Summer 2024

  Annika Olson is a Northern California resident pursuing her Bachelors of Science in Environmental and Ocean Science with minors in Biology and Spanish at the University of San Diego. Her interest in the ocean and climate change began in her high school science classes and has only grown since obtaining her Scuba certification and exploring the San Diego ecosystems. Last summer she took a class through School for Field Studies in Turks and Caicos where she studied the effectiveness of marine protected areas on the species Aliger gigas (Queen Conch). Annika also currently works in a lab at USD studying soil composition of a local canyon after fire destruction, analyzing DNA found in the samples to identify the nitrogen fixing organisms. Annika is thrilled to be exploring the work of marine conservations nonprofits with REEF this summer and hopes to have a lasting impact while there. 




Sydney Brock is originally from Marietta, GA, and is currently earning her BS degree in Environmental Science from the University of South Carolina, with minors in Marine Science and Spanish. Sydney is passionate about environmental education and sustainable tourism, and she hopes topursue a career in science outreach. She has studied abroad several times in her undergraduate career, including trips to South America, the Caribbean, and Europe. She is certified as both a PADI SCUBA diver and an IYT International sailor. On campus, Sydney works as a lifeguard and a research assistant on multiple renewable energy projects. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, being outdoors, watching movies, and hanging out with friends. She is excited to work with REEF and share her love for conservation, education, and ecotourism.


 Diana Phillips is REEF's 2024 Our World Underwater Scholarship Society intern. She grew up spending all her spare time in the ocean nursing a love for jellyfish. As a teenager she was a part of SCUBAnauts International participating in scientific research and conservation diving across the country and internationally. In May 2024, she graduated from Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale Florida with a BS in Marine Biology, minoring in research, pre-health, and GIS. During her undergraduate years she researched deep sea jellyfish utilizing underwater robots. She won 2nd place forher research at the Life Sciences South Florida (LSSF) symposium and presented about the applications of GIS in deep sea research at 2024 American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) Geospatial Workshop. She has a passion for engaging the public in citizen science and conservation. In her free time, she enjoys reading fiction, SCUBA diving, photography, hiking, spelunking, camping, and playing ice hockey.


Jasmine Natalie Mateo graduated in May 2024 from Stony Brook University with a biology with a specialization in ecology and evolution. She grew up in the Bronx and has always been fascinated with animals and the environment. Through immersing herself in nature and educating people on environmental issues, she has developed a great passion for conservation and environmental education. As a resident assistant, she has facilitated programs about conservation and ecology, and found joy educating residents on topics she was passionate about. She volunteered for the Coastal Steward Long Island, an organization with a mission to protect and restore coastal environments. She assisted in a shellfish restoration program andaided in growing, cleaning, and releasing oysters. Additionally, she created newsletters for Coastal Steward Long Island, through which she communicated the importance of oyster restoration and conservation to a diverse audience. She is extremely excited to learn more about marine conservation and gain skills in environmental education at REEF!



Spring 2024

Nick Wilson graduated in December 2023 from Michigan State University with a B.S. in environmental science and management. Nick embarked on an immersive journey into the world of marine ecosystems, particularly in estuaries of the Indian Ocean. During his time in Mozambique, Nick played a pivotal role in environmental stewardship by participating in beach cleanups, witnessing firsthand the detrimental impact of plastics and human-generated waste on marine environments. Through snorkeling adventures, Nick identified and logged organisms thriving in tropical coral reefs, sea grass areas, and mangroves. Beyond fieldwork, Nick actively engaged in research and conservation efforts, attending lectures, and collaborating with local experts to deepen his understanding of marine species' behavior and ecology. One of Nick's notable skills lies in researching marine megafauna like whale sharks. This dedication included conducting plankton tows, concentrating organisms for later analysis, and mastering plankton identification and subsampling techniques to determine density and composition. He also gained his PADI open water diver certification. Beyond the scientific realm, Nick embraced the opportunity to travel and immerse themselves in different cultures, showcasing his ability to adapt to new conditions and actively participate in community activities. Nick is profoundly grateful and excited to start this new path at REEF this spring.




Ela Gokcigdem recently graduated from Babson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She studied environmental economics with a focus on the blue economy. Based on her experiences growing up in her family's hometown of Avsa, Turkey, she has dedicated her career to working on healing the intersections of ocean health and economic development. Passionate about global ocean governance, Ela is thrilled to have the opportunity to focus on grassroots conservation efforts, as one can not be achieved without the other. As the Representative of Turkey on Sustainable Ocean Alliance's Youth Policy Advisory Council, Ela has been able to attend and present her work at various United Nations Conferences such as the UN Ocean Conference and COP27/COP28. Ela currently has a climate start-up that is working on converting the endemic algal blooms of the Mediterranean Sea Basin into an alternative to fertilizer.







Sydney Houck will be a graduate of the University of Mary Washington as of December 2023 with a B.S. in conservation biology. During her time as an undergraduate, she completed a semester at the reputable Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation (SMSC) located at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, VA. Sydney’s primary interest lies with the application of geospatial analysis in marine research and pinniped conservation. Despite having grown up in a small town in central Virginia, she always loved the ocean and the organisms that call it home. Recently, she has been delving into the concept of encouraging public interest in conservation and sharing her research with members of the public. Sydney is elated to be a part of the REEF team and is excited to expand her conservation skills by taking part in the education and outreach programs. 







Elliot Tong is a rising junior at Northeastern University in Boston and is currently pursuing a B.S. in marine biology. He grew up in the Bay Area, California and has always loved the ocean. His constant visits to local aquariums and strive to learn more bolstered his interests in the field. He has helped raised over 10,000 dollars for the Oakland Zoo during the Covid-19 Pandemic to support their supplies when they were forced to close to the public. He also earned his PADI open water dive certification over the summer of 2023 and hopes to pursue more in the dive world. He is excited to be a part of the REEF team and hopes to expand his skills and learn more through REEF.

Fall 2023

Lily Fife Schaeufele graduated from Smith College in January 2023, with a B.A. in world literature and a minor in marine science. Her love of the ocean began in the desert. On trips to visit her grandfather in Colorado, Lily’s family visited surrounding National and Historic Parks. While hiking in Chaco Canyon, she first saw evidence of ancient marine life from the Western Interior Seaway, which once stretched from Texas to Montana, and suddenly the desert landscape had thousands of secret histories to tell. As a result, Lily’s curiosity of the ocean was cemented. She pursued interdisciplinary approaches to environmental and marine science in high school and college. She discovered her love of tidepooling while attending the College of the Atlantic Acadia National Park Summer Program. Lily also attended the Williams Mystic Maritime Studies Program, where she helped crew the SS Corwith Cramer, a 134-foot steel brigantine research vessel. She then spent a semester in Iceland, studying climate change and Arctic ecosystems. While living in a small Icelandic fishing town populated by local artists and a maritime graduate program, Lily created an interactive exhibit as a culmination of her semester study on climate narratives.


Noah Herren is a rising junior at Northeastern University, where he is pursuing a B.S. in marine biology. He grew up in Howard County, MD, near the Chesapeake Bay, where he first discovered his interest in marine conservation through oyster replenishing efforts hosted by the county. Noah went on to work with the Howard County Conservancy, where he found a new passion in environmental education by leading environmental education camps on all topics, from local ecosystems and watersheds to invasive species PSAs. In university, Noah has undertaken a large variety of projects, from analyzing fish genomes to pinpoint the sources of fish fraud in Boston, to calculating trends in algae on the shells of sea turtles. He also earned his open water SCUBA certification in college, and discovered his love for diving. He is thrilled to be in Key Largo this fall and to be a part of the REEF team!




Noa Parks graduated from Mississippi College in May 2023 with a B.S. in biology. She grew up around Memphis, TN, and has always loved the outdoors and science. She developed an infatuation with the ocean early in her life, and knew from a young age she wanted to pursue a career researching, exploring, and conserving it and its inhabitants. Noa has been a member of the Memphis Archaeological Geological Society since she was a little girl, and had numerous opportunities to participate in geological field trips. She and her family also went camping, hiking, and traveled to the coast whenever possible. These experiences shaped her into the aspiring marine scientist she is today. Her passion grew during college when she took marine biology and zoology courses, which granted her lots of field and lab experiences, including participating in a marine research cruise off of the Mississippi coast. During her senior year, Noa was a part of Dr. Frank Hensley’s ecology research team, which focused on the social behaviors of reptiles. Noa loves to be challenged, and sports have always played a large role in her life. She played volleyball throughout high school and continued her athletic career at the collegiate level. After she retired her jersey, she took up running and completed her first full marathon in January 2023. Noa loves to travel, hike, read, draw, and watch Friends. She also volunteers at a local food pantry and has a passion for serving others, which is one of the many reasons why REEF stood out to her. She recently completed her SCUBA diving coursework and looks forward to advancing her dive skills in Key Largo. Noa is excited to start working at REEF where she hopes to improve her skill set, share her passion with others, and make lifelong friendships.

Asavari Shanker is a summer 2023 graduate from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), with a degree in marine biology. She grew up in Memphis, TN, and always had a love for water inspired by her parents. She realized her passion for marine conservation after snorkeling and researching corals throughout the Florida Keys. At UAB, she joined an undergraduate research lab and studied the biology and conservation of the Kemps-Ridley sea turtle. Additionally, she served as the grant writer for the Daniel Payne Foundation and worked as a student representative for the Alabama Higher Education Partnership. In the future, Asavari hopes to go to law school and work in the field of environmental conservation. Her love for policy and advocacy comes from her time as Chief Justice of UAB’s Student Government Association. She is thrilled to be working at REEF, and hopes to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the field of marine biology!


Summer 2023

Brian Chansky is a rising senior at the University of Delaware where he is pursuing a B.S. in marine science with a marine biology concentration, as well as a minor in organizational and community leadership. Between watching Shark Week every year and spending summers at the beaches of New England, Brian fell in love with the ocean and marine life from a young age. His interest in marine conservation and education efforts was fostered through his classes and involvement in the Blue Hen Leadership Program (BHLP), where he was exposed to nonprofit management and leadership development. He has served as an intern for the Brandywine Zoo and Spur Impact, working on new program development. He also spent two years as a BHLP Peer Mentor and workshop leader for first-year students. Brian’s passion for the ocean grew after spending the summer of 2022 earning his PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certification and sailing across the Atlantic aboard a training yacht on SeaMester. He started off 2023 by volunteering in Puerto Rico on an alternative break service program focused on environmental justice. When not busy with school, Brian enjoys outdoor activities like hiking or beach volleyball. He is excited to combine his interests in marine conservation and nonprofit work with the rest of the REEF team this summer!


Carolyn Corley graduated in May 2023 from the University of San Diego with a B.S. in environmental and ocean sciences on the marine ecology pathway, and minors in biology and environmental studies and policy. She grew up in Simi Valley, CA, and has always loved being around the ocean. As a scuba diver, competitive swimmer, lifeguard, swim instructor, and marine biology student, Carolyn's life has always revolved around being in the water. In July 2021, she traveled to Utila, Honduras to intern for the Whale Shark & Oceanic Research Center where she gained experience working for an NGO, learned to ID and monitor 250+ species of tropical fish and coral reefs, and helped with invasive lionfish removal and data collection. The following summer she returned to Utila to earn her PADI Divemaster certification at the Bay Islands College of Diving. Over the past two years, she completed and defended her Capstone and Honors Thesis Research on invasive lionfish populations in Utila and the community’s involvement in lionfish containment efforts. As the Outreach Coordinator and Co-President for the Surfrider Foundation USD Club, she has planned beach cleanups and education events to raise awareness of coastal preservation and reduce single-use plastics. Carolyn is passionate about marine conservation, community outreach, and education, and she is excited to continue to pursue these passions with REEF this summer.


Shalini Thinakaran is a rising junior at Vanderbilt University, majoring in Latin American studies and computer science. Her interest in marine conservation comes from growing up loving the beach and having the opportunity to become PADI Open Water Scuba certified through a scholarship program at 13. Shalini developed an interest in computer science after realizing that it could help her achieve her lifelong goal of working to break down socio-economic barriers and other forms of oppression. Through her internship at REEF, she hopes to learn about practices within marine conservation and take those skills to underrepresented communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental issues. Outside of school, she is an organizer with the Tennessee Student Solidarity Network and helps organize her community in Nashville, specifically Latinx students and workers. Shalini works for the Power, Resistance & Identity in STEM Education (PRISM) research lab at Vanderbilt where she analyzes the effects of being Latinx in college mathematics. She also works for Dr. Bjork-James' Ultimate Consequences project doing data analysis on the deaths that occurred as a result of political violence in Bolivia. She is excited about the opportunity to be an intern at REEF and looks forward to meeting the REEF community!


Spring 2023

Ben Chester graduated from Connecticut College in May 2022, with a B.A. in biochemistry and a double minor in computer science and statistics. He also competed for four years as a part of his college’s varsity crew team. Growing up, Ben spent summers in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and always had an interest in and love for ocean life. He decided to enter the marine conservation field after completing undergraduate research in the summer of 2021. Ben was part of the initial creation and implementation of artificial reef balls for the Connecticut College shoreline. He also traveled to the British Virgin Islands to engage in several conservation initiatives, and received his PADI open water certification. He participated in coral restoration projects, focusing on applying antibiotics to corals suffering from Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. He also assisted with the mangrove restoration initiative run by the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College in Tortola. Ben is excited to start his marine conservation career at REEF and jump headfirst into new opportunities.



Madasen Kasprisin graduated from the University of South Carolina with a B.S.E. in chemical engineering. Her love for the ocean began at a very young age, as her parents often brought her and her siblings to the beach and to aquariums. Her favorites growing up were the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and Mote in Sarasota, FL. While she was in high school, her dad took her to the Shedd and they had a behind-the-scenes experience where they saw animal training, feeding, rehabilitation, and even a fish hospital! This cemented Madasen’s interest and love for the ocean and all of its creatures. During college, when there was an open spot in her schedule, she chose to take marine science classes where she learned the basics of the ocean environment. She also did a short study abroad in the Galápagos Islands where she took another marine science course focused on evolution of the species there and how climate change was impacting those species and the coast. In college she had internships related to her major, but always kept her interest in marine science and conservation in mind. In the future, she hopes to combine her degree with her passion for the ocean to create new solutions and technologies for challenges in ocean conservation. When Madasen is not studying or working, she loves to be outside, run, cook for her friends, and go to the beach. She cannot wait to come to Key Largo and contribute to the REEF team!



