Imagine having a newly discovered species named after you! Proschkinia browderiana, a diatom new to science, was recently named after NOAA Fisheries’ scientist, Dr. Joan Browder. A diatom is a type of algae. This new species was found in the NOAA Biscayne Bay Habitat Focus Area off Miami, Florida as part of the epiphytic algae growing on seagrass in nearshore areas of the Bay. An epiphyte is an organism that grows on the surface of a plant. It gets its energy from sunlight and its nutrients from the air or water around it.
Dr. Browder works out of NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center in Miami. She has been a NOAA scientist for nearly 42 years. She initiated the study to assess epiphytic community responses to changing water quality regimes. The honor of naming the new species after her was in recognition of her many research accomplishments in Biscayne Bay and other coastal and estuarine ecosystems of south Florida.
The unique diatom was presented with five other new species of Proschkinia in a paper published in the European Journal of Phycology. Dr. Thomas Frankovich of Florida International University discovered and named the new Biscayne Bay diatom species. He and Dr. Anna Wachnicka, now a lead scientist at the South Florida Water Management District, together identified more than 200 different diatom taxa from the epiphyte collection. A taxon is a group of one or more populations of an organism or organisms seen by taxonomists to form a unit. Dr. Thomas Jackson, a fishery scientist at NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center, also participated in the study.
This exciting news is just one of many of Dr. Browder’s scientific accomplishments over the past four decades. In 2016 she received NOAA’s 2016 Distinguished Career Award. It recognized her many years of dedication, leadership excellence, and scientific contributions to NOAA’s efforts in ecosystem and Everglades restoration.
According to her staff and colleagues, despite her high scientific stature and numerous achievements, Dr. Browder remains a genuine, caring, down-to-earth person. She can always be depended upon to help young scientists with a rare combination of objectivity, fairness, and grace. It is only fitting that she will be forever associated with a species that inhabits the nearshore waters to which she has contributed so much of her professional life.