I am a PhD student in Dan Costa and Terrie Williams’ labs in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz.

I am very interested in the inner workings of the marine mammal mind. Specifically, I study sleep and brain function in marine mammals. Sleep is necessary for survival, and for many essential functions such as energy conservation, metabolism, immune function, memory, and learning. Marine mammals must physiologically recharge while sleeping in an environment where they are vulnerable to natural and increasing anthropogenic stressors. In order to fully understand the effect of anthropogenic stressors on marine mammal populations, we must characterize the patterns, function, and sensitivity of sleep in these species.

Marine Mammal Sleep Studies in Russia

Correlation between eye state and electroencephalogram activity during unihemispheric slow wave sleep in the northern fur seal (Summer 2016)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAdvisor: Oleg Lyamin (PhD), Center for Sleep Research, UCLA School of Medicine

Last summer, I spent two months in Russia conducting electrophysiological studies on sleep in marine mammals, including northern fur seals and beluga whales. For my honors thesis, I focused on the correlation between the state of both eyes and sleep state, scored using both qualitative (visual scoring) and quantitative (scoring based on spectral power analysis) electroencephalogram (EEG) data.

Read more about the project here.

Related Presentations:

Refereed Conference Presentation at the 9th International Conference on the Marine Mammals of the Holarctic in Astrakhan, Russia by Dr. Oleg Lyamin Nov 2016

Refereed Conference Presentation at the Western Society of Naturalists in Monterey, California Nov 2016

Secondary studies:

wp-image-761758540jpg.jpgThe role of sleep in cognitive performance in northern fur seals: I trained a wild fur seal for use in an experiment where her shape recognition skills were compared before and after sleep deprivation. The young fur seal was shown one shape and needed to recall the shape a couple seconds later by choosing a target beneath the shape instead of an alternative target beneath a different shape.

Another fur seal was trained to do noise discrimination tasks and then deprived of sleep for four days. Surprisingly (for me), there was usually a slight increase in acuity and performance after exposure to this type of stress.wp-image-947894197jpg.jpg

Effect of exposure to seismic noise on the endocrine and respiratory systems of beluga whales: We measured blood cortisol levels, heart rate using electrocardiogram electrodes, and breathing rate during various levels of exposure to seismic noise. This is our beluga whale, Spartacus:

Sleep Deprivation studies in Humans

URAP Program with the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at UC Berkeley (2015-present)

Over the past two semesters, I have been helping a graduate student, Adam Krause, complete his PhD project which involves conducting sleep deprivation studies on humans in order to determine its impact on pain sensation. I am trained on the application of electroencephalogram (EEG) electrodes and help out in other aspects of the research as well. I am currently being trained to analyze EEG data to determine which stage of sleep the human is in.

Chemical Oceanography Research Expeditions

Expeditions aboard the RV Oceanus, RV Point Sur, and RV New Horizon (August 2016, January 2013, and October 2012)

Under the supervision of Jim Bishop, Professor of Marine Geochemistry at UC Berkeley, I was able to attend a research cruise last summer and two cruises in my freshman year, where I:

  • deployed carbon-profiling robots, CTD sensors, plankton nets, sediment PIT traps, McClane pumps, and adjusted sensors to resist pressure changes
  • performed multiple CTD rosette and independent carbon measuring robot casts
  • filtered 12 sample bottles for each cast to analyze and compare Particulate Inorganic Carbon residue with sensor data
  • filmed and analyzed the vertical migration of zooplankton in concurrence with Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler data

Read more about the cruises here: RV OceanusRV New Horizon, and RV Point Sur

Movement and Occurrence of Pilot Whales at NOAA

Pilot Whale Photo-Identification Catalog, Match Analysis, and Biweekly Marine Mammal Surveys at NOAA’s SWFSC and SCRIPPS Institution of Oceanography (Summer 2015)

At NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, I worked under two co-mentors, Jay Barlow and Dave Weller, to complete the internship portion of my NOAA Hollings Scholarship Program. For my study, I created a photo-identification catalog, conducted an analysis of the matches I identified, and compiled a short note which has been published in Aquatic Mammals.