Emma Mendez grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, and knew early on that she wanted to pursue marine biology. In May 2022, she graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder with a B.A. in ecology & evolutionary biology and environmental studies, and a certificate in public health. During school, her passion for marine conservation intensified during a field studies course focused on oceanography and marine ecology. The course allowed Emma to pursue an independent study project on sea turtles at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, FL. During her sophomore year of college, Emma worked as a learning assistant in Principles of Ecology, where she learned the basics of scientific pedagogy. This opportunity fueled her love of teaching science. The following summer, Emma moved to Sarasota to complete a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates internship at Mote Marine Laboratory where she worked in the Stranding Investigations Program. This was one of the most impactful experiences of her undergraduate career, and solidified her future career goal of working in the world of marine conservation. During her junior year, Emma realized she was also interested in how environmental impacts alter large-scale ecosystem health, so she added a certificate in public health. Emma is excited to join the REEF team and looks forward to strengthening her scientific communication skills by working with local communities in the Florida Keys and helping to support citizen scientists.

Fall 2022

Brooke Enright graduated from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo with a B.S. in biology and a certificate in the marine option program. During her undergrad, Brooke worked on a research project analyzing sewage pollution and water quality along local beaches in Hilo, HI. During university, Brooke worked on the Sea Turtle Response Team where she responded to calls from the public about endangered and hurt sea turtles. Brooke loves spending her time in the water and going to the beach, swimming, snorkeling, freediving, boating, and scuba diving. Brooke is a certified PADI Rescue Diver and Sci-Diver. As a Sci-Diver, Brooke conducted research on analyzing fish predation prevalence on coral species in Hilo, HI. During this project, she surveyed over 3,000 corals! Brooke is excited to visit Key Largo for the first time and to finally get to spend some time in the Atlantic Ocean. She is excited to embark on this new adventure and gain new experiences with REEF!




Alexis Kuhre Haag graduated in April 2022 with a bachelor's degree in specialized studies, combining environmental studies and sociology, and a geography minor from Ohio University. She was raised in a family of environmental activists, but her interest in the environment was instilled by attending Watershed Camp for seven years as a child. She also served as junior counselor for kids ages 6-11, planning activities and field trips to help them learn about the world around them. Her interest in the environment grew after visiting Forfar Field Station on Andros Island in The Bahamas, where. she earned certifications like Wilderness First Aid, Sea Kayaking, PADI Advanced Open Water, and Leave No Trace. She has also served as the Ohio University Student Director for the Sugar Bush Foundation, an organization that helps the local community and Ohio University by funding projects to promote sustainable development in Southeastern Ohio and Appalachia. Most recently, she worked with Zero Waste Event Productions, helping to divert waste at large festivals and events in the region. She also worked with Ohio University’s Office of Sustainability, where she shared information about how students can become involved with Sustainability Ambassadors. When she isn’t working, she enjoys scuba diving, kayaking, reading, and nerding out over all things Lord of the Rings and Marvel. She is so excited to be working with REEF and cannot wait to see what is in store for her here!


Natalie Patetta graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she earned a B.S. in environmental science and a minor in marine science. Her passion for the ocean began at six years old, after her parents took her and her sisters to the Chicago Aquarium. They attended the dolphin show and she was picked to interact and play with the animals. Natalie was determined to be a dolphin vet after that, but her interests shifted to marine conservation in high school. As a freshman at UNC, she became a member of the Castillo Coral Lab. She examined the impacts of microplastics on coral tissues and quickly fell in love with laboratory research and corals. She followed her interests through a summer study abroad experience with SEA Semester, where she became a crewmate on the SSV Robert C. Seamans. Natalie learned how to sail the 134-foot sailboat, and for six weeks, she traveled around the equatorial Pacific and through the Phoenix Islands Marine Protected Area. When she was not sail-handling or conducting hands-on research about island mass effect, she was snorkeling around the atolls and witnessing the beauty and magnificence of protected coral reefs. Natalie wanted to continue conducting marine research, so she spent her final fall semester at UNC’s Institute of Marine Science. She carried out independent research with the Nye Lab, focusing on the upper and lower temperature limits of North Carolina fish species. Natalie was able to turn the research into a senior honors thesis. Her time spent in the various labs and environments has made her realize she has a wide range of passions, all revolving around marine ecology. Outside of school, Natalie loves to read, travel, swim, scuba dive, pilot drones, and create art. She is currently working on earning her PADI Rescue Diver certification and is thrilled to start exploring the reefs around Key Largo. Natalie is really excited to be a REEF intern and cannot wait to see what adventures are in store.

Nick Robie graduated from Butler University in May 2022 with a B.S. in biology and Spanish. He is from Columbus, Ohio, and is an American-Belgian dual citizen. Nick cemented his love for marine biology and conservation after taking a trip to the British Virgin Islands with his biology teacher in high school, and despite growing up in the Midwest, he always felt called to the ocean. Later in college, Nick’s interests developed in STEM, the humanities, and the way that these two distinct approaches to knowledge inform one another. To pursue these interests, he founded and now serves as editor-in-chief for a multidisciplinary publishing platform called The University Journal. Nick was also heavily involved in research during his undergraduate career. He was awarded a Hendricks fellowship and grant money for urban pollinator research that he designed. Nick also loves facilitating learning and growth in others. He has taught marine biology, environmental science, genetics, chemistry, and physics in high school and undergraduate settings. Above all, Nick simply loves to learn and is excited to do so during his time at REEF.

Summer 2022

Grace Davis graduated in May 2021 from Hollins University with a B.A. in Business and minor in Psychology. She has always had a love of the outdoors, environment, and the oceans, so she found ways to mix her degrees and passions during school. While in college, she was a trip leader in the Hollins Outdoor Program, where she enjoyed taking fellow students on a variety of outdoor adventures like hiking, paddling, and rock climbing. Through this program she gained leadership skills as well as outdoor safety skills and knowledge. She also completed the NOLS Wilderness First Responder course and earned the Hollins Outdoor Leadership Certificate. In her sophomore year, she hosted a screening of a marine conservation documentary film, called BLUE, hoping to spark interest in environmental conservation in her peers and the community at large. Grace’s love for the oceans started young from hearing stories of her parents dive trips and is now fueled by her own NAUI Open Water and Advanced Open Water Scuba certifications. She loves diving and will take any chance to hop in the water! Grace believes the health of our oceans lies in the accountability of big businesses and industries and creating environmental policy that focuses on lasting protective measures for our oceans. She hopes to use her business background for the nonprofit work at REEF. Grace is excited to be a REEF intern and to learn more about marine life, specifically the invasive lionfish! She also loves the teaching and community outreach components at REEF and can’t wait to get started!


Cayla Bernstein is a Fall 2021 graduate from the University of South Florida with a B.S. in Social & Behavioral Health Sciences and a minor in Environmental Policy. Though she was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Cayla spent many summers with family in Barbados. She was amazed by the clear blue beaches that were teeming with life; it was a stark contrast from the murky green waters she was used to. When she was younger she participated in Project Citizen where she rallied to implement a recycling program in her school. From there, her love for the environment grew, and she became driven toward a sustainable future. In college, Cayla focused primarily on children’s behavioral health, public health, and environmental science, as well as the overlap between the three. She conducted research on the issue of eutrophication of Florida waters, namely from fertilizer runoff and wastewater mismanagement, and its effect on quality of life. Between semesters, Cayla was an Orientation Leader on campus and a volunteer at the Humane Society. Recently she has worked on installing oyster shell bags in Tampa Bay to create valuable habitat and slow erosion along the shoreline. These experiences developed her skills as an educator and strengthened her connection to the natural world. She came to realize the role she could play to foster the next generation of environmentalists. Cayla is a foodie in her free time and enjoys roller skating, snorkeling, fishing, and kayaking, and she is excited for the opportunities that await at REEF!


Alyssa Estrada graduated from the University of New Haven, where she earned a B.S in Marine Affairs and a minor in Legal Studies. She grew up in the Bronx, New York, not being very exposed to environmental issues or marine science, and became intrigued with marine biology when she transferred to high school in New Jersey. While at UNH, she developed an interest in coastal management and resource sustainability and decided to change her major from marine biology to marine affairs and legal studies, to further understand marine policy and regulation. At the University of New Haven, Alyssa was a Resident Assistant for the Marine Biology Enhanced Learning Community. She served as a mentor for first year marine biology, marine affairs, and environmental science students; helping to provide guidance and inspire passion in their studies. Alyssa hosted several field trips and educational programs with residents in or out of the field. For the past year and a half, she was working on her senior thesis, which focused on determining factors that influence college students’ knowledge, awareness, and perception of climate change. In her research, she realized that many students have not been exposed to marine science or environmental issues prior to college and it impacted an individuals’ awareness and perceptions of climate change. This led Alyssa to gain an interest in marine education, community outreach and marine conservation; and eventually to REEF. In the future, Alyssa hopes to attend graduate school and potentially relocate for a career opportunity in marine conservation, resource management, or marine education. Alyssa is ecstatic to be part of the REEF team and is looking forward to gaining more experience in ocean conservation, community engagement, and marine education.


Lauren Bulik is a undergraduate at Clemson University in South Carolina, where she is pursuing a dual Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental and Natural Resources and Biological Sciences. Originally from Long Island, New York, she always loved the ocean growing up so close to the beach, and she realized she wanted to focus her career studying and exploring it after completing an independent research project on microplastic pollution in her local bay. At Clemson, she joined a research lab, Conservation of Marine Resources, where she researches human impact on marine communities, specifically marine debris. In the summer of 2021, Lauren had the opportunity to conduct coral reef surveys in the Florida Keys with her lab using scientific diving. She is now a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver, along with a Dive Against Debris specialty. Lauren is also passionate about sharing knowledge with the public, to encourage community efforts in marine conservation. She has participated in educating children on marine ecosystems and ocean health through an immersive STEM and arts program with South Carolina elementary schoolers, and volunteered as a Discovery Guide with the New York Aquarium. She is thrilled to be part of the REEF team to continue doing on this journey!

Spring 2022

Leslie Nguyen is a recent graduate from San Jose State University where she earned a B.S. in Marine Biology. While in college, Leslie became a member of the Marine Biology laboratory where she began exploring the biodiversity and ecology of the crevices within the tropical coral reefs of Maui. She also volunteered in Animal Husbandry at the Marine Mammal Center where she had the opportunity to closely interact with and care for many different marine mammals like elephant seals and California sea lions. At the Marine Mammal Center, Leslie developed a huge passion for marine conservation and realized that she would love to continue exploring the field in every way. Leslie has always been in love with the ocean and is so excited to share her passion through education and community outreach with REEF. She hopes to eventually apply the skills she develops with REEF and future opportunities to build her own nonprofit organization that is aimed towards inspiring, educating, and supporting the next generation of minorities in marine biology and conservation.




Sarah Siddoway is from Salt Lake City, Utah and is a recent graduate of the University of Utah with a B.S. in biology. Though she grew up in a landlocked state, she’s always been fascinated by the ocean. She developed a love for environmental outreach working as an eco-explorer for Utah’s Hogle Zoo for two summers. She then interned with BioEYES, where she got to teach science lessons to children in underserved schools. During school she worked on a research project studying bird-window collisions on campus, which introduced her to the field of citizen science. After graduating, she continued to volunteer for many local citizen science projects, including monitoring kestrel boxes, conducting raptor surveys, and creating beaver dam analogs. Sarah is passionate about marine conservation and hopes to one day work for a marine conservation nonprofit organization doing either research or outreach. She is excited to get to combine her passions for citizen science, environmental outreach, and conservation during her internship with REEF.

Fall 2021

Lauryn Magno is a spring 2021 graduate from Oakland University with a BA in International Relations and a music minor. While she spent the majority of her life in Michigan, far from the ocean, respect for both the land and the sea was instilled in her from a young age. Her values of good environmental stewardship never ceased during college and turned towards the social sciences in the form of environmental policy. Exploring this policy area, Lauryn worked in several different offices, including two summers on Capitol Hill and a year in the U.S. Embassy’s Pacific ESTH Hub in Suva, Fiji, which is where her interests in marine conservation and policy began. During her ESTH Internship, she developed a strong interest in continuing to learn about human society’s interaction with the marine environment and its resources and went on to complete research on international deep sea mining governance. Her passion for marine and coastal resource governance is what led Lauryn to REEF. Lauryn is excited to combine her research experience with her enthusiasm for education and community outreach this Fall with the REEF team. After her internship, Lauryn plans to attend an interdisciplinary marine systems and policies graduate program.



Lauren Mahoney graduated from Duke University in the spring of 2021 with a B.S. in Biology with a Marine concentration and an Environmental Science minor. She grew up in the Netherlands just a few minutes away from Scheveningen Beach, where her passion for the ocean and its conservation began. While at university, Lauren became closely involved with the Duke Marine Lab, spending two summers there studying Invertebrate Zoology and Turtle Conservation, and becoming a Marine Lab Ambassador while back on the main campus. During her junior and senior year, she worked at the Donohue Laboratory, researching environmental interactions in plants and the relationship between parents and offspring phenotypes. She also spent a summer in Madagascar as a Coral Restoration Intern, during which she earned her PADI Advanced Scuba Certification whilst monitoring and aiding reef rejuvenation off the island of Nosy Komba. Outside of school, Lauren loves to read, run and ski, joining the Duke Ski and Snowboard team her freshman year. In the future, she hopes to attend graduate school for Marine Biology and pursue a career in conservation and research. She also aspires to become a PADI diving instructor to help spread her love for the ocean. Lauren is delighted to be part of the team at REEF and cannot wait to help make a difference, no matter how big or small.


Emily Boll graduated from Bowling Green State University in May 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology. She spent her time at BGSU mostly in the marine lab learning aquarium husbandry skills for fresh and salt water tanks and contributing in outreach for younger students who would tour the lab. Emily’s favorite undergrad opportunity was to study at Williams-Mystic in Connecticut. This is where her love for research and the ocean blossomed. During her time in Mystic, she was able to attend extended field seminars while also doing research and attending classes. Alaska was one of our first trips where Emily listened to stories from Alaskan Natives, studied the importance of Fisheries, and researched the current environmental stressors in the state. She also spent 12 days on an offshore voyage in the Gulf of Maine on the Corwith Cramer where she learned to repel Neuston Tow nets to collect data for NOAA, researched further about the effects of microplastics in the ocean, and learned how to sail. While in Connecticut, Emily was able to do a semester long research on the importance of policies for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Monument off the New England coast. Emily is excited to learn more about invasive species, as she did research on an invasive species of Asian shore crab. This passion pushed her to an internship at REEF. Emily is looking forward to being able to contribute in outreach and conservation with other passionate REEF interns and increase her knowledge about the invasive species of lionfish!

