Environmental Physiology & Toxicology
Grosell Lab



The Lab- 2017

Front Row: Emma Esch, Rachael Heuer, Lela Schlenker, Yadong Wang, and Christina Pasparakis
Back Row: Dan DiNicola, Kevin Schauer, Georgina Cox, Martin Grosell, Madeline Munoz-Bustamante, and Alex Little

Postdoctoral Fellows

John Stieglitz  (jstieglitz@rsmas.miami.edu)

My research focuses on aquaculture, physiology, and toxicology. I am investigating the effects of crude oil and chemical dispersants on economically important finfish species of the Gulf of Mexico, using aquaculture to gain insight into acute toxicity and sub-lethal physiological effects of these toxins on the early life stages of marine fish. As part of this research, I am working to develop sustainable aquaculture techniques and technology for use in hatcheries and offshore aquaculture sites, with specific focus on pelagic species such as tuna (Thunnus spp.), mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus), cobia (Rachycentron canadum), goggle eye (Selar crumenophthalmus), and Florida pompano (Trachinotus carolinus) in an effort to further develop these species for use in marine finfish aquaculture and aquatic toxicology.

Georgina Cox (gcox@rsmas.miami.edu)

Georgina Cox is post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Martin Grosell’s lab at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Georgina received her PhD from the department of Zoology at the University of British Columbia, Canada. Her previous research has centered on understanding how fish hearts function using a variety of model species including hagfish, bony fish and elasmobranch species. Georgina’s research interests include integrating morphological analysis and innovative surgical techniques to understand how cardiovascular function responds to environmental and physiological stressors across taxa. By incorporating environmental data and comparative phylogenetic techniques Georgina aims to better understand selective pressures shaping cardiac morphology. As part of the RECOVER consortium Georgina will be investigating the extent to which oil exposure affects cardiovascular function in pelagic and costal fish species and how any observed cardiovascular changes impact survival.

Alex Little (alexander.little@utoronto.ca)

I received my PhD from the school of biological sciences at the University of Sydney, Australia. My research program integrates all levels of biological organization to explore how environmental stressors interact to threaten animal fitness and ultimately biodiversity. My current work focuses on understanding the upstream signaling pathways that drive osmoregulatory responses in euryhaline fish. I look specifically at mechanisms contributing to fluid absorption across the intestine, which is inherently driven by uptake of sodium and chloride ions. By determining metabolic costs associated with osmoregulatory control, my research is important to understand tradeoffs associated with salinity acclimation, and model how other stressors (eg. ocean acidification and warming) can interact to undermine the acclimation response.

Rachael Heuer (rheuer@rsmas.miami.edu)

Rachael Heuer recently returned to the University of Miami as Postdoctoral Research Associate. Rachael works with Dr. Martin Grosell and Dr. Dane Crossley (University of North Texas) in the RECOVER consortium, examining the effects of crude oil on heart cell function in the mahi-mahi. Rachael obtained her PhD in Marine Biology and Fisheries in 2015 in Martin Grosellís lab at the University of Miami (RSMAS) as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, where she examined the impacts of CO2 and future projected ocean acidification on intestinal transport physiology and brain chemistry in marine fish. In her position, Rachael has the opportunity to draw upon her previous training in fish physiology to delve into the aspects of the cardiac system of high performing pelagic fish species.

Ph.D. Students

Christina Pasparakis  (cpasparakis@rsmas.miami.edu)

The timing and location of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) incident within the Gulf of Mexico pelagic zone likely resulted in oil exposure of commercially and ecologically important fish species, such as mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus) during the sensitive early life stages. Aside from the acute mortality of such fish elicited by this event, additional sublethal exposures may have also imparted more subtle effects that impair survival due to reduced physiological fitness. My research focuses on exploring these sublethal effects, such as decreased swim performance and reduced cardiac function to gain a better understanding of the ecological implications of the DWH incident on mahi-mahi. Previous research has shown that oil exposure during the embryonic stage of large predatory pelagic fish causes cardiac abnormalities and thus reduced cardiac function, which likely have significant consequences for fast-swimming predators with high aerobic demands. I plan to investigate the individual and combined effects of oil exposure, temperature and developmental stage on oxygen consumption rates, nitrogenous waste excretion and cardiac output in embryonic and larval mahi-mahi.

