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2015 Gulf Research Program Fellows

The Gulf Research Program is pleased to announce the 2015 Science Policy and Early-Career Research Fellows.

2015 Science Policy Fellows

2015 Policy Del Angel_cropped2015 Policy Gomez_cropped2015 Policy Henkel_cropped2015 Policy Ren_cropped
Diana Del Angel
Host Office: Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Elizabeth Gomez
Host Office: NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program 
Jessica Henkel
Host Office: RESTORE Council
Cholena Ren
Host Office: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Gulf of Mexico Office

2015 Early-Career Research Fellows

 2015 Research Albert_cropped 2015 Research Caban Martinez_cropped 2015 Research Darnell_cropped 2015 Research Dorgan_cropped
Julie Albert
Tulane University
Alberto Caban-Martinez
University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine
Zack Darnell
Nicholls State University
Kelly Dorgan
Dauphin Island Sea Lab
 2015 Research Fodrie 2015 Research Michel_cropped 2015 Research Wallace_cropped 2015 Research White_cropped
Joel Fodrie
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Anna Michel
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Davin Wallace
University of Southern Mississippi
Helen White
Haverford College 

 

Biographies, Policy Fellows

Diana Del Angel, M.S.
Host Office: Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Diana Del Angel was raised in South Texas. She received a B.S. in environmental science from the University of Texas at Brownsville in 2008 and a M.S. from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in 2011. As an undergraduate student she mapped coastal and riparian vegetation along the Rio Grande River and participated in numerous estuarine and dune restoration events. To pursue her interest in coastal environments, Diana focused her graduate studies on coastal and estuarine processes under the guidance of Dr. James Gibeaut. Her thesis research analyzed beach and dune dynamics on South Padre Island, Texas.   

Currently, Diana is a coastal geoscientist at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) working in the Coastal and Marine Geospatial Lab. While at HRI, she has participated in projects relating to coastal hazards and hurricane impacts, and in stakeholder-driven coastal assessments and planning initiatives for Texas. Diana lends her expertise, serving in the Watershore and Beach advisory committee for the City of Corpus Christi, helping to protect and manage local parks and beaches, as well as to improve public safety.  As a Gulf Research Program Science Policy Fellow, Diana will be working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. She enjoys traveling, the beach, and music.

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Elizabeth Gomez, M.S.
Host Office: NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program

Elizabeth Gomez studied marine ecology as an undergraduate, spending time in different laboratories on the East Coast and graduating from Brown University in 2011 with a B.S. in biology. Subsequently, she spent two years working in an environmental consulting firm in Baltimore, MD, where she gained broad experience of the environmental field while working with multiple clients and agencies. Currently, Elizabeth is finishing her M.S. in marine science at Stony Brook University, where she is using a model to understand impacts of oyster restoration on fish communities. Elizabeth presented part of her work at the 2015 Benthic Ecology Meeting. She was selected as a graduate fellow to present at “A Community on Ecosystem Services 2014,” where she learned about the use of ecosystem services in policy making and restoration.

Elizabeth enjoys helping with organizations spread awareness about natural conservation. During college, she was a mentor with the Brown Outdoor Leadership and Environmental Education Club, where she taught environmental science to high school students.

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Jessica Henkel, Ph.D.
Host Office: RESTORE Council
Jessica Renee Henkel is completing her Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA.  She holds a M.S. in biology from the University of New Orleans and a B.A. in English from Stony Brook University. Jessica is an E.P.A. Science to Achieve Results Fellow, a National Wildlife Federation Emerging Leaders Council member, and was a 2015 Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow with the National Academy of Sciences. Her dissertation research investigated how environmental changes and habitat degradation are impacting the coastal habitats of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and the effects these changes are having on the bird populations that migrate through them. As an ecologist living and conducting research on the northern Gulf of Mexico, Jessica has witnessed first-hand the many challenges facing the region. Her research experience—in addition to her experiences working with individuals from a variety of background and educational levels, such as fisherman turned cleanup workers at oiled study sites, or New Orleans inner-city youth experiencing a salt marsh for the first time—has strengthened her belief that healthy coastal communities require healthy coastal ecosystems. Following this, Jessica hopes her future work will support the development of management strategies that minimize the negative impacts of human decision-making and policies on coastal ecosystems.

