale sharks seen in the state. Through their current research projects they aim to aid in local and global conservation efforts for an elusive endangered species. Come learn about their research, local threats, and their ongoing projects. Learn more now at:

         Photo by Jim Ward

                 Photo by Deron Verbeck  


    Photo by Ash Wilhem


                                                                Photo by Jordan Lerma

  • September 07, 2023 7:00 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Michael Middlebrooks, Ph.D., is an invertebrate zoologist and an advocate for the tiny wonders of the animal kingdom. He is an avid scuba diver and passionate about underwater exploration. His enthusiasm for sharing the world of micro-fauna is evident in his talks about the small but spectacular snails, shrimp, and sea slugs that make up a just a fraction of the underwater animal kingdom. He is an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Tampa where he teaches hands-on courses in Invertebrate Zoology, Global Sustainability, and Coral Reefs. His classes feature photographs of marine invertebrates that he has taken during his adventures in underwater exploration around the world.

    In Dr. Middlebrooks’ academic research, he uncovers the intricate relationships that colorful “lettuce” sea slugs have with the food they eat.  Specifically, he focuses on the behaviors of photosynthetic or “solar powered” sea slugs which can steal chloroplasts from the algae they eat and store them inside of their own cells to make energy. Dr. Middlebrooks also conducts research on seagrass restoration and examines the animal communities that live in, and depend on, seagrass beds. 

  • July 19, 2023 1:20 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Kelly McCorry is the Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards Sea Turtle Program Manager. She has her Bachelor of Science in Marine Science that she earned from Coastal Carolina University. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, she grew a passion for the ocean and wildlife conservation from a young age. Visiting the Jersey shore in the summertime and fishing trips with her dad inspired her to want to pursue a career in Marine Biology. After moving to South Carolina for college, she worked as an assistant to a Shark Research Grad Student, as well as a Sea Lion Trainer. Kelly learned the concepts of the psychology behind animal care, and shortly after moved to Sarasota, Florida to pursue working with Manatees and Sea Turtles studying their behavior. Kelly moved to the east coast of Florida to continue her work with Manatees, assisting the Florida Fish and Wildlife with Manatee Rescue, and Research efforts. She continued her career working at the Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society. Here she led a team as a senior Zoologist working with large carnivores and Florida native species, such as Florida Panthers, and Black Bears. Kelly got involved with a National Geographic Wildlife Photographer, Carlton Ward Jr, to assist with Florida Panther camera trapping and conservation in the Florida Everglades for a recent film Path of the Panther.

    With over 10 years of a conservation-based background, Kelly brings her passion for wildlife and conservation to the Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards. Responsible for outreach, and educational events supporting the mission of Sea Turtle Rehabilitation, her main goal is to inspire the community to be stewards for the coastal environment here in Florida. Established in 1984, Gumbo Limbo Coastal Stewards is a 501c3 non-profit organization who has funded the mission of Sea Turtle Rehabilitation, in collaboration with the City of Boca Raton and the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. They continue to fund the rescue, rehabilitation, research, and release of sick and injured sea turtles, and raise awareness about these endangered species and the efforts we are doing to save them.

  • May 17, 2023 12:58 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Now an Education Ambassador, Tim Barker spent four expeditions aboard the Ocearch M/V Ocearch alongside a diverse international team of scientists in the pursuit of studying North Atlantic Great White Sharks. While traveling the eastern seaboard and visiting varying ocean habitats Tim assisted with a continuing study of 20 sharks ranging from juveniles of five feet in length to adults stretching beyond fifteen feet. As an organization Ocearch has tagged 92 White Sharks in the North Atlantic and provides data for Ocearch over 400 animals around the world.

  • April 20, 2023 5:39 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Chelsea Bennice is a marine biologist and science communicator. Her research interests include animal behavior and ecology, with an expertise in octopus biology. She earned a B.S. from The Ohio State University, and a M.S. and Ph.D. from Florida Atlantic University. She is a postdoctoral research fellow at Florida Atlantic University’s Marine Lab and serves as a lead scientific diver and board member for the Scientific Diving and Boating Safety Committee. Chelsea collaborates with scientists around the world on octopus projects to advance basic and applied sciences. 

