Pomponi's Passion Pushes Her to Dive in Deeper

After high school, Shirley Pomponi, Ph.D., was convinced she should become a nurse. Her mom insisted that she attend college first, although a college degree in nursing was not required then. “I’m glad she made me go,” says Pomponi, because college is where she got hooked on marine biology. In 1984, she was offered an opportunity to work at FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, where she combines her interests in marine and biomedical research. Pomponi is also an FAU Harbor Branch based research professor and executive director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research and Technology. Pomponi’s success in her career is based on the same advice she offers others: “Be open to new opportunities and be willing to step out of your comfort zone.” Pictured here are some of the strangest-looking animals Pomponi has encountered in the ocean.

Photo credit: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

White Lobsters

Bottom dwellers, often blind and usually soft, allowing them to squeeze into crevices for protection.

Acorn Worm

Common name for worm-shaped marine invertebrates with a three-part body that consists of a protruding sucking organ, followed by a short, fleshy collar and ending with a long, wormlike trunk.

Black Coral

Displays an unusual feeding strategy – apparently using its tentacles to “sweep” the ocean floor.



A single-cell animal found sifting through sea floor sediment.


Tongue Fish

A flatfish that lives near sulfur pools in the deep sea. It is hypothesized that there are chemosynthetic bacteria in its gut that provide “food” for the fish.

Swimming Sea Cucumbers

Using highly modified feet that have turned into fins, moves along the sea floor, feeding on sediment.


Pom-Pom Anemone

Rolls along the bottom, unattached. When disturbed, it sheds its tentacles.

Frog Fish

Masters at mimicry, often “disguised” to look like sponges, especially in shallow water.

 Last Modified 11/1/18