Joseph Pawlik


Dr. Joseph Pawlik became interested in the ecology of sponges as an undergraduate student at the Marine Laboratory in Bermuda (now the Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences). He was intrigued by the diversity of color and form of sponges, along with their distribution across all marine habitats in tropical Atlantic waters. He returned to working on them as a young Assistant Professor, interested in chemical ecology because of their ability to be used as a model system, and also because they produce in their tissues the greatest diversity of unusual organic compounds of any group of animals.

Now, Joe is a Distinguished Professor of Marine Biology in the Department of Biology and Marine Biology at UNCW. He received his Bachelor’s in 1982 from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and his PhD in Marine Biology in 1988 from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD.  He joined the Department of Biology and Marine Biology at UNCW in 1991, where he teaches an undergraduate course in Invertebrate Zoology and Biodiversity, teaches Introduction to Science as a Profession to graduate students, and directs a research program involving undergraduate, MS and PhD students. Joe worked at the US National Science Foundation as a Program Officer in the Biological Oceanography Program for 2 years beginning 2003. He and his students and collaborators have authored over 160 publications, primarily on the ecology of sponges on Caribbean coral reefs.

He is interested in Caribbean sponges because unlike coral reefs anywhere else in the world, those in the Caribbean have a high abundance of sponges, and the same species are found throughout the entire region. He also finds sponges to be interesting because we know so little about them: How old are they? How fast do they grow? Are their populations increasing on reefs? At Sea & Learn, you can expect to answer all of these questions on sponges in the Caribbean from Dr. Joe Pawlik this year!

Once you listen to Joe's presentation about sponges, we promise you will have a different perspective on your next dive.  Joe will be conducting his field project dive on one of Saba's colorful reefs so that participating divers can survey the sponge biodiversity, learn how a sponge filter-feeds, and techniques for aging these interesting, sometimes taken for granted, organisms.

Joseph Pawlik will be presenting on October 5th, 2019! We will be updating our calendar with activity dates and times as we continue to coordinate our event. Stay tuned!

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