Anthony Gillis

PhD student

I have always been enamored by oceans and maps. In concert, they have provided me the greatest motivation to pursue a life and career that explores their overlap, the frontiers they traverse, and the secrets still in need of decoding, all the while using the insight gained to guide management and conservation. It’s been a long and winding road with no clear definition of a final goal, just broad strokes of trying to give what I can to protect our ecosystems and its species. However, though the end goal is ever evolving, my decisions and choices to travel from home and pursue my calling were always clear-cut and the correct ones for me.

My career began in earnest at Texas A&M University in 2008 after transferring from Biology to pursue a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science. Gratefully my career got a much-needed boost when I began working with sea turtles on various nesting beaches in Texas, South Carolina, and Georgia. I found I thoroughly enjoyed the research and discovery aspects of fieldwork. After attempting to focus more on fisheries and shark biology at the Bimini Shark Lab, I was presented with the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree at Florida State University exploring spatial variation in sea turtle foraging ecology using stable isotope analysis. As a graduate student at FSU, I found my analytical and quantitative skills lacking and, more accurately, verging on nonexistent. I dove head-first into building up these skills as well as my spatial analysis as a graduate student. This build-up of experience enabled me to accept a position with Florida Fish & Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) as landscape biologist, data scientist and spatial analyst. This position pushed me to further develop my data wrangling abilities as I summarized state-wide data to help spatial prioritize where marine conservation actions should happen.

I’m extremely grateful to continue my journey to grow and build my quantitative skill as a Ph.D. student in the Tonkin Lab as well as working closely with Dr. Mads Thomsen’s Lab. I’ll be focusing my time and effort exploring the indirect interactions of species and communities observed in rocky shore, seagrass beds and estuaries. Network analysis will help elucidate how species-, interaction- and community-level responses vary due to climate change, heatwaves, and species invasions. I also hope to draw on my spatial analysis experience to uncover if and how these interaction may change spatially.

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