Staff Spotlight

This issue, Allison Patranella with Ecosystem Assessment and Restoration out of St. Pete, was kind enough to answer some questions about herself and her work. Thanks, Allison!

What is your professional experience?

I’ve been working at the FWRI for 5 years in the seagrass lab as an OPS field technician, and more recently as a Biological Scientist II. Previously, I worked several years as a scientific diver around Fort Lauderdale for Nova Southeastern University.

What are you working on now?

We’re currently growing out seagrass seedlings (Thalassia testudinum) for future use in restoration efforts. We collected around 2,300 seedlings from shorelines and wrack in Tampa Bay in August 2022. Most of those seedlings are now small Thalassia shoots, growing out in our nursery greenhouse. Next summer, these plants will be planted in Tampa Bay as a restoration effort in an area experiencing seagrass loss.

How is this information beneficial?

Unlike traditional seagrass restoration methods, no donor seagrass beds will be harmed for restoration efforts. Normally, plugs of seagrass will be taken out of a donor bed and replanted in the restoration bed. By using seedlings that were already washed ashore or otherwise likely to not survive, we are giving the seedlings a second chance at life while sparing the donor beds of damage. If we are successful, this process could become an alternative method of seagrass restoration.

What is your typical workday like?

I have lot of different typical workdays. When we’re out in the field, I’ll generally be on a boat monitoring seagrass beds all day, collecting samples, recording data, and doing surveys. If we’re not in the field, I could be running chlorophyll samples, processing seagrass and preparing for analysis, entering or QA’ing data, or any number of lab tasks. I also spend a fair amount of time in our seagrass nursery greenhouse, checking salinities and general the condition of our baby shoots.

Who has been your favorite mentor or role model?

Laura Yarbro has played a big part in the scientist I am today. Laura taught me numerous chemical analyses, the logistics of running a scientific laboratory, and how to navigate through permitting and administrative processes. I’m not sure where I’d be without Laura’s tutelage.

What have some of your biggest challenges been?

One of my biggest challenges has been adapting to our field schedule. During field season, we’re out of town for a large chunk of the month. Long field trips make everyone grumpy, and you need to be careful to not be sloppy with your data or protocols.

What do you like most about your career?

I like the variety of my career. I never have weeks of staring at a computer, I’m able to jump between multiple tasks when need be. I can take breaks from data entry to analyze water samples or go out in the field instead of doing lab work. It keeps me from getting too bored of any one type of work and gets me looking forward to the more satisfying jobs.

Was this your original career interest? Why or why not?

My original career interest was a marine environmental scientist focusing on artificial reefs with ecosystem in mind. I never had success with artificial reef companies, and I didn’t want to go back to school for a PhD at the time. I’m happy working with seagrasses as I can focus on ecosystem health and restoration in a more natural setting.

What would you be doing if you weren’t involved in science?

I would be a dive instructor in South Florida or the Bahamas. I really enjoy diving, so sharing that experience with newcomers would be a fun profession. I was a divemaster back in Fort Lauderdale, so being an instructor would be the next step.

What’s been one of your best memories during your career at FWRI?

One of my best memories is finally finishing the National Coastal Condition Assessment in 2021. The NCCA was supposed to be completed in 2020 but was extended for obvious reasons. The project was intense, incredibly detail oriented, required travel statewide, and required shipping hundreds of coolers. The feeling of completing the project after two long years was incredible.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy playing video games, doing crafts, and spending time with my family. I’m the cool aunt, so I love spoiling my niece and teaching her how great the ocean is.

What book or show are you currently enjoying?

I’m currently reading The Expanse, book 9: Leviathan Falls.

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