Graduate Students

Cohort 5 (accepted 2015) Trainees

Isaiah BoldenZachary KoehnMolly RobertsLauren SchmeisserSasha Seroy

Isaiah Bolden

School of OceanographyIsaiah Bolden

Isaiah graduated with Honors in Earth & Oceanographic Science from Bowdoin College in 2015. During his undergraduate career, Isaiah became increasingly interested in the fields of paleoclimatology and chemical oceanography. Specifically, he is interested in the use of geochemical records (proxies) to reconstruct the history of climate and ocean variability in coastal regions on both modern and “deep” time scales. His Honors thesis investigated the utility of geochemical ratios in coral skeletons as a proxy for precipitation and freshwater intrusion reconstructions in SE Florida.

Isaiah is also interested in climate/ocean change outreach and education efforts, both in the public and policy realms. As a Hollings Scholar, he spent his Junior and Senior years of college working closely with NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program to develop policy briefing documents on the numerous impacts of coastal ocean acidification in New England.

Now a PhD student with Dr. Alex Gagnon in the School of Oceanography, Isaiah aims to continue to investigate the geochemistry of coral reefs as climate proxies, with an emphasis on the effects of ocean acidification, changing sea-surface temperature, and other stressors on calcification mechanisms and the overall fidelity of these marine proxies.

When not in the lab or the field, Isaiah enjoys conducting outreach and increasing public awareness of ocean acidification and climate change. He is also an avid traveller, hiker, airplane/motoring enthusiast, and can often be spotted at any one of Seattle’s numerous “trivia nights.”

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Zachary Koehn

School of Aquatic and Fishery SciencesZachary Koehn

Zach is a PhD student in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, where he explores the many links between fisheries, food security, global trade, and ethics. His research focuses on how institutional and economic drivers mediate access to fisheries for food security and whether we expect access to fisheries for food security to change under future oceanographic conditions. Improved understanding of the linkages and nutritional tradeoffs would contribute to food security policy implementation at international and regional scales to address nutrient deficient communities.

Zach studied Philosophy and Religious Studies as an undergraduate and a Masters in Environmental Ethics, both from Stanford University. He has worked as a legal research intern for the Natural Resources Defense Council and as a research assistant for Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, developing research experience in ocean policy, economics, and social ecological fishery systems. He also managed a fish distributor in Monterey Bay, California purchasing, filleting, and selling fish to local markets, and helped develop a triple-bottom line sustainability metric to guide business operations.

When not researching or studying, you will inevitably find him on the coastline, somewhere between Vancouver Island and his parents home in Carpinteria, California.

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Molly Roberts

Department of Biology


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Lauren Schmeisser

Department of Atmospheric Sciences


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Sasha Seroy

School of OceanographySasha Seroy

Sasha is a graduate student in biological oceanography at the University of Washington. Her research interests include understanding ocean acidification impacts on species interactions and inducible defenses in calcifying organisms, as well as applying mathematical modeling techniques to understand these dynamics. Sasha also has strong interests in science communication, teaching, and utilizing citizen science.

Before arriving at the University of Washington in 2015, Sasha received her B.S. in Biology from Stony Brook University. She conducted undergraduate research in marine community ecology focusing on invertebrate biology and non-consumptive effects of predation in bivalves. After graduating, Sasha was heavily involved science education at several locations including various schools, the American Museum of Natural History and an environmental center in the Catskill Mountains of New York. As an environmental educator, Sasha taught New York City students about natural science, developed and implemented new curricula, and conducted science outreach programs. As a native New Yorker, Sasha enjoyed exposing urban students to the outdoors and getting them to think like field scientists!

Sasha is excited to be a part of the IGERT fellowship and pursue interdisciplinary studies relating to the marine environment. Understanding the intersections of natural science, social science and policy will allow her to become a more well-rounded scientist and an effective communicator of science to diverse audiences.

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Cohort 4 (accepted 2014) Trainees

Robin BannerAngie BoysenAdam HayesAdam KowalskiStephen Po-ChedleyChristine Stawitz

Robin Banner

School of Oceanography

2Robin Banner received her Bachelor’s Degree in Geology from the College of Charleston in South Carolina, a coastal university that facilitated her interests in human-ocean interactions. Her undergraduate research and thesis focused on the coastal sediment dynamics of Folly Beach, SC in response to beach renourishment and groin installation. Public outreach was a fundamental part of her project, and she presented on coastal processes and erosion mitigation efforts to several local teachers and high school students.

After graduating from the College of Charleston, Robin worked for the South Carolina Geological Survey. There, she worked on the Broad River Basin Project and studied sediment transport and erosion mitigation efforts in many small rivers.

In 2014, Robin came to the University of Washington to continue her research in coastal sediment dynamics, particularly in response to anthropogenic alteration and climate change.  She is currently studying sediment dynamics of the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam. Her primary goals are to model sediment transport from the Song Hau to the continental shelf and predict future impacts of sea level rise and salinity intrusion on local agriculture.

In her free time, Robin enjoys being outside, scuba diving, hiking, and reading.

