The next lecture in the fall Evenings at Whitney Lecture Series hosted by the University of Florida Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience is on Dec. 13, 2018, at 7 p.m. with the program titled “Ecosystem Challenges in Florida: The Diadema Story (A Case Study…).” Ruth Francis-Floyd, professor and extension veterinarian of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Program in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Florida, will talk about the complex challenges of assessing health in Florida’s changing ecosystems. This free lecture will be presented at Lohman Auditorium, located at 9505 Ocean Shore Blvd., on the Whitney Laboratory campus.
Florida ecosystem health is a topic of concern with recent occurrences of red tides, algal blooms and coral reef decline. Francis-Floyd’s lecture will focus specifically on the Florida Reef, one of the largest barrier reefs in the world, and its severe decline due to multiple factors, including urbanization, overfishing, climate change and sea level rise. She will also talk about an effort to conserve and restore Florida’s coral reef system by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that would use an important herbivore, the long-spined sea urchin, Diadema antillarum, to enhance coral survival and growth. Francis-Floyd will share a case study from the 1980s where most of the long-spined sea urchins that lived in the Caribbean basin died, negatively impacting the health of Caribbean reefs. Also, Francis-Floyd will talk about a collaborative project that brings together University of Florida scientists and veterinarians, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission scientists, and specialists from throughout the United States to develop tools to evaluate the health of the long-spined sea urchin with the eventual goal of using these animals to slow reef degradation and perhaps ultimately enhance recovery efforts.
Francis-Floyd is board certified in aquatic animal medicine by the American College of Zoological Medicine and has been certified as a fish pathologist by the American Fisheries Society. She has worked at the University of Florida since 1987. Her research interests include diseases of ornamental fish, production aquaculture and the health of the long-spined sea urchin as it relates to the restoration of coral reefs. She also has worked with a team of scientists focused on improving the understanding of cold stress syndrome in the Florida manatee. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from St. Olaf College, master’s degree in veterinary medical science from Mississippi State University and doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the University of Florida.