Meet Our Young Scientists

2017

Karla Balagso
Karla Balagso

As a senior pursuing my Bachelor's Degree in Marine Biology at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, I am always seeking ways to contribute a positive impact in the community while continuously gaining exposure to, and a greater appreciation of, Oahu's natural treasures. With an affinity for science, the ocean, and our precious natural resources, an aspiring marine biologist surely captures the saying, "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."

I am working with Dr. Jonathan Whitney, Dr. Jamison Gove, and Dr. Donald Kobayashi to investigate the composition and abundance of microplastics in coastal slicks along the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaiʻi as part of the West Hawaiʻi Integrated Ecosystem Assessment. The occurrence of microplastic particles in all marine environments is gaining public recognition as another urgent problem to address. Microplastic ingestion by marine organisms (which could induce gut blockage and starvation), sorption of persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals, and leaching of toxic plastic additives have become huge concerns due to their potential to enter and contaminate the marine food web.

It has been such a privilege to undertake the first study to characterize plastic particles found in the coastal slicks, which could pave the way for future studies regarding potential ecological impacts of the increasing concentrations of microplastics in Hawaiian waters. I just want to thank all the people involved by providing us with a wonderful opportunity to work amongst a great team and allowing summer interns like me to participate in more hands-on fieldwork and research experience. Mahalo.

Courtney Bonilla
Courtney Bonilla

I am a senior at Chapman University, pursuing a BS in Environmental Science and Policy with an emphasis in Ecology and a minor in Computer Science. I grew up in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, where it's easy to develop a love for all aspects of the environment; however, it wasn't until I attended Chapman University that I was certain I wanted to turn my passion for the environment into a career. I am very fortunate that my major has allowed me to explore all aspects of environmental science, allowing me to take classes that range from the hard sciences to policy. These classes have introduced me to remote sensing, the perfect intersection between my major and minor, and a key part of my project this summer.

This summer, I am working with Dr. Ruhul Amin and Audrey Rollo in the PIFSC's Science Operations Division. My project is to analyze optical videos taken by the Modular Optical Underwater Survey System (MOUSS) in order to observe how atmospheric and oceanic conditions affect water visibility. In addition to this, I am using satellite remote sensing imagery to compare and explain the observations taken from space to what we quantitatively measure on the seafloor. This project will demonstrate the importance of having both remote sensing and in-situ data in order to support our observations, and to determine if atmospheric constituents affect water visibility more than oceanic constituents do.

I am so grateful for this opportunity to participate in the PYSO program. I would love to pursue a career that involves tracking shark migration patterns with remote sensing, and this summer has provided me with the skills, experiences, and opportunities that allow me to do so. I would like to thank my mentors, the Science Operations Division, and everyone at NOAA for such a great summer!

Rachel Holton
Rachel Holton

I am currently attending Humboldt State University in northern California where I am pursuing an undergraduate degree in marine biology. My love for the ocean initially began when I was a kid watching the movie Free Willy and I instantly became determined to save the whales. As I began taking marine biology classes in college, I learned that there were so many amazing pieces of the ocean. I am now passionate to do what I can to protect the ocean as a whole.

This summer I have the opportunity to work with four amazing women—Ali Bayless, Amanda Dillon, Phoebe Woodworth-Jefcoats, and Kym Yano—on large ongoing projects involving cetaceans and climate change. My responsibility is to communicate these projects with the public. I do this by writing blogs and tweets to keep the public updated about current research, designing flyers for upcoming events, participating in outreach events, updating the story map on the HICEAS (Hawaiian Islands Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey) webpage, and interviewing local scientists. The HICEAS website brings awareness to the important research being conducted. This interactive website gives the public an opportunity to see what it is like to be a real scientist out at sea. This internship has granted me so many amazing opportunities to learn about various aspects of science and how to effectively communicate them with the public. I am beyond grateful to have been selected as one of the 2017 PYSO interns!

Mary Margaret Stoll
Mary Margaret Stoll

I remember visiting the ocean as a kid and regarding the sea as a resilient, vastly unchanging environment. The stretch of blue as far as the eye could see seemed endless and plentiful. I soon learned humanity's large impact on ocean health because of overfishing, climate change, ocean acidification, plastic waste, and numerous other factors. It was not until college that I realized I wanted to pursue a career in ocean research to protect the sea and marine creatures I grew to love.

I am currently a student in a dual degree program where I study Chemistry and Environmental Studies at Amherst College and Engineering at Dartmouth College. Although these schools do not offer studies in marine science, I was given the opportunity to study the oceans through summer internships. The past two summers, I studied the effects of ocean acidification on the growth of blue mussels and the chemical composition of sea ice from Antarctica. In the future, I hope to apply my undergraduate studies and interests to ocean environments and pursue marine research.

This summer, I am working with the Protected Species Division in the Marine Turtle Biology and Assessment Program to age juvenile green sea turtles. Thus far, I have prepared humeri bones to analyze growth rings using a technique called skeletochronology. These bones will also be prepared for stable isotope analysis in order to determine the types of foods eaten at various life stages. Through skeletochronology and stable isotope analysis, we hope to determine the age at which juvenile green sea turtles recruit from benthic to neritic environments. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work alongside, and learn from, some amazing scientists in ocean research. I would like to thank every member of the turtle team for helping me grow as a researcher and creating a rewarding summer experience at NOAA. I am looking forward to my journey as a marine scientist and I hope to return to NOAA in the future!

