2017 UCI OCEANS Graduate Fellows

UCI OCEANS is pleased to announce the 2017 UCI OCEANS Graduate Fellows.

These students received fellowships in the amount of $2,000 to $10,000 to work over the next year on ocean-related activities that span disciplines and schools on campus. 

The fellows are highlighted below.

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Samuel Bedgood
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology / Biological Sciences
Samuel’s research investigates the consequences of radically different diets in three closely related sea anemone species, exploring how diets shape local community structure and relationships between anemones and their symbiotic algae. He will be working along the California coastline, from San Diego to Mendocino.
Samuel completed his B.S. in Biology at Florida State University before joining the Bracken Lab at UC Irvine as a PhD student. His work at Florida State focused on the relationship between sea anemones and their symbiotic algae. He found that beneficial algal symbionts within the tissue of anemones are maintained only when anemones are able to capture zooplankton as food. The relationship between host and symbiont breaks down without food, resulting in increased movement of the anemone. This is his first year here at UC Irvine; he looks forward to investigating community structure, nitrogen cycling and ecosystem dynamics along the coastline. 


Gregory Britten 
Earth System Science / Physical Sciences

Gregory’s current research is aimed at understanding how temporal and spatial variability in temperature, nutrient supply, and other environmental parameters shapes the microbial diversity and biogeochemical function of ocean ecosystems. He is developing new models that couple the physical ocean environment with the ecology and evolution of marine plankton to predict how global carbon cycling may change in a future ocean.

Gregory grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada, where the ocean is rarely more than a few miles away. He focused on marine modeling and statistics through his B.Sc. and M.Sc. at Dalhousie University, where he wrote his research theses on topics related to community and fisheries ecology.  He is now in the third year of his PhD in Earth System Science, working under Francois Primeau to develop new models of marine ecosystems and ocean biogeochemistry.  He is most interested in how the physical environment shapes the ecology and evolution of biogeochemical interactions in the ocean, and how these interactions may shift with environmental change. The lab primarily uses mathematical models to understand marine systems, including both simple idealized models and complex computer simulations.

Zackory Burns

The ultimate goal of this project is to understand how Sphyrna tiburo (the bonnethead shark) is capable of acquiring nutrients from the digestion of seagrass, thereby causing one to re-evaluate the role that bonnetheads play in their environment. Using a combination of digestive biochemistry, stable isotope analyses, digestibility quantifications, bioenergetic models, and molecular techniques, this project could provide groundbreaking evidence of an omnivorous shark and will have important implications for shark conservation. 

To ensure conservation policies are effective, data must be collected in a manner that is easily accessible and understandable. In this UCI OCEANS project, Zackory will ensure that the type of data, as well as the quality, quantity, and presentation of that data, will easily translate to policymakers responsible for shark conservation management plans.

Additional Project Fellows:

  • Samantha Leigh, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology / Biological Sciences
  • Lauryn Moles, Costume Design/ Arts

Dr. Zackory Burns’ primary academic interest lies at the intersection of science and the law, specifically as it pertains to the environment, biotechnology, health care, and intellectual property. He received his undergraduate degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with a certificate in Environmental Studies from Princeton University, and his doctorate degree in Zoology from Somerville College at the University of Oxford. Zackory’s dissertation explored the sociality of wild crows in New Caledonia through a novel animal-borne technology. While at Oxford, he was also a Fellow at Harvard University and a Visiting Scholar at the University of St. Andrews. After his doctorate, Zackory became the Hellman Fellow in Science and Technology Policy at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences where he worked on numerous projects, including the Alternative Energy Future, New Models for U.S. Science and Technology Policy, and Public Trust in Science and Medicine. Concurrently, Zackory was a Tutor at Adams House, Harvard College, as well as a Teaching Fellow for the introductory Biology sequence at the Harvard Extension School. He is now pursuing his Juris Doctorate at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, and recently received his MBA from Smartly. At UC Irvine, Zackory is a paid Research Fellow for Professor Song Richardson and is currently undertaking a directed research project with Professor Michelle Goodwin. He recently submitted his first law review article assessing a novel psychological mechanism that occurs during police-public encounters, and is currently exploring questions about privacy and DNA. Zackory has a passion for community activism, and currently co-chairs the Transgender Legal Assistance Clinic at UC Irvine.


Marissa Chattman

Environmental Health / Medicine

This OCEANS project will focus on the toxicological and microbiological effects of dermal exposure to ocean water during recreation. This information can be used to help develop a dose dependent risk assessment model and standards for recreational exposure to algal toxins and help understand the role of the skin microbiome in infection and irritation.

Marissa received her B.S. in Microbiology and M.S. in Environmental Science/Microbiology from The University of Arizona. Her research projects focused mainly on pathogen detection in the environment. Shortly after graduation, she moved to Boston and worked as a Clinical Microbiologist at Boston Medical Center and Tufts Medical Center and taught at the The STD/HIV Prevention Training Center of New England. After eight frigid Boston winters, she decided to pursue her PhD in Environmental Health Sciences at UCI. She is currently working in Dr. Sunny Jiang’s lab and her research interests include detection of toxin-producing bacterial and algal species in water, the health effects associated with the toxins and the protective role of human skin microflora in infection processes.