    Her “octo-topics” include the octopus skin microbiome, behavior, genetics, and morphology. Chelsea uses innovative science tools such as a 24 hour camera, the octopus monitoring gadget (OMG), and a floating lab to aid in answering research questions. Her research is highlighted in popular articles and scientific publications, on podcasts, and in ocean documentaries. She has been studying and photographing octopuses for over 10 years, and with over 1000 hours of underwater research, she has been dubbed “Octo-Girl” by the local diving community. Chelsea is an advocate for bridging scientists and the community. Her responsibilities at the FAU Marine Lab also include overseeing public education/outreach projects and mentoring students in the Glenn W. and Corneila T. Bailey Marine SEA Scholars (Science, Education and Arts) program. She serves as the lead scientific advisor for the nonprofit, OctoNation®, whose mission is to inspire ocean exploration and conservation by understanding octopuses. In her free time, Chelsea likes to get outside, get in a good workout, SCUBA dive, and practice underwater photography. She is  also enjoying her newfound hobby of tropical plant keeping. At the top of her bucket list is swimming with sperm whales!

  • April 06, 2023 7:00 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Shana Phelan, owner/operator of Pura Vida Divers in Riviera Beach, holds degrees in both Marine Biology and Environmental Science from the College of Charleston in South Carolina, and a Masters Degree in Coastal Environmental Management from Duke University.  Shana’s passion for protecting marine life extends far beyond diving. She served as a Marine Biologist and Researcher at the Loggerhead Marine Life Center, studying endangered and threatened sea turtles, including the elusive Leatherback.  In 2002, Shana was interviewed by The Discovery Channel in regards to her research, and in 2005 she worked with WIDECAST to create a Sea Turtle Trauma Response Field Guide, which is now used throughout the Caribbean.  

    Currently, Shana is the Administrator of the Palm Beach County Diving Association.  As part of her efforts to promote marine conservation, Shana volunteers as the Diving Vice Chair for the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative, and previously served as an appointee to Palm Beach County’s Artificial Reef and Environmental Enhancement Committee.  In 2022, Shana was awarded the Marine Conservationist of the Year by the Florida Wildlife Federation and the November Seiko Sea Hero of the month for her efforts in Goliath Grouper conservation.

    Growing to more than 8ft and 800lbs, the Goliath Grouper is the largest grouper species in the Atlantic ocean.  Historically overfished, the Goliath Grouper fishery was closed for harvest in 1990 in an effort to let stock levels rebuild.  For more than a decade, Shana and other diving community members have worked to keep the FWC from reopening the Goliath Grouper fishery to harvest.  Tune in to learn more about this ocean giant, its history and management in Florida waters, where conservation efforts are today, and how you can be involved.

  • March 02, 2023 7:00 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Carole Marshall has been collecting shells since she was a young girl. Digging in the mud on the Rock River in Newville, Wisconsin she found snails she now knows are Viviperous georgiana. Her mother introduced her to sea shells after a stay on Fort Myers Beach and though it was not quite love at first sight, it became so, when she found her first shell on the beach. A baby’s ear, lying on the sand. Carole thought her mom had put it there for her to find.

    Her quest for knowledge came with a share day at a club meeting in Schaumburg, Illinois. A lady who was a guest at the meeting asked if she knew of the Chicago Shell Club. Her surprised response was “There are clubs for people who collect shells?!!! That was in 1965 and her mom, dad and she all joined that club.

    After planning a move to the West Palm Beach area in 1970, Carole wrote a fond goodbye to her Chicago friends and hoped there would be a shell club in Florida.

    Within a few weeks, a note came from the Palm Beach County Shell Club letting her know they were there and looking forward to her becoming a member.

    Carole would later become President of that club as well as President of two other shell clubs, the Broward Shell Club and the Treasure Coast Shell Club. Two special highlights of shell club participation and service was when she became an honorary member of the Broward Shell Club and when she was a recipient of the Neptunea award from the Conchologists of America in May of 2022.

    Her main passion is Worldwide Scallops, having won many awards with her exhibits. Her second passion is collecting money both paper and coins, as well as exonumia, with shells depicted.

    For the last 15 years, Carole has been writing a book about the seashells of the Lake Worth Lagoon. She complains the scientists keep moving the bar: changing names, genus and species, sometimes families and resurrecting old names and synonymizing others. She really hopes to finish this this year.

    Today, Carole will talk about mollusks, habitats, lifecycles and some interesting finds at the Lagoon.

    Carole will also bring two posters. Both are from poster sessions for the Lake Worth Lagoon Symposium. One was from 2012 and the other from 2022. There is additional information included in the posters.

  • February 02, 2023 7:00 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Karen Fuentes is the founder and director of the Manta Caribbean Project (MCP), established as a non-profit in 2015 in Isla Mujeres, México. Our collaborative work focuses on studying the devil and manta rays in the Mexican Caribbean through research, conservation, and awareness we aim to contribute to the health of mobulid species in our region.