2016

Megan Joyce
Megan Joyce

I have always wanted to work in conservation. Ever since I was little, I was always outside, going to the zoo and aquarium, attending nature camp, and visiting the ocean as much as possible throughout the summer. I was lucky enough to grow up in New York State close enough to the ocean that I would spend 2 or 3 weeks on the beach in New Jersey every summer, and though my focus is often on animals of the furry and feathered variety, there has been a soft spot in my heart for creatures of the sea.

I will be a senior at Cornell University in the fall, and throughout my time there most of my classes have focused on the ecology and conservation strategies of various ecosystems. However, I have also immersed myself in the communication, policy, and sociology sides to conservation. I believe that for conservation to work, we need to look at all aspects of the situation and the possible solution, and I hope with my current path through college, I am gaining experience in all of the disciplines needed to translate the science behind conservation into informative and persuasive communication pieces.

This summer, I am working with Dr. Jamison Gove, Amanda Dillon, and Tomoko Acoba on doing communication work just like that. I am putting together various types of communication pieces, ranging from blog posts to info graphics to story maps and participating in outreach events as well, mostly having to do with ecosystem-based management and coral bleaching. Having this opportunity to do what I love in a place like Hawaiʻi that is so exciting to explore, is an amazing experience.

Jazmine Panelo
Jazmine Panelo

I am currently in my senior year at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, where I am pursuing degrees in Marine Science and Environmental Science. I have always been fascinated with the mysteries of the ocean. Many of my earliest memories are filled with trips to the local aquarium. It opened up a Pandora's box of questions in my mind about the ocean. These aquarium trips sparked my lifelong passion for discovery and appreciation of our oceans, which I have continued to pursue in college through research and education outreach.

My project is to create a GIS database and an interactive web map application for the recent expeditions of the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer in the Central and Western Pacific Ocean as part of the three-year Campaign to Address Pacific Monument Science and Technology Needs (CAPSTONE). The online story map application will utilize ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Server to publish spatial data including location of Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) dives, biological and geological samples and multibeam bathymetry. This publicly accessible outreach tool will bring awareness to the unknown and commercially valuable organisms and minerals that exist in the deep ocean. The documentation of these organisms and environments will provide important baseline information about these rare ecosystems that are threatened by the push to begin mining precious minerals from the deep sea.

This summer has been very valuable for my future career as an ocean scientist. Thank you to my mentors Bryan Dieter and Risa Oram, as well as the Science Operations Division, who have been incredibly welcoming and supportive. I am highly appreciative of their time and commitment. The amount of knowledge they have shared about GIS and web map applications is something I will always reflect on and hope to use in my future marine science research projects. Thank you PIFSC for selecting me as one of the 2016 PYSO Interns!

Madeline Schuldt
Madeline Schuldt

While I never grew up by any major bodies of water other than the Mississippi, I have always been fascinated and harbored a special love for the water and its inhabitants. In high school I was afforded the opportunity to come to Hawaiʻi for a summer, take courses in marine science, and scuba dive nearly every day. That summer helped me realize my desire to focus my studies on the marine environment. Now I am a Biology and Environmental Studies double major at Bowdoin College, entering into my junior year. Within those majors, I have chosen to concentrate in marine biology and government policy.

Though I have done independent research projects in the past as well as field work, I am very excited to be a part of a larger (amazing) team and a larger project that allows me to see greater possibilities for future research using a subset of or dataset and techniques similar to those I am using this summer. My internship this summer is within the Protected Species Division, specifically the Marine Turtle Biology and Assessment Program looking to age turtles based on the growth rings of their humeri and then prepare those same bones for stable isotope analysis of the bone between the growth rings. By doing this we hope to determine an age that juvenile sea turtles recruit from a benthic to a neritic environment, which is currently unknown. I am very excited to be able to learn the techniques of skeletochronology and the beginnings of stable isotope analysis under the guidance of my mentors. My mentors have been powerful in helping me grow as a scientist and are incredible scientists themselves. This experience thus far has been one of the most rewarding of my life and gives me great excitement for my own future. I am very grateful to be a PYSO intern and hope to come back someday!

Elizabeth Stebbins
Elizabeth Stebbins

Growing up in New Mexico, I didn't have a lot of exposure to the ocean. My family moved to Penang, Malaysia from 2006-2008 where I learned to scuba dive and became fascinated with the marine world. I am going to be a senior at Harvard University majoring in Integrative Biology, taking as many classes in marine sciences as I can along the way.

This summer, my project with Dr. Jon Brodziak and Dr. Felipe Carvalho is to synthesize and organize data on the recreational Blue Marlin fishery in Hawaiʻi. In addition to consolidating the existing data, I am working on statistical analyses for potential use in Pacific billfish stock assessments which currently do not take recreational fisheries into consideration. By the end of the summer, I hope to have a completed report of the analyses, which potentially will be presented at international fishery meetings.

I want to pursue a career at the meeting of science and policy, and I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to learn and understand the statistical analyses that go into management decisions. Working directly with the data as well as with the people at NOAA is an incredible opportunity and I'm so lucky to spend my summer here!

2015

Laura Damiani
Laura Damiani

I am a rising senior at Duke University completing a BS in biology with a concentration in marine biology and certificate in marketing and management. Growing up in Southern California, I have always loved learning about the ocean and its inhabitants. As a child, my family and I frequently visited Hawaiʻi, and I am so excited to be back and be able to explore this beautiful island.

This summer, I am working with Jacob Asher and William Misa on the processing, development, and engineering of stereo-video data archives and technologies with the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division. Remote stereo-video allows scientists to research depths divers cannot reach, and provides us with remarkably accurate fish measurements. For the first part of my project, I am analyzing the stereo-video archives from the Northwestern and main Hawaiian islands with a focus on the populations of roving predators such as sharks and jacks. We are comparing MaxN and MeanCount, which are two methods of interpreting data to estimate relative fish abundances. I am also helping research the optimum position from where to measure fish using the MOUSS (modular optical underwater survey system) fitted with a dome port.

