ALUMNI 2018-03-28T15:42:03-07:00

Senior Ph.D. students were awarded Wells Fargo Coastal Sustainability Fellowships for 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-2018, paving the way for the kind of work graduate students in the Coastal Science and Policy Program produce.

Abe Borker

PhD Candidate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz

Abe is currently finishing up his dissertation and submitting chapters for publication. He also attended and presented his research at the Second Ecoacoustics Congress this summer. His application of seabird soundscapes as a tool for quantifying the size of seabird rookeries was recently featured in a profile appearing in Inside Science. In the future, Abe plans to develop tools and approaches to understand conservation outcomes, particularity in the realm of seabirds, islands, and sound. He ultimately wants to influence how conservation dollars are spent, maximize impact and expand the pie by demonstrating cost-effective conservation solutions. In the short-term, he plans to pursue a postdoctoral program to bolster his skills in conservation decision-making and outcome monitoring. In the long-term, he hopes to teach those practical skills to a new generation of conservation practitioners.

Zachary Caple

PhD Candidate, Cultural Anthropology, UC Santa Cruz

Zachary’s work examines the history and present-day operations of the phosphate fertilizer industry in Central Florida. Phosphates, derived from phosphate rock, are an essential element of global food production.

Zach has accepted a postdoctoral position at the University of South Florida and will be graduating this summer. He will be in the Anthropology Department and will be continuing his research on landscape change and the human-altered phosphorus cycle in Florida. Zach’s research is informing agricultural and land-use practices in states like Florida that practice intensive fertilizer applications.

Cynthia Carrion

PhD Candidate, Ocean Sciences, UC Santa Cruz

Cynthia expects to finish her PhD Fall 2017. She is currently interning at Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions as the MARINE Education Assistant, and is in the process of completing the first cycle of the Institute for Scientist and Engineer Educators (ISEE) Professional Development Program. She is working towards obtaining an ISEE Certificate in Inclusive Inquiry STEM Education. She has been a Science Internship Program mentor every summer since 2010. She also continues to mentor past Science Internship Program high school interns along with past undergraduate lab interns. She plans to become more involved with bridge organizations, incorporating education learning practices and styles to communicate science across diverse and underrepresented groups.

Melissa Cronin

PhD Student, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz

Melissa Cronin is a Ph.D. student in the Coastal Conservation Action Lab at UC Santa Cruz studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She is interested in cooperative governance of marine resources and in developing solutions for fisheries bycatch mitigation in small-scale fisheries. Her past research has focused on quantifying the impact of evidence-based marine conservation strategies and mapping global marine aquaculture expansion. She is also interested in science communication, drawing on her background as an environmental journalist covering climate, politics, and wildlife crime. Her work has appeared in Slate, The New York Times, Gawker, Grist, VICE, Popular Science, and The Nation. She is interested in how storytelling is part of the scientific process, and the ways in which collective narratives shape how science is perceived and acted upon.

Christie Hegermiller, PhD

Ocean Sciences, UC Santa Cruz

Christie completed her PhD at UC Santa Cruz in August 2017 and will begin a postdoctoral scholarship at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution during Fall 2017. Christie’s doctoral research focused on predicting coastal wave and estuarine processes. Her work helps inform coastal planners of vulnerability to climate change-driven erosion and flooding. Christie gave a suite of seminars on this work at the US Geological Survey, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project. Since becoming a Wells Fargo Coastal Sustainability Fellow, Christie has focused on the transport of tracers, such as salt and mud, in estuarine embayments.

As a postdoctoral scholar at WHOI, she will investigate rapid changes to sandy beaches during extreme wave events, like storms and hurricanes. Christie continues to seek outreach opportunities, which currently include a series of video-conferences with high school Earth Sciences classrooms around the country.

Karla Knudson, PhD

Earth & Planetary Sciences, UC Santa Cruz

Karla’s research uses applications of geochemistry, stratigraphy, and statistics to investigate the relationship between climate, ocean circulation, and biological productivity on long geological timescales.

James Shope, PhD

Earth & Planetary Sciences, UC Santa Cruz

James completed his PhD in December of 2016. He is in the process of publishing the second and third chapters of his thesis. He will be submitting the last paper from his thesis in July. He has also presented research at the Fall 2016 American Geophysical Union meeting and at the Geological Society of America Cordilleran section 2017 meeting in Hawaii.

James is currently a lecturer at UCSC for a class that teaches STEM skills to undergraduates who struggle with their STEM courses. He is also an independent contractor with The Nature Conservancy working with collaborators at the Long Marine Lab and the US Geological Service to model how each coral reef in the US and its outlying islands contributes to protection from wave-driven flooding (an intensive modeling project that draws on skills he developed in his PhD). James is also working as an independent contractor for Revell Coastal, a coastal hazards and geomorphology consulting firm, reassessing FEMA flood maps in Ventura County. James intends to continue to apply his modeling skills to preparing coastal communities for storm events and climate change, and share the importance of these quantitative skills with disadvantaged students.

Sarah Skikne

PhD Candidate, Environmental Studies, UC Santa Cruz

Sarah expects to finish her PhD in December 2017. Her research focuses on strategies to promote conservation in the face of inevitable climate change. Specifically, she is working to (1) identify bright spot and gaps in early, on-the-ground climate adaptation projects in the US conservation sector, (2) examine what historic bird translocations might teach us about the feasibility of assisted colonization, and (3) explore species’ natural adaptive capacities in response to climate change using historic data from a California desert ecosystem. She has recently given presentations at the Natural Areas Conference and the Society for Conservation Biology, and several courses at UC Santa Cruz. She received the Hardman Native Plant Award in Botany and a prestigious Switzer Environmental Fellowship. Sarah hopes to work at a non-profit, where her work will contribute to the implementation of on-the-ground conservation. She particularly hopes to work on conservation efforts that explicitly take into account climate change or are motivated by climate impacts.

