Sharing Science


Underwater photograph by Maggie Birdwell; other photograph by Colleen Hecker

Sharing Science

New Postdoc Shares Discoveries of Octopus, Sea Turtles

For more than 10 years and 1,000 hours scuba diving, Chelsea Bennice, Ph.D., studied octopus behavior. In her new role as a postdoctoral fellow with the FAU Marine Science Lab, led by Jeanette Wyneken, Ph.D., professor in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, she will expand her research to include sea turtles, she said.

“I'm looking forward to conducting research and communicating my discoveries to the public,” Bennice said. “I have a unique postdoctoral position that involves research and science outreach- bridging the gap between scientists and the community.”

As part of her role, Bennice oversees public education and outreach projects for the marine lab and helps mentor students in the Glenn W. and Cornelia T. Bailey Marine Science, Education and Arts (SEA) Scholars program, which provides financial assistance to students who both excel in the classroom and are committed to using their skills and talents to share FAU Marine Lab discoveries. This program draws students from departments in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science and the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters.

For instance, she said, “one of our science students has an interest in photography and has taken on a time-lapse project photographing the hatchlings every week. The goal is to produce an engaging video of hatchling growth for public viewing.” Bennice guides students on their projects and makes sure they come to fruition.

Bennice will examine feeding behavior of young loggerhead and green sea turtles to determine how the two species might coexist in the same environment for her research as a postdoc. “I'm very excited to be expanding my research to sea turtles. In applying the techniques I've used to study octopus behavior to sea turtle behavior we will get a better picture of how the two species partition habitats.” she said. “Little is known about sea turtle behavior after hatchlings head out to open waters, a period of life termed the “lost years.” I'd like to contribute to filling this gap in the scientific literature.”

She also continues her study of octopus. Most recently, she co-authored a paper that genetically confirmed the occurrence of the Brazilian reef octopus in South Florida. It’s the first record of the full genome for this species, she said. Previously, Bennice worked on visually confirming the presence of this species. Her latest octopus project is to examine the Atlantic longarm octopus, describing its physical characteristics and also confirming its presence in South Florida with genetics. “I’m grateful that Jeanette Wyneken is supporting my interest to continue octopus research and expanding my explorations into sea turtle behavior projects,” Bennice said.

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