I would like to thank my mentors and everyone at the IRC for an amazing experience this summer. In the future, I hope to attend graduate school for biology, and would love to return to NOAA in the future.

Emily Laub
Emily Laub

I am a rising senior at Duke University where I will be completing my Biology and Evolutionary Anthropology majors. Although I have always been fascinated by the natural world, my interest in marine biology was solidified by a sophomore year semester studying at Duke's Marine Lab in Beaufort, NC. Through participating in independent research projects since my sophomore year, I have developed a passion for generating and pursuing research questions.

I have participated in research projects at school investigating chemosensory abilities in mud snails and the bioacoustics environment of Beaufort NC, at NOAA I have been fortunate enough to work with the Cetacean Research Program on a project investigating the feasibility of photo identification of spotted dolphins. I have been analyzing photographs of spotted dolphins in the Marianas to determine the potential for using mark-recapture for population estimates, determine evidence of injuries due to human impact, and re-sight animals to track movement. I am extremely fortunate to have received mentorship from Amanda Bradford and Marie Hill; they have expanded my horizons as a scientist and have helped me develop both my research and presentation skills.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to learn new research techniques, new ways of thinking about ecological questions, and about the unique sociological and ecological environment of Hawaiʻi. Many thanks to NOAA for supporting my growth as a scientist and offering opportunities to explore Hawaiʻi.

Ariel Pezner
Ariel Pezner

I am a rising junior at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) majoring in Environmental Science. As a part of the Environmental Science program at UCLA, I have chosen to pursue Conservation Biology and Environmental Engineering as my dual minors/concentrations. While there is no marine science concentration for me to choose from, I intend to pursue my studies within Environmental Science with a marine emphasis. I have always had a passion for the ocean, influenced mainly by my family's love for travel. Completing my first Physical Oceanography course this past year solidified my interest in marine environments, and led me to this program. I will also be spending the Winter Quarter of my junior year completing a Field Marine Biology Quarter in Moorea, Tahiti to complement my marine biology and oceanography knowledge.

My project with Dr. Réka Domokos focuses on a unique region of the ocean, the North Pacific Transition Zone. In this region, two areas of ocean with notably different salinities, densities, temperatures, and chlorophyll content interact, creating a physical and biological front. This region has remarkable ecological and economic significance, as it serves as a sort of "Nutrient Highway" for pelagic species like Albacore Tuna, Leatherback Sea Turtles, Swordfish, and Hawaiian Monk Seals. Within this frontal zone, we are looking specifically at micronekton, which serve as the main food source for many of these larger pelagic predators. By analyzing CTD and acoustics data from three NOAA cruises, we hope to characterize the micronekton of the North Pacific Transition Zone as well as the movements of the fronts within this region.

I am so honored to have been chosen for this position, and I know that I will gain invaluable skills and experience from my time here at NOAA. Spending the summer improving my quantitative data analysis skills with MatLab, working in oceanographic research, and getting to know the other researchers and programs at the IRC will surely supplement my studies and guide my future career choices.

Jennifer Wong-Ala
Jennifer Wong-Ala

Growing up in the small coastal town of Waimānalo, Oʻahu has always fueled my love and passion for the ocean. As a child I grew up having the Koʻolau mountains in my backyard and the Pacific Ocean a quick five minute walk from my house. Even though I have always had this very close relationship with the ocean and enjoyed my science courses, I never thought of pursuing a career in the marine sciences. Entering college I was dead set on studying medicine because I wanted a career that would allow me to heal and take care of others. During the summer after I entered college, I participated in Kapiʻolani Community College's (KCC) STEM Summer Bridge Program where I met individuals from the Center of Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) and the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) who introduced us to different careers within the Earth sciences. The week we spent learning about the different opportunities within the earth sciences really opened a whole new world for me that really helped me to start the career path I am on today.

In fall 2015 I will transfer from KCC to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM) and will be a junior in the Global Environmental Science Program. This summer I will be working with Don Kobayashi and T. Todd Jones looking at gelatinous zooplankton in the central Pacific Ocean. One aspect of my project will be to sort and document the already collected biota from various locations around the Pacific. This part of the project is looking at the location and abundance of these organisms. Once part one of the project is complete, I will then analyze the samples for total water content, ash content, total energy, and stable isotope signatures. This aspect of the project allows us to determine the nutritional value of types of gelatinous zooplankton such as pyrosomes and salps. It was previously thought that gelatinous zooplankton were not very "nutritious" for individuals such as sea turtles and pelagic fish that ingest them, but this may not be entirely true in all cases.

Being a part of this internship has been a great experience and I have learned a lot of valuable skills I will use throughout my career as a scientist. I would like to thank both of my mentors, and the entire Ecosystems and Oceanography Division and the Marine Turtle Biology & Assessment Program for sharing their knowledge and for being a great group of people to work with. I have learned so much during these past few months and cannot wait to see what the future will hold.

2014

Alice Chapman
Alice Chapman

I am a rising senior at Williams College, where I am double majoring in Chemistry and Geosciences. My school unfortunately does not have a marine science program, but I hope to apply my majors to study the field of marine chemistry/geochemistry. My passion for the ocean started at a young age. Growing up, I went to Japan every summer to visit my grandparents at their house, which was close to the sea. I spent many hours playing in tide pools, watching different organisms crawl/swim, and collecting shells. Since my home in New York is nowhere near the ocean, I think that my interest in marine science originated from my trips to the ocean in Japan.