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Angie Boysen

School of Oceanography

Devils churn 5I joined the School of Oceanography in 2014 and am pursuing my MS and PhD in Chemical Oceanography. I graduated from Stanford in 2011 with a BS in Chemistry; since then I have spent the majority of my time working as an environmental educator for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. This teaching experience cemented my interest in science education, both formal and informal. I believe that science education is incredibly important in addressing the environmental challenges we face today, and while at UW hope to continue to be involved in education and outreach.

At UW I am working with Dr. Anitra Ingalls to study marine microbes. Microorganisms play critical roles in ocean ecosystems but currently we don’t have a complete understanding of what controls their diversity, distribution, and function. I aim to tease out interactions between organisms and investigate the relationships between microbes and environmental conditions by analyzing samples from characteristic marine environments using untargeted metabolomics. I hope to contribute to a better understanding of community dynamics and how they may change with changing ocean conditions.

Like many graduate students, I find that while my research is very focused, my interests remain broad. The IGERT Program on Ocean Change is an opportunity for me gain exposure to and participate in research that is outside of my disciplinary field. As a part of the IGERT program I am excited to continue to improve my communication skills and become an active and effective participant in community, education, and policy decisions.

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Adam Hayes

Evans School of Public Affairs

PictureAdam joined the Evans School of Public Affairs as a Ph.D. student in 2014 to pursue his interest in marine economics and environmental policy, and is working with David Layton. Originally from the Denver area, Adam earned a B.A. in economics, political science, and international affairs from the University of Colorado – Boulder. He then went on to earn a M.S. in mineral and energy economics from the Colorado School of Mines in order to pursue his interest in the economics of climate change mitigation.

Over time, it became clear that there was also a significant role for local climate change adaptation within broader carbon reduction policies. Climate adaptation policy tends to be more local and more varied than carbon reduction. Ecosystem services and other forms of natural capital are at particular risk from the effects of climate change. Adam is pursuing his Ph.D. to understand how public policy can help to mitigate negative environmental and ecological effects of climate change under conditions of uncertainty and ambiguity.

Doctoral work at the Evans School is designed to expose students to a variety of disciplinary approaches to public policy. The IGERT program complements the Evans Ph.D. curriculum by incorporating the natural sciences to provide students with tools to explore a broader multidisciplinary approach to questions of environmental policy.

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Adam Kowalski

Department of Geography

DSC05609Adam is a graduate student at the University of Washington Department of Geography. Prior to joining the Geography Department, Adam earned his master’s degree at the University of Washington School of Marine and Environmental Affairs. He also received a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. Adam’s current research focuses on understanding the role that decision support systems (DSSs) play in the marine spatial planning process. DSSs are computer-based information systems used to help decision makers choose the best management strategy for a given problem. DSSs can dramatically improve our ability to manage data, share information, model ecosystem services, develop management scenarios, evaluate tradeoffs, and generate stakeholder participation. Adam is specifically interested in examining how DSSs are used to site, permit, test, and deploy marine renewable energy technologies, including wind, tidal, wave, energy devices. Adam believes that well-designed DSSs can help facilitate much needed access, transparency, legitimacy, and active participation within renewable energy development projects. More broadly, he is excited work alongside fellow graduate students and faculty from across the UW campus in solving some of the most pressing challenges facing our oceans and coastal environments.

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Stephen Po-Chedley

School of Atmospheric Sciences

PastedGraphic-1Stephen Po-Chedley is originally from Buffalo, NY and earned a BS in Physics from Union College in 2004. Stephen became increasingly interested in the role of climate and its impacts after spending a year working in Uganda. In 2009 Stephen Po-Chedley became a graduate student in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington, earning a Masters in Atmospheric Sciences in 2012. He is very interested in the impacts of global change throughout the world and has worked on projects to understand the impact of climate change on food security.
Stephen has worked with Professor Qiang Fu, focusing on understanding the rate of warming in the tropical atmosphere using satellite measurements and global circulation models. The rate of warming in the tropical atmosphere has important implications for understanding how much the Earth will warm in response to increased greenhouse gas emissions. Importantly, the tropical atmosphere is closely linked with sea surface temperatures. Po-Chedley will continue to work on understanding tropical atmospheric warming and its connection to the ocean. 
The IGERT program is well suited to Stephen’s interests in the intersection of atmospheric and ocean sciences with respect to global change, policy, and impacts.

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Christine Stawitz

Quantitative Ecology and Resource Management

Christine StawitzI’m a PhD student in the Quantitative Ecology and Resource Management (QERM) program working with Dr. Timothy Essington. My dissertation research concerns quantifying variation in somatic growth rates of marine fish and how this variation in turn affects marine productivity and fisheries. Somatic growth is a key component of population dynamics, thus changes in growth rate can have large impacts on fish populations. It is also widely acknowledged diverse factors such as temperature, fishing, population size, and net primary productivity can affect growth rate. However, for many fish species the mechanistic relationship between these drivers and growth is unknown; therefore, in population dynamics models and fishery stock assessments growth is often assumed to be constant. My work seeks to highlight the importance of growth variation for population dynamics modeling as well as better understand what drives changes in growth rate at large scales across a diverse number of species.

