2014 Carl and Marcella Matthaei Ecological Scholar, Bernadette Holthius
The Matanzas River Basin is a remarkable ecosystem, and the Whitney Lab’s campus is strategically located with easy access to numerous and diverse habitats set out along the Florida coast. The establishment of the Carl and Marcella Matthaei Ecological Scholarship Fund at the Whitney Lab provides support for scientists-in-training to have access to this wonderful natural resource, where they can become engaged and involved in its biodiversity, ecology, and conservation. We thank those who have contributed to the Matthaei Ecological Scholarship Fund, and would like to introduce you to the inaugural scholar, postdoctoral researcher Bernadette Holthius.
Bernadette is an invertebrate zoologist interested in the evolution of form and function. She received her PhD at the University of Washington, where she studied the evolution of reproductive morphology, larval mode, and ecology in the Neritoidea – a group of snails that occur in marine and non-marine environments. Bernadette is also interested in larger questions of relationships among animal phyla, and in how morphology, physiology, and developmental patterns have evolved.
Her primary focus these days is education and outreach. She has taught various classes at the Florida Museum of Natural History as well as the Marine Invertebrates course at Friday Harbor Laboratories in Washington. She has worked as a scientific consultant on invertebrate guidebooks and university textbooks, and written the display text for a museum exhibit on invertebrates. Most recently, she wrote the scientific text for a book by photographer Susan Middleton; the book, entitled “Spineless” aims to educate readers about marine invertebrates and their role in ocean ecosystems.
At the Whitney Lab, Bernadette is working with Jose Nunez, Mike Greenberg, Joseph Ryan, and Todd Osborne on “MatBio,” a Lab initiative to document the biological diversity of the Matanzas Basin. She will be editing and updating previously compiled lists of over 2000 species and, with photos taken by Jose and others, will build an electronic field guide to the plants and animals of the region. Bernadette will be pairing the guide with an application that will allow anyone, from school child to taxonomic expert, to contribute his/her observations to the database.
Through MatBio, the Whitney Laboratory will reach out to the broader community and encourage public involvement in science. In return, lab researchers will benefit from the wealth of data on species occurrences contributed by citizen scientists—invaluable for research on how everything from climate change to oil spills affect our fauna and flora. It is hoped that MatBio will also increase public appreciation for the value of the region’s natural areas—not only our popular beaches, but also the marshes and mangrove stands—and thereby increase support for conservation measures.