commonsquidnettedfromsurfaceno1lrmABOUT THE LAB

The Invertebrate Lab at USF St. Petersburg campus focuses on Mollusca, specifically the cephalopods: squids, octopods, and their relatives; as well as pelagic snails.  Past and present projects include investigating the biodiversity, systematics, biogeography, genetic diversity, and physiology of the group.

RESTORE cruise April 2022

My Master's research project is focused on Pteropods (pelagic marine snails) collected from the Gulf of Mexico by the DEEPEND project. Pteropods play an important role in the food web of the pelagic ecosystem and they are a good indicator for ocean acidification. My research will provide valuable information on their identification, diel vertical migration patterns, shell thickness, distribution and abundance in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM). Pteropods are sensitive to environmental changes, such as temperature, pH and salinity, and these environmental stressors affect their ability to produce their shell. The aim of this research is to examine and understand how they are affected by these environmental stressors in the GoM.

Aquatic Sciences Conference - February 2022

CIAC conference - April 2022


Shannon Riley is joining the Judkins Invertebrate Lab as a Master’s student in marine science. She discovered Dr. Judkins’ research while exploring current research on cephalopods and wanted be involved with it. Shannon will be studying the distributions of cephalopod paralarvae in the Gulf of Mexico and examining the effects of environmental conditions on their abundance.


Claire de Noyo

Claire de Noyo is joining the Judkins Invertebrate Lab as a conservation biology master’s student. Claire comes all the way from Oregon State University, where she contributed to research involving rocky intertidal ecology and conducted an independent gray whale habitat use project. Claire is interested in researching the impact of climate change stressors on marine invertebrate population and community dynamics. She’s loving Florida so far and is enjoying getting settled into her first semester of grad school.


On June 1st, Haley Holloway successfully defended her thesis: “Examining the Presence of a Possible Species Complex of Octopus joubini (Cephalopoda: Octopodidae) in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico”. She is working on her publication for Marine Biodiversity and plans to continue her career in marine conservation at the Fish & Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, FL.

Welcoming a new student to the lab this semester!

Welcoming our new student to the lab!

Andrea (Andie) Murray is in her first semester in her graduate career in the lab as a Conservation Bio student. She has worked alongside Dr. Judkins at The Florida Aquarium and was a part of a research trip on the Weatherbird II back in September 2019. After that, she knew that Dr. Judkins would be an incredible resource to help her advance in her professional pathway. She plans on working to measure microplastic ingestion in Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) and how this may impact water quality of Tampa Bay.

Welcoming a new student to the lab this semester!

After taking a few courses and Marine Field studies with Dr. Judkins, Lisa knew she wanted to work in her lab. Lisa has completed her first semester as a Master’s student with USF CMS and will be working with Dr. Judkins, Dr. Murawski, and Dr. Romero. She will be studying predator-prey connectivity by examining contaminants of mid-water squid and pelagic fish in the Northern Gulf of Mexico to identify pathways of bioaccumulation. The Gulf is home to this Florida native and she’s looking forward to starting her project in the coming months.


Aubrey Hetzler

On June 23rd, Aubrey successfully defended her thesis: “Dendrogyra cylindrus (Pillar Coral) of the Florida Reef Tract: An Ex Situ Growth Study, and In Situ – Ex Situ Bacterial Assemblage Assessment”. 

Following her graduation in August, Aubrey is working on the publication of two manuscripts based on her thesis work, and is pursuing Ph.D. opportunities.Aubrey Hetzler giving a presentation

She intends to use environmental microbiology, and diagnostic metagenomics with a One Health focus to assess disease dynamics at the interface of human, animal, and environmental health.

Kate Lowry


Kate Lowry successfully defended her thesis project titled “A Comparative Behavioral Analysis of Time Budgets of Sea Turtles at The Florida Aquarium Using an Ethogram” of Friday October 11th. She now plans on graduating this December and pursuing a career in marine conservation.


In October, Tiffany successfully defended her Master’s thesis titled, “PAH exposure in Red Snapper (Lutjanus campchanus) collected at natural and artificial reef systems in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.” Her plan is to publish a manuscript in the American Fisheries Society journal and then after graduation to apply to some marine field research or environmental science jobs within the state of Florida.

Hannah Schwaiger

New Student Joining the Invert Team

Hannah Schwaiger is joining the Judkins invertebrate lab as a Master’s student. She learned about the Judkins invertebrate lab in the summer of 2019, while spending a week studying the open ocean at USF St. Petersburg campus through the FIO Marine Field Studies Course, and she has been excited about the research at USFSP since then. Hannah will be working with Dr. Heather Judkins and Dr. Ernst Peebles to study stable isotopes in the eye lense layers of Doryteuthis pealeii, a species of inshore squid, in order to map the locations of the squid throughout the Gulf of Mexico during different life stages.


