Ph.D. DE COHORT 2021-01-11T13:11:53-08:00

Designated Emphasis Cohort

In Fall 2019 the Coastal Science and Policy Program began accepting PhD designated emphasis (DE) students. DE coursework and requirements emphasizes interdisciplinary scholarship, project-based study, and developing practical solutions to real-world problems.

Meet our DE students below:

Ashley Bae

Pasadena, California

Ashley is an Environmental Studies PhD student with a Designated Emphasis in Coastal Science & Policy (CSP). Her research with advisor Prof. Anne Kapuscinski lies in the practical solutions for a healthier ocean and fish-friendly aquaculture. Relevant (buzz) words that motivate her work include sustainable food systems, integrated agriculture-aquaculture, circular economy, and consumption trends. Prior to coming to UC Santa Cruz, Ashley worked on Adaptation & Resilience strategies (World Bank – Climate Change Group), product-level supply chain emissions analysis (CoClear, CDP), and planning for the Global Climate Action Summit (Gov. Jerry Brown’s office). Ashley holds an M.A. in Climate & Society from Columbia University and a B.S. in Biology from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Her undergraduate thesis investigated landings in a small-scale, rural fishery in northern Palawan, Philippines. Through CSP, Ashley hopes to gain insight into novel strategies for coastal protection, especially through business, and to engage with industry partners. Most of all, she is excited to meet and collaborate with existing and future CSP cohorts!

Wendy Bragg

Omaha, Nebraska

Wendy is a Ph.D. student advised by Dr. Pete Raimondi in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with a Designated Emphasis in Coastal Science & Policy (CSP). Her research interests are focused on studying intertidal ecosystems to determine the underlying drivers of organismal responses to environmental changes. In particular, she plans to address how environmental stressors impact marine disease ecology and how management decisions influence both the spread and recovery processes. Ideally, her research will help inform management and restoration efforts of MPAs.

Julia Cheresh

Santa Barbara, California

Julia is a PhD student advised by Dr. Jerome Fiechter in the department of Ocean Sciences. Her research focuses on ocean acidification and hypoxia, which are among the most urgent climate-related threats facing marine life on the west coast of the United States. Using modeling tools  that simulate the complex physical, biological and chemical processes governing the coastal ocean environment, she seeks to understand and predict how increasingly corrosive and oxygen-poor conditions will affect the habitats of key species in the California Current Ecosystem. With this information, Julia hopes to engage stakeholders interested in how ocean acidification and hypoxia will impact sensitive commercial species as well as broader ecosystem function, and provide tools for management and policy decision-making. Julia received a B.S. in Biology with a focus in fisheries sciences from the University of Washington.

Melissa Cronin

North Reading, Massachusetts

Melissa Cronin is a Ph.D. candidate in the Conservation Action Lab at UC Santa Cruz studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, with a Designated Emphasis in Coastal Science & Policy. Her research focuses on mapping and mitigating marine fisheries bycatch, mainly looking at manta and devil ray bycatch in small-scale and industrial fisheries. She uses an array of approaches including genetic analyses, spatial mapping, economic optimization, and social science methods to characterize problematic bycatch, and to propose tangible solutions to reduce it. 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.

Sara Gonzalez

Silver Spring, Maryland

Sara is a Ph.D. candidate advised by Dr. Pete Raimondi in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, with a Designated Emphasis in Coastal Science & Policy. Her research focuses on the environmental and genetic drivers of morphology and chemical content in giant kelp populations in California and Chile. She became interested in this field following a Fulbright fellowship in Chile where she interacted with artisanal kelp harvesters. Sara uses genetic analyses, field experiments, and chemical analyses on giant kelp to determine the causes and consequences of morphologically distinct groups within the species, known as “ecomorphs.” She hopes that her research will elucidate the underlying factors contributing to morphological and chemical variation in this ecologically important foundation species and commercially valued natural resource. Sara holds a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Cornell University.

