University of Miami Saves Research Fish from Hurricane Irma


In preparation for Hurricane Irma, the team at the University of Miami Experimental Fish Hatchery successfully transported valuable research fish into the world’s largest hurricane simulator – SUSTAIN (SUrge-STructure-Atmosphere INteraction Facility) – at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

SUSTAIN’s tank can house nearly 40,000 gallons of water and generate the force of an intense Category 5 hurricane. Researchers use it to study wind, wave, and storm surge of tropical cyclones to understand what happens during landfall and how to better prepare for them.

Dr. Dan Benetti, Director of Aquaculture at the University of Miami and co-PI on RECOVER, explains the importance of saving particular fish from the outdoor hatchery facility.

“Some of our broodstock, or breeding adult fish, are irreplaceable because it may take years and more than one generation to develop a genetically based selective breeding program. Hence, we have to consider the cost and effort that it has taken to have developed a certain group of breeders and also the years ahead, as there are research grants and projects and contracts depending and relying on the offspring of those breeders.”

Thanks to the team’s quick thinking they were able to save many valuable fish including cobia, hogfish, and endangered Nassau grouper.

Unlike the cobia broodstock that were transported, broodstock mahi-mahi like those used for RECOVER research, had to be left at the hatchery facility. Our team’s success with capturing wild fish off Miami as well as their extraordinarily fast growth rates mean they repopulate quickly if necessary. Surprisingly, however, many of these mahi-mahi survived the ordeal and the team is working hard to repair damages and get production back on schedule.

Ironically, the safest place for many of these important fish during a hurricane was in a machine that creates hurricanes.


Congratulations Dr. Graciel Diamante!


We are extremely proud to introduce Dr. Graciel Diamante. It has been an honor working with her on RECOVER and we wish her the very best in her new endeavors. Below, please find a word from Dr. Schlenk.

“Graciel defended her dissertation on August 10 and is now a recipient of a PhD from the Environmental Toxicology Graduate Program at UCR.  She has been an extraordinary student during her time here at UCR.  As a former participant in the Research in Science and Engineering (RISE) program at her undergraduate institution, she became  very active in student mentorship through the RISE program at UCR and has supervised at least 3 female undergraduate students (one of which was also a RISE student).  It has been very exciting to see her perpetuate the mentorship she received to other under-represented female students.

Her project initially evaluated the role of estrogen signaling as a target for developmental toxicity in zebrafish.  She  began assessing linkages between membrane bound g-protein coupled estrogen receptors (GPERs) and cardiac development of zebrafish. Her objective was to evaluate receptor activation, Calcium signaling and cardiac development in fish embryos by hydroxylated PAHs observed in the Gulf of Mexico.  She published two first-author papers in Aquatic Toxicology, and has a third about to be submitted on microRNA evaluations of oil in Mahi. In addition, her Introduction is currently in revision as a book chapter in an upcoming book from Dr. Warren Burggren. She has been a co-author on at least 5 other publications in ES&T, ES&T letters, and PLOSone (Most related to RECOVER)  As you can clearly see, Graciel has been tremendously productive during her tenure here.

She was a GoMRI scholar last year. She has also attended and made multiple presentations at several Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) meetings at the regional and National levels and was recently selected for an oral presentation at the International Symposium of Pollutant Responses in Marine Organisms in Japan.

From a personal perspective, she is probably one of the hardest workers I’ve ever had in my laboratory.  During her initial studies with zebrafish, we had a pathogenic infestation causing her to repeat essentially a year’s worth of work. She never complained the entire time. So, what she has been able to accomplish over the past 4 years is truly amazing.  

It is her desire to remain in Southern California and pursue either a postdoctoral position or teaching position at the community college level.  We sincerely wish her the best, and will definitely miss her.”