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Dr. Jeff Schell studies Sargassum with former SEA professor Dr. Amy Suida.

Dr. Jeff Schell Receives Henry L. and Grace Doherty Chair of Ocean Studies

April 19, 2022

SEA Professor of Oceanography Jeff Schell has been named the inaugural recipient of the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Chair of Ocean Studies.  The rotating Chair provides financial and logistical support for projects associated with professional development in Ocean Studies.

The Chair was made possible by a generous donation to SEA’s endowment from the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation, and from a matching challenge donation by Philip and Kathleen McKnight. The Foundation was established to promote the marine sciences and education, and to assist institutions engaged in oceanographic activities.

Dr. Schell intends to use the opportunity to explore an emergent gap in understanding about Sargassum ecology by determining the environmental conditions responsible for the algal blooms that have become a recurring threat across the Tropical Atlantic, and by better incorporating student and community partners in the Caribbean and elsewhere in the research.

Specifically, the endowment will fund research assistance, travel, conference attendance, and laboratory equipment, as well as a small stipend. Dr. Schell will present a series of public lectures to report on his research.

Pelagic Sargassum is a macroalgae that drifts at the ocean surface, creating a unique and ecologically-significant marine ecosystem. Accumulations of Sargassum, whether they be isolated clumps or aggregated long windrows or mats covering hundreds of square meters, serve as a food source, nursery for juveniles, spawning ground and protective habitat for diverse invertebrate, fish, turtle and seabird species.

For more than 45 years, SEA has been documenting Sargassum species, abundance and distribution along repeated cruise tracks through the Sargasso Sea, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. Recent investigations include the associated epibiont and mobile fauna communities, seasonal and interannual variability in distribution, and extraordinary Caribbean inundation events. SEA students, faculty, and collaborators use a variety of tools to examine Sargassum and the organisms it hosts from field observations to morphological metrics to molecular analyses of diversity.

Contact: Douglas Karlson, Director of Communications | 508-444-1918 | dkarlson@sea.edu | www.sea.edu

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