Dr. Donald C. Behringer, 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
As the global human population grows ever larger – predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050 – there will be increasing pressure on fisheries as important sources of food for the world. Our fisheries are being subjected to stressors from over-exploitation, ocean warming, ocean acidification, coastal eutrophication, and habitat degradation. Rising from among these threats is an awareness that infectious disease can emerge as a consequence of environmental and biological stress and can sometimes drive ecosystem change. The rising profile of infectious disease is also concomitant with a broader realization that the parasites responsible for disease are themselves important members of communities. Thus, critical for understanding any marine population, community, or ecosystem is a comprehensive understanding of the relationships between hosts, parasites, and abiotic and biotic stress in those systems.
Marine community resilience and restoration
Disease and environmental change can also impact foundational organisms, such as sponges, and these impacts can have negative feedbacks on disease for important species that rely on them (e.g., spiny lobsters and stone crabs). Here, my lab focuses on hard-bottom communities in the Florida Keys with the aim of understanding the consequences of recurring cyanobacteria blooms on sponge habitat loss, implications for disease, and the potential for restoration. This work on Florida benthic habitats and invertebrates also led to a new research focus in my lab on the multitude of invertebrates in the Florida Marine Life (ornamental) fishery. Little attention has been paid to the many organisms in this fishery and they have been managed with limited information. At low levels of exploitation this situation is not problematic, but as exploitation has intensified, it is critical to have baseline information to manage them sustainably. My graduate students and I have made great strides in determining the life history, population structure, and ecology for several of the most heavily exploited species, including the peppermint shrimp, the blue-legged hermit crab, and the Florida sea cucumber.
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.
FAS 4932/6932 UF in Cuba: Tropical Marine & Island Ecology, Summer A semesters (2 weeks only, face-to-face), 4 credits
This is a study abroad course that gives students a hands-on understanding of the marine and coastal ecosystems of central and southern Cuba, the impacts of human land-use activities on ecological communities, and an introduction to Cuban history and culture.