This past fall, I participated in the Oceans and Climate semester program with Sea Education Association. For the sea component of the semester, I sailed from San Diego, CA to Tahiti on a tall ship and conducted a research project pertaining to the effect of low pH on the growth rates of diatoms and dinoflagellates in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. This program reinforced my passion for marine science and exposed me to research at sea, which is something that I would like to do again in the future. At school, I work as a research assistant in a Paleoceanography lab and am studying the trends of different isotopic elements of the calcium carbonate of foraminifera fossils found in sediment cores of the Bering Sea. The objective of this study is to understand the environment of the Bering Sea at the time of the last ice age and why the ice retreated.

This summer, I am working with Bernardo Vargas-Ángel and Paula Misa of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) to establish a baseline for calcium carbonate (CaCO3) deposition on coral reefs of the Pacific Ocean. To achieve this goal, plates are deployed and collected after 2 or 3 years and are then processed to estimate the amount of CaCO3 that has been deposited during that time. The processing involves decalcifying the plates via acid, collecting optical data to produce records, and weighing the plates to estimate rates of deposition. From the data obtained from this study, we can make inferences about changes in calcification rates that have a connection to the bigger picture: global climate change and more specifically, ocean acidification.

I am so grateful to have been chosen to participate in PYSO this summer and I know that it will give me a better understanding of the type of work the marine science profession involves. My experience this summer will also help me make decisions about the career path that I would ultimately like to follow.

Heidi Hansen-Kumar
Heidi Hansen-Kumar

I am a senior Marine Science major in the Earth and Planetary Science department at UC Berkeley. It was only after re-entering school at Skyline College that I discovered my love of the scientific process. I love ocean science because it is multidisciplinary and it has a huge, often overlooked, impact on our daily lives. Previously I worked as a recording engineer in various music studios and in a recording arts school. Bioacoustics allows for the marriage of my passion to learn about the ocean and my enthusiasm for sound propagation and its many uses. Prior to this internship, I took a Bioacoustics course at Friday Harbor Labs, which helped me get a broad overview of the field.

My internship with Réka Domokos involves studying echograms to determine ways to better identify and quantify deep water bottomfish. We are working with film from underwater stereo-video cameras mounted on AUVs, which moved in coordination with the research vessel. This optical data allows us to ground-truth the fish species and sizes. The seven species we are studying are similar in physiology and area. The goal of my project is to use statistical analyses of the active acoustics to find ways to distinguish which species are detected on the echogram. Improved differentiation methods will allow for better studies of the benthic ecosystem as well as stock assessment for these species.

I am very grateful to have the opportunity to gain research experience in the field of bioacoustics. The skills I am using for my work involve programming, data analysis, and use of acoustics software, all of which I anticipate will be useful in my future pursuits. The PYSO internship has allowed me to gain unique experience which adds greatly to my development as a scientist. Mahalo!

Jeppe Stig-Nielsen
Jeppe Stig-Nielsen

I am a rising junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I am pursuing a degree in Economics. Although I'm not obtaining a degree in the marine biology department, I am still fascinated by the ocean and all the living species in it. Luckily, I am able to use my knowledge in economics and apply it to the market of fish. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be on board with PIFSC and have extremely high expectations for the weeks that lay ahead. I am certain that this internship will steer me in the right direction and allow me to succeed in my chosen career path.

My project focuses on the supply chain risk management of wholesale fish buying in response to a fishery closure. I am starting out by performing a lit review based on documents and recorded data that has already been accumulated. After this step has been completed, I will be continuing more in depth research, including attending the local fish auctions and talking to buyers and sellers to formulate a synopsis of their response to uncertainties of bigeye tuna supplies under the risk of a longline fishery closure. All my data and questions originate from a 40 day closure back in 2010 that left a shortage of ahi tuna in Hawaiʻi and lost sales revenues at the Honolulu auction. I am working under the wing of Kolter Kalberg and Dawn Kotowicz. This project is equally an economic study, as well as it is a social one. A large amount of my time will be spent talking to the buyers at the auction and using that information to assess their risk management in the market with respect to a fishery closure.

I am absolutely ecstatic to be a part of this program and very grateful for the opportunity I have been given. I know the field experience is something that I will value and be able apply to my future endeavors. I hope that I am able to contribute with the research and work that I do here. I am honored for the opportunity to succeed and will certainly put all my newly gained knowledge to good use.

Christina Wine
Christina Wine

I am a marine science student at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, recently transferred from UH Maui College. I was born and raised on Maui, spoiled by warm blue water and beautiful coral reefs. College only increased my wonder and respect for the ocean; the treasure that one native Hawaiian lady introduced to my dad as Hawaiʻi's "diamond". Unforgettable opportunities through the Marine Option Program came like a set of powerful waves that moved me to further love the incredible ocean—getting SCUBA certified, visiting Kahoʻolawe, interning with Maui Division of Aquatic Resources. One day I mailed in a postcard from a poster on the wall of my Intro to Marine Option Program classroom. The postcard was to Sea Education Association. The only trip that I could go on was one bluewater cruise heading from Honolulu to San Francisco—my home ocean! Sailing through transition zones, looking at creatures floating on debris in the middle of nowhere and amazing little critters from hundreds of meters deep that no one ever sees—I know I am hooked for life. Next year I made it to QUEST, (Quantitative Underwater Ecological Survey Techniques, a UH Hilo science diving certification course held in Kona) and the next year I finally made it to UH Hilo, and somehow got accepted into this Pacific Young Scientist internship with NOAA!