Summer 2021

Maddie Brownfield is a spring 2021 graduate from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a degree in biochemistry. She grew up landlocked in St. Joseph, Missouri, but developed a love for the ocean at a young age from her mom’s saltwater tank. Her passion for marine science grew stronger in high school, after a marine biology research trip surveying coral reefs with Forfar Field Station on Andros Island in The Bahamas. In 2019, she obtained her dive certification and fell in love with diving, even in the murky lakes of the midwest. She then furthered her skills through a study abroad course in Thailand, where she continued learning about marine conservation and helped to restore coral reefs. After this, she quickly knew she wanted to pursue a career in the field of marine science and conservation. In college, she worked as a rec swim coach and a campus tour guide, where she developed a love for public outreach and education. She also worked as a laboratory research assistant in a behavioral neuroscience lab, and also explored some creative outlets working as a wedding videographer. She even helped to found the first marine conservation organization at her university, Save Our Seas Mizzou! In the future, she hopes to attend graduate school and study marine biology and conservation to eventually work as a researcher or an educator in the field. Maddie is excited to join the REEF team and is looking forward to mixing her creative skills, passion for public outreach, and love for the ocean to help spread awareness about marine conservation.


Hailey Hiner was born and raised in a small town in northern Ohio. Despite growing up surrounded by land, she has always had a strong affinity for the ocean and marine science. During high school she was fortunate to participate in two field study experiences at MarineLab in Key Largo, where she snorkeled a coral reef for the first time and solidified her passions for marine science and reef conservation. Upon entering college, she decided to push this passion to the side and work toward a career in healthcare. After spending most of her undergraduate years preparing for a job in the medical field, she realized that her passions were still with marine science and decided to pick up an additional major in environmental science during her junior year. Since doing so, she has never been more confident that this is the field she belongs in and is eager to develop the skills and knowledge needed to pursue a career in marine and environmental science. Hailey recently graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio with a B.S. in Kinesiology & Health and Environmental Science. While at Miami, she conducted research on the effects of ocean acidification on the seafood industry and its implications on human health. She hopes to one day further her education and combine her interests of public health and marine conservation into a profession that would inform the public on the importance of ocean conservation. She could not be more excited to work with REEF and looks forward to returning to Key Largo to gain more experience in ocean conservation, outreach, and education.


Mary Quinn is currently enrolled as an undergraduate at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, pursuing degrees in both biology and creative writing. Originally from Fairfield, Connecticut, Mary has grown up on the coast of Long Island Sound and has always loved exploring the ocean. Whether it was kayaking in the Sound, or exploring tide pools and subsequently ruining clothes, Mary had an active outdoor childhood. She has worked with the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance on their Diamondback Terrapin Project as a field intern team leader. In the spring of 2020, Mary became certified as both a PADI Open Water Diver and as a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver while studying abroad at the School for Field Studies, Center for Resource Management Studies on South Caicos, Turks and Caicos. In South Caicos, Mary fell in love with fieldwork, living at a remote field station as a part of a team and sustainable living. She enjoys snorkeling, diving, and kayaking in the ocean. Mary hopes to continue working to give back to the environment, learning, and exploring different marine ecosystems around the world. During the last year, Mary has been working to finish her undergraduate degrees and has been completing independent research on the foraging behavior of yellowtail snapper in South Caicos.


Spring 2021

Sierra Barkdoll grew up right outside of Baltimore, Maryland, where she was minutes away from the Chesapeake Bay. While spending many activities on the bay, Sierra developed a love for nature and aquatic environments. In the spring of 2020, she graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Geography, a Biology minor, and a GIS certificate. During college, Sierra got involved in sailing and SCUBA diving clubs, from which she became enamored with the open ocean and decided that she wanted to pursue a career in marine conservation! Joining an undergraduate research lab, she spent a summer in North Andros, Bahamas, studying threats to the critically endangered Bahama Oriole. This became one of the most treasured experiences in Sierra’s undergraduate career, as she loved being able to contribute to the scientific community while helping to protect an endangered species! At REEF, Sierra hopes to develop her conservation skills further and apply them to REEF’s programs.




Mackenzie Kawahara is an aspiring marine biologist from Manhattan Beach, California. Between her father’s love for the ocean and her mother’s Hawaiian cultural heritage, she was raised from a young age to follow the concept of ‘malama aina,’: an ancient Hawaiian philosophy that seeks to understand and respect the relationship between humans and the land and sea. This inspired her from a young age to watch nature documentaries and collect marine biology books to better understand not only the relationship between humans and nature, but also the relationships occurring within nature. Mackenzie recently graduated from the University of California, Davis with a bachelor’s degree in Marine and Coastal Science and a minor in Japanese. While at UC Davis, she was involved in a few research laboratories and several marine animal husbandry positions, which is where her interest in coral reefs began. Mackenzie is pursuing a future career path as a researcher studying how corals respond to and recover from anthropogenic stressors and marine infectious diseases. Another key factor in her desire to be a marine scientist is the ability to then share her knowledge with others. Since high school, she has been coaching gymnastics to children as young as two years old to early teens and attending UC Davis allowed her the opportunity to expand her teaching skills to the classroom. With REEF, Mackenzie is excited to improve her diving skills and take part in the education and outreach programs combining her passion for marine biology and teaching.


Summer Huber grew up in northern Indiana near Lake Michigan where she developed her passions for sailing, swimming, and learning about aquatic organisms. Getting scuba certified in cold, murky, Midwest waters, she appreciates every opportunity she gets to dive in the ocean and experience its beauty. She graduated from Purdue University in December 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. While in college, she conducted research on the effects of microplastics on several zooplankton and fish species in the fish ecology lab. She had the opportunity to attend a study abroad trip in Belize where she learned the principles of lionfish collection and dissection, explored ancient Mayan ruins, and conducted marine conservation projects. One of her favorite scuba diving locations besides Belize has been the U.S. Virgin Islands. Summer also has a strong passion for veterinary medicine. She spent several summers working at a veterinary clinic, volunteered at Purdue’s veterinary teaching hospital, and took multiple animal science courses and labs throughout college. In the future, Summer plans to attend graduate school and study marine biology and ecology. She is thankful for the opportunity to intern with REEF, and is ready to advocate for marine life, participate in outreach events, and learn about non-profit organizations. 



Mikayla Carrier is currently finishing her degree in Biology at Scripps College and plans to graduate in the spring of 2021. She grew up in Michigan where she spent many summer afternoons at the lake participating in a variety of water activities ranging from kayaking to water skiing. In her free time, Mikayla enjoys playing guitar, volunteering with animal shelters, and camping. As a sophomore in high school Mikayla moved to California to attend Thacher, a boarding school, where her love for science prospered. In college, Mikayla found a strong interest in biochemistry and joined a professor’s lab which researches modified-DNA synthesis. After getting Scuba Certified in the spring of 2019, however, Mikayla decided she wanted to also explore a marine science education. With this in mind the following year, she traveled to the Turks and Caicos to expand her knowledge on marine ecosystems. While on South Caicos, the two most significant field projects she participated in was assessing the abundance of Lobatus gigas inside and outside a Marine Protected Area and completing an independent study on South Caicos’ Epinephelus striatus stock health by analyzing historical data. After combining her passion for science with her love of the ocean and scuba diving in the Turks and Caicos, Mikayla realized that marine science was her ideal career path. She hopes to pursue marine chemical biology after she expands her growing knowledge on marine conservation and restoration. Additionally, The community outreach she participated in while on South Caicos lead her to want more experience with marine education. She hopes that moving forward with REEF she is able to gain important skills on how to educate not just the community around her but also herself on marine ecosystems. Furthermore, she hopes to complete her divemaster in the coming month so that she can have expand her role and leadership underwater. Mikayla is very excited to be a part of the REEF team and is looking forward to interacting with the Florida Keys community in an effort to help conserve the beauty of our underwater world!


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.


Alyssa Panzer grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and was drawn to the ocean to continue her education on the coast of North Carolina. She received her Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science with a focus on Sustainability from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. During her education, she took a semester to study abroad in Australia, upgrading her dive experience from the chilly fresh waters of Dutch Springs Quarry to 3 days of diving under the sun and stars on the Great Barrier Reef. Her passion for sustainability in travel and lifestyle got her involved with the UNCW Environmental Concerns Organization, a grassroots conservation initiative, and also The GREEN Program, having taken a few weeks to study on the island of Oahu, the effects of Energy and Agriculture, using Hawaii as a model. With a passion for working outdoors and sharing her knowledge, she has spent 2 seasons leading eco tours and excursions, on boats and SUPs, for tourists, locals, and camp kids around the local barrier islands and marsh. She is eager to bring her experience to REEF and spend the next few months learning and diving in Key Largo.   





Fall 2018

Annie Innes-Gold grew up in Northampton, Massachusetts and is a recent graduate of Vassar College, where she majored in biology and minored in anthropology. In college, she spent a summer studying tree frogs at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, which she continued into her senior thesis, exploring phenotypic plasticity and survival in tadpoles. Annie became interested in coral reefs during a semester abroad with the School for Field Studies on the island of South Caicos. During this semester, she got her dive certification and participated in coral reef field surveys, as well as assisting in a tag and release study of sharks. She then participated in an REU at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, studying how diversity of herbivorous fishes affects the function of coral reef ecosystems. For the past year, Annie worked in a coral genetics lab, using anemones as a model for coral bleaching. She most recently interned at the Pioneer Valley Coral and Natural Science Institute, working to create an accessible marine biology and environmental engineering lab curriculum to be used in local high schools. Annie enjoys rock climbing, playing guitar, and is a competitive saber fencer. She is thrilled to learn more about ocean conservation research and outreach as part of the REEF team!


Allyson DeMerlis was born and raised in Great Falls, Virginia. Growing up, her family spent many summers at the beach in North Carolina, where she fell in love with the ocean. She even expressed to her family that she wanted to be a “dolphiniologist” when she was little, not knowing yet that marine biology is an actual career. While studying biology at McGill University, she was able to study abroad in Panama for her final semester, where she realized her passion for tropical marine biology (and sea turtles!). After graduating, she interned for NOAA Fisheries in Hawaii and learned about coral reef ecosystem management, while also getting scuba certified. Allyson is excited to start her internship with REEF because she is passionate about environmental education and marine conservation. She also hopes to achieve higher diving certifications while gaining experience in Key Largo. 




Alison Treen grew up on the Long Island Sound in Darien, Connecticut and has always considered the water to be a part of home. Her volunteer experience at a sea turtle hospital in North Carolina—where she first learned to scuba dive—sparked her passion for marine conservation; a few years later, she gained firsthand experience in marine biology while conducting REEF surveys during a sailing program in the Caribbean, where she earned her Advanced Open Water and specialty certifications. Alison recently graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, with a BA in Professional Writing and Sustainability. She’s now looking forward to combining her interests of communications and marine conservation at REEF! 




Christy Babonau grew up in the small northern town of Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada. Despite growing up in the prairies, Christy always had a passion for marine biology. It was when she was in the Philippines that she first got the opportunity to scuba dive. After falling in love with diving she knew that she had to pursue higher qualifications in order to take advantage of such an incredible sport. In 2017, she graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelors of Education in Biology with a minor in French Immersion. After graduation, she went traveling in Central America, where she finally got the opportunity to complete her Divemaster certification in Utila, Honduras. Christy worked closely with the conservation organizations in Utila to help diminish negative effects on marine ecosystems. It was through this vital work on the Bay Islands that Christy’s love for marine conservation blossomed. Upon returning to Canada, she moved to Vancouver to further her efforts with marine conservation. It was while working as a middle school teacher in Vancouver that Christy realized the importance of public education and citizen science. Her future career goals are to merge her two biggest passions of education and marine conservation, allowing her to educate as well as inspire the future. Christy could not be more excited to get the opportunity to work with REEF and looks forward to escaping another Canadian winter.



Summer 2018

Sophie Costa grew up in in beautiful Texas Hill Country. Originally from Austin, she spent her summer days enjoying the beauty of the lakes and river systems in central Texas. Her passion for aquatic sciences grew when she began diving at the young age of 11. After graduating from Rhodes College with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Environmental Sciences and a minor in Spanish, she moved to Belize in order to pursue a career in marine conservation biology. During that time, she interacted with the community fishermen, and began discussing numerous problems occuring within the Meso-American Barrier Reef - one of the largest being the invasive lionfish species. After witnessing some of these issues first hand, Sophie was inspired to raise awareness and work towards remediation efforts in the Caribbean Sea. She greatly looks foward to working with REEF, and continuing her dedication to marine life through scientific research and outreach. 






David Ehlert was raised in Lexington Kentucky. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor's of Science in Natural Resources/Environmental Science with a Wildlife Biology minor from the University of Kentucky. His passion for marine science began in his youth on the beaches of North Carolina, where he played with moon jellyfish. David learned to dive at UK in Kentucky's largest ocean (the pool). During his sophomore year at UK, David took a study abroad trip to Mexico where he fell in love with reefs and the need to protect them. During his time in Mexico, David studied lionfish effects on reef fish populations, as well as assisted in coastal clean-up efforts. Because of this experience, David became passionate about lionfish and the threat they pose to marine environments. This passion led him to REEF where he hopes to learn how to protect coral reefs as well as the wildlife they support. David is thrilled to have the opportunity to join the REEF team this summer and hopes to become fully immersed in the local community. David hopes to continue his education after completing his undergraduate degree by pursuing a Master's degree in Wildlife Managment. His goal is to develop a field camp conservation program that gives college students an opportunity to learn about the marine world. 



Lisa Burton comes from the sunny mountain town of Flagstaff Arizona. Perched in this high altitude city, she followed her life-long love for fisheries conservation while attending Northern Arizona University and working for the AZ Department of Game and Fish. As a fisheries technician and aquaculturist, she has worked to help protect threatened and endangered species native to Arizona, particularly enjoying work with roundtail chub, apache trout, and razorback suckers. She now pursues a dedicated career by the ocean to expand her previous knowledge of freshwater fisheries, into preserving marine ecosystems. As a new diver, she hopes to achieve higher certifications in the Florida Keys to help continue her journey in marine conservation. In her spare time Lisa enjoys hiking with her dog, rock climbing, fishing, and art. She is extremely grateful to have this opportunity to work with the REEF community and looks forward to a summer of working hard and enjoying island life.



