Published: Jun 19, 2008
University of Tampa senior Mollie Taylor peers through a microscope as
she carefully examines an assortment of tiny shrimp and other small
organisms. The mishmash of items was taken from the stomach of a silver
perch, a small fish similar to a sea trout.
Taylor is one of
three University of Tampa seniors interning this summer with the Florida
Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI), based in St. Petersburg.
She and her fellow interns Tanya Brunner and Amanda Longo, all double
majors in marine science and biology, work separately on individual
research projects that help further the institute’s work in the areas of
ecosystem assessment and restoration and studies of marine wildlife.
to the Institute’s “gut lab,” Taylor meticulously examines five or six
silver perch each day with the goal of determining the availability and
scarcity of various food sources in the fish’s natural habitat.
all about looking at the role the fish play in ecology and the
environment and determining how they impact their environment,” Taylor
While the lab itself monitors numerous species of fish, Taylor
focuses on the silver perch, keeping daily records of what it eats.
is discovered in the lab could determine how certain fish and
microorganisms will be farmed at the facility’s Stock Enhancement
Research Facility (SERF) in Port Manatee. SERF is where Brunner spends
the day maintaining the facility’s outdoor ponds where a variety of fish
are raised prior to an eventual release in the wild.
the shoreline as well as on small boats, Brunner helps with such tasks
as maintaining the salinity and levels of oxygen in the ponds,
fertilizing the algae and capturing and releasing specific fish
populations into the wild.
“It’s all stuff that definitely has
to be done,” Brunner said. “A lot of these are fish that anglers pursue,
so we have to replenish the fish to protect from the effects of
Brunner’s individual research is concerned with
determining the amount of fertilized eggs produced by reproductively
active adult red drum fish.
Other on-the-job tasks have her helping
to tag specific fish species. This involves planting a small device in
the animal to track its movements once it is released.
For Longo, the well being of individual fish populations in the wild has become the focus of her research.
among the FWRI’s Health Group, Longo’s first weeks on the job included
dispatches from the “Fish Kill Hotline” – a phone number for boaters to
report observances of dead fish in the water. It is then the group’s
duty to figure out what caused the fish to die – with red tide,
pollution, and dissolved oxygen in the water frequently identified as
the cause, according to Longo.
In recent weeks, Longo has spent
more time in the lab researching the effect of different parasites on
the reproductive abilities of grouper and other commercially valuable
“Right now we don’t know how bad it is for the fish,”
Longo said. “Anything that affects fish can potentially make people sick
too. And a lot of what we find is exacerbated by human activity.”
and her fellow interns will present their individual research to the
Institute at the conclusion of their internships in August. For all
three students, the internship is an important step toward graduate
school and an established career in the marine science