I will be working with T. Todd Jones to try to map out how energy flows through marine ecosystems. I am excited at the chance to be out in the field in the waters surrounding Oahu, and am also excited to be in the lab, learning techniques to analyze biota collected from all over the place. With SEA in Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) I saw the home of Alvin and samples of black smokers from the bottom of the deep sea—dizzyingly amazing. With this project I'll get to see (and work with!) more submersible-collected samples, along with biota from plankton and surface tows (tows like the ones I got to do at sea). I am motivated at the thought of the skeleton behind this project—looking at what things are made of to understand how pelagic nekton and deep coral bodies grow. This opportunity to be a young scientist in the Pacific gives me a look at the shining Hawaiian diamond from yet another of its million facets and afterwards I don't plan to ever stop learning about its beauty and wonder.

2013

Karl Lindberg
Karl Lindberg

I am a rising junior at Eckerd College, where I am studying marine science with a focus in marine biology. To me, the most interesting part about studying marine science is learning how people rely on the seas for everything from medicine to food, but do not always utilize these resources sustainably. I believe that it is possible for fisheries to become more renewable, and hopefully one day, my research will aid such a victory. My passion for the relationship between man and sea makes my summer internship at the Kewalo Research Facility at the PIFSC a perfect fit for me.

This summer, I am working with Jacob Asher of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) to process videos recorded through baited and unbaited remote underwater stereo-video surveys (BRUVs and RUVs, respectively). This technology has just recently began to catch on in surveying reef fish assemblages, so I am assisting CRED in analyzing videos recorded in the Main Hawaiian islands to determine the differences in fish encounters between BRUVs and RUVs. One of the benefits of using BRUVs and RUVs is that they can survey depths that would otherwise be unreachable by divers, so I will also analyze the species assemblage differences between shallow water reefs and the less understood mesophotic reef systems. So far this internship has been even more than I imagined it could be. Within the first week, I learned how to identify over one hundred fish species, and give all of their scientific names! I would like to thank Jake for always being a supportive mentor, even when I need help identifying a fish, or am having continual technological problems. The PYSO has been a great experience, and it has only further fueled my commitment to marine stewardship.

Kori McClanahan
Kori McClanahan

I am currently a senior at Hawaiʻi Pacific University where I am part of the Marine Biology program. I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri but have always had a fascination with the ocean. I feel beyond fortunate for all of the incredible adventures and opportunities that I have experienced since my move to Oahu. My internship with the PIFSC has been an invaluable opportunity that I am truly grateful for. The internship has not only expanded my knowledge and use of analytical application in scientific research, but it has also given me preparation for my professional future.

My internship involves working closely with the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division and the Pacific Islands Benthic Habitat Mapping Center. The project I am working on focuses on the presence of light-dependent corals in regions with depths exceeding 30 meters, which was previously thought to be the maximum depth for such corals. These reefs are referred to as mesophotic coral ecosystems, and have not previously been subject to ecological monitoring. For my project I have been compiling still photos, along with the corresponding pertinent data, from previous research trips around the islands of American Samoa and creating a database for coral species identification. After creating the database I have gone through each individual photo and identified the various coral species. The end product is the interactive database of mesophotic corals species found among the various regions of American Samoa. This project will increase the understanding of the vertical distribution of coral reef ecosystems along the seafloor and will potentially aid in the proposed listing of 66 coral species for coverage under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

I am truly honored to have been one of the very few to be selected for this internship. I am especially grateful for the guidance from my PI, John Rooney, who has given me the independence to take control of my project while also providing key mentoring throughout the process. I was given the opportunity to not only do well during my time here with the PIFSC, but to exceed at a level higher than I had imagined. Mahalo!

Patrick Rex
Patrick Rex

I am entering my fourth year at the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa where I am pursuing a Bachelor's of Science degree in Marine Biology. I am originally from California and have always loved the ocean and its organisms. Before this internship, I interned at Kim Holland's shark lab on Coconut Island where I maintained the health of the animals and assisted in the ongoing research there. The PIFSC Young Scientist Opportunity has allowed me to broaden my experience by learning more about cetaceans through field research and acoustic data collection and analysis.

I was lucky enough to participate in the thirty day cetacean research cruise through the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands during the Papahānaumokuākea Associated Cetacean Ecology Survey (PACES). I worked as a towed array acoustician on board the ship where I localized and recorded whistles, echolocation clicks, and burst pulses detected by the hydrophone. We worked in tandem with the visual team to locate and track animals in order to facilitate their work in obtaining group size estimates, photographs, biopsy samples and deploy tags on the animals when possible. We focused on several target species, such as false killer whales, Pseudorca crassidens, sperm whales, Physeter macrophalus, pilot whales, Globicephala macrorhynchus, and other dolphin species. We were able to tag two false killer whales allowing for continuous monitoring of their movements to learn more about their range.

My internship focused on the vocalization characteristics of different stocks of false killer whales within the Hawaiian Archipelago, including the Northwestern Hawaiian Island stock, the main Hawaiian insular stock and the pelagic stock. I began working on this project during the research cruise, which involved analyzing recordings of false killer whale whistles from past cruises. This project explores the differences in whistle characteristics between each stock to eventually be able to classify them during real-time applications. I used Raven, sound analysis software, to select each individual whistle from the recordings and log each one by their time and frequency. Next, fifty whistles were selected at random from each recording to be measured using whistle classification software, Real-time Odontocete Call Classifier Algorithm (ROCCA). This software measured 54 different variables of each whistle. This information was statistically analyzed for any significant differences or similarities in the whistle characteristics between each stock. At this time, the analysis is still on-going, but we are hopeful that it will lead to a classification method that will allow us to classify the individual stocks and distinguish between them during real-time field research efforts. This is the first attempt at determining differences in whistles between the different stocks, and will hopefully contribute to the greater conservation efforts of the Cetacean Research Program, part of the PIFSC Protected Species Division.