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Cholena Ren, Doctoral Candidate
Host Office: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Gulf of Mexico Office
Cholena Ren is a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry at Louisiana State University (LSU) and alumna of the University of West Florida (UWF). She is passionate and committed to making significant contributions to research in chemistry and environmental sciences. During her undergraduate career at UWF, Cholena was a student athlete, where she received numerous scholarships and awards, including Outstanding Undergraduate Student. In addition, she volunteered in outreach, such as judging science fairs and providing science demonstrations to local school children. Her undergraduate research included polymer syntheses that could be used in future cancer treatments, as well as evaluating levels of dibenzo-p-dioxin in an industrial chemical. She continued her education at LSU, working towards her Ph.D. in chemistry at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Superfund Research Center. Currently, she studies particulates generated from combustion processes. The goal of her research is to understand the chemistry of particulate matter as a function of environmental variables. Some of her volunteer activities at LSU include the EnvironMentors Program, Louisiana State University Chapter of National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE), NIEHS Student/Postdoc/Alumni Network (SPAN) Leadership Committee, and taking part in environmental education symposia.

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Biographies & Research Summaries, Research Fellows

Julie Albert, Ph.D, Tulane University

Research Summary:

The Albert group is interested in developing nano- and micro-structured polymeric materials for research applications related to present-day challenges in energy, health, and the environment.  Specifically, the group takes advantage of the phase separation processes responsible for self-assembly in block copolymers (~nm) and polymer blends (~μm) to produce materials in thin film geometries exhibiting desired morphologies.  For example, the group creates materials that may become nanotemplates for electronic materials, tailorable microenvironments for cell culture, or nanoporous membranes for filtration.

Biography:
Dr. Julie Albert is an assistant professor and the Robert and Gayle Longmire Early Career Professor in Chemical Engineering at Tulane University.  She received her B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Florida in 2005 and her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware in 2011. Subsequently, she pursued postdoctoral research studies at North Carolina State University. Her doctoral and postdoctoral research focused on developing gradient methods for exploring the effects of surface interactions on block copolymer thin film self-assembly and tailoring the chemical and mechanical properties of silicone elastomer networks for cell mobility studies and peptide assembly.  At Tulane, Dr. Albert’s primary research interests are centered on the use of combinatorial methods to engineer nano- and micro-structured polymeric materials for applications in energy, health, and the environment.  Dr. Albert has authored several scientific articles, including three topical reviews, in peer-reviewed journals such as ACS Nano, NanoLetters, Materials Today, and Chemical Society Reviews. She has presented her research at a number of national meetings, including two award symposia (Padden Award Symposium, 2011 APS March Meeting; Akzo Nobel Student Award Symposium, 2010 ACS National Meeting) and an invited talk at the 2012 AIChE National Meeting. During her doctoral studies, Dr. Albert was the recipient of an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and a Teaching Fellowship, and during her postdoctoral studies, she received the AIChE Women’s Initiative Committee Travel Award in 2012. In addition to her research-related activities at Tulane, Dr. Albert also serves as the faculty advisor for the Society of Women Engineers undergraduate student organization on campus.

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Alberto Caban-Martinez, D.O., Ph.D., M.P.H, C.P.H., University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine

Research Summary:
Dr. Alberto Juan Caban-Martinez’s interdisciplinary program of research aims to conduct robust occupational and environmental health surveillance activities and provide rigorous scientific evidence about effective ways to reduce musculoskeletal disorders and improve the well-being of worker populations. He focuses on finding ways to promote safe work practices, healthy behaviors and healthy work environments. Dr. Caban-Martinez is especially concerned about redressing disparities in musculoskeletal disorder risk, whether by race/ethnicity, gender or occupation.

