Title: Assistant Professor
College: Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Department: Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program – School of Forest Resources and Conservation, and the School of Natural Resources and the Environment
Curriculum vitae: PDF
Research Interests: The effects of disease on the ecology of marine organisms, and the resilience and restoration of benthic marine communities (e.g. coral reefs and tropical hard-bottom areas) affected by human or natural disturbances.
Hobbies: Enjoys hiking, camping, fishing, snowboarding and just about any outdoor activity with his wife and kids.

 

Dr. Behringer’s program has two main foci: the effects of disease on the ecology of marine organisms, and the resilience and restoration of benthic marine communities (e.g., coral reefs and tropical hard-bottom areas) affected by human or natural disturbances. The two are not mutually exclusive in that the effects of disease are altered or exacerbated by impacts to the habitat structure that sessile communities provide.
The emergence and impact of diseases in marine populations is increasingly recognized as an issue of major environmental concern. Dr. Behringer’s research uses the novel virus PaV1, discovered infecting the Caribbean spiny lobster, as a model system. PaV1 (Panulirus argus Virus 1) is a pathogenic virus that infects spiny lobsters throughout the Caribbean Sea. PaV1 is the first naturally occurring viral pathogen described for any species of lobster and it has remarkable effects on lobster ecology. Early results were exciting and included a remarkable discovery that healthy lobsters are able to detect and avoid infected lobsters – potentially reducing their risk of infection. This is the first description of this type of behavior and it stands to alter the understanding of the role of pathogens in structuring social populations. Components of the work on PaV1 include the ecological effects of disease, geographic disease distribution and connectivity, disease pathobiology, molecular characterization, and fishery implications. Dr. Behringer’s research has evolved from a basic understanding of PaV1 disease epidemiology, ecology, and pathobiology to a focus on the lobster-PaV1 system as a case study to better understand the importance of oceanic hydrodynamics and larval dispersal of infectious agents on the distribution and maintenance of disease in disparate populations.

The other focus of Dr. Behringer’s research targets hard-bottom communities in southeast Florida and the Florida Keys with the aim of determining human/environmental impact patterns and the potential for sustainable use or need for restoration. In the Florida Keys, Dr. Behringer studies the impacts of recurring harmful plankton blooms on shallow hard-bottom communities, particularly sponges. These blooms devastate sponges, some > 1 m wide, that form much of the structure in this critical habitat. Many ecologically and economically valuable organisms such as spiny lobsters, stone crabs, snappers, and groupers rely on this habitat for their early ontogeny. In southeast Florida, Dr. Behringer and colleagues are using aerial surveys to determine human use patterns (i.e. vessels) on coral reefs and in-water studies to determine whether the use patterns being described correspond to reef damage patterns.

 

Contact information:
School of Forest Resources and Conservation
University of Florida
7922 NW 71st Street
Gainesville, FL 32653
Emerging Pathogens Institute
P.O. Box 100009
Gainesville, Florida 32610-0009
Voice: (352) 273-3634
Fax: (352) 273-9430

Email: behringer@ufl.edu