Biology Student Wins DURA Award

Biology student Adam Searles received a Distinguished Undergraduate Researcher Award (DURA) award for his research on his project Determining Physical and Ecological Factors Affecting Abundances of Juvenile Indicator Species in the Indian River Lagoon. The $200 scholarship funded by SGA is awarded to undergraduate students who have conducted outstanding academic research at UCF.

“It shows UCF’s continual dedication to its student researchers and their success in the future,” Searles said.

As a biology major in the marine and aquatic sciences track, Searles has wanted to become a marine biologist since he was a child. His childhood fishing, hiking and camping on the Indian River Lagoon taught him to appreciate nature.

“It was the love of these activities and the great outdoors that convinced me that I wanted to become a marine biologist and help protect the ecosystems that many hold so dear,” he said.

Searles works in the Marine Ecology and Conservation Lab under Geoffrey Cook, Ph.D. His current research focuses on the effects of oyster reef restoration on marine invertebrate communities in the Indian River Lagoon, and finding ways to quantify the changes over time to get clues on broader ecosystem function.

Oyster reefs help filter the water making it cleaner and better suited for life in the lagoon, such as commercially beneficial invertebrates and fish. To restore the reefs, they break down the dead ones in order to form a healthier habitat.

To understand the effect of the oyster restoration, he samples dead reefs, restored reefs, and live reefs to compare invertebrate species composition and diversity.

“Hopefully our results will help researchers to better monitor oyster reef function in the future,” he said.

For him, UCF and his professors offered him the support he needed to excel.

“This place means more than I can put into words to me. It is because of UCF and its dedicated staff that I am successful,” he said.

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