Biography:
Dr. Caban-Martinez is a new assistant professor of public health sciences and director of the Musculoskeletal Disorders and Occupational Health Lab at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine. He earned his bachelor of science degree in computer science with minors in biology, chemistry and mathematics from the University of Miami in 2001. In 2004, Dr. Caban-Martinez received his master of public health (M.P.H.) degree with honors from Nova Southeastern University. In May 2011 he completed both the osteopathic medicine (D.O.) program at Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine as well as the doctoral occupational epidemiology (Ph.D.) program in the at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine. He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in clinical orthopedics and musculoskeletal disorders at the Harvard School of Public Health where he learned to develop workplace interventions in the construction industry. Dr. Caban-Martinez remains an instructor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School, and a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health. His research primarily examines the morbidity and mortality of occupational workers, with specialty in musculoskeletal disorders. He has articles published in the American Journal of Public Health, Industrial Medicine, and the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. He has written over 82 peer reviewed publications on a wide range of topics including the prevalence of health behaviors and indicators (physical activity, smoking, obesity, and alcohol consumption) among U.S. workers. He is an active standing member of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s National Occupational Research Agenda construction and mining industry sector councils.

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Zachary Darnell, Ph.D., Nicholls State University

Research Summary:
Dr. Zachary Darnell’s long-term research interests are centered on the environmental constraints imposed upon marine and estuarine invertebrate species. Specifically, his research focuses on (1) physiological and behavioral responses to environmental change and environmental stress; (2) environmental effects on life histories, distributions, and population dynamics; and (3) anthropogenic impacts on organism-environment interactions.

Biography:
Dr. Darnell is an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA. Prior to coming to Nicholls, he was a research associate at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute. Dr. Darnell earned a B.S. in biological sciences from Vanderbilt University in 2005 and a Ph.D. in ecology from Duke University in 2009. His long-term research interests are centered on the environmental constraints imposed upon marine and estuarine invertebrate species. Specifically, his research focuses on (1) physiological and behavioral responses to environmental change and environmental stress; (2) environmental effects on life histories, distributions, and population dynamics; and (3) anthropogenic impacts on organism-environment interactions. Focusing primarily on crustaceans, this research relies on a combination of field- and lab-based experimental work, complemented by quantitative and spatial analyses of long-term fishery-dependent and fishery-independent datasets to better understand patterns of abundance and distribution in relation to environmental factors over longer time scales. Dr. Darnell is an active member of several professional societies including the American Fisheries Society, Gulf Estuarine Research Society, National Shellfisheries Association, Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, and The Crustacean Society.

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Kelly Dorgan, Ph.D., Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL)

Research Summary:
Dr. Kelly Dorgan’s research program aims to develop a mechanistic understanding of the ecological and biogeochemical processes occurring in marine sediments. She is specifically interested in animal-sediment interactions, including the mechanics of burrowing and feeding and the impacts of these activities on the physical structure of sediments.

Biography:
Dr. Dorgan is a senior marine scientist at DISL on Dauphin Island, AL, and an assistant professor of marine sciences at the University of South Alabama. Her research focuses on animal-sediment interactions, including biomechanics and energetics of burrowing, benthic ecology, invertebrate functional morphology, and the mechanical properties of sediments. Dr. Dorgan received her BS in marine biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and her Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Maine. As part of her dissertation research, advised by Pete Jumars, she showed that worms extend burrows through muddy sediments by fracture, a result that was published in Nature and for which she was awarded the 2007 Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography Lindeman award. Dr. Dorgan was awarded both NSF and NDSEG graduate fellowships. She conducted postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley, with Mimi Koehl, working on the energetics of burrowing and at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, with Greg Rouse, working on functional diversity of burrowing polychaetes. Dr. Dorgan has authored 21 manuscripts, including 7 with undergraduate students as first authors. She was chosen as one of Popular Science Magazine’s “Brilliant 10” young scientists and was awarded the 2012 Carl Gans Award for comparative biomechanics by the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.

