Ben Chester graduated from Connecticut College in May 2022, with a B.A. in biochemistry and a double minor in computer science and statistics. He also competed for four years as a part of his college’s varsity crew team. Growing up, Ben spent summers in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and always had an interest in and love for ocean life. He decided to enter the marine conservation field after completing undergraduate research in the summer of 2021. Ben was part of the initial creation and implementation of artificial reef balls for the Connecticut College shoreline. He also traveled to the British Virgin Islands to engage in several conservation initiatives, and received his PADI open water certification. He participated in coral restoration projects, focusing on applying antibiotics to corals suffering from Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. He also assisted with the mangrove restoration initiative run by the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College in Tortola. Ben is excited to start his marine conservation career at REEF and jump headfirst into new opportunities.
Lauryn Magno is a spring 2021 graduate from Oakland University with a BA in International Relations and a music minor. While she spent the majority of her life in Michigan, far from the ocean, respect for both the land and the sea was instilled in her from a young age. Her values of good environmental stewardship never ceased during college and turned towards the social sciences in the form of environmental policy. Exploring this policy area, Lauryn worked in several different offices, including two summers on Capitol Hill and a year in the U.S. Embassy’s Pacific ESTH Hub in Suva, Fiji, which is where her interests in marine conservation and policy began. During her ESTH Internship, she developed a strong interest in continuing to learn about human society’s interaction with the marine environment and its resources and went on to complete research on international deep sea mining governance. Her passion for marine and coastal resource governance is what led Lauryn to REEF. Lauryn is excited to combine her research experience with her enthusiasm for education and community outreach this Fall with the REEF team. After her internship, Lauryn plans to attend an interdisciplinary marine systems and policies graduate program.
Lauren Mahoney graduated from Duke University in the spring of 2021 with a B.S. in Biology with a Marine concentration and an Environmental Science minor. She grew up in the Netherlands just a few minutes away from Scheveningen Beach, where her passion for the ocean and its conservation began. While at university, Lauren became closely involved with the Duke Marine Lab, spending two summers there studying Invertebrate Zoology and Turtle Conservation, and becoming a Marine Lab Ambassador while back on the main campus. During her junior and senior year, she worked at the Donohue Laboratory, researching environmental interactions in plants and the relationship between parents and offspring phenotypes. She also spent a summer in Madagascar as a Coral Restoration Intern, during which she earned her PADI Advanced Scuba Certification whilst monitoring and aiding reef rejuvenation off the island of Nosy Komba. Outside of school, Lauren loves to read, run and ski, joining the Duke Ski and Snowboard team her freshman year. In the future, she hopes to attend graduate school for Marine Biology and pursue a career in conservation and research. She also aspires to become a PADI diving instructor to help spread her love for the ocean. Lauren is delighted to be part of the team at REEF and cannot wait to help make a difference, no matter how big or small.
Emily Boll graduated from Bowling Green State University in May 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology. She spent her time at BGSU mostly in the marine lab learning aquarium husbandry skills for fresh and salt water tanks and contributing in outreach for younger students who would tour the lab. Emily’s favorite undergrad opportunity was to study at Williams-Mystic in Connecticut. This is where her love for research and the ocean blossomed. During her time in Mystic, she was able to attend extended field seminars while also doing research and attending classes. Alaska was one of our first trips where Emily listened to stories from Alaskan Natives, studied the importance of Fisheries, and researched the current environmental stressors in the state. She also spent 12 days on an offshore voyage in the Gulf of Maine on the Corwith Cramer where she learned to repel Neuston Tow nets to collect data for NOAA, researched further about the effects of microplastics in the ocean, and learned how to sail. While in Connecticut, Emily was able to do a semester long research on the importance of policies for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Monument off the New England coast. Emily is excited to learn more about invasive species, as she did research on an invasive species of Asian shore crab. This passion pushed her to an internship at REEF. Emily is looking forward to being able to contribute in outreach and conservation with other passionate REEF interns and increase her knowledge about the invasive species of lionfish!
Riley Zoldi graduated from North Carolina State University in the spring of 2019 with dual majors in Environmental Science and Marine Science with a concentration in Biological Oceanography. She grew up in central New Jersey, where she spent all of her summers at the Jersey Shore, which initially sparked her love for the ocean. While in college Riley interned at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, did research in a Plankton Ecology Lab for a marine science professor, and spent a summer in South Queensland, Australia studying its natural resources. During her time in Australia she participated in beach clean ups, hiked through rainforests, searched for animals in the outback, and studied the Great Barrier Reef. For the past couple of years Riley has also worked for New Logic Marine Science Camp, where she leads outdoor environmental education programs that encourage children in New Jersey to love and appreciate their local marine environments. When she’s not working, Riley loves to travel and explore the outdoors with activities such as hiking, running and paddle boarding. With REEF, Riley is excited to learn about non-profit management and to engage with the public through education, outreach, and citizen science to spread marine conservation awareness.
Maya Ganapathy moved a lot as a child but attended high school and college in Michigan. She graduated from Michigan State University in 2019 with a B.S. in Behavioral Neuroscience and a minor in Anthropology. While in college Maya interned at a zoo, did Ecology research for a biology professor, and took a semester off to intern at the South African Shark Conservancy which solidified her desire to become a Marine Biologist. During her internship she participated in White Shark surveys, learned how to measure and tag a shark, and assisted in an experiment that dealt with the behavioral and physiological responses of catsharks. Along with working in the lab she was also able to observe a White Shark necropsy, dive with Blue Sharks (diving in the ocean is way different than the pea-soup like lakes of the Midwest!) and snorkel at Seal Island. After graduating in the spring Maya interned in the Fishes Department at Shedd Aquarium, which she says allowed her to learn about a wide variety of fish and the different diseases that occur in marine environments. Maya is extremely grateful for the opportunity to intern at REEF and is excited to dive, learn about non-profit management, and create/ participate in community outreach and education events.
What is Laura doing now? Read her 2018 Intern Alumni Spotlight
Bethany Fowler grew up in Rhode Island- "The Ocean State"- and has always been passionate about marine conservation. She is a recent graduate from Rice University in Houston, TX where she studied math and engaged in a variety of environmental education efforts. She loves learning about marine science and teaching others, but she also loves surfing, swimming and just being near the water. She helped found the Rice Oceans Club, worked at Save the Bay Aquarium, and participated in an REU at Scripps Institution of Oceanography where she first learned about REEF. Bethany is excited to be joining the REEF community before pursuing a graduate degree in quantitative marine ecology.
Sienna Pickard: Hailing from Salt Lake City, Utah, Sienna represents the University of Utah, go Utes! This December she will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Parks Recreation, and Tourism with an emphasis major in Sustainable Tourism Management. Sienna is an outdoor enthusiast, competitive big mountain snowboarder, and a professional PADI scuba Divemaster, who loves adventure and travel. In 2013, Sienna became a PADI Open Water diver. Since then she has earned all the required certificaions up to Divemaster and Self-Reliant diver while living abroad in Costa Rica during the summers of 2016 and 2017. Along with diving this summer, Sienna participated in 2 study abroad programs focused on sustainable development in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Having passions in both diving and sustainability, Sienna is thrilled about her acceptance to intern with REEF this fall. In completion of this internship, Sienna's goals are focused on learning more about marine conservation, education outreach, and non-profit management.
Burnley Truax grew up four blocks from Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois. As a child, she developed a fascination with turtles and eventually was introduced to sea turtles, which opened a world of marine organisms that she had yet to explore. In an effort to better understand the biological processes occurring within these animals, she majored in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR. In 2015, she had the tremendous opportunity to dive with REEF in Roatan, Honduras. In addition to estimating the abundance of Caribbean fish, her trip involved searching coral heads for blennies, consulting fish ID books during dinner conversations, and diving on a boat full of mentors that expanded her language and knowledge of marine biology. The more she learns the more questions she asks. Burnley continued studying marine science at Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science in Newport, Oregon. At Hatfield, she assisted in an eelgrass lab that studies the variance of eelgrass epifauna across several estuaries along Oregon's coast. Last summer, Burnley became certified as an advanced open water diver and is eager to strengthen her diving through more certifications. She believes that the more people know about marine science the greater need they will feel to protect the ocean. She feels it is important to engage people of all backgrounds with science and intends to pursue a career in science education and research. Burnley is thrilled to be a fall intern and contribute to REEF's mission of making marine biology more accesible to the public.
Julia Walker hails from Annapolis, Maryland, where she developed a love of the water early after spending many summer days on the Chesapeake Bay. She recently finished classes at Penn State University where she completed a degree in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management with concentrations in Environmental Interpretation and Adventure Recreation, as well as a minor in Spanish. Her love of the ocean grew when she became SCUBA certified, which took her to Bonaire and the Bahamas. At Penn State, her studies took her from Tanzania, to New England, to the Smokies and more. With each new experience, Julia learned more about environmental education, resource management, and ecotourism, and her desire to be involved in these efforts grew. She was also in a tap-dancing company! She is passionate about educating and sharing her love of nature and is excited to learn more about marine conservation. Julia is thrilled to be starting a new adventure with REEF!