Ronnie Noonan's first-hand experience of the underwater world came when she acheived her open water diving license at age 14. She thought to herself "wow, everybody has to see this!". Fueled by the desire to make the ocean relatable even to her peers in Michigan, she set out to acheive a degree in marine biology. Studying at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, Ronnie found her true passion in communcicating ocean sciences. This ability was first exercised when she was volunteering as a touch tank interpreter for a local non profit. It was then that Ronnie fell in love with the "aha" moment; the moment when you know you have truly connected with your audience on something you are passionate about. Seeing that her knowledge could spur change, Ronnie set out to experience other aspects of ocean sciences. Wanting to use her scuba diving skills to illustrate the conversation about ocean conservation, Ronnie embarked on an intership at a marine research lab in Zavora, Mozambique. The extreme diving and unique location helped Ronnie comprehend the resilience and discipline it takes to dedicate oneself to ocean conservation. She took this apprecition into her most recent position as an environmental educator. Being able to inspire youth with her own passion taught her the importance of training the next generation to be future stewards of our planet. Now, with one year left in her degree, Ronnie is thrilled to learn from and worth with the REEF team on the important issues facing our oceans today. 



Spring 2018

Gabby Magalski grew up in Kansas City, Kansas. During her freshman year at the University of British Columbia she became deeply interested in the ocean and the threats it currently faces. She graduated in May 2017 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelors of Science in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Anthropology. Having already acquired some SCUBA experience throughout her college career, after graduation she moved down to Honduras to acquire her PADI Divemaster certification. During her time in Honduras she witnessed bleaching events as well as the catastrophic effects of invasive lionfish firsthand. Gabby volunteered with various conservation associations to help preserve the Bay Island’s ecosystems and applied to work with REEF in hopes of doing more for these crucial environments. Throughout her undergraduate career, she conducted research in the microbiology and immunology department at the University of North Carolina Medical School. She hopes to integrate her past experience in microbiology with marine science research.



Christina Stefan grew up in a quiet harbor town along the central Jersey coast. Some of her earliest memories involve combing the beaches for interesting marine debris and trying to "rescue" horseshoe crabs that she mistakenly thought had unintentionally washed up (...sorry, guys). While her love of problem-solving drove her to pursue industrial design at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, her love of the natural world has been a constant influence in her life. Christina began working in design research after college, seeking to understand how people work and learn before designing ways to make those processes easier. Outside of work, Christina spent a year volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation clinic, where she discovered a love for fostering healthy human-wildlife interactions. After spending a month in Costa Rica this past summer, where she spent time gathering data on nesting Olive Ridley sea turtles, Christina decided to re-focus her professional energy on design for conservation and sustainability. She is ecstatic to be joining the REEF team, where she looks forward to using her design skills to empower others to be stewards of the natural world.



Laura Palomino is from Cali, Colombia and grew up in Miami, FL. Her love for the ocean began after her first visit to an aquarium when she was 9. She became interested in Marine Conservation after a Marine Biology camp in Key Biscayne, where she learned about sea turtle nesting and witnessed a hatching event! At the age of 15, she became a PADI open water diver. Ever since, she’s been diving all over the world from the Rosario Island in Cartagena, Colombia to caverns in North Florida. Laura is a recent graduate of the University of Florida, with a B.S in Interdisciplinary Marine Science (GO GATORS!). During her time at UF she became involved with the scientific diver development program and became an AAUS science diver and NAUI Dive Master. As a science diver she’s had the opportunity to work on various projects including gag grouper abundance surveys, a rhodamine dye release in Silver Springs and coral health assessments in the keys. Laura has become passionate about citizen science programs and aims to peruse a graduate degree involving local communities in conservation and policy decisions. She is very grateful for the opportunity to be an intern for REEF and is very excited to conduct Volunteer Fish Surveys, learn about conservation outreach and enjoying island life in the keys.

What is Laura doing now? Read her 2018 Intern Alumni Spotlight

Originally from Idaho, but now making her home on the East coast in New York State, Damaris Borden is an environmental studies Junior with a passion for all things natural. She got her start in conservation at the tender age of 15 doing trail work with the Youth Conservation Corps in Yellowstone National Park. This experience sparked her passion for the environment and her belief in the power of environmental education. Since then she has been very involved with environmental groups, especially national wildlife refuges, where she has interned for the past two summers. Her previous visitor services internship at the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge instilled in her a great love for the ocean that set her on the path of marine conservation outreach. She is beyond excited to continue this journey of exposing others to the magic of the natural world with REEF while learning more about the blue part of our blue planet along the way.




Fall 2017

Bethany Fowler grew up in Rhode Island- "The Ocean State"- and has always been passionate about marine conservation. She is a recent graduate from Rice University in Houston, TX where she studied math and engaged in a variety of environmental education efforts. She loves learning about marine science and teaching others, but she also loves surfing, swimming and just being near the water. She helped found the Rice Oceans Club, worked at Save the Bay Aquarium, and participated in an REU at Scripps Institution of Oceanography where she first learned about REEF. Bethany is excited to be joining the REEF community before pursuing a graduate degree in quantitative marine ecology.





Sienna Pickard: Hailing from Salt Lake City, Utah, Sienna represents the University of Utah, go Utes! This December she will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Parks Recreation, and Tourism with an emphasis major in Sustainable Tourism Management. Sienna is an outdoor enthusiast, competitive big mountain snowboarder, and a professional PADI scuba Divemaster, who loves adventure and travel. In 2013, Sienna became a PADI Open Water diver. Since then she has earned all the required certificaions up to Divemaster and Self-Reliant diver while living abroad in Costa Rica during the summers of 2016 and 2017. Along with diving this summer, Sienna participated in 2 study abroad programs focused on sustainable development in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Having passions in both diving and sustainability, Sienna is thrilled about her acceptance to intern with REEF this fall. In completion of this internship, Sienna's goals are focused on learning more about marine conservation, education outreach, and non-profit management.  




Burnley Truax grew up four blocks from Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois. As a child, she developed a fascination with turtles and eventually was introduced to sea turtles, which opened a world of marine organisms that she had yet to explore. In an effort to better understand the biological processes occurring within these animals, she majored in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR. In 2015, she had the tremendous opportunity to dive with REEF in Roatan, Honduras. In addition to estimating the abundance of Caribbean fish, her trip involved searching coral heads for blennies, consulting fish ID books during dinner conversations, and diving on a boat full of mentors that expanded her language and knowledge of marine biology. The more she learns the more questions she asks. Burnley continued studying marine science at Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science in Newport, Oregon. At Hatfield, she assisted in an eelgrass lab that studies the variance of eelgrass epifauna across several estuaries along Oregon's coast. Last summer, Burnley became certified as an advanced open water diver and is eager to strengthen her diving through more certifications. She believes that the more people know about marine science the greater need they will feel to protect the ocean. She feels it is important to engage people of all backgrounds with science and intends to pursue a career in science education and research. Burnley is thrilled to be a fall intern and contribute to REEF's mission of making marine biology more accesible to the public. 


Julia Walker hails from Annapolis, Maryland, where she developed a love of the water early after spending many summer days on the Chesapeake Bay. She recently finished classes at Penn State University where she completed a degree in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management with concentrations in Environmental Interpretation and Adventure Recreation, as well as a minor in Spanish. Her love of the ocean grew when she became SCUBA certified, which took her to Bonaire and the Bahamas. At Penn State, her studies took her from Tanzania, to New England, to the Smokies and more. With each new experience, Julia learned more about environmental education, resource management, and ecotourism, and her desire to be involved in these efforts grew. She was also in a tap-dancing company! She is passionate about educating and sharing her love of nature and is excited to learn more about marine conservation. Julia is thrilled to be starting a new adventure with REEF! 

What is Julia doing now? Read her 2020 Intern Alumni Spotlight



Summer 2017

  Lawrie Mankoff grew up in Hillsborough, California, just south of San Francisco. Lawrie's love for the ocean      began on field trips to the tide pools on the California coast. She started scuba diving as a part of her middle      school final project and has not stopped since, eventually convincing her entire family to join in. After two          student trips to the Caribbean during high school, she was able to gain her rescue diver certification. Lawrie is    a rising Junior at Scripps College where she is majoring in Environmental Analysis with a focus on policy. Last      summer, Lawrie worked as a camp counselor at the Marine Science Institute in Redwood City, California,            where she was able to teach kids about local marine environments and even take many students to the tide        pools. She left this experience with an excitement for environmental education, particularly teaching students    about the ocean. Lawrie is thrilled to be interning at REEF and to have the opportunity to continue learning       more about marine conservation while acting to preserve the oceans we love. 




  Hailing from St. Louis, Missouri, Claire Mullaney recently graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington    (IU) with a B.S. in Biology, along with certificates in Animal Behavior and Underwater Resource Management.      On her first day as an IU freshman, Claire attended a scientific scuba class. Three years and several                      certification cards later, she is a PADI Rescue Diver and an AAUS Scientific Diver who loves to dive in frigid          Indiana quarries and balmy Caribbean waters alike. During her undergraduate years, Claire has engaged in        biological research in addition to scientific diving. From assessing the genetics of endangered Stephens’              kangaroo rats with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, to studying coral abundance and        health on the island of Bonaire, to researching crabbing gear loss in the recreational Dungeness crab fishery      with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Claire’s research projects have led her to a variety of places    and creatures. Although she has worked in both terrestrial and marine environments, she plans to focus her      future on ocean conservation, marine resource management, outreach and education, and ocean policy. She is thrilled to be heading back to the coast to begin working towards this goal as part of the REEF team!



Ashley Yarbrough is a native Texan, but she was raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. It was here, through several summer camps at the Shedd Aquarium, that she discovered her passion for marine science. After two years of junior college, Ashley transferred to Oregon State University to pursue a BS in Fisheries and Wildlife Science with specialization in Marine Ecology and Fisheries Science. OSU and its Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon provided many opportunities for scientific research through independent projects and volunteering.  Some of the major projects Ashley was able to work on include the reproductive capacity of Black Rockfish in response to El Nino events and methods for aging Giant Pacific Octopus using their beaks and stylets.  During her junior year, Ashley spent a term in Chile with a study abroad program that allowed her to work at a field station studying intertidal recruitment with other international students. Ashley has served as a board member for the AFS and TWS Oregon State student chapters where she assisted underclassmen in connecting with professionals to learn about working in the field of fisheries and wildlife. During her time at OSU she also acquired multiple SCUBA certifications and is very excited about developing her scientific diving skills with REEF. In the fall, Ashley plans to pursue graduate studies in fisheries science and continue involvement with conservation of the ocean and its resources. 


Spring 2017

Marie Diaz was born and raised in Oakland, California, where she grew up running and playing, both in the ocean and in the mountains.  Her love for nature and the outdoors was evident early on—she wanted to be outside and dirty as much as possible.  While in high school, she was fortunate enough to travel to Baja, Mexico on a Marine Ecology research trip, where she was inspired to pursue Marine Science.  Marie is now a recent graduate of UC San Diego, where she earned her B.S. in Marine Biology.  While at UCSD, Marie had the opportunity to work in a Coral Reef Ecology Lab at Scripps Institute of Oceanography.  During her time in the lab, her love for corals grew, inspiring her to work on two projects looking at coral-algal relationships and underwater research techniques. Marie also volunteered with the education department at Birch Aquarium, where she enjoyed working with and inspiring the public to engage with the world around them.  Her love for both hard science and education and outreach is what led her to REEF.  She is so excited to not only get to dive and experience a whole new area, but to also learn about non-profit work and education.  In the future Marie hopes to pursue a graduate degree in Marine Biology or Conservation, but for now she is more than excited to join the REEF team!



Briana Sebastian grew up in Northeast Pennsylvania, and although she did not live near the beach, she developed a love for the ocean since she first dipped her toes in the water as a toddler. From there, she spent much of her time in elementary school doing projects on seashells and Florida beaches while looking forward to the annual family vacation to Fort Myers Beach. After high school, Briana moved even further from the coast to attend the University of Pittsburgh, and graduated in 2013 with a B.S. in biology. Briana remained proactive in her ocean endeavors by becoming SCUBA certified in 2014, and after working for a few years in a pharmacy, she knew it was time to return to what she loved and continue her schooling. She began a Master’s program at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas in 2015 to pursue a degree in Environmental Management and Sustainability. During her time at St. Edward’s, she worked on a research project studying seagrass biodiversity off the coast of Texas, and spent a summer doing environmental research in Costa Rica, studying the wildlife, plant life, and learning about the culture. Although she loves learning and studying about all parts of the environment, she can’t wait to dip her toes back in the ocean and explore the waters with REEF!



Ben Ferraro grew up in Elliott City MD, spending his summers on the Chesapeake Bay where he developed a love for the water. This led him to participating in an internship program at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, where he worked with visitors to enhance their experience. After becoming a certified diver in high school, Ben has dived in various spots around the Caribbean, but lists the Outer Banks in North Carolina as his favorite diving location. In the summer of 2015, he studied abroad while living aboard an 88 ft. sailboat that traveled throughout the windward islands of the Caribbean, including stops in Dominica, St. Barths, and Antigua, among others. Ben graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in December 2016 with a degree in biology, and plans to pursue a graduate degree in the field of marine science. In his free time, he enjoys sailing, baseball and spending time with his two dogs. 




Kylie Hasegawa was born and raised in Huntington Beach, California where she grew to love the beach and the oceans and everything living in them. She attended Boston College and studied Environmental Geoscience and International Relations. Kylie studied coral bleaching and diseases in Utila, Honduras for her thesis and hopes to continue researching marine conservation. Kylie is excited to be interning with REEF and living in Key Largo. 






Fall 2016

Emily Volkmann hails from Grafton, Wisconsin where she spent her days catching snails and bothering geese along the banks of the Milwaukee River. In her younger years she dreamed of becoming a librarian, a firewoman, and a marine biologist but has since directed her focus on marine biology. Emily is a recent graduate of Smith College with a B.A. in Biology and Environmental Science and Policy. She enjoyed a transformative junior year of college abroad with the School for Field Studies in Turks and Caicos and the Williams-Mystic Maritime program, both of which helped solidify her interest in marine ecology and conservation. During this time, she conducted research on projects ranging from benthic habitat analyses to shell dissolution rates of Littorina spp. These programs also exposed her to a variety of marine issues including coastal erosion and the spread of invasive marine species. These opportunities hooked Emily onto a life filled with coral, diving, traveling, and all things ocean related and led to a summer research and teaching internship in Belize. The Belize research inspired two special studies projects on soft coral diversity and distribution conducted during her senior year. After a long time apart Emily is thrilled to get back to the ocean to share her passion with others, learn, and join the REEF community!




