Homo sapian studying Scleractinia

Curious and adventurous graduate student of biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I aim to combine my passions in science, music, and diving to contribute to our understanding of coral reef ecology, specifically in a changing world.

Last day of my AAUS Scientific Diving classes, 2016, Morehead City, Beaufort, NC

 

Biography:

Originally from Denver, Colorado, I have always been engaged with the natural environment, from the mountains and rivers in the west to the rolling prairies in the east.

Me and the family riding the Arkansas River in 2012, Canon City, CO

Hiking through the Rocky Mountains in 2016, San Isabel National Forest, CO

It wasn’t until I first visited the Pacific Ocean as an 8-year-old that my passion for sharks, most likely from watching Jaws too many times, culminated into a tangible dream of becoming a marine biologist.

Although my passion for fish has never waned, I became captivated with corals and coral reefs. An entire ecosystem created from individual coral polyp animals, essentially minuscule (<10mm) jellyfish living in colonies, that have their own “garden” living inside their tissues, while constantly secreting a calcium carbonate skeleton from it’s “skin”. This is the stuff of science fiction, yet here it is supporting over 25% of the world’s ocean biomass. 

Caribbean corals: Left: Orbicella franksi with coral polyps extended Right: Diploria labyrinthiformis

Past Research:

My first independent research study was on the effects estrogen has on the reproductive fitness and output of the soft coral Nematostella vectensis

Extended tentacles of Nematostella vectensis 2012, Regis University, Denver, CO

Before attending graduate school, I worked as Lab Manager for Dr. Chris Martin’s fish genetics and ecology lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Here we explored the evolutionary and ecological mechanisms at play in adaptive radiations and sympatric speciation in tropical pupfish and African cichlid populations.

“Big Boy” Coptodon ejagham from Lake Ejagham, Cameroon, Africa, is an African Cichlid chasing a laser pointer.  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2017

Current Research:

I am interested in exploring the genetic and ecological mechanisms controlling reef-building corals potential to adapt and acclimatize to increasing sea temperatures. I am also working with coral restoration practitioners to enhance restoration efforts as well investigating population genetics to make better restoration decisions.

Coral thermal adaptation:

In Bermuda, I collaborated with a team of scientists, Drs. John Bruno (UNC), Hollie Putnam (URI), Nyssa Silbiger (CSUN) and Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley (BIOS) constructing thermal performance curves for the reef-building coral Orbicella franksi.

Collecting algae in Bermuda for a benthic ecology survey 2017

Improving coral outplanting restoration with novel techniques to reduce bleaching severity:

Working with the Coral Restoration Foundation, I am testing novel techniques in the laboratory that reduce bleaching severity in staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis. See research-musings for more…