Whitney Coastal Ecology and Matanzas Biodiversity

Whitney Laboratory is the perfect meeting
place for ecology and technology, salt and freshwater, and now a unique blend of conservation and discovery. I’m Todd Osborne, I’m a biogeochemist. I’m Joe Ryan, an evolutionary biologist. These two new advancing researchers are tackling top
scientific issues daily. “Oh, Hey Todd.” And this is their office. “Going out today?”
“Yes, sir.” These professors with a sense of humor intact, It’s a little bit of a long walk to the
coffee pot, are passionate about what they bring to the Whitney Lab’s table.
Being a computational biologist at a Marine Laboratory is actually kind of
weird but it’s great because in order to really ask the right questions you need
to see the animals. Right now there’s a jellyfish bloom
happening as we’re speaking. This area is very important because it gives us an
opportunity to see what climate change will do to our coastal ecosystems. The campus is located on Florida’s most pristine estuary, which is a valuable
research tool and an important meeting place for climate change. We’re on the
ecotone between spartina, which is the normal dominant vegetation in salt
marshes which goes from St. Augustine all the way to Maine, but right here
right beside the lab is actually the ecotone for mangroves and they’re new to the area this is an example of climate change in action that
we can visualize. Together Osborne and Ryan are capitalizing on this location
to make important discoveries. One way they’re doing that is the Matanzas
Biodiversity Project. It’s a project designed to gather information on who’s
here and when I say who I mean the animals, the plants, all of the biota that
are interacting with this environment. We’re interested not in recent evolution
what happened in the last 5 million years, we’re interested in what happened
550 million years ago or 600 million years ago or maybe even more. Can we make a genomic baseline of what animals are here right now and at the same time ask
big evolutionary questions. I bring ecosystem perspective, Joe brings
a molecular bioinformatics perspective. In that toolbox are UF’s supercomputers
crunching waves of data. Today’s biology is really powered by a
technique called next generation sequencing where we basically take an
animal and decode its whole genome. Every animal has a book, so when we get a genome we basically are getting this book but in tiny tiny pieces and we’re
trying to put it back together. So once we start processing this data all of
these cool discoveries that have really not been accessible start to become
accessible. One of the unique aspects of Whitney Lab is that we are so strong in
molecular biology. I think that gives us a set of tools to explore biodiversity
that other groups just don’t have. Mixing fieldwork and technology our
newest professors are finding discoveries about our world that can
impact your world in a major way.