Ellie Place grew up in Bellevue, Washington. She spent her first 18 years climbing and hiking the Cascade Mountains and exploring the Puget Sound before moving to Providence, Rhode Island where she studied Geological Sciences and Hispanic Studies at Brown University. While in school she worked in an oceanography lab which sparked her interest in exploring oceans. She also spent one summer as a kayak instructor in the San Juan Islands of Washington State, teaching campers about their marine environment, where she began to realize the importance of sharing her love for the outdoors with others. Throughout her time in college she continuously explored the world by spending 9 weeks at a geology field camp in Montana and Wyoming and studying abroad in Costa Rica, all while competing as a Division 1 student athlete in rowing. Ellie plans on pursuing a career in outdoor and environmental education, so she is eager to work with others in the Key Largo community to learn, explore, and conserve the ocean and our unique beautiful world.



Katherine Ilcken is a recent graduate from the University of Florida. During her time there, she studied wildlife ecology and conservation while also pursuing SCUBA diving for the first time. What she thought would be a fun elective grew quickly into a strong passion for the underwater world. In 4 years, she went from an occasional snorkeler to a NAUI dive master, trying to see it all by diving the Great Barrier Reef and in between tectonic plates in Iceland. But even in just a short amount of time, Katherine has been able to see the damaging effects of humans, invasive species, and climate change on our coral reefs and local Florida springs. This has driven her to pursue a career in making a difference for our waters, leading to an internship here with REEF! She could not be more excited to see what the future holds and to connect wih people fighting for the oceans we love. 




Thomas Hyduk grew up in Central New Jersey. He was fortunate enough to spend his summers growing up at the Jersey shore. He developed a love for the ocean at a young age and got his PADI Open Water Certification at the age of 14. This love for the ocean spurred him to double major in marine science and biology at the University of Miami. During his summers while in college, Tom interned at the Bruce Museum Seaside center in Old Greenwich, Connecticut and at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk in Norwalk, Connecticut. At the Seaside Center, he helped the staff develop educational activities related to the amazing underwater world of Long Island Sound. At the Maritime Aquarium, he did more behind the scences work, prepping fish in a fish kitchen and preforming tank maintenance. But he still had many opportunities to share his love for marine life with the patrons and teach them about the awesomeness of the oceans. During the fall semester of his senior year at the U, Tom had the opportunity to study abroad in Australia at James Cook University (JCU). While at JCU, he was able to visit and dive the Great Barrier Reef. He was shocked at the declining state of the Great Barrier Reef and decided to focus part of his remaining studies in marine conservation. He graduated in May with a B.S. in Marine and Atmospheric Science. Tom intends to pursue a graduate degree in either marine biology or marine conservation. But before that, he is very excited to return to South Florida to work with REEF doing data collections for the Volunteer Fish Surveys and working with the local communities to fight the invasive lionfish.


Summer 2016

Theo Ison grew up in the city of Toronto, Canada. One of the longest relationships she has had over the course of her life has been her relationship with the ocean. Having been a passionate scuba diver for 15 years, she has had the privilege of witnessing and interacting with some of the most pristine reefs our oceans have to offer. Now, as her connection with, and knowledge of the ocean grows deeper, so does her feeling of responsibility toward preserving the world's waters. Her experience has covered a broad scope of the environmental and sustainability field, and has given her a unique perspective of many of global issues including energy, clean drinking water and food security. As an environmentalist, she finds all this work engaging, however, she always finds herself drifting back toward a desire to work with, and in, the water. Once she realized she wanted to make her career in the marine sciences, she took a volunteer position working as part of a conservation initiative in Belize focused on Caribbean Reef systems. Following this, she travelled independently across South East Asia and Europe seeking every opportunity possible to gain experience with international marine life. Surrounded by the ocean, as well as immersed in it, Theo found herself gaining a strong appreciation of marine stewardship. Theo plans on continuing her education in marine systems and policies following her internship with REEF. She can’t wait to dive into marine research and education this summer in the Florida Keys!


Nikki Caspers was born and raised in cozy Kailua Hawaii where she spent more time in the water than on land. She has been actively involved in coral reef conservation since her internship at a coral reef lab in Kaneohe bay and has used all she has learned to dominate useless fact competitions against her friends because, for some reason, nobody seems to know how to spawn coral anymore….kids these days. Last summer Nikki sailed with SeaSemester from Honolulu Harbor Hawaii to Pago pago American Samoa on a six week research sailing trip where she helped collect data on a variety of MPA conservation project for the Kiribati government. Since then she has been fascinated with conservation biology, which has influenced her undergrad studies. She is currently working on her senior honors thesis, which focuses on the effects of invasive Lionfish on local fisheries and ecology and she is very excited to work with REEF’s lionfish project. Nikki is excited to work with the Key Largo community and to provide educational outreach opportunities for local students and kids.




Katarina Silva was born and raised in southern New Hampshire. She is currently studying biology, with a minor in Spanish at Keene State College. After realizing her curiosity about the world would not be satiated as a nursing major, she switched into biology following her sophomore year. She is looking forward to finishing up her degree this coming December and pursuing a career in conservation. During her time at Keene State College, she was fortunate enough to study abroad in both Spain and Australia. Her time spent in Australia truly allowed Katarina to further explore her interests in marine sciences. She took advantage of every opportunity possible to explore the Great Barrier Reef, and she is excited to say that she now holds her PADI Open Water Certification. Katarina found herself astounded by the incredible diversity of our oceans and even more disturbed by the widespread coral bleaching of the reefs. She was left feeling impacted by what she had seen and compelled to do something about the future of our oceans. Katarina is extremely excited to share her experiences and passion for the oceans through public outreach and education this summer in the Florida Keys. She plans to utilize her skills gained through the internship at REEF to pursue further opportunities in marine conservation, as well as sustainable project development. Katarina is excited to experience the Florida Keys this summer and connect with a diverse group of conscious minded individuals!


Patrick Peck spent his early days living and exploring the coast of Chile, fostering his love of the ocean at a young age. Unfortunately, he wound up settling in the landlocked farmlands of central Pennsylvania. A “fish out of water”, it was not until a change of majors halfway through his undergraduate career that he was able to reconnect his passion for the aquatic world. He is currently a senior working on a degree in Geoenvironmental studies with a minor in Biology and a GIS certificate. His research and field studies courses have lead him to work in various different ecosystems ranging from the Florida Keys, to the Island of Curaçao, and the Chincoteague Bay. His research, and area of interest, has focused on coral and oyster reefs, and using new photogrammetry methods to study them. A cold water, Northeast diver at heart, he is stoked to gain more experience learning more about the unique ecosystem present in the warm, colorful, tropical waters of the Keys. While research and field work are what he loves most, Patrick also loves sharing knowledge with others, and is excited about having an opportunity to work with REEF in their efforts to educate the public about the wonders of our beautiful blue world!








Spring 2016

Casey Aumann grew up in the town of Hudson, Wisconsin. As a child, she always liked the idea of working in the field of marine biology, but it was not until she spent a semester in Hawaii studying oceanography and marine ecology that she realized it was a possibility. She is currently working on a BS in Ecology and Environmental Biology with a Marine Science minor and geographic information systems certificate at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire, but is always trying to expand her horizons to immerse herself in the marine life. Most recently, she worked as a research assistant intern at the Charles Darwin Research Station in Galapagos where she helped study zooplankton and phytoplankton populations while obtaining her SCUBA Assistant Instructor certification. It was here that she saw how studies in marine science can have a strong impact on conservation and she loved seeing the excitement of divers in the community when they learned more about this incredible environment. Because of this, she really started considering marine conservation and community outreach as a career option and is consequently excited to start working with REEF this spring!









Kaitlin Ingle was born and raised in the suburbs outside of Dallas, Texas. Being about 10 hours from the Gulf made it hard to explore the ocean, but luckily family trips to Hawaii sparked her desire to learn more about marine life. There she was able to snorkel and dive, and it cemented her desire to pursue a career that would continue to protect these beautiful environments. She became a PADI diver during her senior year of high school and took that new skill down to Miami, Florida to study Marine Affairs and Policy with a minor in Education at the University of Miami (UM). Her weeks were full of class, but her weekends were full of certification classes and dive trips from Key West to Jupiter and all the way up to the freshwater caverns of north Florida. After graduating in May, she stuck around Miami to begin working on her Masters in Marine Conservation and Coastal Zone Management at UM's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Graduate school has kept her in the classroom and out of the water, and she is excited about the opportunities that will come from her time with REEF.  She is passionate about marine conservation and loves to teach people new things to help them better understand and respect our big, beautiful oceans!





Rachel Irons was fortunate to have grown up surrounded by natural beauty and bountiful opportunities for adventure in Anchorage, Alaska. These things fueled her appreciation of and desire to protect our environment which led her to pursue a double major in Environmental Studies and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. After attaining her open water certification for a family trip to the Great Barrier Reef, she came to the realization that diving was going to be a part of her life in some way from that point on. She then went on to complete a summer study abroad program in Bonaire to further her diving experience and underwater education. The following semester she undertook a study abroad program in Panama and conducted an independent study project involving educating local indigenous villagers about lionfish. From this, she learned the value of environmental education and became passionate about removing lionfish as well. Since graduating she has been been traveling quite a bit and is now excited about settling down to pursue work in conservation.





Sarah Schindehette was raised in Maryland where she passed her time playing in the creek and spending her summers at the ocean side.  She attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she graduated with a BFA in Visual Arts and earned her first SCUBA certifications.  Shortly after graduation, Sarah packed up and moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to work as an English teacher, volunteering at a local refugee center on the weekends.  Being based in South East Asia allowed her the incredible privilege of diving in the Coral Triangle.  Her favorite sites were Sipidan, Malaysia and Komodo, Indonesia. Now that she’s back in the United States, Sarah’s ready to move beyond grammar lessons and use her experiences to advance her true passion of ocean conservation.  She’s thrilled to use her background in photography to explore and document both the imminent threats to the Florida Keys’ reefs and the conservation efforts being made to offset those threats.    






Jessica McClish was born and raised in a small town in Ohio. After graduating from Wittenberg University in 2007 with a B.A. in Biology, she moved to New York City to teach high school biology in Brooklyn. Jessica has always been a passionate traveler. Since beginning her teaching career, she has traveled to Ghana to set up the internet at a junior high school so her students could Skype with their Ghanaian peers and helped develop education programs for tree farmers at a forestry institute in Kenya. Jessica has also worked with EarthWatch institute by helping to collect data on how Arizona caterpillar populations have been affected by climate change  in 2013 and by helping collect data on frog and tadpole populations in the northern Canada wetlands in 2015. Jessica has always loved sharing her passion for travel with her students and began her Master in Public Administration from Baruch College in 2012 in order to work with non-profits that support such a mission. She served as the teacher Leader with the Global Glimpse organization which allowed her to lead students on a community service trip to Nicaragua in 2014. Jessica decided to intern for REEF during her sabbatical in order to learn about reef conservation and marine science so she can teach marine biology to her students in NYC. 








Fall 2015

Katie Marr grew up on the water in Stevensville, Maryland, spending her days on her kayak in the Chesapeake Bay and surfing in the Atlantic Ocean.  Her life revolves around water.  She attended college at the University of Rhode Island (URI), graduating in three years with a major in Marine Biology, but focusing on scuba diving!   While enrolled at URI, she left behind the cold and dark waters of the northeast for a little bit and traveled to Bonaire, Netherland Antilles, where she completed her research and rescue diver certifications in the warm waters of the Caribbean.  For the past few years, Katie has spent her summers working as an eco-tour guide in Fenwick Island, Delaware. Between her summer job and the study abroad trip she took to Bonaire, her interest and desire to be a part of the marine conservation field grew. Katie has had enough of the cold weather and is ready to move south and continue her passion for marine conservation, outdoor education and outreach in the warmer Florida climate.










Rebecca Gaesser grew up in a small farm town along Lake Ontario in New York. After an amazing immersion into marine biology and SCUBA diving in the British Virgin Islands with Odyssey Expeditions, Becca was certain that she would pursue a career in marine conservation. She graduated in December 2014 from the University of Tampa with a BS in Marine Science and Biology. Inspired by class discussions about how environmental issues are addressed in policy, Becca has grown passionate about conducting applied research that aims to inform policy and conservation decisions. As a junior at UT, she began working at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida participating in a research project to improve brevetoxin monitoring in support of public health decisions regarding shellfish harvesting. Ready to take a break from laboratory work and get back in the ocean, the Marine Conservation Internship at REEF seems to be the perfect fit to become involved in hands on conservation and community engagement. With her dedication to applied research, Becca is very excited to work with REEF to involve marine enthusiasts in data collection through the Volunteer Fish Surveys Project, and to engage the local community in tackling the ecological problems associated with lionfish!








Olivia Rivera always knew growing up that she wanted to work with wildlife. Born and raised on Long Island, NY, in the suburbs of Manhattan, finding wildlife was always a bit of a challenge. Spending childhood summers boating on Fire Island and watching every possible Blue Planet episode (more than once...) Olivia developed a strong attachment to the sea. Interested in learning more about the world's environment and its inhabitants, Olivia has spent much of the past two years traveling abroad. After a semester in Turks and Caicos and a summer in Tanzania with the School For Field Studies, as well as a winter term in Belize, it has become clear to her that anywhere near the ocean feels like home. Scuba certified in 2013, Olivia has logged dives from Queens, NY to the tropics and hopes to become a Dive Master sometime in the near future. Olivia has also interned as a research assistant with the herpetology department at the American Museum of Natural History, completed a baseline survey of sea bird populations surrounding South Caicos, contributed to an ongoing analysis of a Mid-Atlantic clam fishery and done extensive field research in Maine through various courses at her alma mater, Colby College. Graduating with Bachelors of Arts in Biology with a concentration in ecology and evolution, and Environmental Science with a focus in marine studies, Olivia plans on continuing her education in marine resource management. Whether this leads to more field studies or environmental policy has yet to be determined, but Olivia is extremely excited to be working with REEF this fall and is looking forward to fully experiencing everything the Florida Keys have to offer!



Sam Cook was born and raised in a small town right outside of Pittsburgh, PA. While western Pennsylvania is a fair ways from the ocean, she grew up boating on the Three Rivers and stomping through their tributaries, catching every creepy-crawly she could get her hands on. When Sam turned 12, she got her PADI Open Water Certification and has been hooked on diving ever since, moving all the way up to Instructor. It was her diving hobby that kindled her interest in all things marine and drove her to pursue a BS in Marine Science with minors in Biology and Environmental Science at Coastal Carolina University. While there she participated in independent student research at Discovery Bay, Jamaica. After spending four weeks researching the effectiveness of a newly established fish sanctuary, she began to really focus on marine conservation and determined that this is what she wants to make a career of. As such, Sam’s very excited for all the opportunities she’ll have as a REEF intern! 





