US tab

Steven Carrion

Undergraduate Major: Biology and Environmental Studies

Future Plans: Biological Oceanography Ph.D

Steven Carrion

Steven Carrion was born in Colombia, and moved to the United States at a young age. He is majoring in Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Central Florida. His research interests include determining how anthropogenic activity affects marine ecological communities and their biological interactions, and using this gathered knowledge to establish effective mitigation techniques. In the future he hopes to work collaboratively with local communities and professionals to create multi-perspective solutions for the restoration and management of coastlines. Previously, he has worked through an NSF REU to study the effects of the BP oil spill on marine invertebrates in marsh sediment, and jellyfish proliferation research with the cross-Mediterranean MED-JELLYRISK programme in Italy. He is currently working under an undergraduate grant studying ways to improve the cultivation of the salt marsh grass, Spartina alterniflora, for conservation and restorative purposes. Fueled by his passion for science, discovery, and advocacy for the surrounding environment, he aims to obtain an interdisciplinary doctoral degree in Marine Biology.

Maximizing Spartina Alterniflora Belowground Growth for Transplantation Success

Conducted at The University of Central Florida and the McNair Scholars Program

Mentor: Dr. Linda Walters, Pegasus Professor, University of Central Florida

Abstract: Spartina alterniflora is commonly used in living shorelines and marsh restoration. Our research aims to discern the most effective method of cultivating and propagating this species that will result in significant increases to root biomass. We will collect and expose 480 individuals (240 of these experiencing their first growing season) to a range of fertilizers treatments including nitrate, phosphorus, and a mixture of both, at two differing salinities (0 and 30 ppt). The experiment will take place during the peak rhizome growing season from September to October. This research should result in a more effective way to cultivate and propagate this species for conservation measures that will be useful for management workers.

Examining Long-term Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Infaunal Communities in Terrebonne Bay

Conducted at Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium as part of a National Science Foundation REU.

Mentor: Chuck Wall, Post-Doctoral Research Associate and Nancy Rabalais, Executive Director and Professor, Cocodrie, LA: Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium

Abstract: The Deepwater Horizon oil spill severely impacted productive coastal zones, with the state of Louisiana, already experiencing anthropogenically-driven rapid subsidence rates and hypoxic zones, receiving the brunt of the onshore oiling. Limited knowledge exists on how this additional stressor will affect coastal communities in the long-term. To greater understand sub-lethal affects of residual PAHs stemming from oil exposure, infaunal communities in Terrebonne Bay were examined. Benthic macro-invertebrates were chosen due to their exceptional role as indicator species, and importance as food sources for commercially important species. Within the Bay, three reference marsh sites were determined and each site was paired with adjacent marsh sites that were characterized as "oiled", having PAH concentrations above effect-range lows. Sediment cores were used to collect infaunal species, which were analyzed for abundance, diversity and vertical distribution. Non-metric dimensional scaling demonstrated differences in species compositions as the aromatic and alkane sediment concentrations increased. In agreement, results showed that the pollution-sensitive species Melinna cristata and Tellina sp. was found predominantly in sites with PAH concentrations below the effect-range lows. Sites with the highest PAH had the highest abundance, however, this was positively correlated with richness, but negatively correlated with species evenness. Thus, sites with higher abundance were dominated by fewer taxa, such as pollution-indicative Sabellid polychaetes. Recent research has shown that Sabellid polychaete species have associated biosurfactant-producing bacteria in their branchiae. Thus, it is probable that Sabellids, among other opportunistic infaunal organisms, serve as pioneer species, assisting with bioremediation in post-oil spill conditions. Future research should focus on furthering knowledge on infaunal processes leading to community resiliency after disturbances.

Digestion Rates of the Hydrozoan Velella velella, and Trophic-Associated Implications

Conducted at The Università di Salento as a part of a summer research program and McNair Scholars Program

Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Purcell, Senior Scientist, MED-JELLYRISK; Lecce, Italy: Università di Salento

Abstract: Velella velella is a cosmopolitan, pleustonic species belonging to the cnidarian order Anthoathecata. This species often forms massive blooms during its colonial polyp stage that can contain millions of colonies and reach extensive lengths of 1,500 kilometers. Past research has indicated that Velella plays an important role in the diets of species across several taxa including the endangered loggerhead sea turtle, Caretta caretta, and several avian, fish, and invertebrate species. Although conspicuous during massive blooms, limited research exists on this species, which has resulted in their life cycle and importance as predators on zooplankton to remain undetermined. Previous studies have shown that gelatinous species can exert considerable predation pressures on species, including commercially important fish larvae and eggs. In order to discern the impact and potential importance of Velella as a predator on zooplankton, we will analyze gut contents and calculate digestion times. With large numbers and their emergence during fish spawning, we expect Velella to play an important role as a top-down regulator in the ecosystem.