Fall 2020

Dara Albrecht is studying Environmental Science with a concentration in Biodiversity and Conservation at Yale University. Dara is particularly interested in community-based natural resource management as well as studying population dynamics to establish marine protected areas. She is a first-generation Peruvian-American citizen, and has grown up advocating for the environment and fighting against environmental degradation and exploitation in Peru and in the US. Her interest in marine systems first started when she was able to visit and volunteer with several nonprofits in the Key Largo area (including REEF!) and obtain her scuba diving certifications. Since then, she has become involved with different environmental initiatives at college, including efforts for sustainable fashion, environmental education, science research and publishing, and more. Her favorite activity, however, has been working as a Science Tour Guide for the Yale Office of Admissions. Last summer, she moved to Australia to intern for the Global Ecology Lab at the University of Sydney. She studied scavenger behavior in the Australian desert, and has been very interested in land and animal management since then. More recently, she has been working on a book as a reviewer about community-based conservation in Latin America, and will eventually be published as a reviewer when it goes to print! These experiences have strengthened Dara’s love for citizen science and environmental education, and she hopes to apply them to marine conservation through working with REEF to better improve conservation systems.

Melanie Farrell graduated from the University of Connecticut in the spring of 2020 with a major in Maritime Studies as well as a major in Geography. She grew up on the east end of Long Island, New York, and spent most of her time at the beach which helped her to develop a deep passion and appreciation for the ocean at an early age. While at UConn she had the opportunity to work in the research department with Principal Investigators on budgets, contracts, and other important analytical duties. Through this she began to understand that research is much more involved than just time spent in the field and was very excited to gain practice in this area. During college she studied abroad in South Caicos focusing on marine resource research. While abroad, she participated in invasive lionfish collection and dissection, seagrass health and abundance surveys, data collection on Lobatus gigas inside versus outside Marine Protected Areas and much more. Her abroad experience left her feeling enriched not only by the skills she had gained but also by the profound gratitude she experienced from being able to learn about their own unique history, traditions, participate in celebrations, and develop relationships with community members. She now hopes to cultivate similar experiences with local communities in her travels moving forward. Additionally, she recently completed research on the relationship between fishing gear selectivity and total length of Epinephelus striatus caught by fishermen. She currently holds her PADI Rescue Diver certification and hopes to work her way to one day becoming a certified instructor. Melanie is looking forward to combining her enthusiasm for the ocean, education, research, and new opportunities with REEF!

Alyssa Fogel is from Columbus, Ohio. Her passion for marine science stems from her experiences at Forfar Field Station on Andros Island. At Forfar, she had the opportunity to snorkel a barrier reef for the first time, experience the wonder of blue holes, and learn about the island’s geology. Forfar is an environmental education and conservation organization that offers field studies, dive trips, and sailing trips, among other programs. She has returned to Forfar six times since her first trip in 2015, and hopes to continue to return each year for the annual volunteer week. Alyssa is currently studying environmental science, biology, and Spanish at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. She loves her school and her community, but is excited to relocate in the future to pursue a career in reef or coastal management. Travel has always been an important part of Alyssa’s life--she has had the opportunity to spend time snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef as well as experience Malawi, in Africa, as part of a travel course. She hopes to further her education by earning her master’s and doctoral degrees, with the goal of one day becoming a university professor. She will be earning her open water dive certification following her arrival to the REEF campus, and plans to become a dive instructor later in her career. Alyssa currently works at Goldfish Swim School, a children’s swim lesson facility, where she is passionate about teaching valuable water safety skills in a fun and supportive environment. With REEF, she is excited to grow the teaching skills she has learned at Goldfish through the education of the public regarding the myriad of threats facing reefs today. Outside of school and work, Alyssa is an avid distance runner. She has run seven half marathons and one full marathon to date, and hopes to blend her love for traveling and running in the future by competing in marathons at various top destinations around the globe.

