Alumni Bloggers

Since 2008, The Drop-In has had numerous graduate students contribute their experiences and scientific knowledge. Check out the impressive list below of past bloggers.


Erin Loury, Ichthyology Lab

The Drop-In Founder

I am studying the diet of gopher rockfish (Sebastes carnatus) from inside and outside of new marine protected areas (MPAs) in central California. These MPAs are marine reserves that do not allow fishing within their borders – they act like national parks on land, with the goal to protect the ecosystem and wildlife inside from degradation.” Read more

Shaara Ainsley, Ichthyology Lab

Due to the enormous amount of fish and other marine life taken from the sea, it is very important to manage fisheries in a sustainable manner. My current research is focused on finding accurate estimates of life history parameters, which are essential to successful fisheries management… My two study species are the Bering skate, Bathyraja interrupta, and the whitebrow skate, Bathyraja minispinosa, which are both found in Alaskan waters.Read more

Mariah Boyle, Ichthyology Lab

I am studying the feeding habits of a deepwater elasmobranch, the roughtail skate, Bathyraja trachura... As we continue to fish our oceans more and more we need to understand how the trophic levels of organisms change in response to our manipulation and make sure that they remain stable.” Read more

Jeremiah Brower, Geological Oceanography Lab

My focus is in coastal morphology, which covers all processes that fuel the development and erosion of our coastlineMy thesis work concerns the establishment of sediment transport patterns (and seasonal changes in those patterns) along the central Monterey Bay coastline…Read more

Shandy Buckley, Physical Oceanography Lab

“I’m currently studying how physical oceanography interacts with and affects the sandy seafloor in Santa Cruz bay. This is an interesting topic because the ocean’s waves and currents affect the bottom roughness (also known as ripples), and the bottom roughness in theory interacts with the waves and currents.”  Read more

Casey Clark, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

“Since working in Kodiak, I have gotten involved in a variety of different types of research.  For my master’s thesis, however, I’m going back to my roots and studying humpback whales.  When I was younger, I thought that we knew everything there was to know about whales.  In reality, that couldn’t be farther from the truth…” Read more

Emily Donham, Ichthyology Lab

Emily Donham

“I have always been interested in science.  At the age of 17 my parents encouraged me to become SCUBA certified so that I could go on a dive trip with them.  This is where I was first exposed to the spectacular shapes and colors of the oceans.  It was then that I realized I wanted to study marine ecosystems.  It wasn’t until I began diving in Hawaii that I realized I wanted to study fish.”  Read more

Danielle Frechette, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

“I am studying the effects of bird predation on juvenile salmon in two central California watersheds. Basically, we are trying to figure out how many fish the birds are eating! I find it interesting because it pulls together several of my interests: ecology, wetlands, marine birds, and fisheries management. Read more

Scott Gabara, Phycology Lab

“I am studying the ecology of rhodolith beds at Catalina Island, CA.  Rhodoliths are unattached coralline algae that aggregate and interconnect to form beds.  At Catalina most rhodoliths are around 2 cm and blanket the bottom like pink tumbleweeds.  Although these beds are globally distributed the only place they are located from Alaska to Baja is at the Channel Islands.  The rhodolith beds occur in protected bays and harbors, which is the best place for mooring boats, unfortunate as the …” Read more

Heather Hawk, Invertebrate Ecology Lab

My thesis project will look at the genetic diversity of the endangered white abalone in California, and some possible reasons that mere protection is not helping populations recover… My project incorporates several fields of science as well as many different tools. It takes me into the field, museums, and the laboratory, and I get to learn about fisheries and conservation, genetics, disease, age and growth, and materials science.” Read more

Brynn Hooton-Kaufman, Phycology Lab

“I am studying the associations between the kelp Undariapinnatifida and native fishes in Central California.  I’m really interested in the interactions between organisms and their habitat, especially habitat that is created by other living things.  I like to study these interactions in aquatic and marine systems, as I have a real love for water.   I found the California kelp forests a fascinating system, and I originally thought…” Read more

Sarah Hutto, Phycology Lab

I’m studying community interactions of macroalgae, or seaweed, in the rocky intertidal.  I love this work because it enables me to crawl around on rocks and explore the amazing diversity of algae in this system, and to ask really interesting questions based on observations.  I think it’s really important to study this system because it helps me hone my skills as an ecologist and it provides easy hands-on field experience.” Read more

Sarah Jeffries, Phycology Lab

“I fell in love with the ocean when I lived in the suburbs of Minneapolis, MN as a child. I’d never even seen the coast, just lakes and streams, but I still had a deep connection to the marine environment. I moved to California with my family at age 10, and loved the marine science component to the school curriculum. I went to college at CSU Monterey Bay…”  Read more


Nathan Jones, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

I will never become tired of learning about the outdoors, and my love of the ocean has kept me by the coast. I have become fascinated with the biology and ecology of marine birds, and so I decided to pursue a degree in marine science. I am going to investigate the foraging ecology of seabirds in the Bering Sea (Alaska)… ” Read more

