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Dates: June 7, 2010 - June 18, 2010
Location: Bocas Reseach Station, Bocas del Toro
Organizer: Jon Norenburg, NMNH and Rachel Collin, STRI


Dr. Marco Curini-Galletti

Univ. Sassari, Italy

Dr. Lena Gustavsson

Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet, Stockholm, Sweden

Dr. Rick Hochberg

Univ. Massachusetts - Lowell, USA

Dr. Jon Norenburg

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, USA

Dr. Sofia V. Pyataeva

M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia

Dr. Carlos Rocha

Univ. São Paulo, Brazil

Dr. Ashleigh Smythe

Hamilton College, NY, USA

Alberto de Jesus Navarrete

El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Mexico

Fernando Pardos

Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain

Dr. Katrine Worsaae

Univ. Copenhagen, Denmark

Rachel Collin


Mikael Thollesson

Uppsala University, Sweden

Jennifer Hammock

Encyclopedia of Life National Museum of Natural History

Daniel Gouge

Florida Field Assistant

Course description:

Meiofauna is loosely defined as animals capable of passing through a 0.5-mm mesh. Those associated with various marine sediments include entire phyla (such as kinorhynchs and gastrotrichs), entire major clades of other invertebrate phyla (especially among the arthropods, nematodes, annelids and platyhelminthes), as well as miniaturized representatives of most other animal phyla. Meiofauna probably accounts for well in excess of half the diversity present in complex biotopes such as coral reefs, with most but not all of it associated with sediments. While the great phylum and class level diversity of meiofauna is well-known, the genus and species-level diversity remains largely un-explored and un-documented. Previous, mostly morphological studies of meiofauna have led to groundbreaking insights about evolution, adaptation, and functional biology (e.g., adhesive and sensory structures), as well as fundamental insights into the evolution of the major animal groups in the tree of life.

This course is designed to orient participants to the vast biodiversity of tropical marine meiofauna through field and laboratory work. Specifically, it takes a taxon-survey approach to emphasize the development or enhancement of practical skills essential for collection, identification, characterization and preservation of meiofauna and development of EOL content. Sampling forays in diverse environments on protected and exposed shorelines throughout the Bocas del Toro Archipelago will complement morphological and molecular investigations in the laboratory.

Morphological investigation will emphasize the preparation of specimens for microscopic examination and sorting to the level possible with light microscopy. Participants will contribute to the development of the bilingual Bocas del Toro Biodiversity Inventory and developing pages for the Encyclopedia of Life.

Molecular investigation will emphasize sampling and preservation of material for subsequent analysis of DNA sequences for barcoding, phylogenetic and biogeographical studies. Data derived from this part of the class will contribute to the Bocas del Toro Barcode of Life Project.

Most field sites can be sampled by snorkeling (0-10m depths), but optional SCUBA diving opportunities (for appropriately certified individuals see: SI Scientific Diving Program) will be available. The course will be taught in English.


Susel Castellanos Iglesias

Oceanology Institute of Cuba
I am working as a researcher on cnidarian marine benthic organisms in the Benthic Department at the Oceanology Institute of Cuba studying the ecology and health rapid assessment of coral reef and taxonomy and ecology on Hydrozoans. I have been focused my studies on benthic Hydrozoan community related to fine diversity, morphology and taxonomy of meiobenthic cnidarians. I interested in studies of developmental biology, phylogeny, symbiotic relationships and the ecology of colonial hydroids as environmental indicators. I would like to know up-to-date morphological and molecular techniques to evaluate taxonomy and phylogeny of meiobenthic cnidarians.

Belinda Cooke

Macquarie University, Australia
I am a PhD student with Macquarie University, Australia. I am studying meiofauna from sandy beaches around Sydney. I am very interested in the effects of management and development on sandy beach ecosystems. Presently I am collecting baseline data but hope to explore the relationship of meiofauna and coastal geomorphology and the effects of beach management such as nourishment and climate change such as altered wave climate. I am particularly interested in Harpacticoida.

Barbara Eder

University of Munich
I am a Diploma student at the University of Munich and currently I am working on my Diploma thesis project at the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology in Munich. My research focuses on the microanatomy and phylogeny of the family Ganitidae (Opisthobranchia: Acochlidia), small interstitial living mollusks. By histological sectioning and 3D reconstruction I plan to redescribe the key species of this group and, together with molecular data investigated in the workgroup, we try to find out more about their phylogenetic relationships, evolution and distribution.