I am absolutely honored to be a part of this program. It has given me invaluable field experience as well as broadening my interests in marine life. The research cruise and firsthand experience with wild cetaceans made me realize that I absolutely want to be in this field for the rest of my life. That is a feeling that no class in any university can possibly deliver. Furthermore, it provided me with a chance to perform real research which, again, is invaluable as an undergraduate. I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity or be more thankful that I was allowed to be a part of this research.

Taylor Witkin
Taylor Witkin

As a rising senior at Colby College in Waterville, ME, I'm majoring in Environmental Science with a concentration in Marine Biology. I am originally from Massachusetts and have been in and around the ocean my entire life.

My internship with the PIFSC focuses on the socio-economics of non-commercial fisheries. I am currently working with Cindy Grace-McCaskey, Leila Sievanen, and the Waialua Boat Club on a project to get non-commercial fishers to report their catch, something not mandated by fishing regulations. Hopefully, this project will expand into island and state-wide reporting of non-commercial catch, giving fisheries managers a more accurate picture of how much fish fishermen are taking from the ocean. I'm also working with Dawn Kotowicz and Courtney Beavers to assess the engagement and reliance of different Hawaiian communities on fisheries and their vulnerability to changes.

I am thrilled to be part of the socio-economics team, as this is my first foray into the social side of marine science, something I hope to pursue during my final year at Colby. Previously, I worked as a Flats Ecology Intern at the Cape Eleuthera Institute in the Bahamas studying the effects of climate change on economically important near shore species. I also worked for NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center researching temperature and salinity larval summer and winter flounder development. At Colby, I have been working on a project to determine the environmental and ecological sustainability of Community Supported Fisheries in the United States and Canada.

2012

Giulia Anderson
Giulia Anderson

I am entering my fourth year in the College of the Environment at the University of Washington, where I've elected to pursue an oceanographic emphasis. I was born in Hawaiʻi and raised on various tropical and subtropical islands in the Pacific, and consequently acquired an acute appreciation of tropical ecosystems. My summer internship with the PIFSC was my greatest step, to date, towards dedicating my professional life to the conservation and restoration of the environment.

My internship focused on illuminating the prey choice and digestive efficiency of juvenile leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea). Adult leatherbacks are believed to prey exclusively on jellyfish and other gelatinous zooplankton, which are extremely low in nutritional value. It is doubtful that juvenile leatherbacks could amass the excess energy needed to grow from 50 gram hatchlings to 500 kilogram adults on a gelatinous diet without extra physiological adaptation.

In order to better understand the maturation process of leatherbacks, I explored both the type of prey they consumed and the efficiency with which they absorbed the consumed nutrients. Prey identification entailed visually examining the stomach contents of turtles and comparing the stable isotope ratios of the digesta to that of potential prey items. Energy absorption analysis was conducted through bomb calorimetry, by measuring the change in energy density of digesta from different organs along the GI tract relative to that of un-consumed prey items. The results will provide some of the first direct data on the dietary habits of juvenile leatherbacks.

I consider it an honor to have been included in such a fundamental scientific investigation. I would like to thank the entire PIFSC internship committee for providing such an opportunity, and especially my PI, Dr. Todd Jones, for encouraging me to take ownership of the study. I could never hope to find a better environment in which to grow as a scientist. Mahalo nui loa!

Rachel Karasik
Rachel Karasik

I am a rising senior at New York University, at the Gallatin School of Individualized Studies where I am concentrating on Biological and Environmental Sciences as well as examining American environmental history. Previously, I worked for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society where I studied and contributed to a catalogue of a population of North Atlantic Humpback Whales. This internship program has allowed me to study cetaceans in the Pacific.

The project that I work on concentrates on spinner dolphins in the CNMI (Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands) and Guam. For the past three years, researchers from the PIFSC Protected Species Division Cetacean Research Program have surveyed these islands, obtaining data regarding the extensive variety of cetaceans that either reside or pass by these islands; they also use acoustic research to further contribute to our understanding of the species composition of this region. I was fortunate to join the team on Saipan with Erin Oleson for ten days. When surveying, the team obtains environmental data (waypoint, Beaufort, etc.), takes photographs and performs biopsies. In addition, we picked up and deployed two HARPs (High Frequency Acoustic Recording Package) off of the coasts of Tinian and Saipan. These HARPs record acoustic data for up to a year and it was really exciting to see what kind of cutting-edge technology marine biologists employ when obtaining data.

When not in Saipan, I am working with the photos from the previous years and compiling a catalog which will consist of identifiable individuals using photo ID. The technique I am using was created by one of my mentors, Marie Hill. The purpose of making this catalog is to serve as a foundation for future studies of spinners in this region. Research in the future includes anything from population to residency to behavior to toxicity studies and more.

While here, I have done a lot of hiking and snorkeling and general exploring. I will be SCUBA certified by the time I leave, so I hope to explore some of the other islands and scuba there! Furthermore, I am proud to say I have become an Oahu burger connoisseur.

I am so thankful for the PSIP program for providing me with this impeccable opportunity to leave the East Coast and spend my summer in a wonderful place with wonderful people. I would especially like to thank Amanda Bradford, Marie Hill, and Erin Oleson for teaching me about photo ID, cetacean research in Hawaiʻi and elsewhere and for allowing me to go to Saipan. They have gone above and beyond as mentors, are incredible marine biologists and I hope to follow in their footsteps!

Nicole Sarto
Nicole Sarto

I am studying environmental earth system science with an emphasis on the marine environment at Stanford University. I feel fortunate to be a part of such an outstanding program that has encouraged me to take a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to understanding some of the most pressing environmental issues surrounding human interactions with marine ecosystems.

