2018 - Zale Parry Scholarship Recipient  

Nate Spindel 

I grew up with a predilection for
tinkering with broken telephone and
microwave parts to figure out how they
worked. This open-ended curiosity about
how things fit together is likely what drove
me toward a career in science. From my
first introduction to ecology, evolution, and
marine biology in high school throughout
my subsequent undergraduate studies at
the University of California Santa Barbara,
I have cultivated a lifelong commitment
to the study of Nature--the ultimate
tinkerer. I have always been fascinated by
ecological theory in an abstract sense, as it
models the interplay of environmental and
biological factors shaping natural systems,
but my passion for the interdisciplinary
application of theory to solve ecological
problems is what ultimately drove me
to pursue a PhD. Growing up as an avid surfer, fisherman, outdoorsman, and diver in coastal California made the threats facing sub-tidal coastal ecosystems immediate and direct to me. I have logged over 1000 scientific dives in both temperate and tropical environments, which allowed me to connect abstract theory to underwater reality. As a father of a three- year-old son who will grow up witnessing the effects of human impacts and climate change, I intend to set a positive example by embracing a leadership role in advancing ecological theory, engaging in the improvement of environmental management policy, and teaching future generations.

My decision to pursue graduate study at FSU is the culmination of nearly a decade of post-undergraduate experience working and researching in real-world settings. Those intervening years have been critical for developing the commitment, maturity, and focus required to become a leader in the field. Through these experiences, I have cultivated a professional background in marine ecology, specializing in the ecophysiology of temperate kelp forests and tropical coral reefs.

In the kelp forest domain, I have explored the question of how the
creation of marine protected areas
affects community structure and productivity. The data we collected at
the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Study of Coastal Oceans was used to inform management decisions regarding the location and sizing of one of the world’s largest networks of marine protected areas throughout the Santa Barbara Channel Islands. During my
time working at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Mitigation Monitoring Project I collected, processed, analyzed, and reported on data that evaluated the efficacy of one of
the world’s largest temperate artificial reefs as an ecological mitigation strategy. Most recently, as a first-year PhD student, I was awarded a fellowship to study population dynamics of endangered Northern Abalone in British Columbia, Canada.

In the coral reef domain, I gained valuable experience researching the ecophysiology of coral reefs in the context
of climate change. We successfully executed a series of experiments which evaluated the physiological effects of climate change-related stress on a variety of scleractinian coral and calcifying algal genera. This work spanned investigative scales from the organismal to the community level and I feel that integrating physiological response data from this range
of scales is critical to the development of improved models
of ecosystem trajectory. I hope to implement lessons learned from this work to complement my current research plans in British Columbia.