Gabriela Tejeda graduated in May 2020 with a degree in biology from Boston College. While in college, she traveled to Key Largo and Mexico for courses and workshops in marine mammal veterinary medicine and conservation, instilling in her an eagerness to travel and further explore the world of conservation abroad. Gabby studied at the University of Melbourne in Australia, and worked at the Melbourne Zoo. Working in a zoo-based conservation organization exposed her to the business operations and ethics of conservation, which she is eager to further explore. During her senior year of college, Gabby interned with the New England Aquarium, where she worked to rescue and rehabilitate sick, injured, and cold-stunned marine mammals and sea turtles. After graduation, she was selected to participate in a highly competitive summer business management program through Boston College; this program motivated her to combine her passion for conservation and business, leading her to the Marine Conservation Internship with REEF. Gabby hopes that her degree from BC, in combination with her research and professional learning experiences, will allow her to bring a powerful firsthand perspective to REEF and beyond. After her internship, she intends to continue her education by pursuing a dual MBA and MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management.

Summer 2020

Stephanie Letourneau is from Frederick, Maryland and is a recent graduate of Juniata College, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science. She was introduced to the ocean at a young age during annual visits to Plum Island, MA and Lewes, DE, where she explored every nature center in her path. Her passion for science education began when she was an Environmental Education Intern at the Audubon Naturalist Society in Chevy Chase, MD. She has also interned at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, researched habitat quality and biotic health in streams in central Pennsylvania, and participated in a residential semester on Raystown Lake at Juniata’s Field Station studying aquatic ecology. Stephanie then dove into the marine sciences during a semester abroad in the Galapagos Islands, studying Marine Ecology with Universidad San Francisco de Quito, where she learned how to scuba dive and has been hooked ever since. As a recipient of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship, she completed an internship at the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia, where she created educational resources for teachers based on marsh stewardship research. While in college, Stephanie was a cheerleader, an Assistant Admission Counselor, a tour guide, President of the Unitarian Universalist club, Treasurer for her American Fisheries Society chapter, and a blogger. Realizing the ocean and diving is more than a mere interest, she is determined to pursue a career in which she can connect society with their local ecosystem and help our two worlds coexist together. She is excited to work with REEF to gain more experience in marine outreach, conservation, and advance her scuba diving skills!


Natasha McCluhan is currently studying marine science and coastal management at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. Much of her early childhood was spent living on the east coast of Florida which began her early fascination with the ocean. After moving to Atlanta for a spell, she began volunteering at the Georgia Aquarium during high school which led to an exciting internship with their dive operations department in 2017. Soon after, she took a gap year which led her to travel to Melbourne, Australia for a summer while she interned for an environmental nonprofit called Earthwatch. During this summer abroad she was able to travel up north to spend a few days diving the Great Barrier Reef. The following summer she worked as a camp counselor at SeaWorld Orlando where she got the opportunity to connect kids to the oceans by showcasing some amazing animal ambassadors. Most recently in 2020, she took a trip abroad with Eckerd College to explore Cuba’s Gardens of the Queens marine protected park where she participated in fish surveys while gaining experience in underwater photography. Natasha is particularly interested in marine conservation management, including issues like the shark fin trade, sustainable fisheries, and the establishment of marine protected areas, and she hopes to channel these passions to her summer work at REEF!


Emily Wheat grew up in Amelia Island, Florida. From a young age she enjoyed going to the beach, snorkeling, and looking for critters that would hide in the jetties. Her parents knew her love for the ocean and curiosity about the life found there would only grow stronger. At the age of 10 years old, Emily became a PADI certified scuba diver. Her love of the ocean and diving only grew more and more with each dive. From that point on Emily knew she wanted to be a marine biologist. In 2014, Emily was accepted to Florida Southern College and in 2017 graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Marine Biology. While there she had the opportunity to participate in a project testing the effects of herbicides on phytoplankton’s reproductive ability and oxygen production. Through her coursework there is where she found what really peaks her interests, research and work with marine invertebrates. After graduation, Emily took various jobs from on-board marine biologist for an ecotourism company, to a field instructor for a marine biology camp for school age children, 3rd - 12th grade. It was through these opportunities that Emily realized her passion was to educate those around her about the marine environment and how we can do our part to help protect our planet. She knew that she wanted to pursue a future in outreach and education, to continue to engage with others and share important information about our oceans. In the Fall of 2019, Emily began graduate school at the University of Miami where she is seeking to complete a Masters of Professional Science in Marine Conservation. It was there that Emily got to learn a lot about shark ecology and conservation, marine conservation outreach, and geographic information systems. After graduation she hopes to continue working in the Outreach realm focusing her efforts on educating children and promoting outdoor and hands on learning. Emily is also a PADI Nitrox diver and a Rescue diver. She has always hoped to incorporate her love of scuba diving into the work she does. Emily is excited to start at REEF and continue blending her passion of diving with educating others about the wonders of the ocean.


