Scientist Spotlight: Andy David
Andy received his bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from Stetson University in Florida, and his Masters degree in marine science from the University of South Florida. Andy is currently working on his dissertation for his Ph. D. in biology from Florida State University. His dissertation is about the recruitment of snappers and their early life history in sea grass areas.
A native Floridian, Andy has always been near the water. Science has always interested Andy and marine science was a branch of science he was naturally interested in.
Andy has worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Fisheries for 20 years. When he started, Andy initially worked on a project re-stocking Florida waters with red drum. These fish were raised in saltwater ponds and then re-introduced into coastal areas. In order to evaluate how successful this program was, project staff had to determine a way to detect the stocked fish in mixed schools which also contained wild red drum fish.
They decided to study the otoliths, small bones inside the ears of fish. The otoliths are used for hearing and to help with the fish determining position on three different planes. The otoliths are interesting bones because a specific protein-bone pattern is made on this otolith as it grows with approximately one ring being made each day. The bones end up having rings, similar to tree rings, as indicators of growth. These otoliths can be used to determine the age of the fish. As the growth slows down, the growth rings are spaced closer together. Growth rings in the wild fish and the stocked fish were used to compare the ages of the fish specimens collected. The wild fish had a moderately constant rate of growth. The stocked fish had spurts of much faster growth followed by periods of slow growth; this variability was based on the kind of pellets they were eating.
Andy has also studied grouper. Grouper are protogynous, and are all born female. At approximately 6 to 7 years old, some are able to change to the male gender. The problem studied in the Gulf of Mexico was that many grouper were being harvested before the age in which some are able to switch to the male gender. This project looked at protecting certain spawning locations so that groupers had a chance to reproduce before being harvested.
Andy now works with a team of five scientists to study deep corals habitats, like the Extreme Corals Expedition. They select experts from the field to help with their research and data collecting. The deep water coral research in the southeast is a three-year program to collect and analyze data from the field for the advancement of science and to help resource managers make better informed decisions.