Michelaina Johnson

Ojai, California

Michelaina Johnson is a Ph.D. student advised by Dr. Flora Lu in UCSC’s Environmental Studies Department with a Designated Emphasis in Coastal Science & Policy. Michelaina grew up frequenting the rivers and coastlines of California where she witnessed the interconnectedness of watershed and ocean health. Concerned with the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of unsustainable groundwater and land uses, Michelaina committed her research and career to evaluating the effectiveness of proposed policies aimed at addressing pressing challenges to California’s coastal communities and ecosystems. She employs social science tools and spatial analyses to cultivate sustainable, community-based natural resource management and equitable outcomes. She holds a B.A. in History with a double minor in Conservation and Resource Studies and Spanish from UC Berkeley and has worked for environmental nonprofits (including the World Wildlife Fund), a consultancy, and multiple news outlets. Her publications have appeared in the Ojai Quarterly, Ojai Valley News, California WaterBlog, San Francisco Public Press, and Bay Nature Magazine. 

Kelly Ann Keen

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Kelly Ann Keen is a Ph.D. student in the Costa Lab studying Ecology & Evolutionary Biology with a Designated Emphasis in Coastal Science & Policy. Her Ph.D. research focuses on developing predictive models to assess how human activities and environmental change may affect the reproductive success and survival of marine wildlife, with a focus on humpback whales foraging along the western Antarctic Peninsula. With this information, she is interested in developing science-based tools to support the development of realistic risk assessments as well as effective wildlife management and conservation strategies. For more than a decade, Kelly has worked as a researcher/scientist for non-profits, universities, and state government conducting field work and evaluating the impacts of human activities on the marine environment. She has a master’s degree from Scripps Institution of Oceanography with a focus on the acoustic impacts of seismic surveys and marine environmental policy, and a B.S. in Psychobiology from the University of New England.

Rachel Pausch

Miami, Florida

Rachel Pausch is currently an Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Ph.D. student with a Designated Emphasis in Coastal Science & Policy (CSP). After earning her B.S. at the University of Miami, she worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) monitoring threatened coral populations in the Florida Keys. The 2014-2015 coral bleaching events and subsequent response from the government and research community cemented her interest in management of nearshore subtidal systems. She is currently interested in the ecology driving marine mitigation along the California coast.

Amanda Stoltz

Washington D.C.

Amanda is a Ph.D. student in Environmental Studies with a Designated Emphasis in Coastal Science & Policy. Her research focuses on coastal resilience and the human dimensions of marine ecosystems. As a passionate science communicator, Amanda began her career teaching marine science at The Newfound Harbor Marine Institute in the Florida Keys. While diving Florida’s reefs and interviewing fishers on the impacts of climate change for her thesis research, Amanda set her sights on becoming a marine social scientist. Prior to coming to UC Santa Cruz, Amanda worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center (NOAA SEFSC) as a fisheries anthropologist. Amanda holds an M.S. in Marine Ecosystems and Society from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a B.S. in English and Marine Biology from Tulane University.

Alissa Takesy

Federated States of Micronesia

Alissa comes from a diverse Micronesian background due to her extensive familial ties throughout this Pacific islands’ sub-region. This meant she grew up in a multilingual household which enabled her to work in the public, civil society, education, and retail sectors for the past twenty years. Through her professional background and interest in biodiversity, this supplied her with the skills in her last assignment with the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) National Government. She oversaw the FSM’s complex institutional arrangement of the agriculture, forestry, biosecurity, coastal fisheries and tourism sectors with its four States of Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap. FSM, like some of its fellow Pacific Island Countries, is challenged by a limited human capacity to manage its large Exclusive Economic Zone (approximately 3 million square kilometer), consequently the need for agencies and partners to cooperate for a collective outcome. Through CSP, Alissa will try to narrow her research focus on the knowledge gaps between science and policy in the Pacific or Micronesian context.

Rae Taylor-Burns

Boston, Massachusetts

Rae Taylor-Burns is a PhD candidate in Ocean Sciences. She is affiliated with the Physical Oceanography Lab and the Coastal Resilience Lab, and is doing her PhD research through a co-operative agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey. Her research uses numerical modeling approaches to investigate how coastal marsh ecosystems can protect coastal communities from flooding, and spans the fields of engineering, ecology, and economics. She hopes her research, which was developed in collaboration with regional stakeholder groups, will be used to help coastal communities cope with a changing climate. She is also interested in science communication through both writing and art. She has developed science illustrations as an artist in residence for the Norris Center for Natural History in Santa Cruz and has contributed articles to Cape Cod based environmental newsletter for the past five years. She holds a BS in environmental engineering from Yale College, and master’s from UC Santa Barbara in environmental science and management.

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