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Joel Fodrie, Ph.D., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC)

Research Summary:
Dr. Joel Fodrie’s research focuses on four major themes: 1) how the movement of fishes connects landscapes and affects population dynamics; 2) linkages between coastal habitat abundance/quality and fishery production; 3) biogenic habitat restoration; and 4) how basin-scale perturbations such as harvest pressure, climate change, and oil pollution influence the long-term community ecology of coastal ecosystems.

Biography:
Dr. Fodrie is an assistant professor of fisheries oceanography and ecology at UNC, where he studies the population dynamics of fishes and shellfish. He has conducted research along all three major U.S. coastlines, as well as in the Baltic Sea and around the Galápagos Islands. Dr. Fodrie earned his Ph.D. in Oceanography in 2006 from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (University of California, San Diego), where he was supported as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and was presented with the E. W. Fager Student Award (14 recipients since 1976). After earning his degree, Dr. Fodrie began fisheries research in the northern Gulf of Mexico as a post-doctoral researcher at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. He has maintained active research in the Gulf continuously since that start. In 2009, Dr. Fodrie returned to UNC, where he received his B.A. degree in biology and history, and also earned the R. E. Coker Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research in Ecology. He has contributed 42 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and manuscripts that explore mechanisms of population variability for fishery species. These articles appear in journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, BioScience, Global Change Biology, Limnology & Oceanography, Ecology, and Ecological Applications.

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Anna Michel, Ph.D., Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)

Research Summary:
Dr. Anna Michel’s research focus is on advancing environmental observation through the development and deployment of novel optical sensors for measurement of key chemical species. Dr. Michel designs, builds, and deploys advanced laser-based chemical sensors that are capable of measuring trace concentrations in gaseous and aqueous environments in locations ranging from the deep sea to Arctic environments, using remotely operated vehicles.  New sensors are critical for addressing ocean science questions in such areas as climate change chemistry and ocean acidification, for examining remediation efforts, for establishing baseline chemistry data, and for monitoring anthropogenic and natural changes in complex and often extreme locations. 

Biography:
Dr. Michel earned BS degrees in biology and chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She then earned an MS in Ocean Engineering from MIT and a Ph.D. in Mechanical and Oceanographic Engineering from the MIT-WHOI Joint Program.  Dr. Michel’s graduate work was partially funded by a Link Foundation Ocean Engineering and Instrumentation Fellowship, a NDGSEG Fellowship, and an MIT Presidential Fellowship.  After receiving her Ph.D., Dr. Michel was a research and teaching post-doctoral fellow and then an associate research scholar at the Center for Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment (NSF-Engineering Research Center) at Princeton University.  She returned to WHOI in 2012 as an assistant scientist in applied ocean physics and engineering. Her research interests are in developing new instruments for environmental sensing, with a strong focus on using optical and spectroscopic techniques, for chemical sensing of targets ranging from sediments to gases to aqueous solutions.  Dr. Michel’s research fieldwork has taken her to Beijing, China; the Arctic; and out to sea. Her recent deep sea work has included laser spectroscopic measurements of a submarine volcano in the Caribbean and a brine pool in the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. Michel is very involved with STEM education programs to promote a diverse next-generation of scientists and engineers. She has developed an ocean science Saturdays program for middle school girls, engaged a diverse online audience while sailing on the E/V Nautilus, and brought undergraduates into her laboratory for research experiences.

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Davin Wallace, Ph.D., University of Southern Mississippi

Research Summary:
The aim of Dr. Davin J. Wallace’s research is to establish the response of coastal systems to global change over historic and geologic timescales. Specifically, Dr. Wallace is primarily a field geologist interested in understanding how variations in hurricanes, sediment supply, and relative sea-level shape and impact the coastlines of the world.