What is Julia doing now? Read her 2020 Intern Alumni Spotlight
Lawrie Mankoff grew up in Hillsborough, California, just south of San Francisco. Lawrie's love for the ocean began on field trips to the tide pools on the California coast. She started scuba diving as a part of her middle school final project and has not stopped since, eventually convincing her entire family to join in. After two student trips to the Caribbean during high school, she was able to gain her rescue diver certification. Lawrie is a rising Junior at Scripps College where she is majoring in Environmental Analysis with a focus on policy. Last summer, Lawrie worked as a camp counselor at the Marine Science Institute in Redwood City, California, where she was able to teach kids about local marine environments and even take many students to the tide pools. She left this experience with an excitement for environmental education, particularly teaching students about the ocean. Lawrie is thrilled to be interning at REEF and to have the opportunity to continue learning more about marine conservation while acting to preserve the oceans we love.
Hailing from St. Louis, Missouri, Claire Mullaney recently graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington (IU) with a B.S. in Biology, along with certificates in Animal Behavior and Underwater Resource Management. On her first day as an IU freshman, Claire attended a scientific scuba class. Three years and several certification cards later, she is a PADI Rescue Diver and an AAUS Scientific Diver who loves to dive in frigid Indiana quarries and balmy Caribbean waters alike. During her undergraduate years, Claire has engaged in biological research in addition to scientific diving. From assessing the genetics of endangered Stephens’ kangaroo rats with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, to studying coral abundance and health on the island of Bonaire, to researching crabbing gear loss in the recreational Dungeness crab fishery with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Claire’s research projects have led her to a variety of places and creatures. Although she has worked in both terrestrial and marine environments, she plans to focus her future on ocean conservation, marine resource management, outreach and education, and ocean policy. She is thrilled to be heading back to the coast to begin working towards this goal as part of the REEF team!
Ashley Yarbrough is a native Texan, but she was raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. It was here, through several summer camps at the Shedd Aquarium, that she discovered her passion for marine science. After two years of junior college, Ashley transferred to Oregon State University to pursue a BS in Fisheries and Wildlife Science with specialization in Marine Ecology and Fisheries Science. OSU and its Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon provided many opportunities for scientific research through independent projects and volunteering. Some of the major projects Ashley was able to work on include the reproductive capacity of Black Rockfish in response to El Nino events and methods for aging Giant Pacific Octopus using their beaks and stylets. During her junior year, Ashley spent a term in Chile with a study abroad program that allowed her to work at a field station studying intertidal recruitment with other international students. Ashley has served as a board member for the AFS and TWS Oregon State student chapters where she assisted underclassmen in connecting with professionals to learn about working in the field of fisheries and wildlife. During her time at OSU she also acquired multiple SCUBA certifications and is very excited about developing her scientific diving skills with REEF. In the fall, Ashley plans to pursue graduate studies in fisheries science and continue involvement with conservation of the ocean and its resources.
Marie Diaz was born and raised in Oakland, California, where she grew up running and playing, both in the ocean and in the mountains. Her love for nature and the outdoors was evident early on—she wanted to be outside and dirty as much as possible. While in high school, she was fortunate enough to travel to Baja, Mexico on a Marine Ecology research trip, where she was inspired to pursue Marine Science. Marie is now a recent graduate of UC San Diego, where she earned her B.S. in Marine Biology. While at UCSD, Marie had the opportunity to work in a Coral Reef Ecology Lab at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. During her time in the lab, her love for corals grew, inspiring her to work on two projects looking at coral-algal relationships and underwater research techniques. Marie also volunteered with the education department at Birch Aquarium, where she enjoyed working with and inspiring the public to engage with the world around them. Her love for both hard science and education and outreach is what led her to REEF. She is so excited to not only get to dive and experience a whole new area, but to also learn about non-profit work and education. In the future Marie hopes to pursue a graduate degree in Marine Biology or Conservation, but for now she is more than excited to join the REEF team!
Briana Sebastian grew up in Northeast Pennsylvania, and although she did not live near the beach, she developed a love for the ocean since she first dipped her toes in the water as a toddler. From there, she spent much of her time in elementary school doing projects on seashells and Florida beaches while looking forward to the annual family vacation to Fort Myers Beach. After high school, Briana moved even further from the coast to attend the University of Pittsburgh, and graduated in 2013 with a B.S. in biology. Briana remained proactive in her ocean endeavors by becoming SCUBA certified in 2014, and after working for a few years in a pharmacy, she knew it was time to return to what she loved and continue her schooling. She began a Master’s program at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas in 2015 to pursue a degree in Environmental Management and Sustainability. During her time at St. Edward’s, she worked on a research project studying seagrass biodiversity off the coast of Texas, and spent a summer doing environmental research in Costa Rica, studying the wildlife, plant life, and learning about the culture. Although she loves learning and studying about all parts of the environment, she can’t wait to dip her toes back in the ocean and explore the waters with REEF!
Ben Ferraro grew up in Elliott City MD, spending his summers on the Chesapeake Bay where he developed a love for the water. This led him to participating in an internship program at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, where he worked with visitors to enhance their experience. After becoming a certified diver in high school, Ben has dived in various spots around the Caribbean, but lists the Outer Banks in North Carolina as his favorite diving location. In the summer of 2015, he studied abroad while living aboard an 88 ft. sailboat that traveled throughout the windward islands of the Caribbean, including stops in Dominica, St. Barths, and Antigua, among others. Ben graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in December 2016 with a degree in biology, and plans to pursue a graduate degree in the field of marine science. In his free time, he enjoys sailing, baseball and spending time with his two dogs.
Kylie Hasegawa was born and raised in Huntington Beach, California where she grew to love the beach and the oceans and everything living in them. She attended Boston College and studied Environmental Geoscience and International Relations. Kylie studied coral bleaching and diseases in Utila, Honduras for her thesis and hopes to continue researching marine conservation. Kylie is excited to be interning with REEF and living in Key Largo.
Emily Volkmann hails from Grafton, Wisconsin where she spent her days catching snails and bothering geese along the banks of the Milwaukee River. In her younger years she dreamed of becoming a librarian, a firewoman, and a marine biologist but has since directed her focus on marine biology. Emily is a recent graduate of Smith College with a B.A. in Biology and Environmental Science and Policy. She enjoyed a transformative junior year of college abroad with the School for Field Studies in Turks and Caicos and the Williams-Mystic Maritime program, both of which helped solidify her interest in marine ecology and conservation. During this time, she conducted research on projects ranging from benthic habitat analyses to shell dissolution rates of Littorina spp. These programs also exposed her to a variety of marine issues including coastal erosion and the spread of invasive marine species. These opportunities hooked Emily onto a life filled with coral, diving, traveling, and all things ocean related and led to a summer research and teaching internship in Belize. The Belize research inspired two special studies projects on soft coral diversity and distribution conducted during her senior year. After a long time apart Emily is thrilled to get back to the ocean to share her passion with others, learn, and join the REEF community!
Ellie Place grew up in Bellevue, Washington. She spent her first 18 years climbing and hiking the Cascade Mountains and exploring the Puget Sound before moving to Providence, Rhode Island where she studied Geological Sciences and Hispanic Studies at Brown University. While in school she worked in an oceanography lab which sparked her interest in exploring oceans. She also spent one summer as a kayak instructor in the San Juan Islands of Washington State, teaching campers about their marine environment, where she began to realize the importance of sharing her love for the outdoors with others. Throughout her time in college she continuously explored the world by spending 9 weeks at a geology field camp in Montana and Wyoming and studying abroad in Costa Rica, all while competing as a Division 1 student athlete in rowing. Ellie plans on pursuing a career in outdoor and environmental education, so she is eager to work with others in the Key Largo community to learn, explore, and conserve the ocean and our unique beautiful world.
Katherine Ilcken is a recent graduate from the University of Florida. During her time there, she studied wildlife ecology and conservation while also pursuing SCUBA diving for the first time. What she thought would be a fun elective grew quickly into a strong passion for the underwater world. In 4 years, she went from an occasional snorkeler to a NAUI dive master, trying to see it all by diving the Great Barrier Reef and in between tectonic plates in Iceland. But even in just a short amount of time, Katherine has been able to see the damaging effects of humans, invasive species, and climate change on our coral reefs and local Florida springs. This has driven her to pursue a career in making a difference for our waters, leading to an internship here with REEF! She could not be more excited to see what the future holds and to connect wih people fighting for the oceans we love.