Summer 2015

Miranda Carroll was raised in a military family, and has lived in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and even Hawaii and Australia! Not entirely sure where to call home, she has always loved spending time in and around the sea. An avid diver since her first certification at 13 years old, she is working towards her Divemaster certification. She is currently a junior enrolled at the Florida Institute of Technology, and is pursuing two degrees in Marine Biology and STEM Education, where she will earn her teaching degree along with her Bachelor of Science. Miranda loves volunteering and has been assisting in coral reef ecology research at her university for about two years. As part of this she recently initiated her own research project with coral disease. She is passionate about marine conservation and appreciates the importance of knowledge, and hopes to express her love and respect of the ocean to others. She is very excited to be working with REEF this summer and believes it is the perfect way to assist in research and public outreach.





Jim Evans hails from sunny Salisbury, Maryland, right near the Chesapeake Bay. If you’re not familiar with the area, think Old Bay Seasoning and Smith Island Cakes, and you're pretty much there. Jim grew up sailing, crabbing, and fishing the Bay's brackish waters. He spent his summers at the beach, with his head beneath the waves. Most recently, he worked in Chincoteague, Virginia as a Marine Science Educator, sharing his passion for the marine environment with others. He's especially excited about the conservation aspect of the REEF internship. Jim is a graduate of the University of Virginia with bachelor's degrees in Environmental Sciences and Business. Now, he can't wait to trade in his business suit for a wetsuit and hit the reefs this summer!










Abbey Engleman: As a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina’s Marine Science Program, Abbey has spent the past four years exploring the complexities of anthropogenic impacts on the marine environment. Abbey has been intrigued by the ocean from a young age, but since she is originally from the suburbs of Washington, DC, she was forced to travel in order to truly experience its beauty. At 15, she became PADI Open Water certified and spent her summer with an education program called Broadreach. There she was busy conducting reef surveys, sailing the Netherlands Antilles, and learning about the environmental threats that the oceans faces. From there she worked with the Department of Environmental Protection, which solidified her decision to pursue a degree in Marine Science. Throughout college she has taken her quest for knowledge beyond the classroom, living and studying in places far more distant than her school in South Carolina. Abbey spent the summer working for a dive center in Bali, Indonesia where she earned her Divemaster Certification and explored the reefs of the Indonesian Archipelago. Upon returning, she surveyed Atlantic fisheries while at sea on a research excursion with NOAA. Last year, she packed her bags and moved to Newcastle, Australia where she spent the semester diving and fulfilling her quest for travel and cultural immersion. She looks forward to the REEF Marine Conservation Internship as a gateway into nonprofits and communication. Thus far, her understanding of the underwater world has been from a scientific and research oriented perspective and she is thrilled for the opportunity to finally bridge that knowledge with education and public outreach!



Kara Hall is from the landlocked state of Indiana and developed a love for the ocean at a young age. Being so far from the ocean, she satisfied her longing by reading. In high school, Kara’s interest in ecology was triggered by an environmental sciences course. It motivated her to pursue a degree in Environmental Management at Indiana University (IU). During her freshman year at IU, Kara began taking scuba diving classes through the Office of Underwater Science. Her first scientific diving experience was at an underwater archaeology field school in the Dominican Republic. Continuing her interest in underwater cultural resources, Kara began working in the National Geographic Archaeology Lab in The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. There she learned conservation techniques for maritime artifacts. The next summer, Kara returned to the Dominican Republic to lead a team of student divers to document the growth rates of recruited corals on cast-iron cannons. Additionally, Kara learned the basics of aquarium husbandry as an intern at the Great Barrier Reef exhibit at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. Currently, Kara is a junior at IU, and expects to have a successful career in marine conservation, and hopes to continue to explore the sea while scuba diving. 



Spring 2015

Jack Fishman was raised in the suburbs of New York but has spent his free time searching out ocean environments near and far. His inaugural scuba experience was with his dad, at the tender age of 8, and from then on his first love has been the ocean and its inhabitants. Jack completed his Scuba Instructor certification in 2012 and is now a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer. During his summers as a College of Charleston student, Jack participated in several marine science research programs through Broadreach, CIEE in Bonaire, and the School for Field Studies in Turks and Caicos, where he also worked with local communities raising awareness about fishing practices and conducting underwater surveys.  Each experience only cemented his certainty that marine conservation and public education and outreach were in his future.  Jack graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Tourism and Hospitality Management, and during his time there worked as a SCUBA Instructor at a local dive shop. Jack loves working with people and sharing his passion for the ocean and marine life. He can't wait to become part of the REEF family and to help educate others about the importance of citizen science and conservation. Regardless of what job and/or graduate degree is in his future, Jack knows that diving, experiencing other cultures and destinations, and helping to conserve the world he loves, are all part of the master plan. When Jack is not diving, he enjoys technical theater, eating exotic foods and taking beautiful photographs above and below the ocean's surface.








Kristen Ewen comes from the seasonally chilly Midwest, where she grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Lo and behold those Great Lakes' beaches are not always frozen and when summertime rolled around, she explored the shorelines for anything that made a splash! Once she discovered the saltier underwater world through a Shark behavior course in Fiji, she found more than just a few stubborn crayfish, more like a love for diving and ichthyology. After successfully finishing her dive instructor course through PADI she made her way to Broadreach employee status, where she opened the eyes of students across the country to conservation through teaching environmentally conscious diving and how to have a higher relationship with the water that is in their own community. Spending her summers in the Netherlands Antilles gave her a chance to work alongside many different island's Marine Protected Areas and enhance her knowledge of many Caribbean species both invasive (lionfish!) and native. After gaining these experiences in the Caribbean and Fiji, she returned to the States to study Marine Biology and Chemistry at the University of Tampa. With any time off Kristen is found continuously sharpening her teaching and communication skills as an after school teacher and in the husbandry department at the Florida Aquarium. Now being an adventurous 20 year old, Kristen is excited to continue the on-going message of conservation and water quality with REEF. 



Anna McBee grew up in small town Siler City, North Carolina.  In High school she began sailing and diving and fell in love with the marine environment and everything it entails.  She attended North Carolina State University to pursue a degree in Marine Sciences with a concentration in Biological Oceanography and minors in Zoology and Biological Sciences.  After studying abroad with SeaMester and sailing from the British Virgin Islands to Tahiti, Anna began searching for any way to spend time on the water.  After obtaining her captain’s license and more diving certifications she began working for Lifeworks and ActionQuest as a Captain and summer field staff.  It was at Lifeworks that she realized she wanted to pursue a career in educating others of the importance of marine life and promoting sustainability and conservation of the ocean.  Anna is always looking for excuses to go sailing or diving. After graduating in December she is excited for the new opportunity to work with REEF and gain experience in research, outreach and education!










Fall 2014

Gracie Barnes grew up on the gulf coast of Florida, and fell in love with the ocean at a very young age and knew she wanted to pursue a career in marine science from that point on. After graduating from the University of West Florida with a degree in Marine Biology and in Fine Arts, she and her young son went abroad to explore the rainforests and coasts of Costa Rica. It was there that she realized she wanted to pursue tropical marine ecology with a focus on the diversity of reefs.  She is an avid photographer, divemaster and loves all things natural in and out of the water. She is glad to be in the keys and excited about her internship at REEF. She hopes to use her time at REEF to encourage others to become stewards of the oceans. 





Ashtyn Isaak was raised in the arid environment of Bend, Oregon.  From early in life she had a fascination with the ocean and its organisms and became a PADI diver at the young age of 14. Following high school, she attended Oregon State University for their esteemed marine biology program.  As a student, she had the opportunity to study abroad in the Dutch Caribbean on the island of Bonaire for a tropical marine biology and conservation program.  While there, she became a scientific diver and conducted and published her research in a student journal.  She learned many different underwater and laboratory research techniques from working with lionfish stomach dissections to conducting various underwater surveys all while expanding her SCUBA diving expertise.  When she returned to the much colder climate in Oregon, she became a PADI Divemaster and continued her scientific diving work throughout the Pacific Northwest.  As a Divemaster, she assisted in SCUBA courses at OSU and in the community, often working with students in the Puget Sound and along the Oregon Coast.  She then attended classes through OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport where she studied an invasive estuarine seagrass and was able to explore the many different facets of intertidal ecology including working with the sea star wasting syndrome. Eager to try different opportunities, she volunteered as an aquarist for the Hatfield Visitor Center aquarium and learned considerably about animal husbandry and tank maintenance.  As a recent graduate she looks to start a career in marine conservation while emphasizing community outreach and will ultimately pursue a graduate degree after gaining additional experience.  She is extremely excited to begin this new chapter with REEF and cannot wait to move to the beautiful Florida Keys!  





Amy Lee dreamt of becoming a marine biologist from a young age. Her knack for writing lead her to the University of South Carolina (USC) School of Journalism and Mass Communications, where she earned a B.A. in public relations with a minor in sport management in 2012. After completing an internship in the communications department at the South Carolina Bar, Amy re-enrolled in college, and in 2014 she graduated with a second undergraduate degree, a B.S. in marine science with an emphasis in marine affairs. She has served as the Student Public Relations Coordinator for USC’s Marine Science Program, participated in an invasive lionfish removal project in Belize and studied coral reef ecology as a research assistant at a marine field station in Indonesia. She wants to share the need for research, education and ocean conseration by merging science with communication, and she is excited to begin her career as an intern with REEF! In the future, she hopes to attend graduate school and travel the world to scuba dive. When not underwater, Amy is an avid sports fan who can be found watching her beloved Gamecocks play, updating her fantasy football lineup, or hanging out with her husky, Aquilla. 

Anna Simmons was born and raised in land-locked Indiana.  Having possessed a passion for nature and wildlife, fostered by visits to Lake Michigan and school field trips to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Anna knew her future lay in working with animals.  It wasn’t until her visit to San Francisco, California and her first view of tidal pools and marine life that she decided to become a marine biologist. In 2010, she attended Ball State University, earning a major in Biology and a minor in SCUBA diving.  Anna spent her time as an undergraduate actively involved in the Ball State Chapter of The Wildlife Society, volunteering at local rehabilitation centers, aiding fellow students with data collection, and even providing husbandry for big brown bats.  She even conducted her own research on Atlantic mud fiddler crabs in Sapelo Island, Georgia and worked on other research projects.  As an intern at the John G. Shedd Aquarium, she had the chance to expand her knowledge of the natural history and husbandry of both marine and freshwater fish species.  Anna had the opportunity to utilize this knowledge as a volunteer diver for the Shedd Aquarium’s annual Bahamas fish collection trip, where she spent a week and a half upon a research vessel conducting dives to collect fish for aquarium display in an environmentally safe and friendly manner.  Anna plans on attending graduate school to gain a Masters in marine biology and conservation and is looking forward to gaining experience in marine research, educational outreach, and sharing her passion of marine life with others. 

Alyssa Smith was raised in the quiet desert town of Midland, Texas far from any aquatic environments. Her early years were spent exploring the outdoors, trail-riding horses, and going on camping excursions with her family. Alyssa’s curiosity for marine life and coastal ecosystems first took hold while visiting her grandparents annually in Florida, where she would visit local zoos, aquariums, and beaches. In 2006, Alyssa enrolled at Texas A&M University as a Wildlife and Fisheries student minoring in communications. Alyssa took special interest in learning about the world’s diverse environments and other cultures. In 2008 she embarked on an internship to South Africa to study eco-tourism and bio-conservation. On return, Alyssa knew her passions lay in eco-tourism and international conservation. After graduating in 2010, she immediately moved to Houston, TX to become a biology educator, scuba diver, and animal trainer for the Downtown Houston Aquarium. This experience provided invaluable experience with marine animals and local marine biologists. With lingering passions for traveling and discovering new ideas, people, and places, Alyssa joined the United States Peace Corps in 2012 and was assigned to the island country of Jamaica. Here she worked for the next 28 months as an Outreach Officer and Scientific Diver in Discovery Bay alongside the talented Discovery Bay Marine Lab (DBML) staff. Alyssa’s primary focus was developing and expanding the research facility’s community outreach programs, including the implementation of community events such as International Coastal Cleanup Day, World Wetlands Day, school career expos, etc., and establishing a U.S. Federal Government Grant to build an onsite DBML Outreach Center. When not at the lab Alyssa worked as an environmental teacher at a local primary school and orchestrated a Murals of Peace project for the disabled children’s home House of Love. Fresh out of Jamaica, Alyssa is excited to start the next adventure as an intern for REEF! She hopes to continue educating others about the importance of environmental conservation and to pursue a career path in eco-tourism and marine sciences.



Summer 2014

 Jessica Schem hails from sunny Los Angeles, California. She grew up by the ocean with a deep   passion for everything water related. From a family that is very involved in boating, cruising, and   diving she spent much of her free time at sea. Catalina Island and Mexico were favorite   destinations for her family and soon she started working summers at Camp Emerald Bay,   Catalina. In 2009, Jessica began school at the University of California Santa Barbara studying   Marine Biology. By the end of her freshman year she started working with PISCO (Partnership for   Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans) where she worked on juvenile fish recruitment. Later   she started on the PISCO dive team, surveying the Southern California Coast. Continuing her   interest in marine monitoring, she joined Reef Check California as a Santa Barbara student intern.   Jessica graduated with a degree in Marine Biology and a minor in Spatial Science. Right after   graduation, she had the amazing opportunity to work three months on the remote Atoll of   Palmyra in the middle of the South Pacific as a scientific field technician. There she assisted   several graduate students in a variety of marine research projects in the pristine South Pacific   environment.  Her work included fish and benthic surveys, focal follows, shark and fish acoustic   tagging, and acoustic telemetry work. All these experiences have solidified her love of the sea and   passion for pursuing a career path in marine conservation. Jessica currently works part time at   Catalina Island and part time as an environmental scientist and is very excited to have the   opportunity to work with REEF through Our World Underwater! She looks forward to all the great   experiences and connections she will make this summer.