I grew up in Staten Island, NY and studied Systems Engineering and Computer Science as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia. In 2008, I moved to Seattle to work for a large software company. Though I had always been interested in ecology and conservation as well as math and computer programming, it was not until I entered the QERM program at UW in 2011 that I found an outlet to satisfy these twin and complementary interests. The importance of communication between disciplines and to the public when solving technical and scientific problems has been apparent in every step of my diverse career, so I am thrilled to have the opportunity to learn more about policy, oceanography, and science communication from faculty and other graduate students in the IGERT program.

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Cohort 3 (accepted 2013) Trainees

Pamela BarrettKate CrosmanMegan GambsElizabeth MaroonEleni PetrouMerrill RuddHally StoneMichael Tillotson

Pamela Barrett

School of Oceanography

Barrett pic

I am a graduate student in the UW School of Oceanography working with Dr. Joseph Resing to investigate the biogeochemical cycling of biologically-important trace metals such as iron. Primary productivity is limited by the availability of trace metals in some regions of the ocean, which affects ocean uptake of atmospheric CO2 and has feedbacks on climate. I focus on the role of suspended particulate matter in controlling the distribution of trace metals in the ocean. I use the chemical composition of these suspended particles to track both natural and anthropogenic sources of trace metals to the ocean and investigate how ocean trace metal distributions are changing over decadal timescales.

Prior to starting graduate school, I earned a B.S. in chemistry and B.A. in political science from the University of Rochester.  After graduating, I worked as a research chemist in the pharmaceutical sector before completing a science teaching credential at San Francisco State University and teaching high school. I stay involved in K-12 education while at UW by volunteering with the Orca Bowl and the Ocean Inquiry Project. Through the IGERT program, I hope to better use my work to promote science-based policy decisions.

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Kate Crosman

Evans School of Public AffairsKate at Galeb cut

Kate is a PhD student with the Evans School of Public Affairs, working with Craig Thomas to explore the ecological and socio-economic outcomes of collaborative marine resource management. She holds an MSc in Natural Resources and Environment from the University of Michigan, and a BA in Political Science from Davidson College.

Kate’s interest in marine management solutions that balance human activities with ecological concerns stems from a decade spent above and below the waters surrounding a small Thai island. Those ten years provided a compelling demonstration of the consequences of a lack of proactive marine resource management: sedimentation of nearby reefs, and visible loss of biodiversity from local dive sites, went hand-in-hand with the increasing wealth of the local population. Subsequent work in Belize and Micronesia have provided Kate with further perspective on the effects habitat degradation and overfishing on coastal populations and ecosystems.

Balanced marine resource management requires understanding the links between human and natural systems, and actively working across natural and social science divides. Time, money and political will for marine management are limited. Understanding what constitutes sustainable, successful marine management, and what management decisions can get us there, are key to the future of our oceans. Doctoral work with the Evans School for Public Policy, complemented by the even broader multi-disciplinary opportunities offered by the IGERT Program in Ocean Change, provide Kate with an ideal venue in which to follow her passion to answer these questions.

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Megan Gambs

School of OceanographyGambs_iPOCbiophoto

Megan Gambs is a physical oceanography graduate student at the University of Washington School of Oceanography.  Working with Professors Susan Hautala and LuAnne Thompson, Gambs uses climate models to study methods and mechanisms of abrupt climate change.  Currently, she studies the climate impacts in response to abrupt ocean change. During the last glaciation (i.e. ice age),  major freshwater flooding events flowed out from the continent into the northeast Pacific Ocean. These flood events initated changes. Sparked by her scientific background, Gambs is also interested in the science-policy interface. IGERT Program on Ocean Change (iPOC) provides Gambs the opportunity to explore coursework and research related to science policy and decision-making, as well as the social, ecological, and economic impacts of ocean change. Gambs earned her M.Sci in Oceanography from the University of Washington School of Oceanography and her B.S. in Geological Sciences from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where her love of the ocean was reinforced by her proximity to the Pacific.

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Elizabeth Maroon

Atmospheric Sciences

_MG_7106-1Elizabeth is a graduate student in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences.  Advised by Professors Dargan Frierson and David Battisti, she studies what factors influence the location of tropical precipitation.  Averaged over the entire Earth for a year, there is more precipitation in the northern hemisphere tropics than in the southern hemisphere tropics.  To try and understand this climate asymmetry, she uses a variety of general circulation models (GCMs), ranging from aquaplanet atmosphere-only models to coupled ocean-atmosphere models, and removes or adds different components (for example: mountain ranges, continents, surface heatings, dynamic oceans).  Elizabeth is also interested in the large-scale general circulation of the atmosphere and ocean, ocean-atmosphere interactions, and how the Earth system reacts to climate change.  It is this last interest and its connections to policy that sparked her to apply to the IGERT Program on Ocean Change.  She plans to use this opportunity to learn more about how science, policy, and society interact and to become more knowledgeable about the ocean side of climate change.