Thomas Hyduk grew up in Central New Jersey. He was fortunate enough to spend his summers growing up at the Jersey shore. He developed a love for the ocean at a young age and got his PADI Open Water Certification at the age of 14. This love for the ocean spurred him to double major in marine science and biology at the University of Miami. During his summers while in college, Tom interned at the Bruce Museum Seaside center in Old Greenwich, Connecticut and at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk in Norwalk, Connecticut. At the Seaside Center, he helped the staff develop educational activities related to the amazing underwater world of Long Island Sound. At the Maritime Aquarium, he did more behind the scences work, prepping fish in a fish kitchen and preforming tank maintenance. But he still had many opportunities to share his love for marine life with the patrons and teach them about the awesomeness of the oceans. During the fall semester of his senior year at the U, Tom had the opportunity to study abroad in Australia at James Cook University (JCU). While at JCU, he was able to visit and dive the Great Barrier Reef. He was shocked at the declining state of the Great Barrier Reef and decided to focus part of his remaining studies in marine conservation. He graduated in May with a B.S. in Marine and Atmospheric Science. Tom intends to pursue a graduate degree in either marine biology or marine conservation. But before that, he is very excited to return to South Florida to work with REEF doing data collections for the Volunteer Fish Surveys and working with the local communities to fight the invasive lionfish.
Theo Ison grew up in the city of Toronto, Canada. One of the longest relationships she has had over the course of her life has been her relationship with the ocean. Having been a passionate scuba diver for 15 years, she has had the privilege of witnessing and interacting with some of the most pristine reefs our oceans have to offer. Now, as her connection with, and knowledge of the ocean grows deeper, so does her feeling of responsibility toward preserving the world's waters. Her experience has covered a broad scope of the environmental and sustainability field, and has given her a unique perspective of many of global issues including energy, clean drinking water and food security. As an environmentalist, she finds all this work engaging, however, she always finds herself drifting back toward a desire to work with, and in, the water. Once she realized she wanted to make her career in the marine sciences, she took a volunteer position working as part of a conservation initiative in Belize focused on Caribbean Reef systems. Following this, she travelled independently across South East Asia and Europe seeking every opportunity possible to gain experience with international marine life. Surrounded by the ocean, as well as immersed in it, Theo found herself gaining a strong appreciation of marine stewardship. Theo plans on continuing her education in marine systems and policies following her internship with REEF. She can’t wait to dive into marine research and education this summer in the Florida Keys!
Nikki Caspers was born and raised in cozy Kailua Hawaii where she spent more time in the water than on land. She has been actively involved in coral reef conservation since her internship at a coral reef lab in Kaneohe bay and has used all she has learned to dominate useless fact competitions against her friends because, for some reason, nobody seems to know how to spawn coral anymore….kids these days. Last summer Nikki sailed with SeaSemester from Honolulu Harbor Hawaii to Pago pago American Samoa on a six week research sailing trip where she helped collect data on a variety of MPA conservation project for the Kiribati government. Since then she has been fascinated with conservation biology, which has influenced her undergrad studies. She is currently working on her senior honors thesis, which focuses on the effects of invasive Lionfish on local fisheries and ecology and she is very excited to work with REEF’s lionfish project. Nikki is excited to work with the Key Largo community and to provide educational outreach opportunities for local students and kids.
Katarina Silva was born and raised in southern New Hampshire. She is currently studying biology, with a minor in Spanish at Keene State College. After realizing her curiosity about the world would not be satiated as a nursing major, she switched into biology following her sophomore year. She is looking forward to finishing up her degree this coming December and pursuing a career in conservation. During her time at Keene State College, she was fortunate enough to study abroad in both Spain and Australia. Her time spent in Australia truly allowed Katarina to further explore her interests in marine sciences. She took advantage of every opportunity possible to explore the Great Barrier Reef, and she is excited to say that she now holds her PADI Open Water Certification. Katarina found herself astounded by the incredible diversity of our oceans and even more disturbed by the widespread coral bleaching of the reefs. She was left feeling impacted by what she had seen and compelled to do something about the future of our oceans. Katarina is extremely excited to share her experiences and passion for the oceans through public outreach and education this summer in the Florida Keys. She plans to utilize her skills gained through the internship at REEF to pursue further opportunities in marine conservation, as well as sustainable project development. Katarina is excited to experience the Florida Keys this summer and connect with a diverse group of conscious minded individuals!
Patrick Peck spent his early days living and exploring the coast of Chile, fostering his love of the ocean at a young age. Unfortunately, he wound up settling in the landlocked farmlands of central Pennsylvania. A “fish out of water”, it was not until a change of majors halfway through his undergraduate career that he was able to reconnect his passion for the aquatic world. He is currently a senior working on a degree in Geoenvironmental studies with a minor in Biology and a GIS certificate. His research and field studies courses have lead him to work in various different ecosystems ranging from the Florida Keys, to the Island of Curaçao, and the Chincoteague Bay. His research, and area of interest, has focused on coral and oyster reefs, and using new photogrammetry methods to study them. A cold water, Northeast diver at heart, he is stoked to gain more experience learning more about the unique ecosystem present in the warm, colorful, tropical waters of the Keys. While research and field work are what he loves most, Patrick also loves sharing knowledge with others, and is excited about having an opportunity to work with REEF in their efforts to educate the public about the wonders of our beautiful blue world!
Casey Aumann grew up in the town of Hudson, Wisconsin. As a child, she always liked the idea of working in the field of marine biology, but it was not until she spent a semester in Hawaii studying oceanography and marine ecology that she realized it was a possibility. She is currently working on a BS in Ecology and Environmental Biology with a Marine Science minor and geographic information systems certificate at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire, but is always trying to expand her horizons to immerse herself in the marine life. Most recently, she worked as a research assistant intern at the Charles Darwin Research Station in Galapagos where she helped study zooplankton and phytoplankton populations while obtaining her SCUBA Assistant Instructor certification. It was here that she saw how studies in marine science can have a strong impact on conservation and she loved seeing the excitement of divers in the community when they learned more about this incredible environment. Because of this, she really started considering marine conservation and community outreach as a career option and is consequently excited to start working with REEF this spring!
Kaitlin Ingle was born and raised in the suburbs outside of Dallas, Texas. Being about 10 hours from the Gulf made it hard to explore the ocean, but luckily family trips to Hawaii sparked her desire to learn more about marine life. There she was able to snorkel and dive, and it cemented her desire to pursue a career that would continue to protect these beautiful environments. She became a PADI diver during her senior year of high school and took that new skill down to Miami, Florida to study Marine Affairs and Policy with a minor in Education at the University of Miami (UM). Her weeks were full of class, but her weekends were full of certification classes and dive trips from Key West to Jupiter and all the way up to the freshwater caverns of north Florida. After graduating in May, she stuck around Miami to begin working on her Masters in Marine Conservation and Coastal Zone Management at UM's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Graduate school has kept her in the classroom and out of the water, and she is excited about the opportunities that will come from her time with REEF. She is passionate about marine conservation and loves to teach people new things to help them better understand and respect our big, beautiful oceans!
Rachel Irons was fortunate to have grown up surrounded by natural beauty and bountiful opportunities for adventure in Anchorage, Alaska. These things fueled her appreciation of and desire to protect our environment which led her to pursue a double major in Environmental Studies and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. After attaining her open water certification for a family trip to the Great Barrier Reef, she came to the realization that diving was going to be a part of her life in some way from that point on. She then went on to complete a summer study abroad program in Bonaire to further her diving experience and underwater education. The following semester she undertook a study abroad program in Panama and conducted an independent study project involving educating local indigenous villagers about lionfish. From this, she learned the value of environmental education and became passionate about removing lionfish as well. Since graduating she has been been traveling quite a bit and is now excited about settling down to pursue work in conservation.
Sarah Schindehette was raised in Maryland where she passed her time playing in the creek and spending her summers at the ocean side. She attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she graduated with a BFA in Visual Arts and earned her first SCUBA certifications. Shortly after graduation, Sarah packed up and moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to work as an English teacher, volunteering at a local refugee center on the weekends. Being based in South East Asia allowed her the incredible privilege of diving in the Coral Triangle. Her favorite sites were Sipidan, Malaysia and Komodo, Indonesia. Now that she’s back in the United States, Sarah’s ready to move beyond grammar lessons and use her experiences to advance her true passion of ocean conservation. She’s thrilled to use her background in photography to explore and document both the imminent threats to the Florida Keys’ reefs and the conservation efforts being made to offset those threats.
Jessica McClish was born and raised in a small town in Ohio. After graduating from Wittenberg University in 2007 with a B.A. in Biology, she moved to New York City to teach high school biology in Brooklyn. Jessica has always been a passionate traveler. Since beginning her teaching career, she has traveled to Ghana to set up the internet at a junior high school so her students could Skype with their Ghanaian peers and helped develop education programs for tree farmers at a forestry institute in Kenya. Jessica has also worked with EarthWatch institute by helping to collect data on how Arizona caterpillar populations have been affected by climate change in 2013 and by helping collect data on frog and tadpole populations in the northern Canada wetlands in 2015. Jessica has always loved sharing her passion for travel with her students and began her Master in Public Administration from Baruch College in 2012 in order to work with non-profits that support such a mission. She served as the teacher Leader with the Global Glimpse organization which allowed her to lead students on a community service trip to Nicaragua in 2014. Jessica decided to intern for REEF during her sabbatical in order to learn about reef conservation and marine science so she can teach marine biology to her students in NYC.
