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Gulf Research Program
Gulf Research Program  >   fellowships  >   Early Career Research Fellowships  >  
Current and Past Early-Career Research Fellows

Our Early-Career Research Fellows take risks on research ideas not yet tested, pursue unique collaborations, and build a network of colleagues who share their interest in improving offshore energy system safety and the well-being of coastal communities and ecosystems.


Jump to read about Early-Career Research Fellows from:  
2017


ec-2017-aeppli  Christoph Aeppli, Ph.D.
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
East Boothbay, ME


Research Summary: When oil is released into the environment through oil spills, the chemical makeup of the oil dramatically changes over a matter of weeks. This process forms vast amounts of oil transformation products. Although these products can remain in the environment for years, neither their chemical makeup nor their toxic properties are known or accounted for in current oil spill assessment practices. Dr. Aeppli’s research is helping to understand the formation, fate, and effects of oil transformation products. This knowledge will lead to an improved assessment of the impacts that oil spills have on humans and the environment.

Biography: Dr. Aeppli is an environmental chemist and a senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, where he studies the sources, fate, and effect of pollutants in the ocean. Dr. Aeppli has studied oil weathering at natural oil seeps, in Arctic conditions, and after major oil spills, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He received his master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Bern, Switzerland, and his doctorate in environmental chemistry from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Postdoctoral fellowships took him to Stockholm University, where he investigated the dynamics of halogenated compounds, and to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where he studied biodegradation and photooxidation of petroleum hydrocarbons.
 ec-2017-bakkenson Laura Bakkensen, Ph.D.
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ


Research Summary: When natural disasters like hurricanes strike, communities may or may not bounce back or otherwise recover quickly. Decisions individuals make relative to available resources such as money, information, and time can affect the resilience level and, ultimately, disaster losses. As an economist, Dr. Bakkensen researches individual responses, overall community resilience, and policy responses in the face of natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Her research informs policy on public insurance and regulation, pre- and post-disaster aid, severe weather warnings, and public adaptation projects.

Biography: Dr. Bakkensen is an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Government and Public Policy, where she uses applied microeconomic and econometric techniques to analyze the economics of natural disasters, identifying current hazard risks and evidence of adaptation to damages and fatalities across the globe. Dr. Bakkensen received her Ph.D. in environmental and natural resource economics from Yale University. She also holds an M.Phil. in environmental and natural resource economics from Yale University, an M.Sc. in environment and development from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a B.A. in economics from Whitman College.
 ec-2017-harnik Paul Harnik, Ph.D.
Franklin and Marshall College
Lancaster, PA


Research Summary: How is anthropogenic environmental change affecting marine organisms now, and how will it affect them in the future? Dr. Harnik has taken the approach of analyzing both current species as well as preserved organisms, including those in the marine fossil record, for causes and consequences of extinction in the oceans. Most recently, Dr. Harnik and his students have been working in the northern Gulf of Mexico comparing live populations of mollusks with the remains of historical populations preserved on the seafloor to establish pre-industrial baselines for these communities and assess the effects of human activities on coastal ecosystems.

Biography: Dr. Harnik is an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Franklin and Marshall College. He received his B.A. in geology from Oberlin College and his Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Chicago. Dr. Harnik’s doctoral and postdoctoral research focused on understanding extinction risk in the oceans through analyses of the marine fossil record. At Franklin and Marshall, his research has focused increasingly on the links between modern, historical, and ancient marine systems with the goal of advancing our understanding of the biological consequences of current and future anthropogenic environmental change.
 ec-2017-heo YeongAe Heo, Ph.D.
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, OH


Research Summary: Dr. Heo’s research focuses on minimizing risks in on- and offshore oil and gas systems. These systems are exposed to severe operating conditions and weather and their successful function is critical to averting cascading disasters that can significantly affect human health and well-being, the economy, and the environment. As an engineer, she uses a variety of tools, including modeling and simulations, to investigate multi-hazard risks for the complex energy infrastructure systems that are subject to constantly changing stresses. By aiming to maintain safe operating conditions of these essential energy infrastructure facilities, her work contributes to both resilient infrastructure and communities.