Growing up in the land-locked city of St. Louis, Missouri, Elizabeth developed a fascination for severe weather that predisposed her for a career in the atmospheric sciences.  She attended MIT for her undergraduate education and received a Bachelors of Science in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences and a second Bachelors of Science in Physics, with a minor in music.  In 2010, she switched coasts to start her graduate work at UW where she has received a Masters in Atmospheric Sciences and is currently working toward her doctorate.  Prior to her acceptance in the IGERT Program on Ocean Change, Elizabeth held a NDSEG fellowship.  She is also active in the UW Atmospheric Sciences Outreach group, developing educational videos and presenting weather and climate demos for K-12 field trips and science nights.

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Eleni Petrou

School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was born and raised in landlocked Buffalo, New York. Like many scientists, my fascination with the marine environment was sparked by visits to the coast where I spent hours poking around tide pools. My current research interests are investigating the impacts of human activities on marine ecosystems and learning how to design management and conservation plans.  I received a B.S. in Biology from the State University of New York at Buffalo and an M.S. in Fishery Sciences from the University of Washington. My master’s research explored the evolutionary and environmental factors influencing the population structure of Alaska chum salmon. At this time I also participated in the National Science Foundation’s GK-12 teaching program and developed a strong interest in science education and environmental outreach. In 2013, I was a visiting researcher at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and I explored decadal shifts in Caribbean reef communities that are affected by anthropogenic stress.

At present, I am a PhD student at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. I work with Dr. Lorenz Hauser to investigate temporal changes in the population structure of Pacific herring (Clupea pallasi) in coastal North America. This species is an important part of the coastal ecosystem as well as a cornerstone of native culture and diet. Traditional ecological knowledge of First Nations communities in British Columbia suggests that locally adapted herring populations may have been widespread in the past. However, heavy exploitation by industrial fisheries in the 20th century has resulted in the regional depletion of spawning populations, causing considerable conflict between management agencies and First Nations. We would like to explore changes in herring biocomplexity by comparing the structure of contemporary and ancient populations using DNA extracted from 2,000 year-old herring bones. We hope that our research will provide a robust assessment of the preindustrial ecology of an important forage fish, and lead to new insights on shifting ecological baselines in the marine environment. I anticipate that the IGERT program will help me expand my understanding of how governments regulate marine resources, and how scientists can participate in policy-making. I am very excited to be a part of this collaborative community and have the chance to contribute to sustainable marine management.

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Merrill Rudd

School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

2012-09-04 15.04.38

I joined the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington as a PhD student in the fall of 2013. I am working with Drs. Trevor Branch and Ray Hilborn on stock assessment of coral reef fisheries from U.S. islands in the west Pacific region. The majority of the world’s fisheries are unassessed due to lack of detailed or trustworthy data and the quantitative means to use any data available to their maximum extent. The assessments that have been conducted are mostly from commercial fisheries in developed nations, not representative of the large number of small-scale fisheries in developing nations on which coastal communities rely on for food security and economic livelihood. My work will add small-scale coral reef fisheries stock assessment information to the global RAM Legacy stock assessment database, improving its representation of the world’s fisheries. I would also like to incorporate ocean change impacts into my stock assessment models to predict how fisheries output (biological, economic) may be expected to change with climate change and coastal development.

I am originally from New Jersey, then went to college at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where I graduated with a B.A. in Environmental Studies in 2011. In college, I was exposed to fisheries science while seeking out field experiences in marine ecology, including issues with summer flounder recreational fishery size limits in New Jersey and the socioeconomic complexities of the small-scale reef fisheries of Panama. During my senior year, I participated in the NMFS Research-Training-Recruitment marine resources population dynamics workshop, where I realized that fisheries stock assessment and resource management perfectly combined my interests in ecology, seafood, math, and economics. I then pursued a MS in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Florida, where my research focused on the population dynamics and stock assessment of Gulf sturgeon using mark-recapture data. After graduating in summer 2013, I am happy to be part of the IGERT Program on Ocean Change, an exciting opportunity to combine my interdisciplinary research interests and apply my quantitative fisheries skills in applications meaningful people, fish, and the environment.

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Hally Stone

School of Oceanography

hbstonepicHally B. Stone started at the University of Washington as a graduate student in the fall of 2013, pursuing a Ph.D. in physical oceanography.  She studies ocean acidification in the Pacific Northwest using a regional model under the advisement of Dr. Neil Banas of the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO) at UW.  Ocean acidification is becoming more of a  problem in the Pacific Northwest, and it threatens many marine organisms and the livelihoods of those who fish or farm them.  Specifically, she studies how pH varies both spatially and year-to-year off the coast of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia in order to figure out what pH variability is normal for this area and what is not.  Understanding the dynamics of pH is an important part of understanding the extent of ocean change, and could aid in mitigation efforts.