Biography:
Dr. Wallace is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Marine Science at the University of Southern Mississippi located at Stennis Space Center. He is also currently a guest investigator at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and a complimentary research scholar at Rice University. Most recently, Dr. Wallace was a National Science Foundation EAR Postdoctoral Fellow jointly at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He was previously a lecturer and postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Earth Science at Rice University. Dr. Wallace earned a B.S. degree cum laude in 2006 from Tulane University, with a double major in geology and German. He earned a Ph.D. degree in 2010 in earth science from Rice University under the advisement of Dr. John B. Anderson. Dr. Wallace received the Rice University Earth Science Leroy Caleb Gibbon Award for the best-conceived and best-written thesis submitted within 6 weeks of the oral defense. He has 14 peer-reviewed journal/encyclopedia publications on a variety of topics. Dr. Wallace’s research interests include coastal geology, sedimentology, paleotempestology, and response to global change. He has worked in areas along the Gulf of Mexico, Japan, Bermuda, and the Philippines. Dr. Wallace is also engaged in outreach efforts. While a postdoctoral research associate at Rice University, he was a grant co-director of Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Teacher Quality Grants involving professional development for K-12 teachers. He is also an active participant in outreach at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Southern Mississippi.

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Helen White, Ph.D., Haverford College

Research Summary:
Dr. Helen White’s research examines the persistence of oil and other organic contaminants in the marine environment. Her work seeks to examine how the chemical structure, physical associations, and bioavailability of specific compounds determine their cycling and eventual fate. Dr. White is particularly interested in the long-term fate of organic contaminants in both coastal and offshore environments, and how the presence of these compounds affects ecosystem services and human health.

Biography:
Dr. White received an M. Chem degree in chemistry from the University of Sussex, U.K. in 2000 and a Ph.D. in chemical oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Joint Program in 2006. After teaching Oceanography at Boston University for a year, Dr. White was awarded a Microbial Science Initiative postdoctoral fellowship in 2007 from Harvard University. She joined Haverford College in July 2009, where she is an assistant professor of chemistry and the director of the environmental studies program. Dr. White’s research at Haverford College has been funded by an NSF-RAPID grant to determine the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on a deep-water coral community in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as a grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to examine the weathering of petroleum and dispersant components in the deep-sea, on Gulf Coast beaches, and in laboratory incubations. Most recently, Dr. White has been funded by the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Foundation to describe the role that marine fungi play in the degradation of oil. The interdisciplinary approach Dr. White employs in her research informs her pedagogical style, for which she was recently awarded an innovation in teaching award by Haverford College. Dr. White’s approach incorporates the complementary backgrounds of collaborative teams from multiple disciplines. In doing so, she is able to demonstrate to undergraduate students from all disciplines how fundamental scientific analysis can be applied directly to real-world problems.

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About the Gulf Research Program Fellowship Programs

These competitive awards are among the initial suite of activities in the program’s 30-year mission to enhance oil system safety and the protection of human health and the environment in the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. outer continental shelf regions.

Science Policy Fellowships, focused on leadership development and capacity building at the science-policy interface, are awarded to graduate or professional students or those who have completed their studies within the past five years and demonstrate a strong scientific or technical background, superior academic achievement, and leadership qualities.  This year’s fellows will spend one year on the staff of a state environmental agency and regional offices of relevant federal agencies in the Gulf region.  Fellows will be paired with a mentor when they arrive at their host offices. They will also have opportunities for professional development.  Fellows will receive an annual stipend of $45,000 for current students or $55,000 for graduates.

The Early-Career Research Fellowships recognize professionals at the critical pre-tenure phase of their careers for exceptional leadership, past performance, and potential for future contributions to improving oil system safety, human health, or the environment in the Gulf region.  To foster leadership development, fellows will receive professional guidance from two mentors: a senior faculty member at their home institution and a senior expert in their field, to be appointed at a later date.  Each fellow will receive $76,000, in the form of a two-year grant paid to the fellow’s institution, for research expenses and professional development.

Visit the funding opportunities page to learn more about additional funding opportunities.

View the press release for this announcement.