In February, grad student Aubrey Hetzler proceeded with the next step in her research – collecting samples from Dendrogyra cylindrus (Pillar Coral) fragments at the Center for Conservation (CFC) in Apollo Beach. Aubrey collected polyp tissue from the fragments using a syringe. The samples were then filtered to capture the tissue and bacterial colonies. Aubrey is currently working on extracting DNA from the cells captured in the filters, which she will then amplify, sequence, and analyze to approximate bacterial species present within the coral polyps.


In February, Tiffany Nicholson got the chance to attend The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spil and Ecosystem Science Conference (GOMOSES) in New Orleans, which was a great experience to meet new people and present her research. She also presented a poster on her Masters research project titled; “ PAH exposure in Red Snapper collected around natural and artificial reef systems found in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico” with other researchers across the nation and the world. Tiffany says it was great to hear all the various research projects going on to better understand and educate people about oil spills and its impacts on the marine life.


Mothur imageIn December, grad student Aubrey Hetzler traveled to Detroit, Michigan. The 3-day workshop, taught by Dr. Pat Schloss, provided instruction for the program ‘mothur’ as well as an introduction to microbial ecology and bioinformatics. She will use ‘mothur’ to analyze the microbial community sequence data obtained from the Pillar Coral fragments in her study. This software will be used to assign operational taxonomic units that will be used to describe the α and β diversity of the bacteria within the Pillar Coral Polyps.

CIAC Conference was a great success!

Two hundred and thirty people attended the 2018 CIAC Conference that was held here at USFSP and downtown St. Petersburg, Nov. 10-16th. The multi-day event highlighted new cephalopod research from 30 countries while providing the attendees time to network and explore the area. An unexpected piece of good news was that Heather Judkins was elected CIAC President at the meeting and her tenure in that role will be until the 2021 CIAC conference which will be held in Lisbon, Portugal. The conference wouldn’t have been a success if it weren’t for all the support for the Invert Lab, USF St. Petersburg campus support and our sponsors!

DP06 Cruise Completes the DEEPEND Program’s Cruise Series!

Deepend cruise 6 ship and crew Heather Judkins and the DEEPEND team had a successful cruise this summer! The last DEEPEND sampling cruise is now complete and the team has accomplished the following: A wide diversity of species: 61 cephalopod species, 120 crustacean species and 627 fish species- very important as this region of the deep-sea is not well known to science.

We traveled 6495 miles on the big blue onboard the R/V Point Sur. This all translates to a lot of work to finish up back in the lab!

Blanket Octopus Dissection

Blanket octopus dissection6-19-18: Heather Judkins, undergraduate Nathan Reiner, and grad student Sarah Shedler conducted a dissection on a rare Tremoctopus violaceus in May with help from professor Deby Cassill behind the lens. This octopus was found off the dock at Nova Southeastern University a couple of years ago and we know it’s a female as she was holding hundreds if not thousands of eggs at the time. Nathan is examining the egg mass as part of his USFSP research capstone project and we had the opportunity to dissect the animal to take various measurements that may help his project. Always exciting when these opportunities arise!

The Marine Field Studies course was a success!!

Students in marine science course 6-13-18: The Marine Field Studies Open Ocean week at USF St. Petersburg campus was a success! The students had a long day of learning and practicing life-at-sea aboard the Weatherbird II and then they worked in the lab investigating plankton populations and animal behavior (at The Florida Aquarium) before finishing up the week with insightful data presentations. Looking forward to next years’ course already!

Summer research students
The summer is busy with on-going research.  Aubrey and Kate are working with The Florida Aquarium collecting data.  Tiffany is analyzing Red Snapper tissue at the College of Marine Science (USF).  Kris and Sarah are working their magic on their mid-water snail groups.

Congratulating our recent GRADUATES!
Brenna Meath, M.S. and Amanda Sosnowski, M.S.

It is an honor to congratulate Brenna Meath and Amanda Sosnowski in successfully defending their theses and graduating last month from the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Sciences Master’s Degree Program…  So proud of both Brenna and Amanda’s achievement!  It’s a reflection of their dedication, determination, and character. Take pride in your success, may it lead you on to even greater things. We acknowledge and appreciate these two graduates’ extended efforts in earning their degrees.

Posted on January 2, 2018