Kelly Smith traveled to the coral reefs in the Caribbean to study the Thalassoma bifasciatum fish. With Doctor Rogers and other students, she wanted to research what happens when certain patterns occurred in the species’ IP/TP types and what effect population had on plankton duration.

Hypotheses that were tested:
1. Mortality rate is higher for males than females on smaller reefs. Fantastic
2. The mortality rate is equal between male/female, but the growth rate in males is slower than in females.
4. IP males are avoiding small reefs since they are not as productive and are unsuccessful in smaller reefs.
5. IP females are avoiding large reefs.

The Thalassoma bifasciatum is known for having the ability to change sex. In her research, Kelly focused on analyzing the Otholith (or ear bones) to determine the age of the fish as well as when it had emerged as an adult. Similar to trees, the fish’s bones have rings that continually add new, outer layers. After collecting 700-800 fish from 19 different reefs, the group then shipped them back to Agnes Scott, counted the Otholiths, and then quantified the results. The data showed that IP males are on small reefs and that females are avoiding large reefs.
The research still has room to grow, and the Caribbean has its plusses (Kelly’s pictures of the trip had clear, blue water, who doesn’t like that?). If you are interested in research similar to Kelly’s, the research course is offered occasionally in the summer.