Katie Marr grew up on the water in Stevensville, Maryland, spending her days on her kayak in the Chesapeake Bay and surfing in the Atlantic Ocean. Her life revolves around water. She attended college at the University of Rhode Island (URI), graduating in three years with a major in Marine Biology, but focusing on scuba diving! While enrolled at URI, she left behind the cold and dark waters of the northeast for a little bit and traveled to Bonaire, Netherland Antilles, where she completed her research and rescue diver certifications in the warm waters of the Caribbean. For the past few years, Katie has spent her summers working as an eco-tour guide in Fenwick Island, Delaware. Between her summer job and the study abroad trip she took to Bonaire, her interest and desire to be a part of the marine conservation field grew. Katie has had enough of the cold weather and is ready to move south and continue her passion for marine conservation, outdoor education and outreach in the warmer Florida climate.
Rebecca Gaesser grew up in a small farm town along Lake Ontario in New York. After an amazing immersion into marine biology and SCUBA diving in the British Virgin Islands with Odyssey Expeditions, Becca was certain that she would pursue a career in marine conservation. She graduated in December 2014 from the University of Tampa with a BS in Marine Science and Biology. Inspired by class discussions about how environmental issues are addressed in policy, Becca has grown passionate about conducting applied research that aims to inform policy and conservation decisions. As a junior at UT, she began working at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida participating in a research project to improve brevetoxin monitoring in support of public health decisions regarding shellfish harvesting. Ready to take a break from laboratory work and get back in the ocean, the Marine Conservation Internship at REEF seems to be the perfect fit to become involved in hands on conservation and community engagement. With her dedication to applied research, Becca is very excited to work with REEF to involve marine enthusiasts in data collection through the Volunteer Fish Surveys Project, and to engage the local community in tackling the ecological problems associated with lionfish!
Olivia Rivera always knew growing up that she wanted to work with wildlife. Born and raised on Long Island, NY, in the suburbs of Manhattan, finding wildlife was always a bit of a challenge. Spending childhood summers boating on Fire Island and watching every possible Blue Planet episode (more than once...) Olivia developed a strong attachment to the sea. Interested in learning more about the world's environment and its inhabitants, Olivia has spent much of the past two years traveling abroad. After a semester in Turks and Caicos and a summer in Tanzania with the School For Field Studies, as well as a winter term in Belize, it has become clear to her that anywhere near the ocean feels like home. Scuba certified in 2013, Olivia has logged dives from Queens, NY to the tropics and hopes to become a Dive Master sometime in the near future. Olivia has also interned as a research assistant with the herpetology department at the American Museum of Natural History, completed a baseline survey of sea bird populations surrounding South Caicos, contributed to an ongoing analysis of a Mid-Atlantic clam fishery and done extensive field research in Maine through various courses at her alma mater, Colby College. Graduating with Bachelors of Arts in Biology with a concentration in ecology and evolution, and Environmental Science with a focus in marine studies, Olivia plans on continuing her education in marine resource management. Whether this leads to more field studies or environmental policy has yet to be determined, but Olivia is extremely excited to be working with REEF this fall and is looking forward to fully experiencing everything the Florida Keys have to offer!
Sam Cook was born and raised in a small town right outside of Pittsburgh, PA. While western Pennsylvania is a fair ways from the ocean, she grew up boating on the Three Rivers and stomping through their tributaries, catching every creepy-crawly she could get her hands on. When Sam turned 12, she got her PADI Open Water Certification and has been hooked on diving ever since, moving all the way up to Instructor. It was her diving hobby that kindled her interest in all things marine and drove her to pursue a BS in Marine Science with minors in Biology and Environmental Science at Coastal Carolina University. While there she participated in independent student research at Discovery Bay, Jamaica. After spending four weeks researching the effectiveness of a newly established fish sanctuary, she began to really focus on marine conservation and determined that this is what she wants to make a career of. As such, Sam’s very excited for all the opportunities she’ll have as a REEF intern!
Miranda Carroll was raised in a military family, and has lived in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and even Hawaii and Australia! Not entirely sure where to call home, she has always loved spending time in and around the sea. An avid diver since her first certification at 13 years old, she is working towards her Divemaster certification. She is currently a junior enrolled at the Florida Institute of Technology, and is pursuing two degrees in Marine Biology and STEM Education, where she will earn her teaching degree along with her Bachelor of Science. Miranda loves volunteering and has been assisting in coral reef ecology research at her university for about two years. As part of this she recently initiated her own research project with coral disease. She is passionate about marine conservation and appreciates the importance of knowledge, and hopes to express her love and respect of the ocean to others. She is very excited to be working with REEF this summer and believes it is the perfect way to assist in research and public outreach.
Jim Evans hails from sunny Salisbury, Maryland, right near the Chesapeake Bay. If you’re not familiar with the area, think Old Bay Seasoning and Smith Island Cakes, and you're pretty much there. Jim grew up sailing, crabbing, and fishing the Bay's brackish waters. He spent his summers at the beach, with his head beneath the waves. Most recently, he worked in Chincoteague, Virginia as a Marine Science Educator, sharing his passion for the marine environment with others. He's especially excited about the conservation aspect of the REEF internship. Jim is a graduate of the University of Virginia with bachelor's degrees in Environmental Sciences and Business. Now, he can't wait to trade in his business suit for a wetsuit and hit the reefs this summer!
Abbey Engleman: As a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina’s Marine Science Program, Abbey has spent the past four years exploring the complexities of anthropogenic impacts on the marine environment. Abbey has been intrigued by the ocean from a young age, but since she is originally from the suburbs of Washington, DC, she was forced to travel in order to truly experience its beauty. At 15, she became PADI Open Water certified and spent her summer with an education program called Broadreach. There she was busy conducting reef surveys, sailing the Netherlands Antilles, and learning about the environmental threats that the oceans faces. From there she worked with the Department of Environmental Protection, which solidified her decision to pursue a degree in Marine Science. Throughout college she has taken her quest for knowledge beyond the classroom, living and studying in places far more distant than her school in South Carolina. Abbey spent the summer working for a dive center in Bali, Indonesia where she earned her Divemaster Certification and explored the reefs of the Indonesian Archipelago. Upon returning, she surveyed Atlantic fisheries while at sea on a research excursion with NOAA. Last year, she packed her bags and moved to Newcastle, Australia where she spent the semester diving and fulfilling her quest for travel and cultural immersion. She looks forward to the REEF Marine Conservation Internship as a gateway into nonprofits and communication. Thus far, her understanding of the underwater world has been from a scientific and research oriented perspective and she is thrilled for the opportunity to finally bridge that knowledge with education and public outreach!
Kara Hall is from the landlocked state of Indiana and developed a love for the ocean at a young age. Being so far from the ocean, she satisfied her longing by reading. In high school, Kara’s interest in ecology was triggered by an environmental sciences course. It motivated her to pursue a degree in Environmental Management at Indiana University (IU). During her freshman year at IU, Kara began taking scuba diving classes through the Office of Underwater Science. Her first scientific diving experience was at an underwater archaeology field school in the Dominican Republic. Continuing her interest in underwater cultural resources, Kara began working in the National Geographic Archaeology Lab in The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. There she learned conservation techniques for maritime artifacts. The next summer, Kara returned to the Dominican Republic to lead a team of student divers to document the growth rates of recruited corals on cast-iron cannons. Additionally, Kara learned the basics of aquarium husbandry as an intern at the Great Barrier Reef exhibit at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. Currently, Kara is a junior at IU, and expects to have a successful career in marine conservation, and hopes to continue to explore the sea while scuba diving.
Jack Fishman was raised in the suburbs of New York but has spent his free time searching out ocean environments near and far. His inaugural scuba experience was with his dad, at the tender age of 8, and from then on his first love has been the ocean and its inhabitants. Jack completed his Scuba Instructor certification in 2012 and is now a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer. During his summers as a College of Charleston student, Jack participated in several marine science research programs through Broadreach, CIEE in Bonaire, and the School for Field Studies in Turks and Caicos, where he also worked with local communities raising awareness about fishing practices and conducting underwater surveys. Each experience only cemented his certainty that marine conservation and public education and outreach were in his future. Jack graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Tourism and Hospitality Management, and during his time there worked as a SCUBA Instructor at a local dive shop. Jack loves working with people and sharing his passion for the ocean and marine life. He can't wait to become part of the REEF family and to help educate others about the importance of citizen science and conservation. Regardless of what job and/or graduate degree is in his future, Jack knows that diving, experiencing other cultures and destinations, and helping to conserve the world he loves, are all part of the master plan. When Jack is not diving, he enjoys technical theater, eating exotic foods and taking beautiful photographs above and below the ocean's surface.
