Video: April 20 Evenings at Whitney – One Species, Two Species, Hybrid Species, New Species: Secrets of the Sweetings Pond Seahorse
The Evenings at Whitney Lecture Series hosted by the University of Florida Whitney Laboratory returned on April 20, 2017, at 7 p.m. with the program titled “One Species, Two Species, Hybrid Species, New Species: Secrets of the Sweetings Pond Seahorse.” The University of Tampa Professor of Biology Heather Masonjones talked about the difficulties of studying seahorses and pipefish due to their small body size, mysterious nature and sparse distribution and how a location in Eleuthera, Bahamas, called Sweetings Pond, offers a unique opportunity to study these marine animals and understand them on a global scale. This free lecture was presented at Lohman Auditorium located at 9505 Ocean Shore Blvd., on the Whitney Laboratory campus.
Sweetings Pond, a tidal saltwater lake that has a pristine and dense population of seahorses, has been one of the recent areas of research focus for Masonjones. In regard to seahorses, the lake has few predators, an abundant food source and thriving ecosystem, creating a healthy population of the marine animal. This is the opposite of what is occurring to the seahorse population worldwide, which is declining due to overfishing and habitat loss. Seahorses are caught for medicinal purposes and are also used in the pet industry. Since seahorses live in the shallow coastlines around the world and congregate in some of the most at-risk marine habitats, including seagrasses, mangroves and coral reefs, they are affected by pollution and human actions. Masonjones shared the findings of her Sweetings Pond research in regard to the population biology, mating behavior and habitat of the seahorses.
Masonjones has been a faculty member since 2001 at The University of Tampa, and she became a full professor at the university in 2014. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree from Smith College in 1990 and doctorate from Tufts University in 1997. Her work focuses on the biology of seahorses and pipefish in Tampa Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the Bahamas. In 2014, she was invited to become a member of the IUCN Specialist Group for Seahorses, Pipefish and Sticklebacks. She is also the co-chair of the third annual Syngnathid Biology Conference, which is scheduled for May 2017 at The University of Tampa.