Bocas del Toro, Panama Team
Our 2018 mangrove team (the “Sea Monkeys”) was made up of Jennifer (Jen) Wright, Andrea (Andi) Carmona Cortes, Briana Burke, and Dylan Rene Luis Vega. This team earned their name for their abilities to climb mangroves within the ocean.
Jennifer Wright started her work with us specializing in identification of ascidians during our mangrove root community surveys. Jen was instrumental in conducting our coral surveys within the mangrove canopy and she soon fell in love with this unique habitat where meter wide scleractinian corals grow in 10 cm of water under the shade of the mangrove, wrapping around the piercing roots. Her experience inspired her master’s thesis work at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami examining the effect of scleractinian coral presence and abundance among mangrove prop roots on mangrove fish communities.
Andi Carmona Cortes came to us in her final semester of her bachelor’s program at Florida Atlantic University. An all-star in mangrove work, Andi worked on the epibiont communities of red mangrove prop roots for 4 years before joining our team. Andi now works for the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service Invasive Plant Research Laboratory and continues to impress us.
Dylan Vega started working with mangroves and mangrove-coral interactions in 2017 during the Undergraduate Coral Research Initiative in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) and was an asset to our team in Panama in 2018. Dylan continues to work with us in Florida and the USVI while completing his bachelor’s program at the University of Florida.
Krystyna Powell joined our mangrove team in 2016. She is passionate about her love of mangroves and has worked with us on mangrove projects in both Florida and Panama. Krystyna is currently a master’s student at Florida Atlantic University studying mangroves. Her research interest is centered around community dynamics of mangrove prop roots. Krystyna’s current research focuses on the ecology and destruction of the marine wood-boring isopods, Sphaeroma terebrans, in red mangrove forest. Isopods are small crustaceans that do not actually ingest the wood but use the roots as habitat and protection. Since these isopods are filter feeders, she is specifically looking at how phytoplankton distribution and water quality affects isopod distribution.
Lucia Rodriguez and William (Will) Wied have been integral to the continuation of our mangrove program in Bocas del Toro, Panama. They have been part of the team since 2017 along with past interns Mike Hynes and Nicte-Ha Muñoz. Lucia and Will each have their own long term projects they are working on at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Bocas Research Station but still assist the team when needed.