Hally grew up in beautiful Buffalo, NY, and went to Boston University for her undergraduate degree.  She graduated magna cum laude from BU in 2011 with a B.A. in Astronomy & Physics and Marine Science.  Her research experiences while at BU gave her a great appreciation for interdisciplinary research, especially in regards to ocean change.  During and after her undergraduate degree, she worked for several science outreach programs, including the Physics & Art Summer Institute at the University of Buffalo, and the Learning Resource Network at Boston University.  These experiences helped her realize the importance of science communication with K-12 students, policy makers, and the general public.  With the IGERT Program on Ocean Change, Hally is excited to learn more about science communication and policy, and to become more involved in interdisciplinary research and outreach.

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Michael Tillotson

School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences


Mike was born in Seattle and during a childhood spent salmon fishing from Puget Sound beaches he developed a profound interest in salmon and their peculiar life history. While obtaining his bachelor of arts in environmental studies and anthropology at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, it was the study of local, depleted Atlantic salmon runs and working in the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery during the summer that helped  him to develop an appreciation of the interconnectedness of human and ecological systems. After working in environmental consulting for two years Mike decided to continue his study of marine social-ecological systems at the University of Washington’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs where he received his M.M.A in 2013. As a doctoral student at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences Mike continues to allow his passion for understanding, protecting and catching salmon to  guide his studies. His interdisciplinary research explores the relationships between climate change, marine and aquatic ecosystems, salmon and the people who depend on them.

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Cohort 2 (accepted 2012) Trainees

Seth BushinskyAndrea FassbenderEliza HeeryAshley MaloneyAnna McLaskeyLaura NewcombEmily Newsom

Seth Bushinsky

School of Oceanography

I am currently in my 5th year of Chemical Oceanography at UW.  Prior to graduate school, I received my B.S. in biology from Stanford University and worked for two years at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.  I now work with Steven Emerson to better understand the mechanisms driving the ocean biological carbon pump.

Our group estimates biological carbon export by constructing mass balance models that make use of the stoichiometric relationship between carbon and oxygen.  Over the past several years I have worked to improve our measurement capabilities and the data we use for these models and now I am working to improve the conceptual underpinnings of our carbon export estimates.

My hope is that the IGERT Program on Ocean Change at UW will provide an avenue to explore expanding the impact of my work beyond basic research.  I have been interested in the intersection of science, policy, and economics, but am unsure of the best way to bridge these or whether that is even the right course for me.  This IGERT is well situated to introduce us to a whole realm of problems that require interdisciplinary research to solve.

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Andrea Fassbender

School of Oceanography


In 2007 Andrea Fassbender became a graduate student in the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington, earning a Master’s degree in 2010. For her PhD, Andrea is working with Dr. Christopher Sabine at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) to better understand the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle.

Currently ~1 million surface ocean carbon measurements are made per year; however, these measurements are not evenly distributed in space and time. As a result, the seasonal and annual surface ocean carbon variability in most locations is unknown or poorly constrained.

Moorings provide useful platforms from which oceanic carbon measurements can be made autonomously; allowing for better temporal resolution of local carbon cycle processes. Currently, pCO2 and pH are the only measureable carbonate system species (Dissolved Inorganic Carbon, Total Alkalinity, pCO2, and pH) that can be monitored autonomously on a mooring. Measurement of two carbonate system species allows for full calculation of all other carbonate system variables; however, because pH and pCO2 strongly co-vary, they are one of the least desirable pairs for this computation.

Andrea is working with scientists and engineers at NOAA PMEL to develop a new instrument that will measure surface ocean concentrations of Dissolved Inorganic Carbon (DIC) on a mooring for up to one year. Because DIC and pCO2 (or pH) do not co-vary strongly, they are a more ideal pair of measurements to make for surface ocean carbon studies.

In addition to instrument development, Andrea works with carbon data from moorings located in the North Pacific Ocean to evaluate seasonal variability in regional carbon cycling. Determining which processes dominate sub-seasonal to interannual variability in the carbon cycle, and how these processes may vary over different time scales, will help to advance our understanding of the North Pacific Ocean carbon sink.


Fassbender_Igert fig_resize

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Eliza Heery


Photo taken at one of Eliza's research sites in Elliott Bay, by Ed Gullekson, a UW research diver.

Photo taken at one of Eliza’s research sites in Elliott Bay, by Ed Gullekson, a UW research diver.

Eliza Heery is a PhD student in the Biology Department at the University of Washington.  She is interested in the ecological dynamics of urban marine ecosystems.  More than half of the world’s population now lives in coastal areas and population growth in these areas is continuing to rise rapidly.  To support this growth, we use a variety of manmade structures in coastal construction and development.  Riprap is the rocky material and rubble used to construct jetties, seawalls, and breakwaters.  Despite how common riprap installations are in coastal regions, we know very little about how they influence the marine environment.