Last summer, I was involved with a research project studying the effects of invasive species removal on the community ecology and trophic structure of islets characterized by native versus invasive plant species at Palmyra Atoll. This work is ongoing and utilizes stable isotope analysis of mourning gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris) tissue to see how the diet of these top predators might respond to the removal of the black rat (Rattus rattus).

My experience with stable isotope analysis has been a valuable asset to the research I am involved with this summer at PIFSC's Marine Turtle Assessment Program. Under the guidance of mentor Dr. Kyle Van Houtan, I am comparing nitrogen isotope signatures between tumored and tumor-free green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) to look for evidence for the mechanistic role of diet in promoting fibropapilloma outbreaks in turtles around the Hawaiian Islands. I hope that this work will be used to advise better management of wastewater and other nitrogen-rich runoff influencing the neritic macro-algae that comprise the turtles' diet.

I have one year left as an undergraduate and am considering pursuing a graduate degree, possibly in a field that seeks to improve human interactions with the marine environment from an ecosystem health perspective. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be involved with some of the work that NOAA is currently conducting in this field via the PIFSC Summer Intern Program!

2011

Keith Kamikawa
Keith Kamikawa

I am a rising senior in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. It was a great experience to intern at the PIFSC and under the guidance of my main mentor, Justin Hospital from the Socioeconomics Division, I was able to engage in a few different projects.

The first ongoing project that I assisted with consisted of collecting consumer level prices of reef fish, bottom fish, and different tunas at eight different markets once a week. These data will allow for a better understanding of the Hawaiʻi seafood market dynamics and how prices fluctuate between the paths from the fishermen to the consumer.

Along with going to different markets to collect retail data once a week, I also shadowed Laurie Richmond and Dawn Kotowicz of the Human Dimensions Research Program once a week. They were interested in understanding the flow of fish from the Honolulu Fish Auction to consumers and all the "middle men" transactions. Talking with buyers and following some of them to their different facilities and stores, provided a better perspective of who will be affected by fishery management decisions. A project like this will hopefully bridge the disconnection between policy makers and the people that are affected by management decisions.

The main project that I worked on was based on analyzing Guam market biosample data collected from 2009-2011 that had not been analyzed. Mr. Hospital was able to connect me with several scientists in the Fisheries Biology and Stock Assessment Branch at PIFSC such as Jon Brodziak, Joseph O'Malley, and Robert Humphreys. I then analyzed the data by creating length weight relationships for several bottom and reef fish species. I also searched for patterns regarding size distribution and species composition in relation to fishing method and region.

I was very privileged to participate in this internship at the PIFSC. I received a very well rounded experience with projects from different focus areas. People went out of their way to help me or include me in their events and other projects even though it may have added more work for them.

Catherine Kim
Catherine Kim

I am a rising senior at Cornell University majoring in Science of Earth Systems concentrating in Oceanography. I am from northern Virginia and I worked at the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) on tow image analysis of Rose atoll and Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structure (ARMS) samples looking at the benthic community structure and cryptic marine invertebrates of the atoll.

During the spring of 2010, I spent the semester on the Big Island through Cornell's Earth and Environmental Systems program. It was an amazing experience covering a wide range of topics from geology, corals, biogeochemistry, and Hawaiian culture. The program provided me with a thorough background on Hawaiian ecosystems. Immediately following the semester, I participated in University of Hawai'i Hilo's Quantitative Underwater Ecological Surveying Techniques (QUEST) scientific diving field class at Ke'ei. It was a comprehensive introduction to data collection and surveying techniques via scuba. Following graduation, I plan on attending grad school for marine science. In my free time this summer I stir-fried farmer's market veggies, watched Game of Thrones, took a sailing class, did ocean swims, and scuba dived. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on a few of the many great projects at CRED and experience the great weather, bus system, and delicious mangos of O'ahu this summer. Most of all, I'd like to thank my mentors Bernardo and Molly and all the wonderful people at CRED and the Science Center for a great summer.

Laura Lilly
Laura Lilly

I am a rising senior at Stanford University, majoring in Earth Systems with a focus on the oceans. This summer, I have been fortunate to work with PIFSC's Ecosystems and Oceanography Division (EOD), which tackles ecosystem-scale questions about biological, physical, human and other interactions in the Pacific Ocean. My project focuses on the physical oceanography (currents, eddies, upwelling) off the Kona Coast of the Big Island, as part of a larger Integrated Ecosystems Assessment (IEA) of the region. Our goal is to better understand the dynamics and interactions of the region, including how the oceanography changes over time, and affects the biology (everything from plankton to pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins) off the Kona Coast. My summer internship has been incredibly beneficial for my growth as an oceanographer; I've so far covered everything from learning several new computer programs to helping collect and analyze water samples and micronekton on a recent cruise off the Big Island.

My marine interests are as wide-ranging and diverse as the ocean itself. Aside from this summer, I have had the opportunity to study the sea from many angles. Some of my past experiences include tagging and working with green sea turtles in Baja California, sailing on tall ships around Cape Cod and from Honolulu to the Line Islands, quantifying the fish communities around shipwrecks on Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef, and analyzing daily changes in the activities of sea cucumbers on the Great Barrier Reef. I am also incredibly passionate about ocean conservation and plastic reduction, as well as encouraging people to appreciate the beauty of the natural world around them. I'm excited to continue to learn about the Kona Coast ecosystem during my project this summer, and to hopefully figure out how to weave all of my various ocean interests into my future work!

