Junior SeaKeepers Webinar 4: Gina Clementi and Kirk Gastrich - Marine Ecology

December 4, 2023


On Monday, December 4th, 2023, The International SeaKeepers Society hosted the fourth Junior SeaKeepers Program webinar for 2023-24 cohort students. For this virtual industry talk, we were thrilled to have Gina Clementi and Kirk Gastrich, Research Scientists from Florida International University and SeaKeepers partner scientists specializing in permit aggregation research for fisheries conservation.

Kirk and Gina are marine ecologists in FIU’s Heithaus Lab for Marine Community & Behavioral Ecology. Kirk is interested in marine predators and community ecology and has worked on a variety of projects, ranging from alligators in the Florida Everglades to tiger sharks in Western Australia. Gina is interested in marine predator conservation ecology, specifically in how humans, directly and indirectly, affect reef-associated predators. In collaboration with The International SeaKeepers Society, Kirk and Gina study the spawning aggregation dynamics of a popular sportfish, permit (Trachinotus falcatus), in the Florida Keys. These fish gather during the full moons every spring on natural and artificial reefs for the purpose of reproduction, forming aggregations of hundreds of individuals and subsequently becoming easy targets for anglers. Even though anglers must release permit alive during this time, many are depredated, or consumed by predators while they are being reeled in. Therefore, this project aims to monitor these permit aggregations, collecting data on aggregation size and distribution, fishing pressure, and depredation mortality to inform policies on how to best manage this fishery.

Outing Goal

By attending webinars led by SeaKeepers partnered research scientists, our Junior SeaKeepers have the opportunity to learn first-hand about the diversity of work that exists in the marine conservation realm. Additionally, students get direct access to accomplished professionals and are able to see the advancements in the field that are a result of research happening directly alongside SeaKeepers through our DISCOVERY Yacht program. Gina and Kirk’s research is a particularly great inclusion to our webinar series, as it highlighted the importance of field research and the resultant communication of that work to the public, which ties perfectly into the two projects that JSKs complete as a part of the program: the Science Communication PSA and the Marine Conservation Research Project. Through speaking with Kirk and Gina, we hope that our JSKs were able to collect some inspiration for both their projects and their professional futures moving forward.

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