Eliza’s dissertation research focuses on ecological processes on subtidal riprap fields in urban areas and their impact on surrounding soft sediment communities.  Specifically, she is using field experiments and quantitative models to address the following questions:

  • How does the introduction of riprap into soft sediment environments alter infaunal community structure?
  • What species are most important in structuring the benthic community dynamics on subtidal riprap and why?
  • How do resources move between riprap habitats and adjacent soft sediment environments, and how does the influx of resources affect the community structure within each ecosystem?

Eliza earned an M.S. in Fisheries Science from Virginia Tech and a B.S. in Biology from Emory University.  Prior to returning to school at the University of Washington, she worked as a data analyst in the Fisheries Resource Analysis and Monitoring Division at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NOAA) in Seattle.  Her fascination with marine ecosystems has long been intermixed with an interest in quantitative modeling, human-dimensions, biological conservation, and urban ecology.  As a PhD student and an IGERT fellow, she is thrilled to be integrating all of these disciplines into her research, by addressing ecological questions that are relevant to urban communities through a combination of field-based and quantitative techniques.

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Ashley Maloney 

School of Oceanography

I am pursuing a M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical Oceanography at the University of Washington under the supervision of Julian Sachs. My research is focused on understanding past changes in Earth’s climate. I use stable hydrogen isotopes in algal lipids preserved in sediments to determine paleorainfall variations in the tropical Pacific.

I was born in New Orleans and raised in Colorado.  In 2005 I completed the co-terminal Master’s program in Earth Systems, Oceans Track at Stanford University. I worked as a marine science educator in the Chesapeake Bay, Salish Sea, San Francisco Bay, and along the Eastern Seaboard.  I also worked as a technician in Antarctica for NOAA’s Antarctic Marine Living Resources Program in 2010 before starting at the University of Washington.

In fall 2012 I joined the University of Washington’s IGERT Program on Ocean Change because it is a unique opportunity for me to be involved with multi-disciplinary research that my normal dissertation work would not otherwise pursue.

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Anna McLaskey


School of Oceanography

I became a PhD student in Biological Oceanography at the University of Washington in 2012 to work with Dr. Julie Keister investigating the effects of ocean acidification (OA) on zooplankton populations. As atmospheric CO2 levels continue to rise, the concentration in the ocean also increases, altering carbonate chemistry and decreasing the pH of seawater. The evidence available has shown marine organisms have very species-specific responses to decreasing pH, but to date, a small number of species have been tested, making it difficult to extrapolate to long-term ecosystem-level effects. The goal of my research is to be able to better predict the ecosystem changes that may be caused by ocean acidification.

Zooplankton not only link primary production to higher trophic levels, but are also an important food source for forage fish and juvenile salmon and play a vital role in exporting carbon from the surface to deep ocean. I am studying how some dominant crustacean zooplankton populations will be affected by OA through direct and indirect mechanisms, using a combination of laboratory experiments and field studies. I am partnering with NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) to use their state of the art OA lab to conduct carefully controlled studies on hatching success and early development of Euphausia pacifica, a krill, and Calanus pacificus, a copepod. I am also conducting field studies in Hood Canal, WA, where naturally low pH conditions are ideal for observing the effects of decreased pH in situ.

I am participating in the IGERT Program on Ocean Change because I want to become a well-rounded scientist that understands how my research fits into the broader social landscape. I am excited to build inter-disciplinary communication skills and work with experts in industry, NGOs, and government in order to understand the social and economic implications of ocean change.

I earned my BS in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences from the University of Washington in 2010 and spent the subsequent two years as a research tech in that department. My previous research used closed freshwater microcosms to explore how communities organize themselves under different environmental conditions.

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Laura Newcomb


I am a second year in the Department of Biology at UW after graduating with a BA in Biology and Economics from Bowdoin College. My research interests are focused on the ecomechanics of organisms inhabiting rocky shores.  In the rocky intertidal, organisms must deal with daily fluctuations in temperature stress, desiccation, and wave action.  These organisms have evolved structures suited to allow them to thrive in this environment.  However, future changes in ocean temperature and pH, may impact the material properties and mechanics of these structures, in turn, affecting organismal performance.

Mussels are one such intertidal organism whose attachment strength, and thus ability to serve as a competitive dominant on rocky shores may be threatened by changing ocean temperature and pH.  Mussels attach to the shore to resist dislodgement through the use of their extracellular collagenous byssal threads. Up to 50 byssal threads help keep a mussel anchored in place as they extend without breaking under force. Reductions in byssal thread strength lead to mussel fall-off, a problem for both the intertidal communities mussel beds support and for mussel aquaculture. My research is focused on measuring how rising temperature and ocean acidification affect the strength, extensibility, and production of byssal threads in several Mytilus species to better understand what a changing ocean will mean for the mussels and the communities they help to anchor.

I am interested and excited to be a part of the IGERT on ocean change to allow me to (1) gain experience making connections between my own research and policy decisions, (2) build upon communication skills with non-scientists, and (3) make connections and partnerships with the aquaculture industry.