Angela Quiros

Ph.D, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz

Angela’s interests lie in the ecology of nearshore marine environments (seagrass, coral, mangroves), terrestrial and marine protection, small scale fisheries and women’s role in those fisheries.

Bronwen Stanford

PhD Candidate, Environmental Studies, UC Santa Cruz

Thanks in part to the Wells Fargo fellowship, Bronwen was able to devote most of her time this past year to research. She attended two national and one regional conference to present preliminary results of her research, as well as the local watershed council meeting for Tomales Bay, where she conducted her field research. She has been conducting a meta-analysis to evaluate the success of stream recovery from water quality disturbances, and has recently launched another project evaluating influences on stream restoration decisions along the Central Coast. She expects to finish her PhD December 2017, and hopes to pursue a career advancing science-based management of coastal watersheds.

Dena Spatz

Ph.D, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz
Conservation Biologist, Island Conservation

Dena earned her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Anthropology and her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz. Her dissertation examined the biogeography and conservation of globally threatened island species and she is using the results of this work to identify invasive species eradication opportunities.

Sarah Beganskas

Ph.D Candidate, Earth and Planetary Sciences Department, UC Santa Cruz

For her PhD, Sarah uses a diverse toolset including field work, computer modeling, and microbiology to develop low-cost, innovative ways to improve coastal groundwater supply and quality. California’s Central Coast, where UCSC is located, relies on groundwater for 85% of its freshwater, and several of its basins are designated “critically overdrafted” under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014. In collaboration with local partners, including the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County and the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency, Sarah is exploring how excess stormwater runoff can replenish groundwater, rather than contributing to flooding or flowing to the ocean. Sarah also studies low-cost ways to remove pollutants, such as nitrate, from water as it seeps into the ground. Sarah’s research results are applicable to mitigate hazards and improve coastal water resources in many coastal regions of the world.

Hamutahl Cohen

Ph.D Candidate, Environmental Studies, UC Santa Cruz

Hamutahl fell in love with backyard beekeeping as an undergraduate studying Entomology and Molecular Biology at UC Berkeley. Although bees provide critically important pollination services for agriculture, bee populations are declining due to habitat loss, parasite and pathogen pressure, and intensive agricultural management. Motivated to learn more about why bee populations are dying and how urban gardeners and beekeepers can help, Hamutahl started the Ph.D. program at UC Santa Cruz in Environmental Studies in the field of sustainable agriculture and pollinator conservation. Hamutahl uses multidisciplinary tools from ecology, molecular and microbial biology, and from social science fields to determine how urbanization and habitat change impacts bee health and what beekeepers can do about it.

Ana Martínez Fernández

Ph.D Candidate, Earth and Planetary Sciences Department, UC Santa Cruz

Ana received a B.S. degree in Environmental Science at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Knowing that water is a key substance for life, she focused her studies on water quality and pollution. She studied abroad at Umeå University and at the remote Climate Impact Research Centre of Abisko, Sweden, where she was involved in several limnology research projects related to plankton, pollution and climate change in fragile, high latitude regions.

Ana’s PhD focuses on the effects of ocean acidification on corals and tiny-shelled organisms called foraminifera. Corals and foraminifera are a source of food for many marine organisms and take part in the formation and protection of coastlines. She is using ecological and physiological measurements as well as a bioinformatical analysis of RNA sequencing data to identify foraminifera and coral species, and their populations most likely to survive in a higher CO2 world. She hopes the results of her thesis will provide useful information for designing management and conservation plans for protecting marine organisms resistant to ocean acidification.

Kate Melanson

Ph.D Candidate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz

Kate’s research is focused primarily on the interface of science and policy. She is looking at the recovery of two interacting endangered species and how these interactions between protected species are handled in the policy realm. The case study for this work focuses on the California sea otter, Enhydra lutris, and its prey, the rocky intertidal-inhabiting black abalone, Haliotis cracherodii.  As there is no specific guidance on what to do when one protected species (e.g., the sea otter) impairs the recovery of another (e.g., the black abalone), she has been compiling examples of interactions between protected species from around the world, with a focus on the United States and the lack of guidance in the Endangered Species Act. This is especially important for the coast, where the mismanagement of these species interactions could lead to the demise of an endangered species and that species’ role in their ecosystem. Such losses of species impair the integrity of coastal ecosystems and the many culturally and economically significant services those ecosystems provide for humans.

Rachel Zuercher

Ph.D Candidate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz

In her current work, Rachel takes an interdisciplinary approach to ecosystem-based management of the nearshore fishery in central California. The nearshore fishery is focused on the many species of fishes that inhabit shallow rocky reefs and kelp forests. One part of her dissertation focuses on the trophic ecology of these species, especially as it relates to food subsidies from the open ocean into kelp forest ecosystems. She hopes to use her understanding of how prey delivered by ocean currents from the open ocean to fishes within kelp forests will enhance our understanding of the factors that fuel the productivity of nearshore fish populations and the fishery they support.

The second focus of her study is on social-ecological dynamics of the central California nearshore fishery, integrating qualitative and quantitative methods from both the natural and social sciences. She is exploring the ways that environmental, social, economic and management components of the fishery interact in complex ways to drive changes in the productivity and sustainability of coastal fisheries. In combination, these two foci of her research will empower managers to better predict and prepare for climate-related changes in ocean productivity and how those changes impact nearshore fisheries. This work will provide information that can directly inform the adaptive management of the nearshore fishery, and during her PhD program she has fostered relationships with both federal and state fisheries managers interested in the information she’s generating.

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