Morgan Embry

Lighting Design /Arts

As Morgan is studying Lighting Design, she is looking to utilize lighting to express current scientific studies on the effect of light on ocean ecosystems. She is aiming to discover if ocean life interacts with light in a way that differs from the role light plays in land ecosystems. Is light as vital to ocean ecosystems as it is to us on land? Is modern-day light pollution effecting ocean life, as it does land ecosystems near cities? The findings of this research will be depicted in an interactive installation space, allowing us humans to interact with light and experience a recreated environment, mimicking that of an underwater ecosystem.

Morgan Embry is a MFA Lighting Design Candidate studying at the University ofCalifornia, Irvine. Originally from Athens, Alabama, Morgan has worked professionally as a dance, choreographer, and performing arts instructor both nationally and internationally. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from The University of Alabama, where she received dual B.A. degrees in Dance and Interdisciplinary Studies. The thesis of her Interdisciplinary Studies degree was Creative Movement and Therapeutic Outreach. Morgan is interested in using art and creative media as a means of giving back and improving the community around her. In the past, this mission has taken shape in the forms of: offering mixed-media dance classes geared toward conflict resolution for middle students, socialization dance classes for children with special needs, and awareness dance films on forms of domestic violence and abuse. One goal of giving back to her community is to bring awareness to important topics from the scientific community and present it from the unique perspective of an artist. While living and working in Portimao, Portugal, as a dance program director and choreographer, Morgan experienced what it was like to live in an oceanside community. This is where her fascination and curiosity with ocean ecosystems began.


Samantha Leigh

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology / Biological Sciences

The ultimate goal of this project is to understand how Sphyrna tiburo (the bonnethead shark) is capable of acquiring nutrients from the digestion of seagrass, thereby causing one to re-evaluate the role that bonnetheads play in their environment. Using a combination of digestive biochemistry, stable isotope analyses, digestibility quantifications, bioenergetic models, and molecular techniques, this project could provide groundbreaking evidence of an omnivorous shark and will have important implications for shark conservation. 

Additional Project Fellows:

  • Zackory Burns, Law
  • Lauryn Moles, Costume Design/ Arts
Samantha is interested in how marine organisms acquire energy based on their specified digestive strategies. Specifically, she is interested in how environmental changes impact the ability of sharks and other fishes to specialize on low-quality food sources. She graduated from Coastal Carolina University in 2013 with a B.S. in marine and environmental science. During this time, she completed a research internship with Dr. Karla Heidelberg at the University of Southern California’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies where she studied the diel vertical migration of zooplankton and the symbiotic relationship between California corals and their resident microbial communities. She went on to work as a laboratory technician at the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project studying water quality, and then later accepted a position as a technician in the laboratory of Drs. Richard and Heather Steet at the University of Georgia where she used zebrafish as a model to study pathogenic mechanisms of lysosomal disease. She joined the German Lab at UCI in 2014 to study the digestive physiology of seagrass-eating bonnethead sharks. Since starting in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology PhD program at UCI, she has been awarded an NSF GRFP for this work, along with research grants and awards from National Geographic, the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, Sigma Xi, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs, and the UCI Climate Action Training Program. She also enjoys dedicating time to various public outreach projects including the PBS Kids television show SciGirls, the Crystal Cove Alliance, the California State Science Fair, Targeted Instruction Generating Excitement about Research and Science (TIGERS), and the Equitable Science Curriculum Integrating Arts in Public Education (ESCAPE) Workshops. 


Noemi Linares-Ramirez
Sociology / Social Science

Noemi is studying three programs that invite primarily high school students from coastal tribes from Yurok to Tongva to conduct research and learn more about coastal issues (e.g., coastal erosion, sea level rise). She wants to examine the success of these programs in the past five years in order to know how successful they have been in encouraging students to pursue scientific fields, linking students’ newfound knowledge to tribal community knowledge and resilience, and opening scientific fields to the benefits of Indigenous knowledge.

Noemi Linares-Ramirez is interested in studying Indigenous issues of representation and access in Indigenous communities that lead to positive outcomes in social movements, education, and sovereignty. She received her B.A. in Sociology and Native American Studies from Smith College and is currently a second year Ph.D. student in Sociology. She has conducted several research projects to understand the impacts of Indigenous women social movement organizations and the outcomes of Indigenous movements for reproductive justice. In 2014, she was awarded the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship and participated in the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) at the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC) to investigate the activism and tactics of urban Native American lesbians in Chicago. This year, she was appointed to be the Indigenous Environmental Fellow at UCI’s Sustainability Initiative. As a fellow, she organized the Native Nations Protecting Coastal Land and Waters in California Convening, which aims to strengthen relationships among Native Nations and the California Coastal Commission and support their Indian communities when oceans are threatened. From this convening, she became interested in studying the effectiveness of programs that invite primarily high school students from coastal tribes from Yurok to Tongva to conduct research and learn more about coastal issues.