 Jessie Stott was born and raised in Richmond, VA. As a child, she loved being outside,   vacationing to the Appalachian Mountains and enjoying the beaches of Cape Hatteras, North   Carolina. Following high school, she attended Longwood University, a small, public school in   Farmville, VA. At Longwood, she developed a strong passion for science education and became a   K-8th grade Virginia Board of Education certified science teacher. After graduating, she decided   that she wasn’t ready to stop learning and pursued her Master’s Degree in Coastal, Marine, and   Wetland studies at Coastal Carolina University located right outside Myrtle Beach, SC. During her   graduate career, she became highly involved in volunteering as an environmental educator and   decided that environmental education was the right career path. After becoming scuba certified   in the Florida Keys, she decided that she wanted to unite her passion for environmental   education with her love for coral reefs and diving subsequently applying for the REEF Marine   Conservation Internship. After completion of the internship, Jessie will graduate with a Master of   Science in December of 2014!!  She is beyond excited to begin her internship with REEF and get   started gaining valuable experiences with educational outreach, assisting with REEF Lionfish   projects, and continuing to pursue her dream!



 Elizabeth Ruben grew up in Connecticut and developed a love for the   ocean early on, but it is her fascination with sharks that really spurred an   interest in ocean conservation. After seeing 14 beautiful great white   sharks on a cage diving excursion in South Africa, Elizabeth’s obsession   with sharks grew and she became even more determined to get involved   in the preservation of the marine ecosystem. As an English major at   Brown University, Elizabeth strives to fuse her passions for writing and   ocean conservation. Elizabeth spent several summers learning to scuba   dive and sail in the Caribbean and is now a certified master diver who is   always looking forward to her next chance to explore the underwater   world. Last summer Elizabeth lived aboard a boat on a Seamester   program, sailing, scuba diving, and studying oceanography. More recently,   Elizabeth had the opportunity to participate in lionfish removal on site   while diving in Belize and she cannot wait to learn more about marine   conservation while working with REEF this summer!





 Emily Starnes grew up near the Chesapeake Bay in central Maryland, and   developed a passion for marine ecosystems at an early age after learning   about local Bay conservation issues.  She became a certified diver at age   17, and fell in love with tropical waters and coral reefs while diving with   her family in the Florida Keys. She relocated to the colder climate of New   England to attend Boston University, where she focused her   undergraduate studies on environmental policy and marine science.   During her third year, Emily spent an incredible semester abroad with the   School for Field Studies in the Turks and Caicos Islands.  During her three   months on South Caicos, Emily participated in population monitoring   studies of sea turtles and juvenile lemon sharks, worked on her fish   identification skills, and conducted a directed research project on coral   disease and bleaching. The following summer, she completed an   internship with NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.  She   graduated from Boston University in 2013, and returned to Maryland to   assist the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with a variety of habitat   restoration and wildlife monitoring projects in the Chesapeake Bay   watershed. She is thrilled to begin her next adventure with REEF, where she will be able to explore the nonprofit side of marine conservation and combine her interests in field research and environmental education! Emily is beginning a Master’s degree program in marine affairs at the University of Miami this fall, and hopes to pursue a career in coral reef conservation.



Spring 2014

 Adam Nardelli grew up on Long Island, NY and developed in interest in marine biology while   volunteering his high school summer months at the W.C.S. New York Aquarium.  Merging the   task of double hats as a PADI SCUBA instructor and scientist, Adam has spent enough bottom   time with recreational divers to develop an interest in how the public can support ocean   conservation. Currently studying as a graduate student enrolled in a Master of Science program   at the Nova Southeastern University, Oceanographic Center for marine biology, he has   developed a specific interest in the management concerns regarding the impact of non-native   lionfish (the Pterois volitans and P. miles).  Adam has been conducting a project to investigate   the population dynamics of lionfish within the Florida Keys with a tag and recapture technique.     He hopes to provide insight into a cost-effective management plan that will assist with   controlling the invasion. Now, just one semester away from graduation, he is eager to apply all   his experience and knowledge into work that will make a difference in conserving the ocean’s   resources. His career goal is to bring the field of science and the public community together and   work effectively to achieve science-based management decisions.  Adam intends to continue to   work with either government or non-profit organizations to preserve the South Florida reef   ecosystem for the benefit every stakeholder and future generations to enjoy.






 Taylor Zallek grew up surrounded by water in the land of 10,000 lakes.  However, at a   young age he developed a fondness for saltier seas and tropical fish identification while   diving with his family in the Bahamas.  Taylor attended St. John's University in central   Minnesota where he studied biology and enjoyed conducting undergraduate research,   investigating the negative effects invasive species have on terrestrial and aquatic   ecosystems.  He also capitalized on several opportunities to pursue his passion for marine   biology while studying abroad and conducting research in the field, taking him to places   like South Africa, the Bahamas, and Bermuda.  Following graduation, Taylor spent a year   working at an elementary school teaching math, science, and reading to 3rd-6th graders.     He also served as his city's youth volunteer coordinator and middle school football coach.     Taylor is excited to be back in the water and interning at REEF where he will be able to   combine his passion for coral reef ecology with his desire to teach and educate!









Jessica Sellers grew up in the Mojave Desert of southern California. Growing up in a rural desert environment she developed a deep appreciation for herpetology and ecology. She could always be found outside collecting snakes and lizards. All of the neighbors had her on speed dial when a "pesty" snake found its way into their home. With the ocean being four hours away, the idea of SCUBA diving and swimming with the dolphins was just a fantasy. In 2006 she enrolled at Humboldt State University, located in the small coastal town of Arcata in northern California. Here she developed a strong passion for the marine environment through the Scientific/Leadership Diving program at HSU. She began her dive career in 2008 and continued on to receive a minor in Scientific Diving in conjunction with NAUI, AAUS, and Reef Check California guidelines. In 2010 she was accepted as the summer dive and interpretation intern at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, AK, only expanding her passion for marine stewardship. In May 2013 she graduated from HSU with a Bachelor’s of Science in Wildlife Conservation Biology. She then moved to Wyoming for the summer to assist the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services with field surveys and a captive breeding program for the endangered Wyoming toad. Working in Florida, assisting in invasive species monitoring and native species conservation has been a long sought-after goal. Being accepted into the spring 2014 REEF internship program will allow her to continue her education in diving related activities revolving around environmental conservation issues.







Stacey Weinstock hails from the city streets of Arlington, Virginia. At 11, thanks to her father and life-long dive buddy, she became a certified diver and began her love affair with the underwater world. While Stacey adored the ocean she decided to attend landlocked Virginia Tech where she pursued a Wildlife Science degree. There she gained experience in numerous fields including small mammal trapping and GIS mapping. One summer was even spent as a Sea Turtle technician on Cumberland Island, GA for the Student Conservation Association! While she thoroughly enjoyed her years as a wildlife scientist she felt her heart ultimately laid in marine conservation. Fortunately, in her last semester, Virginia Tech instilled a Marine Fisheries Science degree. Stacey used this opportunity to study abroad at James Cook University in Australia cementing her love for marine fish and conservation. After graduating Virginia Tech in 2012, now with two Bachelor of Science degrees, she was offered a position to map wetlands using GIS at the Conservation Management Institute. After a year and a half of working, and a couple months backpacking in Europe, she decided to finally pursue her dream of marine conservation and applied to REEF. To her delight she was accepted and will use this time to explore the numerous opportunities that come with being a REEF Marine Conservation intern!

Fall 2013

Austen Elizabeth Stovall grew up on the barrier islands of the Outer Banks of North Carolina in Kill Devil Hills.  As a child she loved fishing, swimming and romping through the waves.  She could always be found at the beach or exploring the sound-side with nets and buckets to collect her “samples”. She then moved from the coast to the foothills to attend college at Wake Forest University and after her freshman year, she spent a summer with the School for Field Studies in Turks and Caicos.  It was on South Caicos that she solidified her passion for marine conservation and being in the water all day, every day.  Attending class at Wake alongside pre-med majors, Austen focused her studies on tropical reef ecology, conducting studies on anemones, algae & herbivorous fish and taking trips to ecologically rich places like Belize. Additionally, her free time in college included late-night Cookout runs, walks through Reynolda Gardens, and any events with free food.  As a recent graduate of Wake Forest University with a B.S. in Biology, Austen hopes to pursue a career in coral reef ecology and marine resource management.  Her other interests include coffee, books, tv, and good music.  She is thrilled to be in Key Largo on a new island and is ready to dive into this adventure with REEF!








Colin Howe: With his Mother and Father from Dominica and Trinidad respectfully, Colin has grown up next to tropical waters. In addition to his Caribbean heritage, coming from a military family, Colin had the opportunity to travel and experience various marine ecosystems from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia to Waikiki waters in Hawaii. He graduated in December from Old Dominion University in Norfolk Virginia with a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a Marine Biology concentration. In school, Colin founded the first Marine Biology Student Association at Old Dominion University and worked with many students and professors on various activities ranging from community service to shore line restoration events. Through the MBSA Colin and his board members helped facilitate interactions between professors and students by, helping students attend marine biology conferences and also host movie nights, 5K  Run and beach cleanups near campus. In 2012 he traveled to Belize to study Tropical Marine Ecology at IZE, South Water Cay. The following months he worked as an Intern in Long Key Florida for Dr. Mark Butler and his graduate students as an AAUS certified diver. During his REEF internship he plans on volunteering with multiple groups and associations to better diversify his learning experiences. Lastly, he plans on attending graduate school to continually satisfy his curiousity and passion for the tropical marine ecosystem.








Zoe Sanchez was born and raised in the sunshine state. In college, Zoe’s most enjoyable and fulfilling class was a 6 credit course held in the summer called Field Problems in Marine Biology. Learning hundreds of marine species names, snorkeling in the Dry Tortugas, and living on a small island off Cedar Key solidified her goals of pursuing marine biology. After graduating from the University of Florida with a B.S. in Zoology, Zoe interned at the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys, worked as an assistant laboratory animal technician at UF, traveled to the Red Sea as a field assistant conducting cetacean population research with HEPCA, and was accepted into a graduate program in New York City. Currently, Zoe is completing her Master’s degree in Animal Behavior and Conservation, and is thrilled to be a REEF intern! When not underwater, Zoe enjoys rugby, photography, traveling, and thunderstorms.





Summer 2013

Catie Alves is from the lovely beach town of Narragansett, Rhode Island.  She grew up exploring the salt marshes and beaches along the coast of "The Ocean State" and always dreamed of being a mermaid.  This past May she graduated from Connecticut College with a Bachelor of Arts in Biological Sciences.  Right after graduation, Catie hit the road from Rhode Island to begin a new adventure: working with REEF!  Initially considering a career in medicine, she tried her hand at working in the lab.  She has conducted research in molecular oncology at Tufts Medical Center and studied the population genetics of copepods through an NSF-funded REU internship at San Francisco State University.  However, Catie always missed being outside, and especially being by the ocean.  Last spring, she spent a semester in Bonaire with CIEE's Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation study abroad program.  While in Bonaire, she conducted research on the importance of herbivory on coral reef ecosystems and found her passion for coral reef conservation.  Catie comes to REEF eager to combine her scientific background with her interest in marine conservation.  She also enjoys dancing, playing the flute, and traveling.


What is Catie doing now? Read her 2020 Intern Alumni Spotlight








Alexis Balinski thought she was going to be a marine biologist when she was a little girl growing up in Southern Maryland. The daughter of a former commercial diver and underwater engineer, Alexis developed a deep love of all things marine. Despite a childhood filled with scuba diving and sea turtle conservation volunteerism, she followed her academic strengths into the fields of journalism and graphic design, which lead her to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. However, after her freshman year of college — when she studied abroad in the Turks and Caicos Islands with the School for Field Studies — her passion for the ocean was rekindled and Alexis declared a minor in Marine Science. Now she is dedicated to promoting marine conservation with the journalism and graphic design skills she has developed through intensive coursework at UNC-CH. A rising senior, Alexis was beyond ecstatic to land her dream internship here at REEF! She hopes the experience will help her learn and grow both as a design professional in the field of marine conservation, and as a citizen scientist.

What is Alexis doing now? Read her 2018 Intern Alumni Spotlight







Alex Kattan is from Jupiter, Florida (not the planet!). After nearly 3 years of business school at the University of Florida, he decided decided to explore other options. An eye-opening class in Environmental Science as well as a part-time job working as an Outdoor Recreation Assistant at the University's beautiful Lake Wauburg steered Alex down the path of the natural sciences. He graduated with a BS in Forest Resources and Conservation, a BA in Political Science, and a minor in Sustainability Studies in May 2012. Wanting to combine his exposure to research with an interest in diving, Alex set out on a post-graduate mission to work towards a career in research diving. Towards this end, he worked as a summer Outdoor Adventure Leader in the Lower Keys and Dry Tortugas, leading snorkeling, kayaking, and fishing trips for young teens; earned his PADI Divemaster certificate in Utila, Honduras (where he became hooked on lion-fishing); volunteered with REEF on invasive lionfish research; and is currently working as a REEF intern. Alex will be beginning a masters degree program in marine science in the fall (on the Red Sea!) and is excited to bring his experience with REEF into the curriculum. His other interests and hobbies include the great outdoors, travel, soccer, biking, reading, and hanging out with his crazy dog (Izzy).


Ellie Splain: Despite being born and raised in landlocked Illinois, Ellie developed a passion for the underwater world at a very young age. She grew up on a small lake, and experienced her first breath underwater in a cold and dark quarry. However, her live aboard and dive trip to the Florida Keys set her on a path towards marine conservation. She is now 21 years old and a senior at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She is studying Natural Resource and Environmental Science with a concentration in Fish and Wildlife Conservation and minoring in Anthropology. She recently spent 3 months using her dive skills on South Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands. Through the School for Field Studies on South Caicos, Ellie participated in population monitoring research of green and hawksbill sea turtles as well as juvenile lemon sharks. She also conducted her own research on the often unregulated and rapidly depleting spiny lobster and queen conch fisheries. Ellie has also spent 4 years working at children’s camps teaching about the environment and marine life. She is excited to be at REEF this summer, so she can combine her interests of research diving with education and outreach, and continue to pursue a career in marine conservation.


Spring 2013

Benjamin Barker spent his whole life living in Ohio, mostly in a small town near Cleveland. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Biology at The Ohio State University, which shaped his future in two ways. The first was attending a class at a research station on Lake Erie, called Stone Laboratory. His experiences during his Field Zoology class, and as a laboratory assistant, captured his interest in marine biology. Second, Ben’s interest in research was sparked while working as a lab assistant for OSU’s Medical Entomology Lab, where he spent 7 days a week raising African mosquitoes and experimenting on their olfactory abilities. These two experiences forever changed his career path. After graduating, he decided to pursue his Master’s degree in Marine Biology at Nova Southeastern University. He now hopes to complete his thesis project on the invasive lionfish. Ben is looking forward to all the opportunities he will have as a REEF intern, especially the opportunity to help out with research projects and teaching others about marine conservation. In his spare time, Ben enjoys many outdoor activities, such as hiking, kayaking, snowboarding, wakeboarding, golf, and other sports. He is also an avid sports fan, strongly supporting all of his Ohio teams. 