Biography: Dr. Heo is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Case Western Reserve University. She received her Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from the University of California, Davis. She has expertise in modeling and simulation of probabilistic risk-based system-level performance for complex structures subjected to dynamic loads. Dr. Heo worked at the Offshore Technology R&D Center of Samsung Heavy Industries, where she examined diverse multi-hazard problems for offshore oil and gas process systems exposed to severe weather and operation conditions. She holds three patents for offshore structural systems and was the recipient of the 2012 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Norman Medal.
 ec-2017-martinez-colon Michael Martínez-Colón, Ph.D.
Florida A&M University
Tallahassee, FL


Research Summary: Coastal marine ecosystems like estuaries are subject to a range of anthropogenic stressors such as chemical pollutants and microplastics. Dr. Martínez-Colón takes a novel approach to studying these challenges, focusing on a type of single-celled organisms called foraminifera, which have calcium carbonate skeletons and tend to live in sediments. These organisms accumulate toxins like heavy metals and organic pollutants, and the degree of accumulation and community changes are used as an indicator of stress response to toxins. Martínez-Colón’s work is focused on developing a multi-level mechanistic understanding of these processes, thereby providing a greater understanding of the ecological and environmental impacts of pollutants.

Biography: Dr. Martínez-Colón is an Assistant Professor in the School of the Environment at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), a Courtesy Professor in the Department of Environmental Science at the University of South Florida, and adjunct faculty at the Savannah River Field Station. He received his Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of South Florida and a B.S. and M.S. in geology from the University of Puerto Rico. His research expertise is in coastal ecosystems, specifically coastal and marine ecology and biogeochemistry. His research portfolio examines aspects of environmental micropaleontology, geochemistry, and pollutants in conjunction with bioindicators in short- and long-term monitoring efforts.
 ec-2017-mostafavi Ali Mostafavi, Ph.D.
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX

Research Summary: Coastal communities all over the world are facing various levels of chronic and acute stressors, many of which are and will be exacerbated by sea level rise. Dr. Mostafavi takes a “system of systems” approach to studying this problem. He bridges the boundaries between complex systems science, network theory, and civil infrastructure systems in a way that he hopes will foster resilient, smart, and connected communities. His work creates complex system models of coastal communities that contribute to actionable science that is necessary for adaptation planning.

Biography: Dr. Mostafavi is an Assistant Professor in the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering at Texas A&M University. He received his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at Purdue University. He also holds a Master of Science in Industrial Administration (one-year accelerated MBA) from the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University. Dr. Mostafavi supervises the Infrastructure System-of-Systems Research Group. He also works closely with community partners, such as the Southeast Florida Climate Compact, to extend the broader impacts of his research. Dr. Mostafavi has authored more than 75 scholarly journal and conference papers and received multiple awards for research creativity and impacts.
 ec-2017-murphy David Murphy, Ph.D.
University of South Florida
Tampa, FL

Research Summary: Dr. Murphy is an expert in fluid mechanics whose research has biological, ecological, and environmental applications. For example, he has worked on crude oil spill dispersion in marine environments and potential human health effects of exposure to oily marine aerosols. Through a variety of methods, including advanced flow visualization and measurement techniques, he has also investigated zooplankton swimming, insect flight, and prosthetic heart valves. In a recent project, he explored the swimming of sea butterflies, also known as pteropods. The specifics of their movement may help inspire the design of new micro aerial vehicles.

Biography: Dr. Murphy is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of South Florida. He completed a double B.S. in mechanical and biomedical engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, an M.Phil. in biological science from Cambridge University, and an M.S. in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from Georgia Tech. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. His research has been featured in national publications like the New York Times as well as in the Dispatches from the Gulf documentary.
 ec-2017-ross Ashley Ross, Ph.D.
Texas A&M University, Galveston
Galveston, TX

Research Summary: Dr. Ross studies the vulnerability of coastal communities to natural disasters and other hazards and how to make them more resilient. As a political scientist, she approaches these challenges from a public administration and policy perspective. She is specifically interested in exploring how the public perceives risk for a variety of coastal hazards, including flooding and climate change. She then uses this information to inform policies with the goal of enhancing community resilience. Dr. Ross is also interested in understanding the big picture of how civil society, the private sector, and local government interact to build community adaptive capacity for disaster resilience.