Katharina Jörger

Bavarian State Collection of Zoology
I am a PhD student at the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology/ University of Munich. My research focus is the phylogeny and evolution of a small group of meifaunal gastropods, called Acochlidia. Currently I am working on a molecular phylogeny of the Acochlidia (based on nuclear and mitochondrial markers) as basis to explain major events in their evolution (e.g. conquering of meiofaunal and limnic habitat, secondary gonochorism, different modes of sperm transfer). Moreover, I am interested to find out more about their worldwide distribution and still hidden diversity in the sand.

Maikon Di Domenico

Universidade Federal do Paraná, Brasil
I am a Ph D student of Zoology. My research focus is on systematics, evolution and ecology of interstitial annelids in southwestern Atlantic sandy beaches. I’m interested in understanding the relationships between the phylogenetic lineages of the interstitial annelids and their polyphyletic progenetic origins and coexistence of various forms in the complex interstitial microhabitats. I’m using both molecular and morphological tools to build phylogenies, describe species, and document interstitial annelid diversity. I am also interested in other groups of smaller metazoans, such as Kinorhyncha, Gastrotricha and Turbellaria

Alejandro Martínez García

University of Copenhagen
I am a first year PhD student at the University of Copenhagen studying adaptation and speciation processes of interstitial annelids in Atlantic cave systems. For this project we are sampling several cave systems around the Atlantic, mainly at the Canary Islands, Mallorca, Bermuda, Bahamas and Yucatán. We explore the morphology of our cave species seeking for adaptations to the cave environment. For that purpose, we use several methods, mainly CLSM, SEM, TEM and LM. We are also planning to do some biogeographical studies in the next years, based on DNA sequences. During our surveys, we also have a look on other interstitial groups, in order to try and get an overview on the diversity of the anchialine interstitial habitats. Outside my research, my interests include diving (especially cave diving) and music.

Christopher Laumer

Harvard University
I am a young invertebrate systematist pursuing my Ph.D. at Harvard University in the Giribet lab. My research is concerned with the tiny, mega-diverse aquatic animals that occur among benthic sediments and vegetation throughout the world, and I hope to spend my career furthering our knowledge of these Lilliputian beasts. I am particularly interested in the freshwater representatives of this fauna, especially the flatworms. My thesis research centers on a remarkable but poorly known group called the Prorhynchidae: cosmopolitan, predatory groundwater-dwellers and terrestrial worms of uncertain evolutionary position. I am combining classical microscopic and field studies with genetic work to create a more or less "natural" classification of these animals, and to answer questions about their perhaps considerable dispersal capabilities.

Kevin Kocot

Auburn University
I am a third year Ph.D. student at Auburn University. My dissertation research focuses on the evolutionary relationships among the major lineages of Lophotrochozoans using a molecular phylogenetic approach. I am particularly interested in the molluscs with special emphasis on the putatively basal Neomeniomorpha (=Solenogastres), many of which are meiofaunal. Understanding the phylogenetic position of Neomeniomorpha relative to the other molluscs would have important implications for our understanding of the origins and evolution of molluscs and their relatives. I am also interested in comparative genomics and bioinformatics.

Tiago José Pereira

University of California
I am a Biologist with a Master's degree in Marine Ecology. I have been working with marine meiofauna, mainly marine nematodes, during my undergraduate (community ecology) and master's (molecular ecology) programs. Currently, I am working with terrestrial soil nematodes (free living and plant parasites) in the Department of Nematology as Junior Specialist at the University of California UCR where I am also a PhD applicant. My PhD thesis will focus on evolutionary biology, genetics, and morphology in order to understand the phylogeny of nematodes, specifically on Tylenchina. I am also interested in improving my taxonomy skills in other important meiofauna groups.

Andrew Frank

American University
I am currently an undergraduate senior at American University pursuing my bachelors of science in biology, with a minor in chemistry. I work at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History with Jon Norenburg, doing work on phylum Nemertea. My research focuses on doing a genetic comparison between two species of Nemertea found on North Atlantic coasts using DNA barcoding. I'm interested in pursuing a PhD after I graduate in evolutionary biology.

Sara Atherton

Arlene Eya

This course is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DEB 0918499 to R. Hochberg, “An International Approach to the Biodiversity, Biogeography and Evolution of Caribbean Gastrotricha. 2009 – 2012.” Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.