2010

Pasha Feinberg
Pasha Feinberg

I live in the Washington, D.C. area but escaped to California for college. I'm starting my senior year at Stanford, majoring in Earth Systems, an interdisciplinary major in environmental science and policy. My summer internship is with the Protected Species Division, specifically the Cetacean Research Program. I am working with spinner dolphin observational data, and am currently tracking individuals across years and databases (different organizations submit photos) to help create the Pacific Islands Photo-Identification Network (PIPIN) database for spinner dolphins (you can read more about PIPIN here: http://www.pifsc.noaa.gov/cetacean/), which is the first collaborative catalog of spinners in Hawai'i. Once I have completed work on the Big Island's catalog, I will compare the individual dolphins found around the Big Island with those found around O'ahu to look at movement between the islands.

One of the advantages of my major is that it is very broad, so I can take classes relating to many different subjects to determine what I'm most interested in. Right now I'm tentatively focusing on conservation biology. I'm really interested in ecosystem services (I'm a major fan of Gretchen Daily's work) and how human-caused changes to the environment impact these services.

I've had the opportunity to do a little research in the past. I studied how land use and climate change might affect nutrient availability and other environmental conditions that could promote the growth of the nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria Trichodesmium on the Great Barrier Reef. I spent a quarter abroad in Australia and it was an amazing experience. The program was focused on environmental sciences and we got to learn about each ecosystem while living in it. This meant we got to learn about rainforests in the rainforests, mangroves in the mangrove swamps, and coral reefs + ocean ecosystems while on an island on the Great Barrier Reef! And recently I studied whether an understory palm, Reinhardtia gracilis, in the rainforest at Los Tuxtlas (in Veracruz, Mexico) is avoiding herbivory damage by mimicking herbivory damage (its leaves naturally have ragged edges and holes). However, both of these research projects were fairly short-term, so I'm very excited to get to work on a project for a longer period of time.

In my free time, I love to draw and paint (I nearly went to art school instead of Stanford), hug my four cats, and tutor little kids. I got SCUBA certified before spending a quarter in Australia and would love to get to scuba dive more.

Amanda Lawrence
Amanda Lawrence

I am a senior at Florida State University majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in biology and have a passion for marine sciences. This summer I'm working for the Protected Species Division studying the historical distribution of sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean.

I'm most interested in marine conservation and marine ecology. I've been fascinated with the ocean since I was a child, growing up on the coast of Florida. Last Spring, I spent the semester with the School for Field Studies in the Turks and Caicos Islands studying tropical marine ecology and environmental policy.

Alice Ren
Alice Ren

I am a senior at Duke University with an interest in physical oceanography and animal migration pathways. I will be spending the summer in the Ecosystems and Oceanography Division at PIFSC, working with Loggerhead sea turtle tracks in the South Pacific Ocean.

I am originally from Acton, Massachusetts, and I am excited to be in Hawaiʻi for the first time and take advantage of the weather and the beach in my free time. At Duke University, I spent a summer at the Duke Marine Laboratory in Beaufort NC, completing a project on public perceptions of coastal land use. Using statistical methods, I studied how different stakeholders had divergent views about the land, its present use, and its future. In the fall, I plan to complete a thesis at Duke in physical oceanography and migratory pathways.

2009

Emma Timboy-Pickering
Emma Timboy-Pickering

In May 2010, I graduated from the University of San Francisco with a BA in Environmental Studies and minor in Economics. During the summer of 2009, I interned with PIFSC in the Economics Program of the Fisheries Monitoring and Socioeconomic Division on a project led by Dr. Justin Hospital to perform retail monitoring of the main local fish markets in Honolulu.

Since I was born and raised on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi, returning home to intern with NOAA was an exceptional opportunity. My primary project mainly involved visiting several different local fish markets, several times a week, and monitoring the types of fish, the cuts being sold, the prices of the cuts, and where the fish geographically were caught. Throughout my internship, I became well acquainted with the local fishermen and retailers, while also gaining the practical skill of fish identification. Another educational bonus from the project was that I was introduced to the specific fishing regulations that are part of the conservation efforts for fisheries and their ecosystems.

I also engaged in a second main project directed by Justin, created from my own interests in economics and conservation. I researched and collected information on the stability and status of the major bottomfish species, mainly snappers and groupers. Using this information, I composed an informal report of my findings. The report included as much legitimate information as I could find from bottomfish fisheries in Hawaiʻi, New Zealand, Australia, other Pacific Islands, Indonesia, the Gulf of Mexico, and the South Atlantic. I also gave a presentation on my findings upon the conclusion of my internship.

Besides my main projects, I was also introduced to many of the other departments within PIFSC. I had the opportunity to visit the Kewalo Basin Research Facility and see the green sea turtles that are studied at the site. I also had the opportunity to attend an aquaponics convention, which I found extremely interesting, even though it diverged from my main focus as an intern. Finally, I had the privilege to attend the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council meeting in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island. The council meeting briefly introduced me to the fisheries policy-making field.

My internship with PIFSC was invaluable. I gained knowledge on the basics of conservation efforts, the experience of being a researcher, and an introduction to policy. In addition, my mentors and co-workers created an open environment for me, which invited me to dip into other departments that branched from economics. By being introduced to the broad spectrum of fields within PIFSC, I recognized that I didn't have to stick to one field for the rest of my studies. My internship with NOAA gave me the perfect opportunity to step back from my narrowly planned path and add variety to my goals. During the summer of 2010, I'm taking a restful break to reassess my future goals. I want to continue in my academic pursuits, but the direction of my studies is yet to be determined. I would like to delve into Sustainable Agriculture. This fall, I plan on interning on a sustainable, community-based farm, concentrating on animal husbandry. This experience will tie into my interest in Wildlife Management.