Related Presentations and Publications:

Peer-reviewed publication in Aquatic Mammals (Aug 2016)

Refereed Conference Presentation at the Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology Meeting (Jan 2016)

Presented at the Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship Science and Education Symposium (Aug 2015)

I received a lot of help from Holly Fearnbach, another scientist who works at the SWFSC, who introduced me to the methods of photo-identification using ACDSee and Access databases to organize and analyze metadata from the 5,000 photos used in my study. Additionally, I was able to work with many scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, with whom I conducted biweekly marine mammal surveys. This project was led by Catherine Nickels, a PhD student at Scripps, who works in John Hildebrand’s lab and was focusing on distribution of blue whales and what they were feeding on (through the observation of their fecal matter!). Here is a photo I took of a blue whale during one of our surveys:


Behavioral Study on Moray Eels in Moorea

Moorea’s Morays: A behavioral comparison and den fidelity assay of morays on a French Polynesian Island (Fall 2014)

During my Fall 2014 semester, I traveled to the UC Berkeley Gump Station on Moorea in French Polynesia, conducting an independent research project. I characterized moray eel behavior using a tailored ethogram and formulated behavioral comparisons across groups of morays, with particular attention paid to temporal, tidal, and weather patterns. I studied den fidelity in giant morays (Gymnothorax javanicus) as well as four other tropical moray species.

Related Presentations and Publications:

Presented at the course symposium for Biogeomorphology of Tropical Islands (IB 158LF) (Dec 2014)

Paper published in UC Berkeley’s Integrative Biology archives (Dec 2014)

Sexual Selection Study on Arthropods at Friday Harbor Labs

Arthropod Sexual Selection through the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at Friday Harbor Laboratories (Summer 2014)

I examined the complex factors at play in sexual selection with the maritime earwig, under the direction of my mentor Professor Vikram Iyengar from Villanova University. Our manuscript is currently is currently under review with Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

Relevant Presentations and Publications:

Refereed Conference Presentation at the Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology (Jan 2015)

Presented at the REU Symposium at Friday Harbor Labs (Aug 2014)

Paper published in Friday Harbor Laboratories online archives (Aug 2014)

See this post for more information: Sexual Selection in the Maritime Earwig

the “speed dating” set up, where earwigs are allowed to freely antennate each other

Cephalopod Behavior Research

URAP (Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program) (summer 2013-2014)

I studied the mating, drilling,  and feeding behavior of the octopus Abdopus Aculeatus and Wunderpus photogenicus under Professor Roy Caldwell.

See these posts for more information: Mating Octopuses and StomatopodsWunderpus PhotogenicusOctopus Research, and A Day in the Lab

Internship at The Marine Mammal Center

Cinematographer (summer 2013)

I filmed surgeries, necropsies, rescues, and releases at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA. I learned about surgical techniques and animal husbandry procedures.

Here is a post by The Marine Mammal Center which includes one of my videos of a disentanglement.

Watch the other videos I made here.

MBARI Deep Sea Woodfall Experiment

URAP (Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program) (2013-2014)

I analyzed video from an MBARI experiment, conducted by Jenna Judge, a scientist at UC Berkeley, where 28 bundles were sunk at 3200 meters for three years.

Madagascar Marine Protected Area Assessment 

URAP (Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program) (spring 2013)

I translated French travel documents and organized data from interviews conducted with local fishermen, under the supervision of Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Mez Baker-Medard.

Marine Biology Research Training

Alaska Summer Research Academy (summer 2011)

  • developed hypotheses and collected data concerning polychaetes, a segmented worm
  • collected and documented species with quadrats in Kasitsna Bay, Seward, and Homer, AK

Teach and Test Ocean Water Quality Testing Program (2009-2012)

  • tested Enterococcus Faecalis bacteria levels using Quanti-Tray Enumeration Analysis and shared report results

See more information here: Teach and Test and First Flush

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