The Rotjan Lab - Former Members


Ayron Strauch, M.S., Ph.D. Tufts University; B.A. Washington University in St. Louis

Ayron recently defended his doctoral dissertation at Tufts, entitled: "Drivers of Water Quality and Their Consequences for Social-Ecological Systems in Semi-Arid Africa: Case Studies From Tanzania and Zimbabwe." He is now applying his skills to the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) in the Central Pacific; the world's largest marine World Heritage Site and the largest MPA in the Pacific. Ayron is working on the link between fishes and ecosystem structure, exploring datasets from the past decade in order to determine patterns and drivers of fish abundance before and after a severe thermal bleaching event. With degrees in both Biology and Anthropology and an appreciation for the interconnected relationship between local communities and their environment, Ayron is also interested in exploring PIPA human-natural coupled systems.

Sara Edquist, B.A. Boston University (BUMP program) - see C.V. here - Listen to Sara's Museum of Science podcast

Sara is comparing two populations of marine hermit crabs (Pagurus longicarpus) with different habitat and available resource qualities. Hermit crabs in some populations are larger with more damaged, crowded shells, whereas other populations have smaller crabs with higher quality and better fitting shells. Sara is comparing populations to determine whether: a) high quality shells provide less incentive for crabs to move or b) damaged shells inhibit shell switching. Sara hopes to apply her findings in hermit crab research to larger themes in ecosystem interactions, such as the relationship between habitat quality and the distribution of resources. Sara completed her undergraduate education at Boston University, and plans to pursue a graduate degree in Marine Biology, specifically intersystem interactions. She is a sci-fi nerd, and enjoys swimming, Frisbee, and volleyball.

Tania Lemos Eskin,B.F.A. Cornell University- Read Tania's blog here; see C.V. here

Tania is investigating the effects of ship noise from local Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) ports on the stress levels of cod (Gadhus morhua), in a collaboration with John Mandelman (NEAq). Her research focuses on how acute and chronic exposure to ship noise played in the lab alters the levels of a primary stress hormone, cortisol, in cod blood plasma. She has an insatiable interest in biology of all kinds and is looking forward to a thrilling career as a lab technician – no, really. Tania attended Cornell University as an undergraduate studying painting and is currently finishing the Three Seas Masters of Marine Science Program at Northeastern University. She enjoys film, water balloon fights, drawing, non-Newtonian fluids, and writing about herself in the third person. Tania is currently a professional masters student in the Three Seas Program at Northeastern University, completing her thesis in the Rotjan Lab.

Alena Gerlek, B.S. Wellesley College

Alena is examining the interacting stressors of sound and structure on various Atlantic fishes (including the lumpfish, Cyclopterus lumpus). She is examining primary stress response (cortisol) in water and plasma, as well as a suite of secondary stress responses (metabolites and electrolytes) in blood plasma. Come back to learn more about Alena!

Allison Kerwin, B.A. Smith College

Allison is exploring the microbial communities associated with symbiotic and asymbiotic Astrangia poculata corals. In a collaboration between the Rotjan Lab, Jay Dimond (Western Washington University), Koty Sharp (Ocean Genome Legacy), and Dan Thornhill (Bowdoin College), Allison is putting some serious miles on her car in an attempt to explore microbial diversity and abundance using a variety of culture-independent molecular methods. Allison is currently a professional masters student in the Three Seas Program at Northeastern University, completing her thesis jointly with the Rotjan Lab and the Ocean Genome Legacy. She plans to pursue her Ph.D. upon completion.

Tierra Leonard, B.S. Northern Arizona University

Tierra is studying vacancy chains in terrestrial hermit crabs. She aims to discover some of the mechanisms by which hermit crabs align themselves in size order and then switch shells in a synchronous manner. Her first endeavor is to investigate whether crabs use behavioral or chemical signals to "advertise" their shells to fellow crabs. Tierra graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. She spent two years working to help map the genome of a mycorrhizal fungus but is now pursuing a scientific career in the world of marine ecology. When she's not sporting a lab coat you can find her hiking and camping in the great outdoors, devouring a good book, and tearing up the dance floor.

Chris Marks, B.A Illinois Wesleyan University - see C.V. here

Chris is exploring the environmental patterns governing the facultative symbiosis between the temperate coral Astrangia poculata and the symbiotic dinoflagellate Symbiodinium. Unlike tropical scleractinian corals, these temperate corals can flourish with or without their photosynthetic counterpart, and both ‘morphotypes’ are often observed together in close proximity. Using a variety of qualitative and quantitative measurements, he is exploring the patterns of this symbiosis in the field. Chris graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology, worked for the National Marine Fisheries Service on the Bering Sea, and is currently finishing a Master of Science degree with Steve Vollmer as part of Northeastern University’s Three Seas Program. He is concurrently interning with the Rotjan Lab and the Bracken Lab (Northeastern). In his free time, Chris enjoys playing sports (tennis, basketball, volleyball, etc…), diving, travel, and photography.

