Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small town in Delaware on the Delmarva Peninsula, halfway between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
Where did you go to school and what subject did you get your degree(s) in?
I have an undergraduate degree in Biology and English from La Salle University in Philadelphia, and a Ph.D. in Marine Environmental Biology from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. After graduate school I was awarded a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in Polar Programs Research which I completed at the University of Delaware and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. I studied Antarctic marine microbial food webs for my dissertation and postdoc. I was interested in how these food webs are affected by physical and chemical factors such as light, temperature, nutrients, and elevated carbon dioxide concentrations related to ocean acidification.
Tell us a little about how you came to the Science Center.
I started at the Science Center as the Science Coordinator and NOAA Liaison to the Long Island Sound Study. The Long Island Sound Study is a partnership of stakeholders who are dedicated to restoring and protecting Long Island Sound. It is a fascinating mix of local, state, federal agencies, academics, environmental NGOs, and other interested parties. This job was based both at an EPA office in Stamford, Connecticut as well as at the Milford Lab. During this job I gained a real appreciation for the value and challenges of stakeholder engagement and a great deal of respect for the resource management community.
What do you do at the Science Center?
I am a Research Ecologist at the Science Center's Milford Lab in Milford, Connecticut. I conduct applied research related to shellfish aquaculture. I'm interested in the ecosystem services provided by shellfish. In particular, my research focuses on the removal of excess nutrients and the creation of habitat for fish and invertebrate communities that shellfish aquaculture operations offer. There is considerable anecdotal evidence from shellfish growers that fish and invertebrates use aquaculture gear for a variety of purposes, such as a food source, shelter, and protection from predation. I work with a team of researchers that use underwater video technology to observe and quantify fish interactions with oyster aquaculture cages in Long Island Sound. You can read more about this work on the GoPro Aquaculture Project page.
I also contribute scientific advice to policy efforts. I'm a current member of an expert panel that is providing recommendations to the Chesapeake Bay Program on the inclusion of oysters as a Best Management Practice for nutrient remediation. The panel is being coordinated by the Oyster Recovery Partnership. Their website has a description of the panel with links to our recommendations. I'm also the Connecticut representative to the Northeast Regional Aquaculture Center's Technical Advisory Committee. I was a member of the task force that developed the Connecticut Shellfish Initiative and now am on their research work group. In June of 2018, the Initiative's task force won the Northeast Sea Grant Outstanding Achievement Group Award for our work developing the Shellfish Initiative. Lastly, I'm a current member of the Long Island Sound Study Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee.
When I have time, I enjoy expanding my statistical analysis and data visualization skills.
What you like most about your position?
I love the wide range of colleagues and collaborators that I get to work with on a daily basis. From other scientists who conduct shellfish research, to shellfish aquaculture industry members, to regulators involved in permitting decisions or seafood safety, I am continually learning how to make the research that I conduct more relevant and more useful to these and other stakeholders.
What are some of your hobbies?
I'm an avid knitter. I knit all sorts of things, I usually have multiple projects going at once. Right now I am working on three different hats, two sweaters, a shawl, and a tank top.
I love to cook, especially cooking with the season. This time of year that means soups and stews with fall fruits and veggies like apples, pears, squash, and root vegetables. This is a great time of year to eat shellfish, too, as they are building up their glycogen stores that will sustain them over the winter. They have an especially nice flavor profile in fall.
I enjoyed cooking with my mother when I was a kid and also took some great cooking classes in high school. Both of those gave me the foundation and confidence to branch out and experiment with new techniques, cuisines, flavors, etc., as an adult.