Student Spotlight: Alexandra Hoey Studies Stressors That Influence Tropical Seagrass in Florida Bay

Student Spotlight: Alexandra Hoey Studies Stressors That Influence Tropical Seagrass in Florida Bay

February 2024Student Spotlight: Alexandra Hoey Studies Stressors That Influence Tropical Seagrass in Florida Bay

After taking a few years off to work, Alexandra Hoey joined the Schmidt College of Science as an Honors in Biological Sciences Research Pathway student. She felt that Florida Atlantic was an ideal place to finish her degree, since it has a well-rounded Biological Sciences program and incredible research opportunities for undergraduate students.

“I chose a degree in Biological Sciences because I have always loved and been curious about the natural world,” shared Hoey. “The pathway program has allowed me to gain numerous skills vital to my future career and academic pursuits, such as grant writing and scientific communication.” Hoey is an Aquatic Plant Ecology Lab team member, which is overseen by Professor Marguerite Koch-Rose, Ph.D. The group is studying stressors that impact the health and survival of seagrasses in Florida Bay, an important estuary between the Everglades and the Florida Keys.

For Hoey’s project, she has been expanding on the work of a previous graduate student, Nate Winn, by using 2-D oxygen planar optodes to measure the concentration of O_2 around seagrass roots, thereby assessing the ability of seagrasses to oxidize the sediment around them. This aids in the growth of their underground tissues and may be used as an oxidative defense against hydrogen sulfide, a known phytotoxin, in the sediment.

Seagrass meadows are extremely vital benthic ecosystems. They support a large food web, provide a nursery habitat for marine invertebrates and fish that are important to global fisheries, reduce coastal erosion and the suspension of sediment in the water column, as well as sequester and bury carbon at high rates. However, they are threatened globally by a changing climate and many anthropogenic factors.

In Florida Bay, mass die-offs of entire meadows have been recorded, likely due to a combination of several stressors including high temperatures, high salinity, and hypoxic conditions. Research into seagrasses’ ability to oxidize their environment can give researchers a greater understanding of what leads to these mass die-offs and what may prevent them from occurring in the future. Student Spotlight: Alexandra Hoey Studies Stressors That Influence Tropical Seagrass in Florida Bay

“I am very interested in foundational benthic species, such as seagrasses and corals, which create the underlying habitat on which other species depend,” stated Hoey. “When I came to FAU, I didn’t know the extent of the importance of seagrasses, not only for marine ecosystems, but also for human food security and climate change mitigation. I am enthusiastic and grateful to continue learning about these amazing plants and educating others about their essential role in our oceans.”

Hoey expressed how welcoming Dr. Koch-Rose was to her, along with the other undergraduates and high school students in the lab.

“She is enthusiastic about getting everyone involved in projects where they can learn a great deal and gain meaningful skills in a research setting,” shared Hoey. “Additionally, she has encouraged me to expand on my practical skills and certifications by sponsoring my training in Scientific Diving through the American Academy of Underwater Sciences.”

Outside of the lab, Hoey is an active member of the Tau Sigma National Honor Society and the National Society of Leadership and Success. She is also a new member of the Glenn W. and Cornelia T. Bailey Marine SEA (Science, Education, and Arts) Scholars program. SEA Scholars participate in research and community outreach for the FAU Marine Lab, located at the Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex.

Hoey anticipates graduating in May 2024. After she receives her diploma, she intends to enter graduate school to earn her master’s degree in Biological Sciences.

“I have applied for the M.S. thesis track program at FAU to continue expanding on my research in Dr. Koch’s Aquatic Botany Ecology Lab,” said Hoey. “Beyond that, I hope to find a career in research, conservation, or restoration of foundational habitats.”

Additional Information
The Charles E. Schmidt College of Science offers unparalleled experiential learning opportunities to prepare the next generation of scientists and problem solvers.
Charles E. Schmidt College of Science
Florida Atlantic University
777 Glades Rd, SE-43
Boca Raton, FL 33431
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