Dr. Donald C. Behringer, Associate Professor
Marine Ecology & Diseases
(Joint appointment with School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the Emerging Pathogens Institute)
7922 NW 71st Street
PO Box 110600
Gainesville, FL 32653
Research in my lab focuses on marine disease ecology and epidemiology, the resilience and restoration of marine communities impacted by human or natural disturbances, and the ecology and behavior of marine invertebrates.
Disease ecology and epidemiology
Disease is increasingly recognized as an issue of major concern for the health of marine populations and communities, fisheries, and aquaculture. My research uses the novel virus PaV1 (Panulirus argus Virus 1), discovered infecting the Caribbean spiny lobster, as a model system to understand how disease affects the ecology and population dynamics of marine organisms. In collaboration with researchers from Old Dominion University, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and the University of Miami, our research has progressed from a basic understanding of PaV1 epidemiology, ecology, and pathobiology to work using this pathogen-host system as a case study to understanding the importance of dispersal by infectious agents on the spread and maintenance of pathogens in marine populations.
Marine community resilience and restoration
This research targets hard-bottom communities in southeast Florida and the Florida Keys with the aim of describing impact patterns and determining the potential for sustainable use or restoration. In the Florida Keys, I study the impacts of recurring cyanobacteria plankton blooms on shallow hard-bottom communities. These blooms are particularly devastating to sponge communities that many commercially important organisms such as spiny lobsters, stone crabs, snappers, and groupers rely on for their juvenile stages. In collaboration with Mark Butler (Old Dominion University), we are determining the ecological feasibility of sponge community restoration and studying the factors that drive the return of ecosystem function following restoration.
In southeast Florida, we are studying human use patterns and damage to coral reefs. The coral reefs in the Florida Keys are under several layers of resource management, including the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Although the reef tract continues up the east coast of Florida, much less management exists north of Biscayne National Park. As a part of an effort to inform a management plan, in collaboration with the UF Boating and Waterway Management Lab (Dr. Bob Swett), we are studying human use patterns on southeast Florida coral reefs, the effect of use level and type on reef damage, and the effect of management tools (e.g., mooring buoys) on patterns of use and damage.
Ecology and behavior of marine invertebrates
My general interest in the ecology of marine invertebrates underpins much of the research in my lab and students often work on projects under this general theme. Recent projects include the effects of competition between juvenile spiny lobsters and stone crabs on their behavior and population dynamics, the function of large lobster aggregations as an ecological trap for juvenile lobsters, and the functional use of different habitat types by the turban snail Lithopoma tectum.
The latter project is part of a new research focus in my lab on the invertebrates of the Florida Marine Life (ornamental) fishery. Little attention has been paid to them and they have been managed based on limited life history, population, and ecological information. At low levels of exploitation this situation is not problematic, but as exploitation intensifies, it will be critical to have baseline information on these species to manage them sustainably. We have begun to fill in this lack of information on three of the most heavily exploited species: peppermint shrimp, blue-legged hermit crabs, and turban snails.
PhD, Ecological Sciences, Old Dominion University (2003)
BS, Zoology, University of Florida (1991)
FAS 4270/6272 Marine Ecological Processes, Fall semesters (face-to-face and online), 3 credits
Focuses on the ecological and environmental processes that drive individual behaviors, population dynamics, and community structure in marine ecosystems.
FAS 4932/5276C Field Ecology of Aquatic Organisms (team-taught), Summer A term, 4 credits
Understanding principles of fish and invertebrate ecology through field studies. The course involves an intensive study of lakes, rivers, coastal marshes, and marine habitats to gain understanding of how fish and invertebrates interact with their environment. Requires extensive field trips.