Lauryn Moles
Costume Design/ Art

The ultimate goal of this project is to understand how Sphyrna tiburo (the bonnethead shark) is capable of acquiring nutrients from the digestion of seagrass, thereby causing one to re-evaluate the role that bonnetheads play in their environment. Using a combination of digestive biochemistry, stable isotope analyses, digestibility quantifications, bioenergetic models, and molecular techniques, this project could provide groundbreaking evidence of an omnivorous shark and will have important implications for shark conservation. 

Lauryn will spearhead a project aimed at informing the public about the bonnethead shark and its habitat. The goal of this artistic work is to not only to share information, but to stress the importance of conservation and the necessity to support programs that fund conservation efforts.  

Additional Project Fellows:

  • Zackory Burns, Law
  • Samantha Leigh, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology / Biological Sciences

A native of northern California, Lauryn Moles has always had a keen interest in performance and animal behavior. At Fresno State University, California, she graduated summa cum laude with a B.S in Ecology Evolution and Organismal Biology as well as a B.A. in Theatre Arts. During that time she was a President’s Scholar of the Smittcamp Family Honors College and became a member of both Phi Kappa Phi and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Lauryn presented a vintage costume research project at the 35th Annual Central California Research Symposium and also studied primates in Costa Rica through DANTA  Association for Conservation of the Tropics. After her undergraduate degree, she spent two years working at theatres across the country. Most notably, Lauryn was the Costume Apprentice at the Tony award winning Cleveland Play House during their 100th season. She was also a guest speaker at a GE Girls event where she spoke about alternative STEM careers in the arts. Lauryn is currently pursuing her MFA in Costume Design at UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts. She hopes to blend her interests by utilizing new technologies to create costumes that will tell stories to inspire communities to share, collaborate and act.

Alli Pic Option1

Allison Moreno

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology / Biological Sciences

The main goal of this UCI OCEANS project is to quantify the amount of oxygen needed to oxidize carbon,rO2:C, in marine surface organic matter to evaluate a possible missing link in our understanding of oxygen deficient zone’s impact on marine protected areas (MPAs).  Allison will quantify, for the first time, the average rO2:C value and its variation on samples taken weekly from Crystal Cove (MPA) and compared to samples from Newport Beach, the Indian and Pacific Oceans (non-MPAs) using two techniques: chemical oxygen demand and elemental composition analysis. 

Allison was born and raised in Boyle Heights, California. In 2014, she graduated from California State University, Monterey Bay with a B.S in Marine Science and Minors in Biology and Mathematics. Upon graduating, her work on marine fisheries impact on iron cycling was published and lead to her being awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. She is now a third-year Ph.D. student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Her dissertation work examines variation in marine phytoplankton elemental stoichiometry. More specifically, (1) how variation in marine phytoplankton elemental stoichiometry can affect atmospheric pCO2, (2) how variation can be produced, physiologically speaking, and (3) how variation in the oxygen demand is distributed and its ability to connect oxygen deficient zones with marine protected areas. Besides focusing on her dissertation research, Allison works as a mentor to students from her old high school in Boyle Heights and is a member of the Climate, Literacy, Empowerment And iNquiry (CLEAN) Education program within the Earth System Science department at UC Irvine.


Emma Reid

Civil and Environmental Engineering / Engineering

The impacts of rising sea surface temperatures may lead to the collapse of global reef ecosystems, however, the effects of climate change on corals are not uniform. Although it is not fully understood what makes certain reefs more resilient to coral bleaching than others, emerging evidence suggests that reefs living in areas with naturally variable thermal environments may have higher temperature tolerance, even across an individual reef. This phenomenon is present on Ofu Island, in American Samoa, where she plans to conduct a field experiment gathering high resolution temperature data, using Distributed Temperature Sensing technology. 
Emma is a doctoral student at UC Irvine in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. Originally from Toronto, Ontario, she completed her undergraduate studies at Queen’s University in civil engineering. Emma’s research at UCI focuses on internal waves and temperature variability, and how it effects coastal regions, including coral reefs. 

Aryan Safaie

Civil and Environmental Engineering / Engineering

In this study, we analyze a synthesis of in situ temperature time series data taken at coral reefs from well over 100 reef locations globally, with the goal of identifying the role of high-frequency (diurnal and shorter periods) temperature variability in enhancing coral resistance to thermal stress and resilience to bleaching. We compute multiple environmental metrics from this data set, and compare them against quantitative site-level bleaching observations to test the hypothesis that increased high-frequency temperature variability promotes acclimatization to thermal stress.
Aryan is a Ph.D. student in the Coastal Dynamics Laboratory at UCI, studying under Professor Kristen Davis. His research focuses on characterizing the important physical processes that influence coastal ecosystems, which he has thus far attempted using a combination of statistics and numerical modeling approaches. As a Southern California native, Aryan appreciates all the opportunities afforded to him by UCI, the Coastal Dynamics Laboratory, and the UCI OCEANS Initiative.