Professor Heather Judkins was named President of the Cephalopod International Advisory Council.

Professor Heather Judkins was named President of the Cephalopod International Advisory Council.

Biology Professor Selected as President of International Cephalopod Council

(Nov. 16, 2018) – Dr. Heather Judkins, Assistant Professor of Biology at USF St. Petersburg, has been named the next President of the Cephalopod International Advisory Council (CIAC).

CIAC is a global organization that seeks to stimulate and accelerate the direction of cephalopod research, provide advice on cephalopod biology relevant to the management of fisheries and enhance awareness of conservation issues and research. Cephalopods are an important and increasingly threatened category of marine life, including squid, octopus and their relatives.

“This is truly a great honor to oversee an international body of renowned and emerging scientists doing vital work to understand and protect some of the most elusive creatures on the planet,” said Judkins.

Judkins is a cephalopod expert who has spent many years researching octopus and squids in the deep sea of the Gulf of Mexico. She has taken part in eight research expeditions for her work in understanding the evolution, ecology and biogeography of cephalopods.

This upcoming summer, she will be part of a research team awarded a NOAA Ocean Exploration Grant to explore never-before-reached canyons in the northern Gulf of Mexico. During the voyage aboard a research vessel, Judkins will work to identify and understand the bioluminescence properties of various octopus and squid. Bioluminescence is the light produced by living organisms using various mechanisms of chemical reactions.

The team will examine different properties of bioluminescence used by marine life living at 1,000-2,000 meters deep in the sea. They will most likely discover new marine life from the deep ocean along the way.

Previously, Judkins was part of a consortium funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to study short- and long-term impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on marine life and ecosystems below 200 meters depth. This multi-year project collected data on contaminants from the spill and impacts on food webs to determine changes in the ecosystem and to marine life from the environmental disaster.

Judkins was named President during the final day of the 2018 CIAC Conference. Every three years, members of the CIAC community meet to discuss the latest research and conservation issues related to cephalopods. This year, USF St. Petersburg hosted the CIAC Conference, which brought together 240 scientists from 30 nations. It was the first time the Conference was held in the United States since 1988.

“It was really inspiring to meet with so many scientists who are conducting important and groundbreaking research, and it created a lot of opportunities for collaboration,” said Judkins.