Spring 2020

Maddi Piascik is a marine enthusiast from Richmond, Virginia. She graduated from the University of South Carolina in December 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science and a minor in Advertising and Public Relations. Her love for the ocean uniquely blends with her passion for design. While in college, she conducted an independent research study focused on phytoplankton. She also served as the Design Director for USC’s Dance Marathon, the largest on campus student organization, for two consecutive years. During her senior year, she merged her two passions by planning and executing a week of sustainability in collaboration with Student Government engaging those on campus and throughout the community with interactive exhibits highlighting various environmental issues. In May 2019, she embarked on a six-month journey around the globe. Her adventures started in Sodwana Bay, South Africa where she spent a month scuba diving as a Marine Conservation WTSA Volunteer. There, she gained her advanced open water and nitrox scuba certification. She then continued to explore the world’s oceans by spending a study abroad semester in Australia at James Cook University. Maddi’s travels instilled a passion in her to spread awareness about the many threats facing our oceans. She hopes that her creative communication skills and underwater experience will enable her to effectively conserve the marine environments worldwide by inspiring the public.

Amelia Welch started her professional career at the University of Wisconsin Stout. Her interests in graphic design led her to pursue a Cross-Media Graphics Management major, where she soon started to feel as if there was something more she could be doing in life. She then studied abroad in San José, Costa Rica, ate endless amounts of rice and beans and expanded her Spanish vocabulary on the daily. Along with Spanish classes, she was also able to take ecological photography and an environmental and social conversations class, where she learned about pressing issues like climate change, coral bleaching, shark finning, and more. Costa Rica opened her eyes to the amazing biodiversity and beauty of our natural environment. Feeling extremely compelled by what she had learned, she soon decided that she must devote the rest of her life to working on these environmental issues that threaten life on our planet. Returning home she used this ambition to change her major to Sustainable Management and pursued a career in the environmental sector. She spent a term serving for the Conservation Corps of Minnesota, which allowed her to learn about how to effectively manage and maintain our natural resources and parks across the twin cities, fighting invasive species, restoring prairies, and planting new tree species better acclimated to our changing climate. Spending many vacations scuba diving in Mexico with her dad, she is extremely amazed by the beautiful world below sea and knows how important its salvation is. She truly cannot wait to start learning more about marine conservation and give her all in interning with REEF.

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.

Fall 2019

Andrew Ibarra graduated from Florida State University in the spring of 2019 with a major in Environmental Science and Minors in Mathematics and Biology. He grew up in South Florida, but his interest in the marine sciences became apparent to him when he took an AICE Marine Science course senior year of high school. However, always having been good at math and science, he enrolled as a Mechanical Engineering major with the goal of designing submarines and ROVs for marine biologists to study the ocean with. As he gained more experiences throughout college, he quickly changed his mind and decided he wanted to be the scientist studying and protecting the seas. The past 2 years Andrew has had several experiences with marine biology that has given him a passion for conservation, including an internship with Gulf Specimen Marine Lab in Panacea, FL, assisted with graduate research on gastropod reproduction and ecology, and has been involved in conducting nighttime sea turtle surveys the past two summers on St. George Island, FL. With REEF, Andrew is excited to volunteer with other local organizations, continue broadening his experiences, and taking part in REEF’s mission of engaging with the public about conservational awareness and the importance of biodiversity in the ocean. Andrew is adventurous and enjoys practically all outdoor activities, especially ones involving the water such as kayaking and SCUBA Diving. He hopes to achieve an Advanced Open Water certification while working with REEF. He is a big baseball and basketball fan and loves playing sports like volleyball, racquetball and Quidditch (yes it’s a real sport, look it up on YouTube it’s awesome!), which he played all 4 years while at FSU.

