Researcher Looks at Health of Local Reef Fish

Dr. Paul Sikkel has just completed several days of research on the health of St. Maarten’s reef fish by investigating a species of parasitic isopod that feed on fish blood. The Assistant Professor of Marine Ecology at Arkansas State University has conducted research on parasites throughout the world, including many islands in the Caribbean. Dr. Sikkel, who serves as Chair of the United States branch of Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) was visiting St. Maarten to participate in the annual retreat of the Foundation’s Board of Directors and took the opportunity to conduct research while on the island. He was assisted by fellow EPIC-U.S. Board Member Helen Gratil and partnered with Nature Foundation St. Maarten to access offshore reef areas.


Dr. Sikkel recently made headlines when he named a species of fish parasite new to science after Bob Marley. As a long-time fan of Marley, Dr. Sikkel considers the naming of a new species, Gnathia marleyi, a tribute to the memory of the late reggae artist.

The research on St. Maarten included collecting a variety of fish, taking a minute blood sample, and then safely returning the fish to the location where they were collected. "At one location, we were swimming with buckets of live fish and attracting quite a bit of attention from sharks" reported Dr. Sikkel.

The research project is funded by the National Science Foundation. Research results from this and other locations will be published in the near future.