Kristen Ewen comes from the seasonally chilly Midwest, where she grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Lo and behold those Great Lakes' beaches are not always frozen and when summertime rolled around, she explored the shorelines for anything that made a splash! Once she discovered the saltier underwater world through a Shark behavior course in Fiji, she found more than just a few stubborn crayfish, more like a love for diving and ichthyology. After successfully finishing her dive instructor course through PADI she made her way to Broadreach employee status, where she opened the eyes of students across the country to conservation through teaching environmentally conscious diving and how to have a higher relationship with the water that is in their own community. Spending her summers in the Netherlands Antilles gave her a chance to work alongside many different island's Marine Protected Areas and enhance her knowledge of many Caribbean species both invasive (lionfish!) and native. After gaining these experiences in the Caribbean and Fiji, she returned to the States to study Marine Biology and Chemistry at the University of Tampa. With any time off Kristen is found continuously sharpening her teaching and communication skills as an after school teacher and in the husbandry department at the Florida Aquarium. Now being an adventurous 20 year old, Kristen is excited to continue the on-going message of conservation and water quality with REEF.
Anna McBee grew up in small town Siler City, North Carolina. In High school she began sailing and diving and fell in love with the marine environment and everything it entails. She attended North Carolina State University to pursue a degree in Marine Sciences with a concentration in Biological Oceanography and minors in Zoology and Biological Sciences. After studying abroad with SeaMester and sailing from the British Virgin Islands to Tahiti, Anna began searching for any way to spend time on the water. After obtaining her captain’s license and more diving certifications she began working for Lifeworks and ActionQuest as a Captain and summer field staff. It was at Lifeworks that she realized she wanted to pursue a career in educating others of the importance of marine life and promoting sustainability and conservation of the ocean. Anna is always looking for excuses to go sailing or diving. After graduating in December she is excited for the new opportunity to work with REEF and gain experience in research, outreach and education!
Gracie Barnes grew up on the gulf coast of Florida, and fell in love with the ocean at a very young age and knew she wanted to pursue a career in marine science from that point on. After graduating from the University of West Florida with a degree in Marine Biology and in Fine Arts, she and her young son went abroad to explore the rainforests and coasts of Costa Rica. It was there that she realized she wanted to pursue tropical marine ecology with a focus on the diversity of reefs. She is an avid photographer, divemaster and loves all things natural in and out of the water. She is glad to be in the keys and excited about her internship at REEF. She hopes to use her time at REEF to encourage others to become stewards of the oceans.
Ashtyn Isaak was raised in the arid environment of Bend, Oregon. From early in life she had a fascination with the ocean and its organisms and became a PADI diver at the young age of 14. Following high school, she attended Oregon State University for their esteemed marine biology program. As a student, she had the opportunity to study abroad in the Dutch Caribbean on the island of Bonaire for a tropical marine biology and conservation program. While there, she became a scientific diver and conducted and published her research in a student journal. She learned many different underwater and laboratory research techniques from working with lionfish stomach dissections to conducting various underwater surveys all while expanding her SCUBA diving expertise. When she returned to the much colder climate in Oregon, she became a PADI Divemaster and continued her scientific diving work throughout the Pacific Northwest. As a Divemaster, she assisted in SCUBA courses at OSU and in the community, often working with students in the Puget Sound and along the Oregon Coast. She then attended classes through OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport where she studied an invasive estuarine seagrass and was able to explore the many different facets of intertidal ecology including working with the sea star wasting syndrome. Eager to try different opportunities, she volunteered as an aquarist for the Hatfield Visitor Center aquarium and learned considerably about animal husbandry and tank maintenance. As a recent graduate she looks to start a career in marine conservation while emphasizing community outreach and will ultimately pursue a graduate degree after gaining additional experience. She is extremely excited to begin this new chapter with REEF and cannot wait to move to the beautiful Florida Keys!
Amy Lee dreamt of becoming a marine biologist from a young age. Her knack for writing lead her to the University of South Carolina (USC) School of Journalism and Mass Communications, where she earned a B.A. in public relations with a minor in sport management in 2012. After completing an internship in the communications department at the South Carolina Bar, Amy re-enrolled in college, and in 2014 she graduated with a second undergraduate degree, a B.S. in marine science with an emphasis in marine affairs. She has served as the Student Public Relations Coordinator for USC’s Marine Science Program, participated in an invasive lionfish removal project in Belize and studied coral reef ecology as a research assistant at a marine field station in Indonesia. She wants to share the need for research, education and ocean conseration by merging science with communication, and she is excited to begin her career as an intern with REEF! In the future, she hopes to attend graduate school and travel the world to scuba dive. When not underwater, Amy is an avid sports fan who can be found watching her beloved Gamecocks play, updating her fantasy football lineup, or hanging out with her husky, Aquilla.
Anna Simmons was born and raised in land-locked Indiana. Having possessed a passion for nature and wildlife, fostered by visits to Lake Michigan and school field trips to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Anna knew her future lay in working with animals. It wasn’t until her visit to San Francisco, California and her first view of tidal pools and marine life that she decided to become a marine biologist. In 2010, she attended Ball State University, earning a major in Biology and a minor in SCUBA diving. Anna spent her time as an undergraduate actively involved in the Ball State Chapter of The Wildlife Society, volunteering at local rehabilitation centers, aiding fellow students with data collection, and even providing husbandry for big brown bats. She even conducted her own research on Atlantic mud fiddler crabs in Sapelo Island, Georgia and worked on other research projects. As an intern at the John G. Shedd Aquarium, she had the chance to expand her knowledge of the natural history and husbandry of both marine and freshwater fish species. Anna had the opportunity to utilize this knowledge as a volunteer diver for the Shedd Aquarium’s annual Bahamas fish collection trip, where she spent a week and a half upon a research vessel conducting dives to collect fish for aquarium display in an environmentally safe and friendly manner. Anna plans on attending graduate school to gain a Masters in marine biology and conservation and is looking forward to gaining experience in marine research, educational outreach, and sharing her passion of marine life with others.
Alyssa Smith was raised in the quiet desert town of Midland, Texas far from any aquatic environments. Her early years were spent exploring the outdoors, trail-riding horses, and going on camping excursions with her family. Alyssa’s curiosity for marine life and coastal ecosystems first took hold while visiting her grandparents annually in Florida, where she would visit local zoos, aquariums, and beaches. In 2006, Alyssa enrolled at Texas A&M University as a Wildlife and Fisheries student minoring in communications. Alyssa took special interest in learning about the world’s diverse environments and other cultures. In 2008 she embarked on an internship to South Africa to study eco-tourism and bio-conservation. On return, Alyssa knew her passions lay in eco-tourism and international conservation. After graduating in 2010, she immediately moved to Houston, TX to become a biology educator, scuba diver, and animal trainer for the Downtown Houston Aquarium. This experience provided invaluable experience with marine animals and local marine biologists. With lingering passions for traveling and discovering new ideas, people, and places, Alyssa joined the United States Peace Corps in 2012 and was assigned to the island country of Jamaica. Here she worked for the next 28 months as an Outreach Officer and Scientific Diver in Discovery Bay alongside the talented Discovery Bay Marine Lab (DBML) staff. Alyssa’s primary focus was developing and expanding the research facility’s community outreach programs, including the implementation of community events such as International Coastal Cleanup Day, World Wetlands Day, school career expos, etc., and establishing a U.S. Federal Government Grant to build an onsite DBML Outreach Center. When not at the lab Alyssa worked as an environmental teacher at a local primary school and orchestrated a Murals of Peace project for the disabled children’s home House of Love. Fresh out of Jamaica, Alyssa is excited to start the next adventure as an intern for REEF! She hopes to continue educating others about the importance of environmental conservation and to pursue a career path in eco-tourism and marine sciences.
Jessica Schem hails from sunny Los Angeles, California. She grew up by the ocean with a deep passion for everything water related. From a family that is very involved in boating, cruising, and diving she spent much of her free time at sea. Catalina Island and Mexico were favorite destinations for her family and soon she started working summers at Camp Emerald Bay, Catalina. In 2009, Jessica began school at the University of California Santa Barbara studying Marine Biology. By the end of her freshman year she started working with PISCO (Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans) where she worked on juvenile fish recruitment. Later she started on the PISCO dive team, surveying the Southern California Coast. Continuing her interest in marine monitoring, she joined Reef Check California as a Santa Barbara student intern. Jessica graduated with a degree in Marine Biology and a minor in Spatial Science. Right after graduation, she had the amazing opportunity to work three months on the remote Atoll of Palmyra in the middle of the South Pacific as a scientific field technician. There she assisted several graduate students in a variety of marine research projects in the pristine South Pacific environment. Her work included fish and benthic surveys, focal follows, shark and fish acoustic tagging, and acoustic telemetry work. All these experiences have solidified her love of the sea and passion for pursuing a career path in marine conservation. Jessica currently works part time at Catalina Island and part time as an environmental scientist and is very excited to have the opportunity to work with REEF through Our World Underwater! She looks forward to all the great experiences and connections she will make this summer.
Jessie Stott was born and raised in Richmond, VA. As a child, she loved being outside, vacationing to the Appalachian Mountains and enjoying the beaches of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Following high school, she attended Longwood University, a small, public school in Farmville, VA. At Longwood, she developed a strong passion for science education and became a K-8th grade Virginia Board of Education certified science teacher. After graduating, she decided that she wasn’t ready to stop learning and pursued her Master’s Degree in Coastal, Marine, and Wetland studies at Coastal Carolina University located right outside Myrtle Beach, SC. During her graduate career, she became highly involved in volunteering as an environmental educator and decided that environmental education was the right career path. After becoming scuba certified in the Florida Keys, she decided that she wanted to unite her passion for environmental education with her love for coral reefs and diving subsequently applying for the REEF Marine Conservation Internship. After completion of the internship, Jessie will graduate with a Master of Science in December of 2014!! She is beyond excited to begin her internship with REEF and get started gaining valuable experiences with educational outreach, assisting with REEF Lionfish projects, and continuing to pursue her dream!