Anne Benolkin: Anne is from in Eagle River, Alaska where she froze solid for the first 18 years of her life. She then spent her first year of university thawing out at Florida International University(FIU) and the next 2.5 years were spent alternating between Florida and Alaska. In December 2012, Anne graduated with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Communications from University of Alaska Southeast. Anne has had a variety of opportunities to expand her scientific skills. She has volunteered with USGS in Alaska participating in  week long research tours to monitor habitat recovery from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. She spent a summer in the San Juan Islands doing abalone restoration with Shannon Point Marine CenterShe also assisted with a seagrass ecosystem structure experiment at FIU. Most of these projects involved SCUBA diving, an activity that she has enjoyed since she was seventeen. She is currently certified as a scientific diver by AAUS and a rescue diver by PADI. Anne loves the spineless critters of the sea, and hopes to one day do research on cephalopods. Eventually Anne would like to be in a position to do both teaching and research, possibly at a university. She comes to REEF excited about diving and spreading the message of conservation and science.








Mackenzie Brooke was born and raised on the sandy shores of Long Beach, New York (not California).  She learned at an early age how important it is to preserve the natural beauty of coastal and marine environments.  After high school, she found herself heading south to attend the University of Miami for the next three and a half years.  She graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Health Science with minors in both Ecosystem Science & Policy and Chemistry. Mackenzie had planned to work in the medical field.  But, after spending one year as an office manager for a psychologist and after many documented hours of shadowing medical professionals, she realized spending her days in an office or hospital setting would not be ideal.  She became SCUBA certified in the spring of 2012 in Koh Tao, Thailand, which ultimately altered her perspective on what she wanted to pursue as a career.  After diving the tropical waters of the South Pacific, the Florida Keys, and Grand Cayman Islands, she found passion in conserving and exploring the beautiful coral reef environments.  Outside of the water, Mackenzie also enjoys yoga, music, reading, and making new friends.










Danielle Perez: Originally from Kentucky, Danielle grew up in Louisville and decided she wanted to be a marine scientist after her father took her to the Newport Aquarium when she was in the sixth grade. Danielle attended Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina and participated in a Maymester program on coral reef ecology in Discovery Bay, Jamaica. There she conducted her own research project on sponge distribution, wrote a paper, and presented her findings to the Discovery Bay Marine Lab at the University of the West Indies. While diving and studying reefs in Jamaica, Danielle discovered her love for conservation ecology. She graduated in May with not only a Bachelor's degree in Marine Science, but also minors in both Environmental Science and Spanish. Danielle then interned in the fall with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama. She worked in the Fisheries Ecology lab assisting with both field work and lab work for the graduate students and researchers there. Danielle plans on moving to Seattle at the end of the summer and is incredibly excited to be pursuing her dreams of working in marine conservation with REEF. 






Fall 2012

Kayla Ripple: Is a recent graduate from the University of Tampa where she studied Marine Biology and Environmental Sciences. Born in Naples, Florida she grew to love the ocean and its creatures. When Kayla moved to Georgia at age 10, all she wanted to do was come back to Florida. The weather, the ocean, the lifestyle were all things she couldn’t stand to be away from. While she adores the ocean and its many amazing ecosystems, her passion truly lies with the coral reefs. Some of her past experiences include being an intern for the Georgia Aquarium in the Tropical Diver exhibit, as well as a volunteer with the Molluscan Fisheries department at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. She’s also had the amazing opportunity to travel and dive in Roatan, Honduras as a travel abroad course with her Coral Reefs class. Kayla plans to go to grad school sometime in the near future to study tropical ecology and conservation. She can’t think of a better career than diving, traveling, and doing research that will help save one of the most important ecosystems on our planet!




Elizabeth Underwood: Is from Atlanta, GA and her passion for marine biology really took off when she was a senior in high school and conducted a year-long research project on the whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium. In May 2012 she graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina with a BS in Biology. Davidson doesn’t offer a degree in marine science so she satisfied her need to learn about the ocean by participating in a semester long study abroad program in the Turks and Caicos Islands with fellow intern Keri Kenning. After that, there was no doubt in her mind that this is what she wants to do with the rest of her life. She has a strong interest in the lionfish invasion and really looks forward to working with REEF this semester. She also has an interest in herpetology and was very involved with the herpetology lab at Davidson her senior year.  She hopes to combine her love of both research areas one day. In a year or two she plans to go to graduate school to earn a PhD in marine science.  Elizabeth loves doing anything outside, especially if it involves the ocean!







Marcie Orenstein: grew up in Ohio and Michigan but enjoys living in coastal locales. She graduated from University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. As an undergraduate, her interest in learning more about the marine environment led her to study at both the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences and the Duke University Marine Lab. She took courses in multiple areas of marine science while integrating fieldwork, including time spent monitoring and tagging leatherback sea turtles in Trinidad. Since graduating, Marcie has studied medicine in England and Grenada in the West Indies where her interest in the marine environment increased. She is excited to be working with REEF this fall, learning about nonprofit management and engaging in conservation efforts. She hopes to combine an interest in medicine and marine science as a graduate student next fall.  In her spare time, Marcie enjoys art, jewelry making, SCUBA diving while looking for invertebrates (especially nudibranchs), traveling, cooking ethnic food, and running.




Keri Kenning: was born in Hutchinson, Kansas, and spent the first two decades of her life there, entirely too landlocked. Thankfully her loving father, Jerry, is a passionate diver and underwater photographer, and he had Keri in the water in no time. Keri became fascinated with the ocean at age 10 during a fish identification presentation at a REEF Field Station in Bonaire. At 14 she began diving, and recently she celebrated her 225th dive! Keri lived, researched, and played on South Caicos Island with the School for Field Studies during the spring of 2011 with fellow intern Elizabeth. It was there she finessed her marine binomial nomenclature and first tangoed with the invasive lionfish. After graduating from the University of Kansas in 2012 with a degree in biology, she left beloved Lawrence, Kansas, for lower latitudes. First, a REEF lionfish expedition in Belize; second, a REEF lionfish derby and research project in the Bahamas; and finally, the REEF internship in Key Largo. In her spare time Keri enjoys all forms of the great outdoors, flyfishing, playing tennis, boating, biking, snow skiing, cairn terriers and westies, community outreach, and volunteering. You can find her any given game day in crimson and blue cheering on the Jayhawks. Rock Chalk!

Summer 2012

 Jana Huebner: Fled the landlocked state of Missouri to live among and study the beautiful water of the tropics. She is currently obtaining her bachelor's of Marine Science at the University of Tampa. Her passion for the ocean was born during live aboard summer camps in the Caribbean learning how to SCUBA dive, Sail and about the marine environment. She loves to travel and being outdoors either hiking, camping, kayaking, or simply just playing around! Though her future is undecided, she hopes it leads in the direction of scientific research on fish!







 Jessi Doerpinghaus: Originally from Austin, Texas, Jessi has always had a love for the ocean and all things marine.  She received her B.S. in Marine Biology with a minor in Ocean and Coastal Resources from Texas A&M University at Galveston while working as a marine science instructor for Sea Camp.  Currently, she is a second year's masters student at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the UCSB where she is focusing in Coastal Marine Resource Management and Pollution Prevention and Remediation.  Jessi hopes to take all of her education and her experience working with REEF and find a career in marine conservation and fisheries management.  In her free time, she is a huge baseball fan, loves watching Texas A&M Football, and enjoys scuba diving, baking, and traveling.






Jessica Levy: Jess hails from North Carolina and is a self named coral-geek passionate about tropical coral reef conservation. Her interest began in 2008 while studying abroad at James Cook University (JCU) in Australia situated only a stone’s throw away from the Great Barrier Reef. From her first dive on the GBR she was hooked on corals! Since then she has spent her time traveling to destinations like Curacao, Bermuda, and California following her interest in reef conservation. In 2011 she found herself back at JCU pursuing a Masters degree in Tropical Conservation with a special focus on incorporating climate change modeling into Marine Protected Areas. She hopes to one day find a home in the Caribbean working in the fields of reef conservation and outreach.

What is Jess doing now? Read her 2019 Intern Alumni Spotlight





 Joel Barnes (A.K.A. Paco Benito Juarez) was raised as an underwater enthusiast throughout the United States with family that hails from Puerto Rico and Florida. Joel is currently attending Eckerd College as a student of marine science with a focus on biology.  Recent adventures with lionfish in Honduras spiked special interests in tropical invasive species management, which led him to discover REEF. His terrestrial hobbies include Parkour, extreme sports, languages and trailblazing.




Spring 2012

 Lucy Davis: Lucy was born and raised in Texas and has spent the past few years traveling around the world. In 2009, she lived in New Zealand assisting with various research projects using her underwater skills as a diver and driving boats. She recently went backpacking through Southeast Asia where she was able to dive and see lionfish in their native habitat. Lucy is focusing on environmental education and would like to teach and travel with her husband. Her interests and hobbies include diving, biking, kayaking, riding her scooter and playing with her dog, Rocky. In the near future, Lucy would like to travel to South America and become more fluent in Spanish.

Brandon Lenderink: Brandon is a Colorado native and a recent biology graduate whose passion for wildlife and conservation has led him to pursue a career in marine biology. From 2007-2009 he worked as an aquarist for the Denver Downtown Aquarium, promoting conservation and working with animals such as endangered turtles and Sumatran tigers.  In 2010 and 2011, Brandon worked for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in the Aquatic Nuisance Species program, producing scuba protocol manuals and educating people about invasive species such as zebra/quagga mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil. Brandon’s future goals are to become a research diver and scuba instructor. Some of his favorite non-diving activities include motorcycle riding, going on roller coasters, getting involved in the science community, and drinking a great-tasting milkshake.

Fall 2011

Laura Louon (l):
Originally from Belgium, Laura is a recent BS in Biology graduate from Ithaca College in upstate New York. Laura decided she wanted a career in marine conservation and management after an adventure as a research assistant at the the extremely remote Wakatobi National Marine Park Research Station in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia last summer. Gladly leaving behind snowy winters, she has moved down to the Keys to learn more about marine conservation non-profits and brush up on her fish identification, before heading off to graduate school next fall.

Mollie Sinnott (r):
Mollie recently graduated in May 2011 with a BS in Biology from Wake Forest University in North Carolina.  After an internship last year with the Bermuda Zoological Society’s Department of Conservation Services, she decided to continue her career in marine sciences down in the Keys.  While originally from Pittsburgh, PA, she much prefers warmer climates and was eager to move back south.  She is interested in ecosystem monitoring and ecology and is currently in the process of applying to graduate school for marine biology with a focus on coral reef ecology.






Summer 2011
Franklin College

Claire Kitchin (Franklin College)





Wellesley College, MS from Scripps Instititue of Oceanography

Julianna Mullen (Wellesley College, MS from Scripps Instititue of Oceanography)





Spring 2011 

Katharine Llop and Jamie Stack









Fall 2010

Nicole Fabian and Stephanie Dreaver 

Summer 2010 

Zach Bamman

Summer 2009 

Danielle Calini

Summer 2008 

Steph Roach

Fall 2007
Catherine Whitaker (Duke University) and Lauren Finan (University of Colorado at Boulder) 

Catherine Whitaker (Duke University) and Lauren Finan (University of Colorado at Boulder)




Summer 2007

Marsissa Nuttall and Paige Switzer

Spring 2007

Isla Turner and Jennifer Arakaki

Fall 2006 
Whitman College

Ashley Apel (Whitman College)





University of Georgia

Alecia Adamson (University of Georgia)





Summer 2006 
Monterey Institute for International Studies

Glynnis Roberts (Monterey Institute for International Studies)





New York University

Aiyesha Ghani (New York University)





Manatee Community College, FL

Emily O'Day (Manatee Community College, FL)





Spring 2006 

University of Miami

Matthew Nuttall (University of Miami)





University of Toledo

Ashley Pruden Ricker (University of Toledo)






Fall 2005 

Bates College

Jackie Bowie (Bates College)








University of Washington

Kirsten Feifel (University of Washington)








Summer 2005 

Bates College

Jackie Bowie (Bates College)









Univ. of East Anglia at Norwich

Nia Cherrett (University of East Anglia at Norwich)







Univ. of Miami

Skyler Sagarese (University of Miami)









Univ. of Miami

Joe Winn (University of Miami)









Fall & Spring 2004-2005 

Univ. of Mass. at Amherst

Danyel Addes (University of Mass at Amherst)








New York University

Kate Guerena (New York University)







Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR

Gwenn Kubeck (Lewis and Clark College)





Summer 2004 

Henderson State University, Arkansas

Steve Prutzman (Henderson State University)





Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi

Mollie McIver (Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi)






Spring 2004 
Allegheny College

Josh Wittmer (Allegheny College)





Florida Institute of Technology

Jamie Gigante (Florida Institute of Technology)





Fall 2003 
on leave from Massachustts Audubon and Auburn University (respectively)

Ellen Minichiello (Massachustts Audubon) and Bevlynn Moser (Auburn University)





Summer 2003 
Texas A&M University, Galveston

Joanna Walczak (Texas A&M University, Galveston)







University of Richmond

Steve Saul (University of Richmond)







Swarthmore College

Davita Burkhead-Weiner (Swarthmore College)








Spring 2003 
Lawrence University

Kayte Hanson (Lawrence University)









U.C. Davis

Laura Lins (U.C. Davis)






Fall 2002 

Sarah Goldman (Bowling Green State University) and Julie Fleming (Prescott College)






Summer 2002
Lauren Bunnell (University of Arizona), Jay Gardner (Texas A&M University), Kari Forrest (UNC at Chapel Hill), Basia Hajduczek (U.C. Berkeley)

Lauren Bunnell (University of Arizona), Jay Gardner (Texas A&M University), Kari Forrest (UNC at Chapel Hill), Basia Hajduczek (UC Berkeley)






Spring 2002 

Long Island University

Amy Freidank (Long Island University)






Fall 2001 

University of Colorado

Shannon Lyday (University of Colorado)







Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh

Jon Moss (Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh)





Summer 2001 

Molly Myhr (Vanderbilt University) and Lisa Canty (University of Hawaii at Hilo)





Spring 2001 

Truman State University

Jennifer Stuart (Truman State University)






Fall 2000 

Leda Cunningham (Macalester College) and Katie Gaut (Oregon State University)





Bianca Piccillo (Harvard University)