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Emily Newsom

Earth and Space Sciences

I am currently a third year graduate student in the Earth and Space Sciences Department at UW. Before coming to graduate school, I earned my B.A. in astrophysics at UC Berkeley and spent a year doing astrophysical research at Columbia University. I entered graduate school intent on becoming a glaciologist, and in the course of my time here have become interested in the importance of ocean circulation in regulating the extent of polar ice sheets.

My work, with the help of my advisor Cecilia Bitz in Atmospheric Sciences, focuses on understanding the fundamental drivers of heat transport and circulation in the Southern Ocean. I am specifically interested in how changes in surface buoyancy forcing accompanying climate changes (like changes in sea ice, precipitation, glacial melt, and heat fluxes) can modulate the mechanical effects of changing wind patterns on the meridional circulation in the Southern Ocean. I do so using perturbation experiments in fully coupled GCM’s, and currently at such high resolution that eddies are resolved in the ocean and sea ice. Heat transport in the Southern Ocean is important to both the local and global climate, as well as the stability of the Antarctic Ice Sheet (and therefore sea level); I hope to add to the understanding of how this might change in the future.

I am excited to be involved with the IGERT program because of its support for interdisciplinary education and research. As a physical scientist, I have little understanding of the social and economic forces involved in the global problem of climate and ocean change. My hope is to become better acquainted with these fields and the nuanced role the environment plays in human welfare. I would like to step back and try to understand in tangible ways how scientists (myself included) can address the right problems in broader context, and communicate their findings in a better way.

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Cohort 1 (accepted 2011) Trainees

Kirsten FeifelDonna HauserDiana PietriVega ShahLiz Tobin
Feifel Bio Pic

Kirsten Feifel

School of Oceanography

Kirsten Feifel is a PhD student at the University of Washington in the School of Oceanography.  Her research is on   harmful algal blooms (HABs), more commonly referred to as “red tide.”  HABs are caused by a variety of toxin producing marine algae that can negatively impact ecosystems and human health when present at sufficiently high concentrations in the environment.

The natural and economic resources of Puget Sound are threatened by periodic HABs; it has been hypothesized that recent changes in climate may be a contributor to increases in HAB outbreaks.  As such, HABs may serve as the quintessential “canary in the coalmine” for coastal ecosystems.  Understanding the effects large-scale climate variability and local environmental conditions have on HAB populations could help predict impending changes in coastal ecosystems and those resources that depend upon them.

Some HAB forming species can form a dormant cyst after a bloom that becomes entrained in the sedimentary record; changes in cyst abundances in sediments reflect changes in planktonic HAB populations.  To better assess the influence climate has on some HAB forming species, Kirsten is locating and identifying cyst beds within Puget Sound to then construct historical records of HAB occurrences and spatial extent.  These long term records then allow Kirsten to compare past HAB blooms to available environmental parameters such as sea surface temperature and air temperature to infer potential drivers of change.   Using sediment records to identify bloom sources, cyst beds, and reconstruct historical HABs will help managers to understand past environmental drivers of blooms and elucidate the potential effects future climate change may pose to natural resources.

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Donna Hauser

School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences


In Fall 2011, Donna began her PhD program in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University Washington, working with Dr. Kristin Laidre at the Applied Physics Lab’s Polar Science Center.  Rapid and unprecedented physical changes are occurring in Arctic marine ecosystems, and Donna’s research focuses on the ecological responses top marine predators to these profound and abrupt environmental changes. Her research will specifically quantify current and predicted habitat use of beluga whales in the western Arctic, using projections of sea ice in the 21st century.  Realizing the interdisciplinary nature and international management implications of her research, Donna became interested in the IGERT Program in Ocean Change (iPoc) as a mechanism to broaden her communication skills, increase knowledge of other disciplines, and learn how to apply socio-ecological principles.  Ultimately, she hopes participation in iPoc will result in a more holistic and complete understanding of how marine species and the humans who depend on them are impacted by changing ocean conditions.

Donna has been involved in research on marine and freshwater ecosystems since she was an undergraduate at the University of Washington.  After obtaining two BS degrees (in Ecology, Evolution, & Conservation Biology and in Aquatic & Fishery Sciences), she began research on endangered Southern Resident killer whales in Washington and British Columbia inshore waters.  For her MS (University of Washington, 2006), she developed spatial and temporal models of killer whale habitat use.  Donna then moved to Newfoundland, Canada where she began focusing on the ecology of Arctic marine mammals and worked as a consulting marine biologist.

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Diana Pietri

School of Forest Resources

Diana Pietri is a PhD student in the School of Forest Resources. Diana studies the human dimensions of marine systems, particularly in relation to how local communities and governments collaborate to conserve marine resources. Her dissertation research will examine these issues in the Coral Triangle Initiative – a new multilateral, multi-donor partnership between the governments of Indonesia, the Philippines, Timor Leste, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Malaysia to protect the diverse marine resources of the region. A recent emphasis on regional planning in the marine conservation and management community has led to the creation of new collaborative institutions that bridge political and cultural boundaries and unite diverse participants, and CTI is a prominent example of this type of collaboration.  Achieving CTI’s conservation goals in member countries will be challenging due to the shifting nature of the problems as they move from the regional to the local scale. Therefore, Diana plans on studying the dynamics of implementing CTI in a member country with a rich history of marine management: the Philippines. The overarching goal of Diana’s research is to understand the barriers and challenges to local CTI implementation in order to help managers and practitioners create targeted approaches for instituting CTI at the domestic level.