Elizabeth Ruben grew up in Connecticut and developed a love for the ocean early on, but it is her fascination with sharks that really spurred an interest in ocean conservation. After seeing 14 beautiful great white sharks on a cage diving excursion in South Africa, Elizabeth’s obsession with sharks grew and she became even more determined to get involved in the preservation of the marine ecosystem. As an English major at Brown University, Elizabeth strives to fuse her passions for writing and ocean conservation. Elizabeth spent several summers learning to scuba dive and sail in the Caribbean and is now a certified master diver who is always looking forward to her next chance to explore the underwater world. Last summer Elizabeth lived aboard a boat on a Seamester program, sailing, scuba diving, and studying oceanography. More recently, Elizabeth had the opportunity to participate in lionfish removal on site while diving in Belize and she cannot wait to learn more about marine conservation while working with REEF this summer!
Emily Starnes grew up near the Chesapeake Bay in central Maryland, and developed a passion for marine ecosystems at an early age after learning about local Bay conservation issues. She became a certified diver at age 17, and fell in love with tropical waters and coral reefs while diving with her family in the Florida Keys. She relocated to the colder climate of New England to attend Boston University, where she focused her undergraduate studies on environmental policy and marine science. During her third year, Emily spent an incredible semester abroad with the School for Field Studies in the Turks and Caicos Islands. During her three months on South Caicos, Emily participated in population monitoring studies of sea turtles and juvenile lemon sharks, worked on her fish identification skills, and conducted a directed research project on coral disease and bleaching. The following summer, she completed an internship with NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. She graduated from Boston University in 2013, and returned to Maryland to assist the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with a variety of habitat restoration and wildlife monitoring projects in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. She is thrilled to begin her next adventure with REEF, where she will be able to explore the nonprofit side of marine conservation and combine her interests in field research and environmental education! Emily is beginning a Master’s degree program in marine affairs at the University of Miami this fall, and hopes to pursue a career in coral reef conservation.
Adam Nardelli grew up on Long Island, NY and developed in interest in marine biology while volunteering his high school summer months at the W.C.S. New York Aquarium. Merging the task of double hats as a PADI SCUBA instructor and scientist, Adam has spent enough bottom time with recreational divers to develop an interest in how the public can support ocean conservation. Currently studying as a graduate student enrolled in a Master of Science program at the Nova Southeastern University, Oceanographic Center for marine biology, he has developed a specific interest in the management concerns regarding the impact of non-native lionfish (the Pterois volitans and P. miles). Adam has been conducting a project to investigate the population dynamics of lionfish within the Florida Keys with a tag and recapture technique. He hopes to provide insight into a cost-effective management plan that will assist with controlling the invasion. Now, just one semester away from graduation, he is eager to apply all his experience and knowledge into work that will make a difference in conserving the ocean’s resources. His career goal is to bring the field of science and the public community together and work effectively to achieve science-based management decisions. Adam intends to continue to work with either government or non-profit organizations to preserve the South Florida reef ecosystem for the benefit every stakeholder and future generations to enjoy.
Taylor Zallek grew up surrounded by water in the land of 10,000 lakes. However, at a young age he developed a fondness for saltier seas and tropical fish identification while diving with his family in the Bahamas. Taylor attended St. John's University in central Minnesota where he studied biology and enjoyed conducting undergraduate research, investigating the negative effects invasive species have on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. He also capitalized on several opportunities to pursue his passion for marine biology while studying abroad and conducting research in the field, taking him to places like South Africa, the Bahamas, and Bermuda. Following graduation, Taylor spent a year working at an elementary school teaching math, science, and reading to 3rd-6th graders. He also served as his city's youth volunteer coordinator and middle school football coach. Taylor is excited to be back in the water and interning at REEF where he will be able to combine his passion for coral reef ecology with his desire to teach and educate!
Jessica Sellers grew up in the Mojave Desert of southern California. Growing up in a rural desert environment she developed a deep appreciation for herpetology and ecology. She could always be found outside collecting snakes and lizards. All of the neighbors had her on speed dial when a "pesty" snake found its way into their home. With the ocean being four hours away, the idea of SCUBA diving and swimming with the dolphins was just a fantasy. In 2006 she enrolled at Humboldt State University, located in the small coastal town of Arcata in northern California. Here she developed a strong passion for the marine environment through the Scientific/Leadership Diving program at HSU. She began her dive career in 2008 and continued on to receive a minor in Scientific Diving in conjunction with NAUI, AAUS, and Reef Check California guidelines. In 2010 she was accepted as the summer dive and interpretation intern at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, AK, only expanding her passion for marine stewardship. In May 2013 she graduated from HSU with a Bachelor’s of Science in Wildlife Conservation Biology. She then moved to Wyoming for the summer to assist the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services with field surveys and a captive breeding program for the endangered Wyoming toad. Working in Florida, assisting in invasive species monitoring and native species conservation has been a long sought-after goal. Being accepted into the spring 2014 REEF internship program will allow her to continue her education in diving related activities revolving around environmental conservation issues.
Stacey Weinstock hails from the city streets of Arlington, Virginia. At 11, thanks to her father and life-long dive buddy, she became a certified diver and began her love affair with the underwater world. While Stacey adored the ocean she decided to attend landlocked Virginia Tech where she pursued a Wildlife Science degree. There she gained experience in numerous fields including small mammal trapping and GIS mapping. One summer was even spent as a Sea Turtle technician on Cumberland Island, GA for the Student Conservation Association! While she thoroughly enjoyed her years as a wildlife scientist she felt her heart ultimately laid in marine conservation. Fortunately, in her last semester, Virginia Tech instilled a Marine Fisheries Science degree. Stacey used this opportunity to study abroad at James Cook University in Australia cementing her love for marine fish and conservation. After graduating Virginia Tech in 2012, now with two Bachelor of Science degrees, she was offered a position to map wetlands using GIS at the Conservation Management Institute. After a year and a half of working, and a couple months backpacking in Europe, she decided to finally pursue her dream of marine conservation and applied to REEF. To her delight she was accepted and will use this time to explore the numerous opportunities that come with being a REEF Marine Conservation intern!
Austen Elizabeth Stovall grew up on the barrier islands of the Outer Banks of North Carolina in Kill Devil Hills. As a child she loved fishing, swimming and romping through the waves. She could always be found at the beach or exploring the sound-side with nets and buckets to collect her “samples”. She then moved from the coast to the foothills to attend college at Wake Forest University and after her freshman year, she spent a summer with the School for Field Studies in Turks and Caicos. It was on South Caicos that she solidified her passion for marine conservation and being in the water all day, every day. Attending class at Wake alongside pre-med majors, Austen focused her studies on tropical reef ecology, conducting studies on anemones, algae & herbivorous fish and taking trips to ecologically rich places like Belize. Additionally, her free time in college included late-night Cookout runs, walks through Reynolda Gardens, and any events with free food. As a recent graduate of Wake Forest University with a B.S. in Biology, Austen hopes to pursue a career in coral reef ecology and marine resource management. Her other interests include coffee, books, tv, and good music. She is thrilled to be in Key Largo on a new island and is ready to dive into this adventure with REEF!
Colin Howe: With his Mother and Father from Dominica and Trinidad respectfully, Colin has grown up next to tropical waters. In addition to his Caribbean heritage, coming from a military family, Colin had the opportunity to travel and experience various marine ecosystems from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia to Waikiki waters in Hawaii. He graduated in December from Old Dominion University in Norfolk Virginia with a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a Marine Biology concentration. In school, Colin founded the first Marine Biology Student Association at Old Dominion University and worked with many students and professors on various activities ranging from community service to shore line restoration events. Through the MBSA Colin and his board members helped facilitate interactions between professors and students by, helping students attend marine biology conferences and also host movie nights, 5K Run and beach cleanups near campus. In 2012 he traveled to Belize to study Tropical Marine Ecology at IZE, South Water Cay. The following months he worked as an Intern in Long Key Florida for Dr. Mark Butler and his graduate students as an AAUS certified diver. During his REEF internship he plans on volunteering with multiple groups and associations to better diversify his learning experiences. Lastly, he plans on attending graduate school to continually satisfy his curiousity and passion for the tropical marine ecosystem.
Zoe Sanchez was born and raised in the sunshine state. In college, Zoe’s most enjoyable and fulfilling class was a 6 credit course held in the summer called Field Problems in Marine Biology. Learning hundreds of marine species names, snorkeling in the Dry Tortugas, and living on a small island off Cedar Key solidified her goals of pursuing marine biology. After graduating from the University of Florida with a B.S. in Zoology, Zoe interned at the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys, worked as an assistant laboratory animal technician at UF, traveled to the Red Sea as a field assistant conducting cetacean population research with HEPCA, and was accepted into a graduate program in New York City. Currently, Zoe is completing her Master’s degree in Animal Behavior and Conservation, and is thrilled to be a REEF intern! When not underwater, Zoe enjoys rugby, photography, traveling, and thunderstorms.
