Inga Conti-Jerpe, PhD Student

Instructor, Tropical Marine Ecology Course

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The Swire Institute of Marine Science (SWIMS)
School of Biological Sciences
University of Hong Kong
Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong

Email: icontijerpe@tropicalcc.org
Twitter: @IngaContiJerpe 

Education
PhD Student, Coral Biogeochemistry
University of Hong Kong
MS, Marine Biology
University of North Carolina-Wilmington
BS, Biology
Cornell University

Research Interests

I am interested in the community ecology of temperate and tropical hard bottom communities. My research focuses on how trophic interactions mediate benthic community structure and ecosystem function. I study octocorals, also known as soft corals; a diverse group that often dominates tropical, temperate, and deep sea hard-bottom ecosystems and has been increasing on a global scale over the past two decades. The factors that drive the distribution and abundance of octocoral species are poorly understood and many aspects of the basic taxonomy, biology, and ecology of these animals are unknown.

I am primarily interested in the nutrient acquisition of octocorals. There are multiple ways in which octocorals obtain food and nutrients, including filter feeding, the symbiotic relationship they have with photosynthetic algae in their tissue, and direct uptake of organic nutrients from the environment. I am interested in comparing how different species of octocorals use these different sources and how this influences their distribution. The primary tool I use to track and measure resource use is stable isotope analysis.


Inga's MS defense at UNCW in the Biology and Marine Biology department. Research focuses on gorgonian feeding and trophic niche specialization.

Stable Isotope Monitoring Project

TCC has plans to begin a long-term monitoring project that pairs stable isotope analyses to quantify nutrient pollution with benthic community surveys. Comparing sites that are undergoing development to remote sites with no local human pollution will help us understand how coastal development is affecting inshore marine systems in Panama. 

 

Teaching

In addition to teaching for TCC, I am currently a laboratory demonstrator for two undergraduate courses at Hong Kong University. Laboratory and Field Methods in Environmental Science (ENVS 2001/2014) is a lab and field based course that introduces students to a wide range of sampling and analytical techniques. Ecology and Evolution (BIOL 2306) is a field course where students spend three full days at a camp attending lectures and conducting a variety of ecological surveys. My previous teaching experience includes 3 years of instructing the Principles of Biology: Cells laboratory (BIO201) at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Additionally, I designed and led a 1-credit workshop on the maintenance of coral reef aquaria at Cornell University. I feel that the best way to teach ecology and other sciences is through experiential learning in the laboratory and field and I strive to link lecture material directly to observations and activities that students can engage in.

 

Field Experience

The SCUBA certifications I hold include NAUI Open Water; PADI Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver, and Enriched Air Diving; and AAUS Scientific Diver. I have been diving as a researcher for 4 years and as a recreational diver for 12. I have completed a ten day saturation mission in the Aquarius Reef Base underwater habitat and participated as a surface diver in three day-boat missions on ARB sites. I have also participated in a 10-day NOAA cruise off the coast of Wilmington, NC aboard the R/V Nancy Foster and a 14-day UNOLS cruises in the Bahamas aboard the R/V Walton Smith. Additionally, I have extensive research diving experience from over a year of day-boat diving off the coast of Wilmington, NC.