Lela Schlenker (lschlenker@rsmas.miami.edu)

Recent research has shown that fish exposed to crude oil during embryonic and larval stages develop cardiac arrhythmias, abnormal cardiac morphology, and reduced swimming efficiency. My research is focused on understanding how oil exposure from the Deepwater Horizon event in the Gulf of Mexico affected commercially important fish species such as mahi mahi (Coryphaena hippurus). Specifically, my research focuses on the acute and chronic effects of oil exposure on the ability of mahi mahi to successfully capture prey, avoid predation, and swim efficiently. I hope to use this information to translate the physiological effects of crude oil to better understand how the larger population of mahi mahi was affected by the Deepwater Horizon event.

Yadong Wang (yxw351@umail.miami.edu)

Yadong Wang, a first-year PhD student, received her undergraduate degree in Marine Biology in Ocean University of China, where she continued the Master’s research under the mentorship of Dr. Chengtian Zhao. Her previous research was about the mechanism of primary cilia dyskenisia in zebrafish (Danio rerio) at molecular level. She is now a Graduate Assistant at the RSMAS, University of Miami as a part of the RECOVER consortium. Ms. Wang is currently working under the mentorship of Dr. Martin Grosell.

Research Assistants

Emma Esch (ebe18@miami.edu)

Emma Esch started at the University of Miami in the fall of 2016 to pursue her undergraduate degree in marine science and biology. During her freshman year, she became a research assistant in Dr. Martin Grosell's lab at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (RSMAS). She currently assists in many aspects of the lab working with all stages of mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus). In the future, Emma plans to further pursue her research career by conducting her own experiments to help with the RECOVER project.

Conrad Casente (ctc19@miami.edu)

Conrad Casente grew up in San Carlos, California, before moving to South Florida to study at the University of Miami as an undergraduate student. Previously, he has interned at San Francisco State University, cataloguing and photographing jellyfish species of the San Francisco Bay, and volunteered on multiple NOAA research cruises, gathering data on the effects of nutrient runoff from fresh water sources off the west coast of South Florida. Currently, he is working as a research assistant in the Grosell Lab, primarily aiding in research involving the toxicological effects of oil on the embryonic development and the cardiac output of Mahi Mahi. He is interested in the toxicological effects of oil on fish in general and hopes to continue to develop skills and provide help for the lab.

Rebecca Zlatkin (rlz20@miami.edu)

Rebecca Zlatkin was born and raised in Miami, FL and is currently majoring in Biology at The Honors College of Miami Dade College. Through the Bridge to Baccalaureate program, a collaboration between University of Miami and Miami Dade College to provide undergraduate research opportunities to minority students, Rebecca has been able to study acid-base balance in aplysia californica as well as behavioral disturbances in these animals as a result of ocean acidification. Rebecca now looks forward to future work in the Grosell lab and different projects to be a part of.

RECOVER Project Manager

Madeline Munoz-Bustamante  (mbustamante@rsmas.miami.edu)

I’m the Program Manager for RECOVER. I handle all administrative aspects of the consortium including purchasing and event planning. I am also the Data Manager for the consortium and am responsible for making sure our data is stored and shared effectively.

RECOVER Outreach Coordinator

Dan DiNicola  (ddinicola@rsmas.miami.edu)

Dan DiNicola is the Outreach Coordinator for RECOVER at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS). He graduated from RSMAS with a Master of Science degree in Marine Affairs and Policy in 2014. His graduate work included developing a campaign to increase and sustain public participation within a constituent based tagging program for The Billfish Foundation. The success of this project was realized through the development of a revitalized outreach campaign and management plan which included branding, social media presence and visual media projects. Dan has additionally worked as a freelance videographer and editor; telling stories about science and technology through film. Dan is excited to use his experience multimedia to tell the unique story of RECOVER and bridge the gap between the science and the general public.