Rebecca Isquith, M.S. Northeastern University / New England Aquarium; B.S. University of California, Davis see C.V. here

Current position: Aquatic Biologist, Entrix Environmental and Natural Resource Management Consulting

Acoustic Stress in Winter Flounder: Rebecca is exploring the dynamics of fish response to the potential stress of ship noise from Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) ports. To do this, Rebecca plays ship noise recordings to fish in sound-isolated tanks at a decibel calibrated to match that of ship noise in the field. Rebecca has two goals for her experiment: 1) establishing a successful protocol whereby cortisol levels – and thus stress – can be measured both from blood and from water samples (see Raph's project below), and 2) determine the effects of sound and structure on local populations of winter flounder. Rebecca attended UC Davis for her undergraduate degree, and recently earned her Masters from Northeastern University, Three Seas program. Rebecca stayed in the Rotjan Lab as a research technician for a while, but has now moved on to an environmental consulting position as an aquatic biologist. She likes photography, being outside, golf, and adventures.

Sarah Abboud, M.S. Northeastern University / New England Aquarium; B.A. University of Richmond see C.V. here

Current position: Research Technician, UC Merced, Dawson Lab

Morphological variation and ecological significance of Christmas Tree Worms: Sarah is interested in the effects of water flow and predation risk on coral reef invertebrates, specifically focusing on Christmas tree worms. Specifically, she hopes to determine the importance of both flow and predation on morphology variation and the role of these serpulid worms in coral reef communities. Furthermore, Sarah is generally interested in how biotic and abiotic factors impact coral reef invertebrate species interactions. Sarah attended the University of Richmond for her undergraduate degree and recently earned her Masters from the Northeastern University Three Seas program. Sarah is a teacher, loves art (specifically photography), and playing Ultimate Frisbee.

Tierra Leonard, Tania Lemos Eskin, Randi, and Anya Price in the field
Sarah Abboud at the 2010 Benthic Ecology Meetings (UNCW)
Jessica Oh, Sara Edquist, Julia Collins, and Randi @ NEAq

Former Research Interns :

Julia Collins, B.A. Boston University

Raphael Fennimore, B.A. Boston University (BUMP program)

Jessica Oh, undergraduate student, Tufts University

Maura Flynn, B.A. Roger Williams University

Jessica Monmaney, B.A. Vassar College

Anya Price, Summer Scholars undergraduate student, Tufts University

Julia Collins—Hermit Crabs and Population Dynamics; see Julia's C.V. here

Julia is studying how hermit crabs investigate empty shells as prospective residences. Working jointly with Jessica Oh, Julia hopes to elucidate the significance of chronic vs immediate experience for crabs making shell switch decisions. Using individuals from two populations whose habitats differ physically and in terms of the quality of available shells, she is comparing the investigation behaviors of crabs in their native shells to crabs in shells they would likely inhabit were they living in the opposing population. Julia is curious about the bearing of this work on questions of innate vs learned behavior, resource distribution generally and vacancy chain theory in particular. As an undergraduate, Julia double majored in Biology and English at Boston University, completing her bachelors in May 2008. She has since worked on scientific curriculum development, taken some time for travel, and put in gratifyingly long hours at a local farm. She is fascinated by the possibilities of interdisciplinary thought and looks forward to developing this interest as she pursues her masters in Agroecology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison beginning Fall 2010.

Raphael Fennimore—Acoustic Stress/Liquid Natural Gas Study ; see Raph's C.V. here

Raphael is helping to develop and refine a protocol to assess levels of fish stress using a cortisol enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) coupled with solid phase extraction (SPE), in a collaboration with John Mandelman (NEAq). Raphael anticipates that this procedure will be useful in quantifying fish stress from any number of stressors, including sound (as in the NEAq Liquid Natural Gas study), acidity, nutrient and oxygen availability, temperature, transport and any other environmental stressor to fish. Raphael recently graduated from Boston University, where he studied Marine Science and double minored in Biology and Earth Science. He recently worked for the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, researching whale feeding behavior using DTAG motion sensor tags as well as the correlation of local whale feeding migration with internal waves within Massachusetts Bay. Raphael has many additional interests including playing classical piano, rebuilding computers and teaching sailing, canoeing, and kayaking.

Maura Flynn – Symbiosis in Temperate Corals; see Maura's C.V. here

Maura is assessing the effect of abiotic environmental factors (e.g. temperature and light exposure) on symbiont abundance and physiology in temperate corals. Specifically, she is using her background in art and illustration to investigate how image analysis can be used as a tool to investigate symbiont densities. Maura graduated from Roger Williams with a BS in Marine Biology. She plans to go to graduate school eventually, and would like to be a teacher. Maura enjoys collecting shells, and is psyched about a nautilus shell she picked up during a recent trip to Thailand.

Jessica Monmaney – Acoustic stress/ Liquid Natural Gas Study - see Jessica's C.V. here

Jessica recently transitioned from her original intern position as lab writing assistant to a more research-based position; she is currently assisting Raphael in his development of a water cortisol assay. Specifically, Jessica has been working with winter flounder and lumpfish and testing their stress response to anthropogenic boat noise. Jessica graduated from Vassar College with a degree in Environmental Studies and concentrations in Biology and Political Science. She plans to eventually attend graduate school for Biology as part of her goal of becoming a science writer. To that end, Jessica is happiest when writing, editing, and reading, but also occasionally finds time for running, making hummus, and re-reading the Harry Potter series.

Maura Flynn counting Astrangia polyps
Sarah Abboud, Rebecca Isquith, & Randi

Former Administrative Interns :

Kristen Babicz, undergraduate student, UMass Boston

Janet Lui, undergraduate student, Northeastern University

Kat Copeland, undergraduate student, Hobart Williams Smith College

Ruth Anam, B.S. Tufts University

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