Biography: Dr. Ross is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Marine Sciences and a faculty fellow with the Center for Texas Beaches and Shores at Texas A&M University at Galveston. Her research examining coastal hazards from a public administration and policy perspective has produced the book Local Disaster Resilience: Administrative and Political Perspectives. Dr. Ross was a 2014 National Science Foundation Next Generation of Hazard and Disasters Researchers Program fellow. Her work on Gulf Coast disaster resilience has also been supported by the Department of Homeland Security. She holds an M.A. in political science from Louisiana State University and a Ph.D. in political science from Texas A&M University.
 ec-2017-shao Wanyun Shao, Ph.D.
Auburn University at Montgomery
Montgomery, AL


Research Summary: Dr. Shao studies the interactions between nature and society. Her research encompasses the human dimensions of climate change, environmental risk perceptions, community resilience to environmental hazards, environmental policies and planning, and impacts of climate change on public health. She applies many quantitative methods in her research, including geospatial analyses and statistical analyses and the interdisciplinary nature of her research leads her to work across traditional disciplinary lines. She has worked with scholars in a wide range of fields, including climatology, political science, sociology, communication, civil engineering, statistics, and economics.

Biography: Dr. Shao is an Assistant Professor of Geography and GIS at Auburn University at Montgomery where her primary research interests are the interaction between nature and society. She received her B.S. in geography from Jilin University (China) and M.P. in planning from the University of Wyoming. While pursuing her Ph.D in geography at Louisiana State University, Shao was a research assistant for the Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program, which is funded by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. After receiving her Ph.D., Dr. Shao worked as a Coastal Resources Scientist at the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority in Louisiana.
 ec-2017-thrash J. Cameron Thrash, Ph.D.
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA


Research Summary: Marine microbes, although invisible to the naked eye, play an enormous role in marine ecosystems, including serving as the first responders to both natural and anthropogenic perturbations. For example, they conduct essential turnover of nutrients when too many nutrients enter marine environments. Dr. Thrash specifically focuses on the function of microbes in the different interconnected aquatic systems within the Gulf of Mexico, including the coasts, estuaries, the shelf region, and the Mississippi River. He aims to predict which microbes contribute, and how they contribute, to the vital ecosystem services of nutrient and carbon processing to generate strategic options for pollutant remediation.

Biography: Dr. Thrash is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Louisiana State University. He received a B.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. He received his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied microbial physiology. His graduate work included perchlorate bioremediation and isolation of novel perchlorate reducing microorganisms. He also studied anaerobic oxidation of iron and uranium. He was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Postdoctoral Fellowship to work at Oregon State University, where he focused on the evolution and genomics of SAR11, the most abundant marine bacteria.
 
2016


Beckler  Jordon Beckler, Ph.D.
Mote Marine Laboratory
Sarasota, FL

Research Summary: Harmful algal blooms are one of the largest and longest-lasting environmental disruptions of the Gulf, routinely affecting ecosystem dynamics, economics, and human health. Iron introduced to coastal waters indirectly supports the growth of K. brevis, a common harmful alga. Dr. Beckler’s work focuses on developing autonomous instrumentation to measure previously unidentified introductions of iron to coastal waters. His work will contribute to improved understanding of the influences on Gulf algal blooms.

Biography: Dr. Beckler is the program manager for the Ocean Technology Research Program at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL. He completed a Ph.D. in chemical oceanography with a minor in inorganic chemistry at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Beckler is currently working to understand the role of sediment-derived iron in serving as a nutrient source to Florida red tides and in enhancing the degradation of hydrocarbons; improve efforts to understand harmful algae bloom formation by developing optical techniques and autonomous measurement platforms; and develop in situ chromatographic techniques for remote detection of harmful algae bloom toxins.
 Cook Ann Cook, Ph.D.
The Ohio State University
Columbus, OH


Research Summary: Gas hydrates—methane gas molecules trapped within an ice-like cage of solid water—occur worldwide within sediments on continental slopes. Dr. Cook uses analytical data like geophysical well logs, seismic data, and sediment cores along with mathematical models to investigate these natural gas hydrates. Study of gas hydrates is critical for several reasons: the methane contained within could be a commercial energy resource in the future, the “melting” of gas hydrate may trigger submarine landslides or could affect petroleum drilling and production, and they may play a key role in climate change by serving as a source or sink for atmospheric methane.