    The MCP work with local communities, and regional government on different projects related to management, fisheries, marine debris, and environmental education in the northern tip of the Yucatan peninsula.

    The MCP is an affiliate project for The Manta Trust, Karen is also a member of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative an initiative to address ghost fishing in the oceans furthermore MCP contributed to the microplastic research projects back in 2017 with the 5Gyres Trawl share program and other management projects.

    Active Projects:
    Monitoring mobulid rays
    Fisheries: Bycatch
    Tourism Management


    Located in the northern region of the Yucatan Peninsula, within the Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve, lies the transitional area between the Gulf of Mexico and the Mexican Caribbean where every year from May to September, upwellings of nutrient and plankton rich waters attract many hungry filter feeders, including manta rays, West Atlantic pygmy devil rays and one of the largest known aggregations of whale sharks in the world!

    Current legislation forbids the landing of manta and devil rays in this region, however there are not sufficient management measures in place to enforce this ban across such a large area. Unfortunately, this manta population is under threat from fisheries that are targeting them primarily to use as bait for shark fishing. Additionally, it is feared that many manta and devil rays are also caught and killed incidentally as bycatch by fisheries targeting other species in the region.

    The MCP is a Mexican-registered non-profit organization, based in Isla Mujeres. Founded in 2013 by Karen Fuentes, to conduct research on and describe the local manta ray species, promote awareness in the local communities through educational programs, and to attain knowledge and data that can be used to develop sustainable models for the conservation of this species.

    Why is this manta population so important?

    MCP believes the manta population seen in the Mexico Caribbean to be a third, putative (yet undescribed) species of manta ray that is sympatric to the oceanic manta ray in this region. This ‘Caribbean’ manta ray appears to occupy a similar niche to the reef manta ray and is similar in size, but its dorsal colouration is a cross between oceanic and reef manta rays.

  • December 20, 2022 11:58 AM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    January's speaker is Shelby Thomas. Shelby is the Founder and CEO of the Ocean Rescue Alliance, a marine conservation and restoration nonprofit organization, that implements innovative techniques to restore marine environments. She is an expert in marine restoration and conservation, receiving her master’s in Marine Ecology and currently completing her PhD in Marine Biology with the University of Florida. She is an environmentalist and marine conservation advocate who hopes to inspire others to protect our environments. She has worked with various restoration projects including coral, seagrass, oyster, sea-urchin, and scallop restoration.

    Shelby is passionate about preserving our natural ecosystems and creating a foundation for their appreciation. Her nonprofit combines art to aid in communicating science to the public in impactful ways. The Ocean Rescue Alliance artificial reefs create complex habitat space, enable species specific restoration and serve as ecotourism destinations that combines art and culture to connect the communities they serve. She now has worked with over 25 different restoration projects and continues to conduct research in this field. Through her research and outreach, she plans to assist in conserving, restoring, and better managing our ecosystems. She would like to make a lasting impact, conserving our environments while also improving peoples lives around the world.

  • October 17, 2022 7:50 PM | Rick Dayan (Administrator)

    Stephanie Schopmeyer has a Bachelors and Master’s degree in Biology from Georgia Southern University where her interest in studying the ocean and coral reefs began and she’s been a diver since 1998. Currently, she is an Associate Research Scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Research Institute’s (FWRI) Coral Program in St Petersburg, FL. Her main roles at FWC are monitoring coral reef resources and coral health in the state of Florida, impact assessment, disease, and disturbance response monitoring, and coordinating genetic banking of Florida coral species in response to stony coral tissue loss disease. Previously, Stephanie has managed and conducted coral propagation and restoration activities at the University of Miami, assessed coral reef health in Hawaii and US Pacific territories with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and investigated the impacts of environmental stressors on seagrass species in Florida Bay while working at Florida Atlantic University.

    Coral diseases are poorly understood on coral reefs as they often include multiple pathogens and vectors. In addition, the prevalence and severity of coral diseases interact with other stressors on reefs such as climate change, water quality and biological interactions. The Caribbean is a hot spot for coral diseases and in 2014 an unprecedented disease called stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) was identified near Government Cut in Miami.

    SCTLD has spread through the entire Florida Reef Tract, affects over 20 species of Caribbean coral and has species specific rates of progression and mortality. Efforts to slow the progression of the of SCTLD include extensive research, communication and education, forms of antibiotic and probiotic treatments, and genetic rescue. Coral rescue has removed over 2500 colonies of susceptible corals and placed them under expert care in zoos, aquariums, and research facilities around the country where they will be bred to increase genetic diversity and offspring will be used for future restoration of the Florida Reef Tract.

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