Click on the names below to check out what some of our alumni have to say about the marine biology program at Oxy and what they are currently working on.
- Sara Damore '12
- Brianna Bowman '10
- Logan Brown '09
- Bridget McCann '09
- Jean Davis '08
- Beth Young '06
- Julie Gee '05
- Liz Terk '04
- Russ Carpenter '00
- Matt Craig '98
- Andy Brooks '84
I graduated from Occidental in 2012 with a degree in biology and a year and a half of VRG experience. Perhaps the most formative time I spent at Oxy occurred while pursuing an independent research project on storm drain runoff at Palos Verdes Peninsula. This project would not have been possible without the extensive support and encouragement of the VRG scientists. In fact, the appreciation I garnered for doing vs. hearing about science while at the VRG is what led me to my current job as a high school biology teacher at Phoenix Country Day School. Drawing from skills and knowledge I acquired both in and out of the field, I established a marine biology course that, among other things, boasts a field trip to Los Angeles where students receive an exclusive tour of the VRG.
Down the line, I hope to attend graduate school to continue to study the interactions between land and sea. In the meantime, I am thrilled that, even in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, I can maintain my enthusiasm for marine ecology while sharing it with high school students.
I graduated from Oxy with a marine emphasis biology degree in 2010. My experience working in the VRG had a huge influence on my career goals and aspirations, and was definitely one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. Since graduating, I’ve tried what I like to think is a little bit of everything under the surprisingly broad term of “marine biology”. I worked for a summer at Taylor Shellfish, an aquacultural company in the southern Puget Sound in Washington State. I also had an internship with NOAA in the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, learning about distribution of walleye pollock in the Bering Sea. I then went to New Zealand and helped a Ph.D. student from Otago University with her field work on Hector’s dolphins around Banks Peninsula. After that, I moved to another town in New Zealand called Kaikoura, and managed to get a job being a guide on a boat that takes tourists out to swim with a local wild population of dusky dolphins. While this job didn’t require a marine biology degree, it did make me realize that I really enjoyed talking to people about the marine environment, and I started to think about being in a more education based role. By coincidence, I met another former Otago graduate student named Megan Bosch who was literally starting an aquarium in town – the Kaikoura Marine Aquarium. This year, I am doing an online M.Sc. in science and math education from Oregon State University. This degree is specific to what is known as “Free-Choice Learning”, meaning environments outside of a classroom where people choose to go to learn, like museums, zoos, and aquariums. I hope to use what I learn in this degree to design after school programs, exhibits, and citizen science curricula.
Upon graduation from Oxy, I started working for an Internet gaming company in Marble Falls, TX. My job consisted of traveling throughout east and central Texas servicing computers, building computers, and Internet troubleshooting. I was also in charge of managing each gaming location. After a year in the gaming business, I left for a secondary science teaching position in rural House, NM. I currently teach Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Earth Science, and Physical Education. I also serve as the track and field coach for both the junior high and high school. I am currently pursuing entrance into graduate school in hopes of earning a MS in Fisheries or Aquaculture.
Bridget McCann graduated from Occidental College in 2009 with a degree in Biology with a Marine Emphasis. Since graduation, Bridget has worked with Dr. Brock Bernstein on various research projects and reports such as California Ocean Science Trust's "Evaluating Alternatives for Decommissioning California's Offshore Oil and Gas Platforms: A Technical Analysis to Inform State Policy," Santa Clara Watershed monitoring projects, international oil and gas platform decommissioning policy analysis for the Petroleum Institute of Thailand, the Southern California Ocean Observing Program, and SCCWRP Sediment Quality Objectives project.
Bridget has also worked at the Aquarium of the Pacific as a marine mammal husbandry intern, and been a member of the California Wildlife Center marine mammal rescue team since 2007. Bridget is now working as a marine science and policy consultant with Exxon Mobil, helping to restructure their global environmental safety training and procedures for refineries and offshore facilities.
I graduated Oxy with a B.A. in Biology and a marine emphasis. While at Oxy I worked with the Vantuna Research Group and studied abroad in Dunedin, New Zealand for 5 months. Following graduation I returned to New Zealand to obtain my Master’s degree in marine science from the University of Otago. My master’s work with Dr. Steve Wing involved looking at niche partitioning among four fish species common to Fiordland, a series of 15 fjords that span half the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. To gather data for my project I was able to both fish and dive along pristine undeveloped areas of coastline and see hundreds of seabirds including albatross as well as dolphins, killer whales, penguins, fur seals, sea lions and sharks. After finishing my MSc I worked as a marine biology instructor for an experiential summer program for teens called Broadreach, teaching a college level introductory course on marine biology while sailing and SCUBA diving for two 21 day trips on liveaboard catamarans in the Caribbean. Most recently I am beginning a PhD at Griffith University on the Gold Coast of Australia with Dr. Kylie Pitt and Dr. Rod Connolly to look at the importance of nutrient transfer between mangroves and coral reefs in a subtropical embayment and the implications for successful design of marine reserves in the area.
I am approximately 3 years into my PhD thesis at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. My PhD thesis examines the factors that influence the foraging efficiency in otariid seals both free-ranging and trained. Two of the research questions I am examining are described below.
Can head-mounted accelerometers be used to detect successful prey captures in Australian fur seals?
I simultaneously measured 3-dimensional movement on head-mounted accelerometers and recorded video from the animal’s perspective on National Geographic Crittercams. I quantified the prey captures measured on the accelerometers and compared it with the prey captures recorded on the video. By comparing the successful prey captures seen on the video to the prey captures measured on the accelerometer, I can determine the accuracy of using accelerometers to detect successful foraging dives.