Biography: Dr. Cook is an assistant professor in the School of Earth Sciences at The Ohio State University. Dr. Cook’s research is focused on natural gas hydrates, an ice-like form of methane gas and solid water that forms in marine sediments. She received her B.S. in geology from the University of Tulsa in Tulsa, OK, and her Ph.D. in marine geology and geophysics from Columbia University in New York, NY. Since she arrived at Ohio State, Dr. Cook’s research has been funded primarily through several grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, including an $81 million project focused on drilling and recovering natural gas hydrate in sand reservoirs from the Gulf of Mexico.
 Erisman Brad Erisman, Ph.D.
University of Texas at Austin
Port Aransas, TX


Research Summary: Fish spawning aggregations (FSAs) occur when many members of a single species of fish gather in one location to reproduce. Dr. Erisman’s research focuses on understanding interconnections among FSAs, ecosystems, fisheries, and climate. This matters because FSAs are productivity hotspots critical to marine food webs and ecosystem function. They also support the most productive and important commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries. Characterizing the dynamics of FSAs and how they interact with fisheries is vital for supporting the livelihoods and food security of coastal communities.

Biography: Dr. Erisman is an assistant professor of fisheries ecology at the University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute. He received his B.S. in aquatic biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, his M.S. degree in biology from California State University Northridge, and his Ph.D. in marine biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. After earning his doctorate, he remained at Scripps as a postdoctoral scholar and assistant research scientist for several years, during which time he co-founded the Gulf of California Marine Program. He currently leads several projects related to fishes and fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico, California, the Indo-Pacific, and Mexico.
 Figueroa Diego Figueroa, Ph.D.
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Brownsville, TX

Research Summary: The near-shore region of the South Texas Gulf Coast is one of the least-studied areas in the entire Gulf of Mexico. Dr. Figueroa’s work focuses on establishing a baseline of oceanographic and biological characteristics of this region to serve as a foundation for long-term oceanographic monitoring. Dr. Figueroa’s research is essential to assessing the effects of increased stress on this coastal environment from rising human use and climate change. It will provide invaluable information for policymakers and managers to mitigate negative impacts and promote the sustainable use of resources in the Gulf of Mexico.

Biography: Dr. Figueroa is an assistant professor in the School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. His research focuses on how oceanographic processes, anthropogenic effects, and climate change impact the biodiversity and connectivity of marine habitats. Dr. Figueroa works with zooplankton in coastal and open ocean environments and with corals in the deep sea. Dr. Figueroa uses multivariate tools for community analyses and a wide range of molecular methods to answer ecological and evolutionary questions. He received his B.S. in marine biology from the University of Alaska Southeast and his M.S. and Ph.D. in biological oceanography from Oregon State University.
 Gao Huilin Gao, Ph.D.
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX


Research Summary: Oil spills bring significant negative impacts to the food web in marine ecosystems. Although there have been numerous studies looking at the impacts of oil spills on higher levels of the food web, there is comparatively little research on microscopic organisms such as phytoplankton. Dr. Gao uses a combination of in situ observations, state-of-the-art remote sensing, and high-performance modeling approaches to investigate interactions between phytoplankton and oil in the marine ecosystem to provide a better understanding of the role phytoplankton play in altering oil compounds, which phytoplankton functional types are most affected by oil spills, and which functional types are most likely to aid oil decomposition.

Biography: Dr. Gao is an assistant professor in civil engineering at Texas A&M University (TAMU). She received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in atmospheric sciences from Peking University, and her Ph.D. degree in water resources engineering from Princeton University. Dr. Gao’s research interests are interdisciplinary, and are focused on several areas indispensable to protecting water and environmental resources—particularly those related to coastal ecosystem sustainability. Her expertise is centered on the use of field sampling, satellite based observations, and modeling approaches to understand the impacts of a changing environment on freshwater inflows and the effects of inflows on coastal ecosystems.
 Meyer Michelle Meyer, Ph.D.
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA


Research Summary: As an environmental and disaster sociologist, Dr. Meyer’s interests include how environmental and social forces affect population groups, especially low-income and culturally marginalized groups. Her research identifies the importance of creating a practice of resilience among community groups centered on inter-organizational relationships and communication for community sustainability. Using her research findings, Dr. Meyer has helped community organizations understand demographics that contribute to vulnerability and then prepare disaster recovery plans. With increasing disaster frequency, everyday practices and relationships are crucial to supporting community resilience.

