08/2015 – Present
In the Fall of 2015, I started as a Marine Biology PhD student at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. With advisor Mark Hixon and colleagues, I am pursuing my interests in herbivory associated with tropical fishes using manipulative field experiments. I plan to conduct underwater SCUBA surveys that characterize the diversity, abundance, and size of Hawaiian coral reef fishes, invertebrates, and algae. Observations such as these will provide crucial information for creating field experiments that investigate the influence of species interactions on the resilience of coral reefs to climate change.
My most recent field research experience took place at the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI) on the Island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. At CEI, I worked with three of Mark Hixon’s graduate students Lillian Tuttle, Tye Kindinger, and Alex Davis on various projects related to their lab’s National Science Foundation invasive red lionfish project (OSU CEI blog). I was involved with a number of specific projects related to lionfish relocation (pictured above), basslet community experiments, cleaner goby experiments, and a lab experiment comparing prey reaction to native predators and lionfish. Currently, I am collaborating with the lab’s Smith postdoctoral fellow Stephanie Green on publishing our findings from the prey reaction experiment. This trip provided me with my first experience working with invasive species. My hope is to incorporate invasive species into my graduate research to better understand how their presence may alter Hawaiian coral reef ecosystems.
During the summer of 2012, I joined the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Mitigation Monitoring Project (SONGS MMP) in Carlsbad, CA. As a lab technician, I was responsible for surveying fish, mobile invertebrates, giant kelp, and understory algae using SCUBA. All surveys were conducted at three reef sites (2 natural reefs and 1 artificial reef) and a number of experimental reef modules to compare the ecological condition of the mitigation reefs to local natural reefs. This project provided me with my first experience diving in a drysuit in low visibility conditions. This was the longest field season that I have participated in to date.
After graduation at UCSB, I headed straight to the Island of Moorea in French Polynesia to serve as a research assistant for the Moorea Coral Reef Long Term Ecological Research project (MCR LTER). While in Tahiti, I lived at the Gump Research Station on Cook’s Bay where I assisted Russell Schmitt, Sally Holbrook, Andrew Brooks, and Thomas Adam on various aspects of the MCR LTER project. I was mainly responsible for building and deploying herbivore exclusion cages that were used in a fascinating coral-algae-herbivore interaction experiment. I also was responsible for deploying and monitoring a small juvenile Pocillopora coral study on Gump Reef next to the research station. My time in Moorea was a life changer for me because it provided me with my first opportunity to dive coral reefs. As a result, I decided that coral reefs were my system of choice for graduate school research and I have since not looked back.
My career in marine ecology started from my humble beginnings as a freshman volunteer in the Santa Barbara Coastal Long Term Ecological Research project (SBC LTER) with staff researcher Dan Reed. Over the next three years, I served as a data entry volunteer, diving technician, NSF REU, and undergraduate researcher. During my senior year at the SBC LTER, I worked on an undergraduate thesis project with former postdoctoral fellow Jarrett Byrnes in which I examined the potential effects of habitat complexity on sea star predation. This study integrated sea star predation surveys in the field and predation trials in the lab to determine if the density of kelp plants and their fronds can inhibit the ability of sea stars to feed. From the data I was able to collect, I concluded that kelp density did not explain the variation seen in predation to a significant degree and therefore is unlikely to be a factor that affects sea star predation.
If you would like to learn more about this project, please click here to view my UCSB Undergraduate Research Colloquium poster.