Amanda Kahn, Invertebrate Zoology Lab

I find my research interesting because very little is known about deep-sea sponges. These are some of the most primitive animals, and we can learn a lot about our own evolution through the characteristics of these sponges.” Read more

Kristin Meagher, Invertebrate Zoology Lab

“I’m studying invertebrate assemblages associated with rhodolith beds around Catalina Island.  Now for everyone in the audience who is going “huh?” (don’t worry marine scientists do it to me too), here’s the long answer.  Rhodoliths (Rhodo = red, lith = stone) are free-living calcified red algae (they look and feel like rocks) that form beds, that look like dark pink gravel beds in various locations all around the world.  These small…” Read more

Melinda Nakagawa, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

I want to use my research with seabirds to learn more about how they find their food and to inform people about and raise public awareness of seabirds. For my thesis project, I am examining the satellite tracks of sooty shearwaters (a seabird we can see off our coast in the summer) and correlating their movements with physical environmental factors (remotely sensed winds).” Read more

Catalina Reyes, Phycology Lab

I am studying the erosion in the Elkhorn Slough and how it is affecting the distribution of subtidal habitats. This is a topic that is important to me because it is in my backyard. Estuaries have suffered all over the world despite the fact that they are extremely important as a type of sanctuary for many marine mammals, birds and fish.” Read more

Kyle Reynolds, Benthic Ecology Lab

I’m studying reproductive adaptations in two large species of snails that live around hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean. These kinds of habitats, underwater volcanoes of a sort, were discovered in my lifetime and very little is known about them.” Read more

Sonya Sankaran, Phycology Lab

“I’m studying the influence of nitrate on trace metal uptake by the seaweed Ulva.  It is important to me because nitrate and trace metal pollution often occur together, and related algal blooms often follow.  I am interested in the interaction between these two factors, and how metal uptake by algae may be passed on to higher trophic levels.” Read more

Bobby San Miguel, Phycology Lab

Going into college, I had originally wanted to study elephants.  I knew that in biology, you have to start learning to ask questions before you can get the opportunity to work with all the fun charismatic megafauna.  Thus one usually works in labs with their not-so-favorite organisms.  In doing so, I became part of a social network of ecology labs at NC State that often would get together and throw potluck dinners.  Well, they invited me along for their annual retreat in Surf City, NC and so I went along.  Playing in the surf and talking with some postdocs, I realized just how much I loved the water.” Read more.

Angela Szesciorka, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Angie“When I moved to California, I discovered Moss Landing. It was like discovering some great secret. It was perfect for me. So I spent the past three years (even summers!) taking all the possible classes that someone with an undergraduate in biology might have taken. I volunteered everywhere. I met tons of scientists all over the Bay just to explore my options and network. ”  Read more

Diane Wyse, Physical Oceanography Lab

Wyse_headshot“My broad interests in physical oceanography include nutrient flux and dynamics associated with algal bloom events.  My thesis project focuses those interests on data analysis of multiple oceanographic sensors from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s (MBARI) Dorado autonomous underwater vehicle.  I am specifically interested in determining what we can learn about plankton community composition from the Laser In-Situ Scattering and Transmissometry (LISST-100X) sensor, which detects particle sizes in the upper water column.”  Read More

Colleen Young, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

I’m studying the impact that vessels have on harbor seals in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. To me, it’s important that we study the effects of anthropogenic (human-caused) stressors on wildlife in order to minimize negative physiological and behavioral impacts.Read more

Heather Fulton-Bennett, Phycology Lab

“I am studying phycology, more specifically, the common intertidal kelp Egregia menziesii. This species has a highly plastic morphology and is a foundation species in the rocky intertidal. My thesis will look into the physiological adaptations that may be linked to morphology, as well the as the affect different E. menziesii forms have on their community and their own new recruits.”  Read more

Jackie Lindsey, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

JackieLike many of my colleagues, I was introduced to the ocean on family vacations, fell in love, and then never fell out of love.  I learned about the scientific process in grade school, read marine books, visited aquariums…and then I applied to a university with a school of aquatic and fishery sciences.  I have continued to choose to do what interests me, and I have been repeatedly delighted that my path is turning into a fascinating career.” Read more

Emily Schmeltzer, Invertebrate Zoology Lab

Emily“I’m studying marine invertebrates and reef ecology in Indonesia. One of my reasons for becoming a scientist was focusing on conserving biodiversity, and the Coral Triangle is host to an incredible amount of ocean diversity. It would be terrible to see any species disappear and affect the entire ecosystem and community.” Read more

Scott Miller, Ichthyology Lab

ScottMillerMainPhotoGrowing up, I spent most of my summers at Conneaut Lake, a little lake north of Pittsburgh. Through boating, fishing, catching turtles, and simply observing the wildlife, I developed a deep interest in aquatic ecology. Going into college, I actually wanted to study freshwater turtles, but after learning to dive and taking a marine biology course at Clemson, my interests began to shift towards the oceans. I began to work in a lab that studied blue crabs, and after my first weekend of field work, cruising around the ACE river basin in South Carolina, watching dolphins swim alongside the boat and seeing the myriad of unique creatures in our samples, I was hooked on marine research.” Read more