Biography: Dr. Meyer is an assistant professor of sociology at Louisiana State University (LSU). She completed her Ph.D. in sociology at Colorado State University and received a B.A. in sociology from Murray State University. Her research interests include environmental sociology and community sustainability, disaster resilience and mitigation, climate change displacement, environmental justice, and the interplay between environmental conditions and social vulnerability. She has worked on various projects, including analyzing organizational networks in long-term recovery; comparing disaster recovery following technological and natural disasters; assessing the inclusion of disability in emergency management planning; and analyzing social capital and collective efficacy for individual and community resilience; among others.
 Pazour Jennifer Pazour, Ph.D.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy, NY

Research Summary: Logistics is the movement and storage of goods. We rely on logistics to enable and sustain our daily access to critical resources such as water, food, and medical supplies. The importance of logistics is never more apparent than when it has been disrupted due to a disaster. Moreover, disaster response logistics decisions are especially challenging, due to increased needs, uncertainties, and limited resource availability. Dr. Pazour’s research explores how to make decisions in logistics and resource-sharing systems. She develops mathematical models and solution algorithms of complex systems as a way of understanding and quantifying trade-offs with operational and design decisions.

Biography: Dr. Pazour is an assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Her research develops mathematical representations of complex systems and processes to better understand the implications of their design and operations. She is an active member of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences and the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers, and she serves on the board of directors for the Warehousing Education and Research Council. She holds three degrees in industrial engineering: a B.S. from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and a M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas.
 Pratt Kerri Pratt, Ph.D.
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI

Research Summary: Dr. Pratt’s environmental chemistry research laboratory studies atmospheric composition, clouds, and precipitation to understand key processes in air quality and climate change, particularly across the Alaska outer continental shelf. In the Arctic, critical knowledge gaps exist in understanding the impacts of rapid sea ice loss and increasing oil development and shipping. Dr. Pratt’s lab examines air pollution contributions of oil extraction activities at coastal Prudhoe Bay, the third largest oilfield in North America. Due to far-reaching social, economic, and environmental impacts, there is an urgent need to investigate the current state to improve predictions of future conditions and inform public policy.

Biography: Dr. Pratt is currently the Seyhan N. Ege Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Michigan, where she also holds a courtesy appointment in the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences. Her environmental chemistry research laboratory studies atmospheric composition, clouds, and snow to understand key processes pertaining to air quality and climate change, with a focus on the Arctic. Recently, Dr. Pratt developed an innovative course featuring original Arctic snow chemistry research to introduce first- and second-year college students to scientific research to improve STEM retention. Dr. Pratt received her B.S. degree in chemistry from Penn State University, followed by her Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, San Diego.
 Skarke Adam Skarke, Ph.D.
Mississippi State University
Starkville, MS


Research Summary: Dr. Skarke uses satellite imagery and acoustic instrumentation to investigate the oceanographic and geologic processes that control sediment erosion, transport, and deposition in marine environments. This work includes studying how coastal storms alter the shape of coastlines and how gas release from seafloor sediments affects water quality. Results of Dr. Skarke’s research may help scientists and environmental managers better understand and mitigate processes detrimental to the health and resilience of marine ecosystems, commercial fisheries, and coastal property and infrastructure.

Biography: Dr. Skarke is an Assistant Professor of Geology in the Department of Geosciences at Mississippi State University. He conducts research focused on understanding the fundamental physical relationships between fluid dynamics, sediment transport processes, morphological expression, and the stratigraphic record in marine environments that span the continental margin from coastal waters to the deep sea. His technical approach is field-based and focused on the analysis of geological, geophysical, and oceanographic data collected with innovative environmental observing sensors and platforms. Dr. Skarke earned a B.A. in geology from Colgate University as well as an M.S. and Ph.D. in geology from the University of Delaware.
 Trepanier Jill Trepanier, Ph.D.
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA


Research Summary: Dr. Trepanier’s work focuses on the quantification of extreme hurricane wind and storm surge risks in coastal locations. This risk estimate provides planners and managers with an understanding of how often the most extreme events will occur in the region, which can help them better prepare structures for the worst-case scenario. Additionally, as the Gulf region has a large number of oil platforms, this quantified risk can be estimated for platform locations, helping to prevent catastrophic life, economic, and environmental losses.