Catie Alves is from the lovely beach town of Narragansett, Rhode Island. She grew up exploring the salt marshes and beaches along the coast of "The Ocean State" and always dreamed of being a mermaid. This past May she graduated from Connecticut College with a Bachelor of Arts in Biological Sciences. Right after graduation, Catie hit the road from Rhode Island to begin a new adventure: working with REEF! Initially considering a career in medicine, she tried her hand at working in the lab. She has conducted research in molecular oncology at Tufts Medical Center and studied the population genetics of copepods through an NSF-funded REU internship at San Francisco State University. However, Catie always missed being outside, and especially being by the ocean. Last spring, she spent a semester in Bonaire with CIEE's Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation study abroad program. While in Bonaire, she conducted research on the importance of herbivory on coral reef ecosystems and found her passion for coral reef conservation. Catie comes to REEF eager to combine her scientific background with her interest in marine conservation. She also enjoys dancing, playing the flute, and traveling.
What is Catie doing now? Read her 2020 Intern Alumni Spotlight
Alexis Balinski thought she was going to be a marine biologist when she was a little girl growing up in Southern Maryland. The daughter of a former commercial diver and underwater engineer, Alexis developed a deep love of all things marine. Despite a childhood filled with scuba diving and sea turtle conservation volunteerism, she followed her academic strengths into the fields of journalism and graphic design, which lead her to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. However, after her freshman year of college — when she studied abroad in the Turks and Caicos Islands with the School for Field Studies — her passion for the ocean was rekindled and Alexis declared a minor in Marine Science. Now she is dedicated to promoting marine conservation with the journalism and graphic design skills she has developed through intensive coursework at UNC-CH. A rising senior, Alexis was beyond ecstatic to land her dream internship here at REEF! She hopes the experience will help her learn and grow both as a design professional in the field of marine conservation, and as a citizen scientist.
What is Alexis doing now? Read her 2018 Intern Alumni Spotlight
Alex Kattan is from Jupiter, Florida (not the planet!). After nearly 3 years of business school at the University of Florida, he decided decided to explore other options. An eye-opening class in Environmental Science as well as a part-time job working as an Outdoor Recreation Assistant at the University's beautiful Lake Wauburg steered Alex down the path of the natural sciences. He graduated with a BS in Forest Resources and Conservation, a BA in Political Science, and a minor in Sustainability Studies in May 2012. Wanting to combine his exposure to research with an interest in diving, Alex set out on a post-graduate mission to work towards a career in research diving. Towards this end, he worked as a summer Outdoor Adventure Leader in the Lower Keys and Dry Tortugas, leading snorkeling, kayaking, and fishing trips for young teens; earned his PADI Divemaster certificate in Utila, Honduras (where he became hooked on lion-fishing); volunteered with REEF on invasive lionfish research; and is currently working as a REEF intern. Alex will be beginning a masters degree program in marine science in the fall (on the Red Sea!) and is excited to bring his experience with REEF into the curriculum. His other interests and hobbies include the great outdoors, travel, soccer, biking, reading, and hanging out with his crazy dog (Izzy).
Ellie Splain: Despite being born and raised in landlocked Illinois, Ellie developed a passion for the underwater world at a very young age. She grew up on a small lake, and experienced her first breath underwater in a cold and dark quarry. However, her live aboard and dive trip to the Florida Keys set her on a path towards marine conservation. She is now 21 years old and a senior at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She is studying Natural Resource and Environmental Science with a concentration in Fish and Wildlife Conservation and minoring in Anthropology. She recently spent 3 months using her dive skills on South Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands. Through the School for Field Studies on South Caicos, Ellie participated in population monitoring research of green and hawksbill sea turtles as well as juvenile lemon sharks. She also conducted her own research on the often unregulated and rapidly depleting spiny lobster and queen conch fisheries. Ellie has also spent 4 years working at children’s camps teaching about the environment and marine life. She is excited to be at REEF this summer, so she can combine her interests of research diving with education and outreach, and continue to pursue a career in marine conservation.
Benjamin Barker spent his whole life living in Ohio, mostly in a small town near Cleveland. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Biology at The Ohio State University, which shaped his future in two ways. The first was attending a class at a research station on Lake Erie, called Stone Laboratory. His experiences during his Field Zoology class, and as a laboratory assistant, captured his interest in marine biology. Second, Ben’s interest in research was sparked while working as a lab assistant for OSU’s Medical Entomology Lab, where he spent 7 days a week raising African mosquitoes and experimenting on their olfactory abilities. These two experiences forever changed his career path. After graduating, he decided to pursue his Master’s degree in Marine Biology at Nova Southeastern University. He now hopes to complete his thesis project on the invasive lionfish. Ben is looking forward to all the opportunities he will have as a REEF intern, especially the opportunity to help out with research projects and teaching others about marine conservation. In his spare time, Ben enjoys many outdoor activities, such as hiking, kayaking, snowboarding, wakeboarding, golf, and other sports. He is also an avid sports fan, strongly supporting all of his Ohio teams.
Anne Benolkin: Anne is from in Eagle River, Alaska where she froze solid for the first 18 years of her life. She then spent her first year of university thawing out at Florida International University(FIU) and the next 2.5 years were spent alternating between Florida and Alaska. In December 2012, Anne graduated with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Communications from University of Alaska Southeast. Anne has had a variety of opportunities to expand her scientific skills. She has volunteered with USGS in Alaska participating in week long research tours to monitor habitat recovery from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. She spent a summer in the San Juan Islands doing abalone restoration with Shannon Point Marine CenterShe also assisted with a seagrass ecosystem structure experiment at FIU. Most of these projects involved SCUBA diving, an activity that she has enjoyed since she was seventeen. She is currently certified as a scientific diver by AAUS and a rescue diver by PADI. Anne loves the spineless critters of the sea, and hopes to one day do research on cephalopods. Eventually Anne would like to be in a position to do both teaching and research, possibly at a university. She comes to REEF excited about diving and spreading the message of conservation and science.
Mackenzie Brooke was born and raised on the sandy shores of Long Beach, New York (not California). She learned at an early age how important it is to preserve the natural beauty of coastal and marine environments. After high school, she found herself heading south to attend the University of Miami for the next three and a half years. She graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Health Science with minors in both Ecosystem Science & Policy and Chemistry. Mackenzie had planned to work in the medical field. But, after spending one year as an office manager for a psychologist and after many documented hours of shadowing medical professionals, she realized spending her days in an office or hospital setting would not be ideal. She became SCUBA certified in the spring of 2012 in Koh Tao, Thailand, which ultimately altered her perspective on what she wanted to pursue as a career. After diving the tropical waters of the South Pacific, the Florida Keys, and Grand Cayman Islands, she found passion in conserving and exploring the beautiful coral reef environments. Outside of the water, Mackenzie also enjoys yoga, music, reading, and making new friends.
Danielle Perez: Originally from Kentucky, Danielle grew up in Louisville and decided she wanted to be a marine scientist after her father took her to the Newport Aquarium when she was in the sixth grade. Danielle attended Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina and participated in a Maymester program on coral reef ecology in Discovery Bay, Jamaica. There she conducted her own research project on sponge distribution, wrote a paper, and presented her findings to the Discovery Bay Marine Lab at the University of the West Indies. While diving and studying reefs in Jamaica, Danielle discovered her love for conservation ecology. She graduated in May with not only a Bachelor's degree in Marine Science, but also minors in both Environmental Science and Spanish. Danielle then interned in the fall with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama. She worked in the Fisheries Ecology lab assisting with both field work and lab work for the graduate students and researchers there. Danielle plans on moving to Seattle at the end of the summer and is incredibly excited to be pursuing her dreams of working in marine conservation with REEF.
Kayla Ripple: Is a recent graduate from the University of Tampa where she studied Marine Biology and Environmental Sciences. Born in Naples, Florida she grew to love the ocean and its creatures. When Kayla moved to Georgia at age 10, all she wanted to do was come back to Florida. The weather, the ocean, the lifestyle were all things she couldn’t stand to be away from. While she adores the ocean and its many amazing ecosystems, her passion truly lies with the coral reefs. Some of her past experiences include being an intern for the Georgia Aquarium in the Tropical Diver exhibit, as well as a volunteer with the Molluscan Fisheries department at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. She’s also had the amazing opportunity to travel and dive in Roatan, Honduras as a travel abroad course with her Coral Reefs class. Kayla plans to go to grad school sometime in the near future to study tropical ecology and conservation. She can’t think of a better career than diving, traveling, and doing research that will help save one of the most important ecosystems on our planet!
