Mote Marine Laboratory recently welcomed Fulbright Visiting Scholar Dr. Mohammed Rasheed from Jordan to its independent, nonprofit marine research institution based in Sarasota, Florida.
During his visit, which started September 2016 and goes through May 2017, Rasheed is studying the effects of oil exposure on different fish species including red drum and pompano with Mote Senior Scientists Dr. Dana Wetzel and Dr. Kevan Main. He will be investigating inorganic analytical and statistical data analysis techniques with Senior Scientist Dr. L. Kellie Dixon. Rasheed is able to take part in this research thanks to the Fulbright Visiting Scholar program.
The Council for International Exchange of Scholars’ Fulbright Visiting Scholar Award supports the research and teaching of scholars visiting universities or other organizations in the United States. Each year some 800 faculty and professionals from around the world receive Fulbright Scholar grants for advanced research and university lecturing in the United States.
Rasheed is a marine science professor at the University of Jordan. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in marine chemistry from Yarmouk University in Jordan. He earned his Ph.D. from Max Planck Institute- Bremen University in Germany.
After meeting Dr. Crosby, Mote’s President and CEO, in Jordan, Rasheed wanted to visit Mote and study there.
Since the early days of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which began April 20, 2010, Mote has played a significant role in research investigating how oil exposure can affect marine life during and even after a spill. Today, Mote scientists are working toward developing rapid health-diagnostic tests based on sub-lethal responses that will better predict short- and long-term impacts of oil exposure in Gulf of Mexico fishes.
Starting in April, Mote has been conducting a series of multifaceted studies to recreate possible oil-exposure scenarios for Gulf of Mexico fish species to determine how oil exposure may affect immune and reproductive health, viability of offspring and other traits important for maintaining fish populations.
Mote and its collaborators are examining how specific levels of oil components affect fish under highly controlled conditions in the lab. These lab studies rigorously examine oil-related changes in immune and reproductive health, viability of offspring and other traits important for maintaining Gulf fish populations; lab results provide important baseline data to better interpret and help “decode” research findings from wild fish sampled during and after the spill. Together, lab and field studies aim to provide a head start in understanding threats to the health of Gulf fisheries for decades to come.
Wetzel is Toxicology Task Lead in the Deepwater Horizon research consortium called CIMAGE II (and its predecessor, C-IMAGE), which is based at the University of South Florida and funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative. Wetzel and Main are leading oil spill studies at Mote Aquaculture Park, the Lab’s sustainable fish-farming research facility. Wetzel and Main worked together on fish toxicology assessments within the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA)* coordinated by multiple federal and Gulf-state trustees. Mote, an independent research institution, is glad to contribute its cutting-edge studies to this major, long-term effort to understand and address the harm caused by the spill.
The goal is to better understand sub-lethal effects that could possibly result from an oil spill. Sub-lethal effects do not kill animals outright but affect their health in subtler ways that can ultimately harm wild populations. These effects are largely unknown for fish exposed to Deepwater Horizon oil.
Dixon, Manager of the Chemical & Physical Ecology Program at Mote, has many overlaps with Rasheed of both prior and ongoing research. Together, they are examining methods of inorganic analyses for optimizing detection limits of nutrients in very “clean” coastal waters and will be analyzing a water quality data base with multiple parameters to investigate water mass transport, links to phytoplankton growth, and the geographic range of influence of a variety of discharges.
Q&A with Rasheed
What brought you to Mote?
It is my first time in the United States and my first time visiting Mote, but I met Dr. Crosby when he was visiting Jordan awhile back. The University of Jordon actually signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Mote, which enabled me to apply for the Fulbright scholarship to come here.
Also, the weather here is pretty nice! The people here are so friendly, and so intelligent. My wife and four kids came with me and they also love it here.
What will you be studying at Mote?
I will be studying the impacts of oil exposure on fish. Mote is conducting laboratory exposure as part of the C-Image Consortium to examine the effects of oil on the long-term health of certain species of fish.
We expose fish to the oil through different pathways and in different concentrations, which allows us to learn baseline data on the health effects of oil exposure on fish.
In one study, we are researching the effects of oil exposure in the water with Florida pompano. There are three treatment conditions that we use to study this. One pompano treatment is the control, meaning there is no oil mixed in with the water. One treatment has a low oil concentration and one treatment has a high concentration of oil mixed in the water.
Following the exposure, the fish are transferred to large tanks where they are conditioned for spawning. After two or three months, the fish are collected, examined and spawned. We will then study their offspring to determine if oil has an impact on the next generation spawn of fish that were exposed to oil.
I am also collaborating with Dr. Kellie Dixon comparing nutrient analysis in oceanic seawater that contains very low nutrient concentrations. In Jordan, we perform this analysis manually and here, Mote researchers do it by auto-analyzer. It would be helpful to compare the two methods.
Dr. Dixon is also working to help me publish some of the data that I collected during my research studies in Jordon.
Why is oil pollution important to research and understand?
Oil pollution is very important today, especially from oil spills like the Deepwater Horizon. It is important because it may significantly impact marine organisms. If one ecosystem is impacted, the rest are too, and then the entire ocean is negatively impacted. Our environment is shared. It’s shared between animals, plants and humans, and we need to take care of our oceans and our environment.
What I learn here at Mote may also be used with different species of fish that live in Jordan. We have an aquaculture facility in Jordon, and we work a lot with red sea species. The techniques here may be able to help not only the local oceans, but oceans all over the world.