Biography: Dr. Trepanier is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Anthropology at Louisiana State University. She received her bachelor's degree in geography from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and her master's and Ph.D. in geography from Florida State University. Her main research focus is on quantifying extreme weather events, particularly tropical cyclones. She has two different statistical approaches to quantify tropical cyclone hazards. The first uses extreme value statistics to estimate wind speeds or storm surges to specific locations. The second utilizes a copula model to find the combined probability of joint wind and storm surge occurrence.
 
2015


2015 Research Albert_cropped  Julie Albert, Ph.D.
Tulane University
New Orleans, LA

Research Summary: The Albert group is interested in developing nano- and micro-structured polymeric materials for research applications related to present-day challenges in energy, health, and the environment. Specifically, the group takes advantage of the phase separation processes responsible for self-assembly in block copolymers and polymer blends to produce materials in thin film geometries exhibiting desired morphologies. For example, the group creates materials that may become nanotemplates for electronic materials, tailorable microenvironments for cell culture, or nanoporous membranes for filtration.

Biography: Dr. Albert is an assistant professor and the Robert and Gayle Longmire Early Career Professor in Chemical Engineering at Tulane University. She received her B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Florida and her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware. Her doctoral and postdoctoral research focused on developing gradient methods for exploring the effects of surface interactions on block copolymer thin film self-assembly and tailoring the chemical and mechanical properties of silicone elastomer networks for cell mobility studies and peptide assembly. At Tulane, Dr. Albert’s research is centered on the use of combinatorial methods to engineer nano- and micro-structured polymeric materials for applications in energy, health, and the environment.
 2015 Research Caban Martinez_cropped Alberto Caban-Martinez, D.O., Ph.D., M.P.H., C.P.H.
University of Miami
Miami, FL

Research Summary: Dr. Caban-Martinez’s interdisciplinary program of research aims to conduct robust occupational and environmental health surveillance activities and provide rigorous scientific evidence about effective ways to reduce musculoskeletal disorders and improve the well-being of worker populations. He focuses on finding ways to promote safe work practices, healthy behaviors, and healthy work environments. Dr. Caban-Martinez is especially concerned about redressing disparities in musculoskeletal disorder risk, whether by race/ethnicity, gender, or occupation.

Biography: Dr. Caban-Martinez is an assistant professor of public health sciences and director of the Musculoskeletal Disorders and Occupational Health Lab at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine. He earned his B.S. in computer science from the University of Miami, his MPH from Nova Southeastern University, and completed the osteopathic medicine program at Nova Southeastern University and the doctoral occupational epidemiology program at the University of Miami. He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard School of Public Health where he learned to develop workplace interventions in the construction industry. His research primarily examines the morbidity and mortality of occupational workers, with specialty in musculoskeletal disorders.
 2015 Research Darnell_cropped Zachary Darnell, Ph.D.
University of Southern Mississippi
Ocean Springs, MS


Research Summary: Dr. Darnell’s long-term research interests are centered on the environmental constraints imposed upon marine and estuarine invertebrate species. Specifically, his research focuses on physiological and behavioral responses to environmental change and environmental stress; environmental effects on life histories, distributions, and population dynamics; and anthropogenic impacts on organism-environment interactions.

Biography: Dr. Darnell is an assistant professor in the Department of Coastal Sciences at the University of Southern Mississippi in Ocean Springs, MS. Dr. Darnell earned a B.S. in biological sciences from Vanderbilt University and a Ph.D. in ecology from Duke University. His long-term research interests are centered on the environmental constraints imposed upon marine and estuarine invertebrate species. Focusing primarily on crustaceans, this research relies on a combination of field- and lab-based experimental work, complemented by quantitative and spatial analyses of long-term fishery-dependent and fishery-independent datasets to better understand patterns of abundance and distribution in relation to environmental factors over longer time scales.
 2015 Research Dorgan_cropped Kelly Dorgan, Ph.D.
Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Dauphin Island, AL


Research Summary: Dr. Dorgan’s research program aims to develop a mechanistic understanding of the ecological and biogeochemical processes occurring in marine sediments. She is specifically interested in animal-sediment interactions, including the mechanics of burrowing and feeding and the impacts of these activities on the physical structure of sediments.

