University Programs’ Seminar Series highlights current and ongoing research by visiting researchers, along with DISL faculty and students. The seminars are open to the community and can be attended in person or via zoom. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about what is happening in the marine science community.

Seminars are usually held on Fridays at 12 p.m. CST in the Richard C. Shelby Center for Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management Building on the Dauphin Island Sea Lab campus.

Upcoming Seminars

Friday, March 3: Dr. Rachel Gittman, East Carolina University

Seminar Title: Evaluating the coastal protection and ecological co-benefits of novel marsh-oyster restoration approaches

Dr. Gittman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology and Coastal Studies Institute at East Carolina University.

Her research focal areas include marine community ecology, restoration ecology, coastal management and policy, and sustainability science. She received her doctorate in Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014 and was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Northeastern University from 2015-2017.

Before attending graduate school, Dr. Gittman was an environmental consultant in Washington D.C. for three years after graduating from the University of Virginia in 2006 with a B.S. in Environmental Sciences with High Distinction.

Zoom Link

Friday, March 10: Dr. Jane Caffery, University of West Florida

Zoom Link

Friday, March 24: Dr. John Majoris, University of Texas at Austim

Zoom Link

Friday, March 31: Dr. Kevin du Clos

Zoom Link

Friday, April 7: Elica Moss, Alabama A&M

Seminar Title: Escherichia coli Relationship with Land Use, Seasonality and Physiochemical Parameters in a Tennessee River Tributary

Zoom Link

Friday, April 21: Savannah Swinea, Northeastern/USA/DISL

Seminar Title: Co-producing science through public participation in coastal social-ecological systems research

Savannah Swinea is a PhD Candidate in Marine and Environmental Sciences at Northeastern University and a Visiting PhD Student at the University of South Alabama under Dr. Steven Scyphers. Her research involves participatory methods and practices to understand coastal social-ecological systems like shorelines and fisheries.

Zoom Link

Friday, April 28: Joclyn Villegas, USA-Graduate Prospectus

Seminar Title: The Influence of Positive Affectivity on the Characteristics and Use of Burst Pulse Vocalizations in Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)

I am a PhD student in Marine Sciences at the University of South Alabama, where I work in the Comparative Cognition and Communication lab under the guidance of Dr. Heidi Lyn. My research has focused on investigating the communication dynamics of delphinid species with the goal to improve the conservation and welfare management of the species. Currently, my dissertation aims to investigate potential behavioral and vocal correlates of positive affect, as well as look for further examples of a suggested signal termed as “Victory squeal” (Ridgeway et al., 2014).

Zoom Link

Friday, May 5: Dr. Ben Linzmeier

Zoom Link

Friday, May 12: Dr. Mark Hay, Georgia Tech

Seminar Title: Did Over-Harvest of Detritivores Facilitate Coral Disease Outbreak 100+ Years Later? The Challenge of Long Ecological Fuses in the Anthropocene.

Removing top consumers can produce dramatic cascading effects on natural communities, but the impacts of harvesting low-trophic level consumers, such as detritivores, remain relatively uninvestigated.

Here, we evaluate the effects of removing sea cucumbers from coral reefs in French Polynesia and Palmyra and the possible roles of microbes in connecting the historic over-harvest of sea cucumbers to present-day outbreaks of coral disease.

Sea cucumbers have been overharvested worldwide during the past 200+ years. Our manipulative field experiments demonstrated that outplants of important, structure-creating corals experienced 300-400% greater partial mortality and 15x greater whole colony mortality when the sea cucumbers were excluded from natural areas than when natural densities were maintained in areas with numerous sea cucumbers.

Corals in sea cucumber removal treatments consistently bleached and died from the base up (reminiscent of white syndrome disease) when in direct contact with reef sediments. However, even without sea cucumbers they were largely protected from disease when separated from sediments by basal turf algae that resident Stegastes farmerfishes cultivate on the bases of thinket building Acropora sp.

Sea cucumber removal altered sediment microbiomes, with microbiomes in removal plots containing more microbes associated with coral diseases. Sea cucumbers may historically have acted as “essential workers” on coral reefs, suppressing pathogenic microbes and maintaining the healthy function of reef corals.

Widespread overharvest of these important detritivores over the past 200+ years may have facilitated infectious diseases that have decimated coral reefs, especially as temperatures rise and humans add nutrients and organics that enhance microbial growth and pathogenicity.

Past Seminars

Seminars are archived on the Dauphin Island Sea Lab YouTube Channel.










  • January 22 - Joel Fodrie, UNC, Chapel Hill - Landscape Effects on the Fisheries Ecology and Ecosystem-service Delivery of a Temperate Estuary.
  • February 5 - Dr. Lee Smee, Texas A&M Univ. Corpus Christi - The World is my Oyster: Predator-Prey Interactions, Chemical Cues, and Genetic Diversity on Oyster Reef’
  • February 26 - Dr. Jeff Morris, University of Alabama, Birmingham
  • March 5 - Dr. Christopher Anderson, Auburn University
  • March 12 - Dr. Patty Sobecky, University of Alabama
  • March 16 - Dr. Richard B. Anderson, FIT
  • April 2 - Dr. Chuck Amsler, University of Alabama, Birmingham
  • May 21 – Dr. Bill Dennison, UMCES


  • November 6 - Dr. Eric Peatman, Auburn University – “Fitting Mobile-Tensaw Delta Bass into the Black Bass Puzzle: New Molecular Tools and New Insights”
  • November 21 - Dr. Mark Butler, Old Dominion University – “Lobster Tales: Homelessness, Pestilence & Alien Encounters"
  • December 4 - Dr. Ari Daniel, Independent Science Reporter & Producer - “Carving Story out of Science”