Catherine Drake, Invertebrate Zoology Lab

“Growing up, my parents would take me to the beach and teach me the wonders of the oceans.  As a result, my parents shaped me into becoming compassionate about protecting the oceans and marine organisms.  One opportunity that really taught me the importance of habitat protection and species conservation was the research I took part in during my undergraduate studies at UCI.  I did research at a freshwater marsh that was home to many endangered plant and animal species, and without that experience, I would never have properly appreciated all the ecological complexities within a habitat.”  Read more

Kristin Walovich, Pacific Shark Research Center

 “I choose marine biology because being stuck knee deep in mud, smelling like fish, perpetual mask and wetsuit tan lines and getting my hands dirty sounded like a fantastic profession. I think all marine biologists have chosen their profession because we have a passion for the creatures we study and the ocean in which they live in.”  Read more

Angela Zepp, Phycology Lab

Angela ZeppGrowing up in the landlocked state of Missouri instills in one the idea that the ocean is a mysterious “delicacy” if you will, in that you only see it on vacations.  Generally, Midwesterners tend to fear the ocean completely or are enchanted by it. I chose the latter.” Read More

Suzanne Christensen, Phycology Lab

“I arrived in the United States in the Fall of 2004, and back then I didn’t know that I wanted to study science at all.  In Sweden I had studied economics and this is what I thought I would continue in the U.S.. I had always felt passionate about the environment and the ocean but I honestly thought that I wasn’t smart enough to master a bachelor’s degree in science. So I started studying general studies at a community college. I enrolled in a marine biology class…”  Read more

Jinchen Guo, Invertebrate Zoology Lab

Martin and Sea Cucumber

“Life began in the ocean, and it is still supporting plenty of resources to human beings. Ocean is very close to approximately 80% of the world’s population, yet less than 1% of the entire blue world has been completely studied and understood. We will have a better understanding of the ocean and receiving more economic and environmental benefits from it by understanding the geological, physical, and chemical properties of the ocean as well as deciphering patterns and secrets of various marine life.” Read more

Jennifer Keliher-Venegas, Invertebrate Zoology Lab

Jennifer Keliher“Somehow my dream to become a scientist turned into somewhat of an impossibility for me as an adolescent. However, thanks to the care and facilitation of mentors I acquired in community college I realized the tangibility of materializing my educational dreams and learned of opportunities available to obtain research experience and scholarship aid.”  Read more

Elizabeth Lam, Biological Oceanography

lizlamblogpicMarine science has been a steadily growing passion of mine over the last several years.  As an undergrad, I always knew I loved biology, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what I wanted to do with it in terms of my future.   When I lived in San Diego as a kid, I would go surfing every chance I got and loved being near the ocean.  I didn’t put two and two together until later, when I began volunteering at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center in Santa Cruz and I realized how fun it was to constantly learn new things about the ocean.  During that experience, I realized I had to pursue marine science.Read more

Ryan Manzer, Physical Oceanography Lab

“I am currently investigating the role of potential hormone release in the timing of broadcast spawning events in Chrysoara fuscescens.  Despite their importance as a food resource and a significant plankton predator, little is known about the life history of these animals.  As both shifts in temperature regimes and overfishing are predicted to favor a medusa dominated ocean ecosystem, it is important that we understand these animals more thoroughly and all the ways we may impact their life cycles.”   Read more


Drew Burrier, Physical Oceanography Lab

unnamedDrew is a graduate student in Physical Oceanography at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in California, as a member of the Physical Oceanography lab. His thesis focuses on internal wave dynamics in submarine canyons. He is a natural born gypsy, having grown up in Cleveland, Ohio, and rambled through Tennessee, New York, Colorado, and Illinois before finally answering the long call of the sea. He now lives in Monterey, with his lovely wife and two dogs.

Catarina Pien, Pacific Shark Research Center


I had a variety of experiences that led me to where I am, mostly in the form of internships and independent studies. I wasn’t sure what aspect of marine science I wanted to study, and have explored fields involving aquatic invasive plants, marine molecular ecology/ microbiology, museum taxonomy, marine mammal stranding,  and mangrove and coral reef ecology.  I really enjoyed the field research I did in Central America (Panama/ Costa Rica for study abroad, Utila, Honduras for an internship) – the water surrounding mangroves is one of the most beautiful sites to me, the intricate red roots covered by invertebrates and fish weaving in and out of the roots. The experiences made me want to understand organisms in their environment, and how characteristics of organisms (life history traits) were an important part of understanding their behavior in the environment. Read more.


Stephen Pang, Ichthyology Lab


“I first became interested in the ocean when I was growing up. As a kid in southern California, I was always in the water. Whether it was snorkeling, bodysurfing, or scuba diving, it felt like I spent more time in the water than I actually did on land. To me, pursuing a career in marine science just made sense.” Read More