Dylan Heppell is a second year student at Oregon State University and is studying Environmental Sciences. He is not an official intern, but is helping out with the REEF invasive species project for a month before he has to go back to school. Dylan has been fascinated with the ocean for his entire life and has been encouraged by his parents, Dr. Selina Heppell and Dr. Scott Heppell, both professors in the Fisheries and Wildlife Department at OSU, to pursue his passion. Dylan got his open water dive certification in the summer of 2017 and has been lucky enough to dive in some of the most amazing places in the world including the Galapagos, Palau, and the Gardens of the Queen in Cuba. He is now an advanced open water diver with a Nitrox certification and hopes to continue on to become a scientific diver through OSU. During the month he is with reef, he will be assisting with the lionfish dives, going over video of lionfish and looking for interesting behaviors associated with sound-producing instruments, and finally, he will assist with the annual Upper Keys Lionfish Derby. He hopes that once he is finished with school, he can come back to the keys for an official internship with REEF to fully explore what the organization has to offer.



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.

Summer 2019

Stacey Henderson grew up in a small town in Vermont but has always had an interest in the ocean. He graduated Wheaton College in Massachusetts in 2015 earning a BA in Biology and minoring in Animal Behavior. He became a certified diver in 2016 completing a divemaster internship on the island of Roatan in Honduras. During his internship he had the opportunity to create coral nurseries and become a certified Lionfish hunter. Having a passion for the ocean, and a love for diving, he soon became a PADI Open Water SCUBA Instructor. He began traveling and working as a Dive instructor teaching in Honduras, Malaysia, and Thailand. When he’s not teaching, Stacey enjoys underwater photography and diving in new places. On land, he enjoys hiking, fishing, and hanging out with his dogs. Stacey believes REEF’s mission to protect biodiversity and all ocean life by engaging and inspiring the public are important parts of the future of coral reefs. He is very excited to be working with REEF this summer! He is hoping to build on the skills he has acquired and learn some new ones along the way.



Kate Dremluk grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, and she has spent most of her summers on the Jersey shore swimming, fishing, and exploring the beach and nearby marshes. She graduated early from the University of Miami in December 2018 with dual majors in Marine Science and Biology and a minor in Chemistry. While in school, Kate conducted research in the Ocean Acidification Lab and developed her senior thesis on the effects of acidification on staghorn coral. She also spent a semester in the Galapagos Islands doing field research, in addition to hiking volcanoes, swimming with sea lions, and even snorkeling alongside a whale shark. Outside of school, Kate has had the opportunity to share her knowledge and admiration for the environment with others through her involvement in teaching, community outreach programs, and volunteer positions. Her research projects have greatly contributed to her fascination of the complex effects of human activity on the environment, and Kate plans to attend law school with the ultimate goal of protecting the integrity of marine and freshwater environments. In the meantime, she’s excited to become involved in REEF’s conservation programs and take an active role in protecting Florida’s marine environment, while sharing her love of conservation, research, and education with others. 


Matthew Hall grew up in Mason, Ohio—a city which promotes mostly engineering and physics education. Granted, most of our vacations were near the ocean (more specifically, his favorite city—Charleston, South Carolina!), but he was always a land-dweller. He had never thought about a career in the marine sciences until his parents got him the gift of a lifetime: a certificate that paid for an Open Water Diver certification. Before he got certified, he never thought he would enjoy the ocean as much as he did. The beauty of it absolutely captivates him everywhere he goes. Matthew wants to share this with as many people as possible, now and in the future. This has driven him to purse an education in the marine sciences and conservation. Matthew went into The Ohio State University as an astrophysics major, but something about it just felt off. The more he learned about the work, the more Matthew learned that he enjoyed the ideas, not the idea of working as an astrophysicist. After a long process of visits to his advisor and career counseling, Matthew’s love of the ocean really showed through it all. Now, he has just finished his second year at Ohio State, but his first year as a biology major pursuing the marine sciences. Matthew is ecstatic to have the opportunity to come to Key Largo and intern with REEF.