Diana earned a Master of Marine Affairs from the School of Marine Affairs at University of Washington. At the School of Marine Affairs, Diana’s research focused on environmental education and information diffusion in two nascent marine protected area networks in the Central Visayas, Philippines. As an undergraduate, Diana earned a B.A. in environmental biology from Columbia University, studying the effects of nutrient inputs on coral reefs at Glover’s Reef Marine Research Station on Middle Caye, Belize.

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Vega Shah Picture

Vega Shah

School of Oceanography

I joined the M.S. / Ph.D. program in Biological Oceanography at UW in the fall of 2011. I currently work at the Center of Environmental Genomics under the mentorship of Dr. Robert Morris and study marine bacteria and archaea that mediate critical biogeochemical cycles in the ocean.

It is well known that the exponential increase in oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) and ocean dead zones has serious consequences for marine ecosystem functioning.  The specific concern being that OMZs will expand into typically oxygenated regions due to increased stratification caused by global warming and eutrophication caused by the increased use of fertilizers and burning of fossil fuels.  It is critical that we understand the role of bacteria and archaea in this process because they are not only the first responders to environmental change, but because they have the potential to dramatically influence change.

Currently, I am in the process of culturing novel isolates from the North Pacific Ocean using a unique culturing method called High Throughput Cultivation (HTC) method. The HTC method has already resulted in successful isolation of several new marine species, including a Sulfur oxidizing marine bacterium that is abundant in OMZs.   In the future I plan to modify the HTC method to culture strictly anaerobic bacteria and archaea so that I can study the consequences of changing oxygen concentrations in the world’s oceans.

I graduated with a bachelor of science in Environmental Sciences from University of California, Berkeley. After graduating I was involved in two research projects that played an essential role in shaping my research interests. The first involved study of anaerobic bacterial growth in Uranium contaminated subsurface freshwater and the second was a study of the microbial ecology of the acid mine drainage system.

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Liz Tobin

School of Oceanography

Elizabeth Tobin is a PhD student in Biological Oceanography at the University of Washington, School of Oceanography. Her doctoral research is on population dynamics of harmful algae. Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are outbreaks of toxic or noxious marine algae that can threaten public health, degrade aquatic ecosystems, and may cause significant economic losses. HABs affect nearly every coastal environment, including Puget Sound.

Many HAB-forming species have two distinct life stages, a dormant stage in the sediments and a vegetative stage in the water column. Most HABs are detected only after they have reached concentrations sufficient to cause ecological or economic damage. Algal cells emerging from the sediments regulate the timing, location and magnitude of HABs. Therefore, studying harmful algae as they transition into and out of the sediments could provide a promising strategy for the early detection and prediction of HABs.

Elizabeth’s research focuses on the biological and physical mechanisms that regulate the distributions of harmful algae. Specifically, she studies the role of individual cell motility “behavior” as algal cells transition between life stages. Elizabeth utilizes novel video-based motion analysis methods to characterize movements and distributions of harmful algae under changing environmental conditions. The goal of her research is to better inform geophysical models used for harmful algal bloom forecasts.

Elizabeth is also very dedicated to science education and outreach. During her Master’s program, she taught two years of high school marine science as an OACIS GK-12 fellow. She is also an on-going volunteer instructor for the non-profit Ocean Inquiry Project.

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Hilary PalevskyAlex Lenferna

Hilary Palevsky

School of Oceanography

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Alex Lenferna

Philosophy Department

7699054284_6d8802dd4e_cAlex Lenferna is a South African Fulbright Scholar in his second year of the PhD program in the University of Washington’s Philosophy Department.  His research generally takes a philosophically grounded interdisciplinary approach to the interrelated issues of climate change, global justice, poverty and inequality.

His master’s thesis examines issues of climate change induced human migration and global justice. Related to that project he has a growing interest in understanding how ocean change might affect and potentially displace coastal communities. Alex is also currently working on a book about the science, ethics and economics of the fossil fuel divestment movement and the carbon bubble. He is also working on research related to uncertainty within climate models and how that affects both adaptation planning and questions of compensation for harms caused by anthropogenic climate change. Alongside his iPOC involvement Alex is working towards a Graduate Certificate in Climate Science under the UW Program on Climate Change.

Before coming to UW, Alex was a research associate at the IGERT interdisciplinary climate change program at the University of Kansas. Back home in South Africa Alex also worked on environmental education and marine conservation with the Sustainable Seas Trust non-profit organization.  He was also a research associate at the Rhodes University Environmental Learning and Research Centre, and as a Mandela Rhodes scholar Alex received his MA in Philosophy from Rhodes University in South Africa with a focus on global justice, poverty and environmental ethics.

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