Graduate Students

Sara Brehm

Sara SchunterHello! My name is Sara Schunter. I completed my Bachelor’s degree at Jacksonville University and decided to continue my education by working on my Master’s degree with Dr. Dan McCarthy. Through my undergraduate experiences, I became very fascinated in Palm Beach County’s hardbottom habitat. My passion for underwater photography has created a focused interest in fish communities. For my thesis, I have the opportunity to combine these interests by comparing the changes in fish communities on nearshore hardbottom habitats in Palm Beach County, FL from 1990 and 2014.

Lauren Brogley

Hi! I am Lauren Brogley. I am from Greensboro, MD, and I’m very new to LaurenBrogleythe Jacksonville area.  As a young child, I always had a love for science and marine and aquatic life. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA. My final semester of undergraduate, I took a course in Marine Biology and immediately fell in love with it. We took a trip to the Florida Keys to study species evenness, richness, and ecology, which proved to me that marine biology was the perfect fit for me. As a first year graduate student, I am interested in corals and coral bleaching because of the emptiness that I saw in the Florida Keys, especially after being told how plentiful they used to be. However, for my thesis project I am studying the artificial reefs in the St. Johns River that was deployed in 2014. 

Paige Carper

Growing up on Anna Maria Island, Florida gave me an appreciation Paige Carperfor marine life at a young age. As my love for the ocean grew, I decided to pursue a major in marine sciences at The University of Florida. During my time at UF, I completed an honors thesis on the effects of development on seagrass beds in Tampa and Sarasota Bays. I also had the opportunity to study abroad in San Salvador, Bahamas, North Queensland, Australia and Viti Levu, Fiji. This allowed me to partake in a number of tropical marine research projects in various oceans, including the predation and orientation of Echinometra lucunter, the effects of Marine Protected Areas on the Great Barrier Reef, and percent live coral coverage off Beachcomber Island, Fiji. In 2014, I graduated summa cum laude, earning a Bachelor of Science in Marine Sciences. After graduation, I moved to Oahu for an internship with Sea Life Park, Hawaii. I worked in animal training and husbandry with Atlantic and Pacific bottlenose dolphin, California Sea Lions, Hawaiian Monk seals, harbor seals and Humboldt Penguins. After a year, I came back to the mainland and began working as a nature guide for Around the Bend Nature Tours. Through a variety of activities, such as dip nets, nature walks and environmental games, this company educates local students and private groups about the ecosystems that surround them. I have now found my way to Jacksonville University, where I am pursuing a Master of Science in Marine Science. Working with Dr. Dan McCarthy, I am excited to perform research on coral reef ecology and restoration in the lower Florida Keys. I plan to study the survival and growth of transplanted coral fragments and the predation by parrotfish on these corals.

Jessica Fair

My name is Jessica Fair and I am a first-year graduate student at Jessica FairJacksonville University. I am originally from a small town in north east Ohio. I received my bachelor’s degree in Biology with a concentration of ecology from Shawnee State University in southern Ohio. My undergraduate research involved a study in Lepidoptera diversity at the Caño Palma biological station in Costa Rica. I also volunteered at the biological station to assist in their sea turtle nesting surveys. My family and I vacation to Sanibel Island, Florida every year. This diverse and prosperous beach ecosystem is where I grew passionate about marine biology. My other passions include entomology and botany. I also enjoy playing soccer, Scuba diving, and being outdoors. While studying at Jacksonville University I will be assisting Dr. Dan McCarthy with his research in the Florida Keys, analyzing the affects parrotfish have on Scleractinia (hard corals.). My thesis research will be involving photogrammetry of coral reef systems in the Florida Keys.

Mary Freund

As a native of Woodbine, Georgia the Satilla River has been a major part of my Mary Freundlife. I grew up fishing the St. Andrews Sound with my Dad and exploring the marshes of the river with my friends. I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Coastal Ecology from College of Coastal Georgia in 2015. My undergraduate research focused on dissolved oxygen and associated plankton communities at two different sites on the Satilla River. I was able to do an internship with Satilla Riverkeeper where I collected the majority of my data for the undergraduate project. My internship at Satilla Riverkeeper led me to be able to work on their payroll for two years before graduating and full-time after graduation. My graduate studies at Jacksonville University began in the fall of 2016 where I am pursuing a Master’s of Science in Marine Sciences. My Master's thesis will be focused on determining important food sources of Copepods (a zooplankton) in the St. Johns River Estuary using a stable isotope analysis of Carbon and Nitrogen.