Can 3-dimensional movement predict metabolic rate in Steller sea lions diving with a large oxygen debt?
This project done in collaboration with UBC and the Vancouver Aquarium complements the research on free-ranging Australian fur seals by examining the energetic component of foraging efficiency. 3-dimensional movement (ODBA) has been used to predict metabolic rate, but it remains unclear if this relationship holds true when the animals carry a large oxygen debt over several dives in a series.I will determine if the relationship between metabolic rate and 3-dimensional movement changes in Steller sea lions diving with a large oxygen debt over long dive durations and several dives in a series. Using 3-dimensional movement (or overall dynamic body acceleration ODBA) to predict metabolic rate in sea lions is analogous to a person using a pedometer app (that counts your steps) on their smartphone to predict the number of calories burned during exercise.
Julie Gee graduated from Occidental College in 2005 with a degree in Biology. After graduating Julie was hired as an “aquarist”, or biologist specializing in the husbandry of aquatic and marine animals, at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. In 2007 Julie moved to Milwaukee Wisconsin to work at the Reiman Aquarium at Pier Wisconsin. Finally in 2009 Julie was hired by the Georgia Aquarium, the Worlds Largest Aquarium, and the only aquarium in North America displaying whale sharks and manta rays. Julie specializes in the acquisition and quarantine of boney fishes and elasmobranches as well as syngnathid and coral husbandry.
I graduated from Occidental College in 2004 with a degree in Biology. Following some travel time and volunteer teaching, I became Deputy Director of the Conservation Society of Pohnpei (CSP) in the Federated States of Micronesia. After CSP, I pursued a Master's Degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Now I’m back in Pohnpei working for the Micronesia Conservation Trust as their Conservation Program Manager. Some of the exciting things I’m working on are an Adapting to Climate Change toolkit designed to bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and local community understanding in the climate field, and supporting projects working to increase the number of and improve the effectiveness of Protected Areas in the Micronesian region. I am looking forward MCT’s upcoming project to make Micronesia the largest shark sanctuary in the world.
I worked for the VRG from 1998-2000. My time in the Vantuna Research Group was AMAZING, and I still look back at it fondly. After I left Oxy, I went to Humboldt State University where I participated in salmonid research in the Lost Coast Range and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, working for the USGS Cooperative Research Unit. I then moved to Uppsala, Sweden, where I received a Masters Degree in comparative physiology, studying the effects of dominance hierarchies on the stress response in Rainbow Trout. I then moved back to the states and began a Ph.D. program in Neuroscience at the University of South Dakota under the tutelage of Dr. Cliff Summers. My work there was focused on the interaction between aggression and social rank on learning and memory in the Rainbow Trout, and also the role of the neuropeptide Corticotrophin Releasing Factor (CRF) in mediating the stress response. Currently I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Stanford University in both the Biology and Neuroscience departments, in the lab of Dr. Russell Fernald. I am both an NIH NRSA Fellowship recipient, and a NSF FirstIV Teaching Postdoc. My current research focus is on how the brain changes in response to pubertal development, with specific relevance to the Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH1) neurons in the hypothalamus and the role of social hierarchies in this mediating this system. We use an African Cichlid fish species as our model organism (Astatotilapia burtoni), which provides us with an interesting and unique avenue to pursue our research questions. My time working with the VRG was exciting, challenging and rewarding. The research experience I gained from my time at Oxy was invaluable in preparing me for the opportunities that came later in my academic career, and I will always be thankful to Dr. Dan Pondella for helping me strive to be a great scientist and always have fun!!
Matthew Craig graduated from Occidental College in 1998 with a degree in Biology, and followed in 2000 with his Masters degree, also in Biology. From Oxy, Matt went on to pursue his graduate degree at the Scripps Institution of Oceangraphy where he received his Ph.D. in Marine Biology in 2005. Matt then went on to work as a postdoctoral research at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology where his studies led him on more than a dozen international collecting expeditions throughout the Indo-Pacific region. In 2009, Matt received a faculty appointment at the University of Puerto Rico.
I graduated from Occidental in 1984 with a degree in Biology (Marine Emphasis). Following graduation, I spent two years working as a marine biologist at Oxy for the Vantuna Research Group before earning my master’s degree in Fisheries Biology at the University College of North Wales in the United Kingdom. After another two spent working for the Vantuna Research Group, I earned my PhD in Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at the University of California Santa Barbara. Currently, I am the Director of the Carpinteria Salt Marsh, one of 37 reserves maintained by the University of California’s Natural Reserve System (http://nrs.ucop.edu/), and the Deputy Program Director for the Moorea Coral Reef Long-term Ecological Research site (http://mcr.lternet.edu/), a US National Science Foundation funded research program based on the island of Moorea, French Polynesia. I have taught courses in Oceanology as part of Occidental College’s Summer Oceanology Program, Ichthyology as part of Northeastern University’s Threes Seas Program and both Ecology and Applied Marine Ecology at UC Santa Barbara. My main research interests are centered on the population and community dynamics of marine and estuarine fishes as well as the development of sensor networks for the monitoring of coral reefs. I spend most of my research time studying the fish communities inhabiting the coral reefs surrounding Moorea, but I also conduct research in southern California kelp forests, coastal wetlands and below offshore oil and gas production platforms. I am fortunate to do what I do today in large part because of the personal interactions that I had with the faculty and the excellent quality of the education that I received while at Occidental.
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