Biography: Dr. Dorgan is a senior marine scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and an assistant professor of marine sciences at the University of South Alabama. Her research focuses on animal-sediment interactions, including biomechanics and energetics of burrowing, benthic ecology, invertebrate functional morphology, and the mechanical properties of sediments. Dr. Dorgan received her B.S. in marine biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and her Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Maine. As part of her dissertation research, she showed that worms extend burrows through muddy sediments by fracture, a result that was published in Nature and for which she was awarded the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography Lindeman Award.
 2015 Research Fodrie Joel Fodrie, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC

Research Summary: Dr. Fodrie’s research focuses on four major themes: 1) how the movement of fishes connects landscapes and affects population dynamics; 2) linkages between coastal habitat abundance/quality and fishery production; 3) biogenic habitat restoration; and 4) how basin-scale perturbations such as harvest pressure, climate change, and oil pollution influence the long-term community ecology of coastal ecosystems.

Biography: Dr. Fodrie is an assistant professor of fisheries oceanography and ecology at UNC, where he studies the population dynamics of fishes and shellfish. He has conducted research along all three major U.S. coastlines, as well as in the Baltic Sea and around the Galápagos Islands. Dr. Fodrie earned his Ph.D. in Oceanography from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where he was supported as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and presented with the E. W. Fager Student Award. Dr. Fodrie began fisheries research in the northern Gulf of Mexico as a post-doctoral researcher at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. He has maintained active research in the Gulf continuously since that start.
 2015 Research Michel_cropped Anna Michel, Ph.D.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole, MA

Research Summary: Dr. Michel’s research focus is on advancing environmental observation through the development and deployment of novel optical sensors for measurement of key chemical species. Dr. Michel designs, builds, and deploys advanced laser-based chemical sensors that are capable of measuring trace concentrations in gaseous and aqueous environments in locations ranging from the deep sea to Arctic environments, using remotely operated vehicles. New sensors are critical for addressing ocean science questions in such areas as climate change chemistry and ocean acidification, for examining remediation efforts, for establishing baseline chemistry data, and for monitoring anthropogenic and natural changes in complex and often extreme locations.

Biography: Dr. Michel earned B.S. degrees in biology and chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She then earned an M.S. in Ocean Engineering from MIT and a Ph.D. in Mechanical and Oceanographic Engineering from the MIT-WHOI Joint Program. After receiving her Ph.D., Dr. Michel was a post-doctoral fellow and then an associate research scholar at the Center for Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment at Princeton University. She returned to WHOI as an assistant scientist in applied ocean physics and engineering. Her research interests are in developing new instruments for chemical sensing of targets ranging from sediments to gases to aqueous solutions.
 2015 Research Wallace_cropped Davin Wallace, Ph.D.
University of Southern Mississippi
Stennis Space Center, MS

Research Summary: The aim of Dr. Wallace’s research is to establish the response of coastal systems to global change over historic and geologic timescales. Specifically, Dr. Wallace is primarily a field geologist interested in understanding how variations in hurricanes, sediment supply, and relative sea-level shape and impact the coastlines of the world.

Biography: Dr. Wallace is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Marine Science at the University of Southern Mississippi. He is also currently a guest investigator at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and a complimentary research scholar at Rice University. Dr. Wallace earned a B.S. degree from Tulane University, with a double major in geology and German. He earned a Ph.D. degree in earth science from Rice University. Dr. Wallace’s research interests include coastal geology, sedimentology, paleotempestology, and response to global change. He has worked in areas along the Gulf of Mexico, Japan, Bermuda, and the Philippines.
 2015 Research White_cropped Helen White, PhD
Haverford College
Haverford, PA

Research Summary: Dr. White’s research examines the persistence of oil and other organic contaminants in the marine environment. Her work seeks to examine how the chemical structure, physical associations, and bioavailability of specific compounds determine their cycling and eventual fate. Dr. White is particularly interested in the long-term fate of organic contaminants in both coastal and offshore environments, and how the presence of these compounds affects ecosystem services and human health.

Biography: Dr. White is an associate professor of chemistry and the director of the environmental studies program at Haverford College. She received a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Sussex, U.K., and a Ph.D. in chemical oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Joint Program. Dr. White’s research at Haverford College has been funded by an NSF-RAPID grant to determine the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on a deep-water coral community in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as a grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to examine the weathering of petroleum and dispersant components in the deep-sea, on Gulf Coast beaches, and in laboratory incubations.