Elizabeth Underwood: Is from Atlanta, GA and her passion for marine biology really took off when she was a senior in high school and conducted a year-long research project on the whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium. In May 2012 she graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina with a BS in Biology. Davidson doesn’t offer a degree in marine science so she satisfied her need to learn about the ocean by participating in a semester long study abroad program in the Turks and Caicos Islands with fellow intern Keri Kenning. After that, there was no doubt in her mind that this is what she wants to do with the rest of her life. She has a strong interest in the lionfish invasion and really looks forward to working with REEF this semester. She also has an interest in herpetology and was very involved with the herpetology lab at Davidson her senior year. She hopes to combine her love of both research areas one day. In a year or two she plans to go to graduate school to earn a PhD in marine science. Elizabeth loves doing anything outside, especially if it involves the ocean!
Marcie Orenstein: grew up in Ohio and Michigan but enjoys living in coastal locales. She graduated from University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. As an undergraduate, her interest in learning more about the marine environment led her to study at both the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences and the Duke University Marine Lab. She took courses in multiple areas of marine science while integrating fieldwork, including time spent monitoring and tagging leatherback sea turtles in Trinidad. Since graduating, Marcie has studied medicine in England and Grenada in the West Indies where her interest in the marine environment increased. She is excited to be working with REEF this fall, learning about nonprofit management and engaging in conservation efforts. She hopes to combine an interest in medicine and marine science as a graduate student next fall. In her spare time, Marcie enjoys art, jewelry making, SCUBA diving while looking for invertebrates (especially nudibranchs), traveling, cooking ethnic food, and running.
Keri Kenning: was born in Hutchinson, Kansas, and spent the first two decades of her life there, entirely too landlocked. Thankfully her loving father, Jerry, is a passionate diver and underwater photographer, and he had Keri in the water in no time. Keri became fascinated with the ocean at age 10 during a fish identification presentation at a REEF Field Station in Bonaire. At 14 she began diving, and recently she celebrated her 225th dive! Keri lived, researched, and played on South Caicos Island with the School for Field Studies during the spring of 2011 with fellow intern Elizabeth. It was there she finessed her marine binomial nomenclature and first tangoed with the invasive lionfish. After graduating from the University of Kansas in 2012 with a degree in biology, she left beloved Lawrence, Kansas, for lower latitudes. First, a REEF lionfish expedition in Belize; second, a REEF lionfish derby and research project in the Bahamas; and finally, the REEF internship in Key Largo. In her spare time Keri enjoys all forms of the great outdoors, flyfishing, playing tennis, boating, biking, snow skiing, cairn terriers and westies, community outreach, and volunteering. You can find her any given game day in crimson and blue cheering on the Jayhawks. Rock Chalk!
Jana Huebner: Fled the landlocked state of Missouri to live among and study the beautiful water of the tropics. She is currently obtaining her bachelor's of Marine Science at the University of Tampa. Her passion for the ocean was born during live aboard summer camps in the Caribbean learning how to SCUBA dive, Sail and about the marine environment. She loves to travel and being outdoors either hiking, camping, kayaking, or simply just playing around! Though her future is undecided, she hopes it leads in the direction of scientific research on fish!
Jessi Doerpinghaus: Originally from Austin, Texas, Jessi has always had a love for the ocean and all things marine. She received her B.S. in Marine Biology with a minor in Ocean and Coastal Resources from Texas A&M University at Galveston while working as a marine science instructor for Sea Camp. Currently, she is a second year's masters student at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the UCSB where she is focusing in Coastal Marine Resource Management and Pollution Prevention and Remediation. Jessi hopes to take all of her education and her experience working with REEF and find a career in marine conservation and fisheries management. In her free time, she is a huge baseball fan, loves watching Texas A&M Football, and enjoys scuba diving, baking, and traveling.
Jessica Levy: Jess hails from North Carolina and is a self named coral-geek passionate about tropical coral reef conservation. Her interest began in 2008 while studying abroad at James Cook University (JCU) in Australia situated only a stone’s throw away from the Great Barrier Reef. From her first dive on the GBR she was hooked on corals! Since then she has spent her time traveling to destinations like Curacao, Bermuda, and California following her interest in reef conservation. In 2011 she found herself back at JCU pursuing a Masters degree in Tropical Conservation with a special focus on incorporating climate change modeling into Marine Protected Areas. She hopes to one day find a home in the Caribbean working in the fields of reef conservation and outreach.
What is Jess doing now? Read her 2019 Intern Alumni Spotlight
Joel Barnes (A.K.A. Paco Benito Juarez) was raised as an underwater enthusiast throughout the United States with family that hails from Puerto Rico and Florida. Joel is currently attending Eckerd College as a student of marine science with a focus on biology. Recent adventures with lionfish in Honduras spiked special interests in tropical invasive species management, which led him to discover REEF. His terrestrial hobbies include Parkour, extreme sports, languages and trailblazing.
Lucy Davis: Lucy was born and raised in Texas and has spent the past few years traveling around the world. In 2009, she lived in New Zealand assisting with various research projects using her underwater skills as a diver and driving boats. She recently went backpacking through Southeast Asia where she was able to dive and see lionfish in their native habitat. Lucy is focusing on environmental education and would like to teach and travel with her husband. Her interests and hobbies include diving, biking, kayaking, riding her scooter and playing with her dog, Rocky. In the near future, Lucy would like to travel to South America and become more fluent in Spanish.
Brandon Lenderink: Brandon is a Colorado native and a recent biology graduate whose passion for wildlife and conservation has led him to pursue a career in marine biology. From 2007-2009 he worked as an aquarist for the Denver Downtown Aquarium, promoting conservation and working with animals such as endangered turtles and Sumatran tigers. In 2010 and 2011, Brandon worked for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in the Aquatic Nuisance Species program, producing scuba protocol manuals and educating people about invasive species such as zebra/quagga mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil. Brandon’s future goals are to become a research diver and scuba instructor. Some of his favorite non-diving activities include motorcycle riding, going on roller coasters, getting involved in the science community, and drinking a great-tasting milkshake.
Laura Louon (l):
Originally from Belgium, Laura is a recent BS in Biology graduate from Ithaca College in upstate New York. Laura decided she wanted a career in marine conservation and management after an adventure as a research assistant at the the extremely remote Wakatobi National Marine Park Research Station in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia last summer. Gladly leaving behind snowy winters, she has moved down to the Keys to learn more about marine conservation non-profits and brush up on her fish identification, before heading off to graduate school next fall.
Mollie Sinnott (r):
Mollie recently graduated in May 2011 with a BS in Biology from Wake Forest University in North Carolina. After an internship last year with the Bermuda Zoological Society’s Department of Conservation Services, she decided to continue her career in marine sciences down in the Keys. While originally from Pittsburgh, PA, she much prefers warmer climates and was eager to move back south. She is interested in ecosystem monitoring and ecology and is currently in the process of applying to graduate school for marine biology with a focus on coral reef ecology.
Claire Kitchin (Franklin College)
Julianna Mullen (Wellesley College, MS from Scripps Instititue of Oceanography)
Katharine Llop and Jamie Stack
Nicole Fabian and Stephanie Dreaver
Catherine Whitaker (Duke University) and Lauren Finan (University of Colorado at Boulder)
Marsissa Nuttall and Paige Switzer
Isla Turner and Jennifer Arakaki
Ashley Apel (Whitman College)
Alecia Adamson (University of Georgia)
Glynnis Roberts (Monterey Institute for International Studies)
Aiyesha Ghani (New York University)
Emily O'Day (Manatee Community College, FL)
Matthew Nuttall (University of Miami)
Ashley Pruden Ricker (University of Toledo)
Jackie Bowie (Bates College)
Kirsten Feifel (University of Washington)
Jackie Bowie (Bates College)
Nia Cherrett (University of East Anglia at Norwich)
Skyler Sagarese (University of Miami)
Joe Winn (University of Miami)
Fall & Spring 2004-2005
Danyel Addes (University of Mass at Amherst)
Kate Guerena (New York University)
Gwenn Kubeck (Lewis and Clark College)
Steve Prutzman (Henderson State University)
Mollie McIver (Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi)
Josh Wittmer (Allegheny College)
Jamie Gigante (Florida Institute of Technology)
Ellen Minichiello (Massachustts Audubon) and Bevlynn Moser (Auburn University)
Joanna Walczak (Texas A&M University, Galveston)
Steve Saul (University of Richmond)
Davita Burkhead-Weiner (Swarthmore College)
Kayte Hanson (Lawrence University)
Laura Lins (U.C. Davis)
Sarah Goldman (Bowling Green State University) and Julie Fleming (Prescott College)
Lauren Bunnell (University of Arizona), Jay Gardner (Texas A&M University), Kari Forrest (UNC at Chapel Hill), Basia Hajduczek (UC Berkeley)
Amy Freidank (Long Island University)
Shannon Lyday (University of Colorado)
Jon Moss (Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh)
Molly Myhr (Vanderbilt University) and Lisa Canty (University of Hawaii at Hilo)
Jennifer Stuart (Truman State University)
Leda Cunningham (Macalester College) and Katie Gaut (Oregon State University)
Bianca Piccillo (Harvard University)