Ben Farmer graduated in May 2019 with a degree in Biology from the University of Kentucky. Ben has been fascinated by the underwater world from a young age and earned his open water dive certification in 2017. Vacationing to beaches in South Carolina and New Hampshire, he has long found the wetlands and intertidal communities fascinating. Back home in Kentucky, Ben explored everything from lakes to small creeks and cave systems. Yearning to return to the ocean, Ben pursued a semester of education abroad on the Caribbean island of Bonaire during his junior year. The CIEE Research Station was where Ben gained an intense appreciation for coral reef ecology, scuba diving, and scientific communication, as well as the incredible connection between the staff, students, and local community stoked Ben’s interest in ground level conservation efforts. Upon returning to the University of Kentucky, Ben pursued an internship with the International Center, where he was able to leverage his unique experience abroad to help prospective students find their own programs. Ben continued to hone his research and presentation skills as well, with projects spanning Marine Protected Area effectiveness in the Indo-Pacific, the biology of karst water systems, and the parental behavior of sparrows. The REEF Marine Conservation Internship is an exhilarating next step for Ben providing a chance to become a better communicator and ambassador for the underwater world. Ben believes that ground-level support for environmental initiatives is vital to concerted preservation of delicate marine ecosystems. As an intern with REEF, Ben is in the perfect position to contribute to this initiative.

Spring 2019

Lara Noren first fell in love with the ocean when she was growing up in Minnesota and went to visit the Shedd aquarium in Chicago. Deciding to follow this love of the ocean in her collegiate career, she moved to North Carolina to pursue a degree in Marine Biology, with a Concentration in Conservation, at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). While attending UNCW, Lara was involved with a research group studying Caribbean coral reef mesophotic ecosystems. This experience lead Lara to a deep love and appreciation for the fragility of coral reef ecosystems, which evolved into a determination to positively impact marine conservation initiatives in coral reef regions. In addition to Lara’s interests in coral reef ecology, she is also interested in working with environmental non-profits. She gained experience in the non-profit field through a Plastic Ocean Project, where she conducted plastic marine debris research and outreach programs. She also interned for the past four months at the Bald Head Island Conservancy, a non-profit centered in the preservation, education, and conservation of barrier island ecosystems. This spring she is looking forward to working with the public through outreach programs, working with another environmental non-profit, and hopes to gain more experience in SCUBA diving and marine conservation! 




Evan Wilson grew up in Sarasota, FL, where time spent on and in the water has developed his passion for the marine environment. Since becoming a certified diver in 2009 he has seen the complexities of marine ecosystems and the need for conservation efforts. With a degree in Business Finance from the University of South Florida, he hopes to provide a unique perspective to marine research and conservation. Since graduating, Evan has spent much of his time on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Working as a guide for an Alaskan eco-tourism company, he has further sparked his interest in the natural world, and sharing all that it has to offer through environmental education. As an Intern with the Central Caribbean Marine Institute on Little Cayman, he had his first formal experience working for a marine research organization. During his time at CCMI, Evan was involved with a variety of projects including the tracking of invasive lionfish, coral restoration, and the filming of a live underwater lesson broadcasted to students throughout the Cayman Islands. Evan is excited for the opportunities in community outreach, and honing his marine science skills during his internship with REEF.





Madalyn Mussey, more commonly known as "Moose" is originally from Wisconsin, but attended the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO. She recently graduated in December 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism and an emphasis area in Natural Resource Management. Moose considers herself as very adventurous and outgoing. Her hobbies include snowboarding, bird watching, scuba diving, horseback riding, and even playing rugby. She has always been passionate when it comes to conservation, but her love for the water grew when she participated in a semester-long SCUBA Theory course through her university where she attained her Advanced OW and soon after, her Advanced Rescue Certification. After thoroughly enjoying a 3-week study abroad to Thailand, where she spent a large portion of her time restoring coral reefs and recording fish species, she knew she had picked the right career field. She has had many opportunities to share her passion of marine conservation with others at places like SeaWorld Orlando and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, reaching out and educating kids about the natural world around us. She has spent a lot of time as an educator and now is thrilled to have an internship with REEF where her interest and experience with hands-on marine conservation work will be valued.