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Staff Spotlight: Catalina Brown

The Fish Kill Hotline Coordinator for FWC, Catalina (Cat) Brown focuses on coordinating response to aquatic mortality events for the State of Florida.

Brown specializes in histology, and studied light and electron microscopy at Eckerd College and graduated with a Master’s degree in biological oceanography from USF Marine Science. Her Master thesis, “Ovarian morphology, oogenesis, and changes through the annual reproductive cycle of the female blue crab, Callinectes sapidus Rathbun, in Tampa Bay” focused on gonad staging using histological analysis.

Histology is the science of producing stained sections of preserved tissue on glass slides that can be examined under a microscope. Parasites, bacteria, and fungi, as well as pathological processes and abnormalities can be detected in these preserved tissues.  The techniques used in the FWRI Histology laboratory are similar to those used in hospitals where medical doctors and pathologists examine tissue. Histology is an important research tool for numerous research projects at FWRI, including Fish Biology, Fish Health, Endangered and Threatened Species, and Shellfish Biology. Tissue slides are used in determining the reproductive status of fish populations, the overall health of marine species that are important to Florida, and for the evaluation of pathologies and parasites.

A large part of the position involves providing information and educational support to the public on sport fish, red tide, fish identification, fishing regulations, data requests, and other marine related topics. Connecting with stakeholders regularly is a very rewarding part of the job. “They are naturally very interested in our research and like to hear the scientific information that I provide regarding marine and freshwater mortality and disease events,”  Brown said.

The Fish and Wildlife Health Group study disease and mortality in fish. They investigate abnormal specimens of fish and naturally occurring causes of fish kills, such as algal blooms, low dissolved oxygen, and low dissolved oxygen caused by algal blooms. In addition, the group studies diseases in wild fish populations related to water quality conditions, such as salinity and pH. Analysis of samples includes the use of many diagnostic tools.