Matthew Hartfiel

Matthew HartfielI am Matthew Hartfiel. I grew up in Northern Kentucky and ironically fell in love with the ocean at a young age. Naturally, at some point I had to move closer to the ocean. I completed my Bachelor's Degree at Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I graduated from CCU in May of 2016. My degree was in Marine Science, but I focused on shark biology. I did two independent studies with one of my professors. The first study involved my personal work on tagging sharks through the NMFS and the second was helping with his work on shark rectal glands. I also got to study abroad in the Bahamas at the famous Bimini Shark Lab where I got to swim with 7 different species of sharks in the span of 6 days plus getting taught by world renowned shark experts. I came to JU with the intention of taking my skills in shark biology to the next level and will be working on a thesis. I have been a graduate student since the Fall 2016 semester at JU.

Felicia Manning

Hello! I started graduate school at JU in August 2016. My hometown is Stilwell, Felicia ManningOklahoma and I have a Bachelor's degree in Wildlife Science. I graduated from the University of Oklahoma and will always be a proud alumni (Boomer Sooner!). While pursuing my undergraduate degree I studied abroad for a semester in Brisbane, Australia. While I was there I got to take marine classes which included a class trip to the Great Barrier Reef. While I was at the reef I worked on a research project concerning the algae preference of different reef fish. I also worked at Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo where I worked in the bird, kangaroo, and koala departments. In July 2016 I did an internship with Oceans Research in Mossel Bay, South Africa. I got to help with a variety of research projects concerning different marine species. However, the main research I assisted with (and my personal favorite) was the research projects concerning the local great white shark population. I have been fascinated with wildlife ever since I can remember. I love both terrestrial and marine wildlife but more specifically terrestrial mammals, sharks, and cetaceans. For my thesis at JU I will be looking at the shark/dolphin interactions in the St. Johns River. I have a passion for wildlife conservation and hope to contribute to those efforts after I graduate.

Nicole Perry

Nicole PerryHello! My name is Nicole Perry. I completed my Bachelor's degree in General Biology at Westfield State University in Westfield, Massachusetts in 2012. I decided to take a few years off from school to work, but then got an amazing opportunity to move down to Florida and pursue my life long goal of becoming a Marine Scientist. My whole life I have always had a high interest in Marine Mammals, especially dolphins. My goal is after I complete my degree I would love to do research and some hands on work with dolphins.


Jane Ramsey

My name is Jane Ramsey and I grew up outside of Boston, MA. I received Jane Ramseymy Bachelor’s in Biology from Smith College in Northampton, MA. While at Smith, I was afforded the opportunity to intern at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL with their Stranding Investigation Program. While at Mote, I was able to help with the rehabilitation of many sea turtles, and one 2-year-old dolphin named Edna. After completing my B.A., Jacksonville became my home as I was placed here by way of Teach For America. I taught Biology at First Coast High School for two years. Since then I have worked in the non-profit world, and am now very excited to refocus my interests. While my research interests include marine mammal behavior, I am planning to study concentrations of marine microplastics in various tissues of cetaceans.

Rachel Somerville

Rachel SomervilleMy name is Rachel Somerville. I was born and raised in Rochester, NY. Ever since I saw Shark Week on Discovery Channel years and years ago I knew I wanted to be a marine biologist. I enrolled as an undergraduate at University of Toronto in Canada where I doubled majored in biology and ecology and minored in anthropology. My undergrad studies focused on conservation and biodiversity. I designed an outreach project for the Royal Ontario Museum regarding Monterey Bay's Seafood Watch Program. I postponed my graduate education to explore my professional aspirations and gain practical experience with my undergraduate degree. I worked with the Aquarium of Niagara in the Marine Mammal Care Department. I also interned with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as a Naturalist. I tried my hand in other fields such as retail management and dental assisting. My life at JU began in August 2016. My thesis will focus on heavy metal toxicity in wild and captive shark populations. I want to examine if there is a difference between the various populations and ultimately initiate policy changes if possible. I want to pursue a career in research and public outreach with a conservation-focused organization such as MOTE, NOAA, or Woods Hole. When my attention isn’t focused on sharks and school, I enjoy being outside, traveling, sewing, baking, going to concerts, and showering my two cats with too much love.

Carissa Wood

Carissa WoodHi! My name is Carissa Wood. I’ve been a JU graduate student since August 2016. I received my Bachelor’s in Marine Science from the University of Florida in 2014. As an undergrad and recent college graduate I volunteered in a Fisheries lab collecting and cutting otoliths. I moved to Jacksonville in hopes to find a job in my field of study. Once here, I volunteered with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Comission(FWC) in the Marine Science Research Institute to build up my experience in this difficult field. I am now a fisheries biologist for FWC, monitoring fish populations in the St. Mary’s and St. John’s Rivers. After working for FWC for a year I decided that I don’t just want to collect the data used in research, but also analyze and apply what I collect; the main reason I have decided to go back to school to get my master’s. To further my career in fisheries science, I am focusing my masters in fisheries ecology. I am researching important commercial and recreational species utilizing Valsenaria Americana, commonly known as Tape grass in the St. Johns River. After Graduation I plan to continue studying and conducting my own field research focusing on fisheries and fisheries conservation.