Graduate Students

Master of Science (M.S.)

Olivia Alexander

Alexander, Olivia

Advisor: Dr. Nisse Goldberg
Thesis: Research on The Wrack on the Coast of Jacksonville, Florida 

Olivia Alexander grew up in the State of Florida and has always been in or near the water and wildlife. With Dr. Nisse Goldberg as her advisor, she will be conducting her research on the wrack (seaweed line) on the coast of Jacksonville, Florida.

Jack Dales

Dales, John (Jack)

Advisor(s): Dr. Bryan Franks and Dr. Jeremy Stalker.
Thesis: Investigation of the Diets of Lemon Sharks Across Habitats Varying from Pristine to Anthropogenically Impacted Through Stable Isotope Analysis

Jack Dales is originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Growing up around the Great Lakes, he has always had a fascination with large bodies of water and the organisms that inhabit them. Jack graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in Fisheries and Wildlife, and a minor in Marine Ecosystem Management, where he earned an internship and later a position as a research technician at the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI) in Eleuthera, the Bahamas. At CEI, he investigated the pelagic zone, particularly fish aggregation device camera surveys and silky shark telemetry and was a husbandry volunteer in a genetics laboratory, focusing on genomic and morphological novelties in zebra fish. In preparation for graduate school, he has combined his past knowledge with skills recently learned through an internship with the Shark Lab at the Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation.

Melanie Doan

Doan, Melanie  

Advisor: TBA
Thesis: TBA

Melanie Doan is a first year Master of Science student who is interested in working with sharks, and in the fields of geology and GIS. At the Florida Atlantic University, Melanie earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and conducted undergraduate research that focused on the annual blacktip shark migration and some predator/prey interactions with blacktips and great hammerheads. As a former swimmer with FAU, she can be found in the water if not at school.  

Hayden Garza

Garza, Hayden

Advisor: Dr. Jeremy Stalker
Thesis: Investigating the Impacts of Anthropogenetic Lighting on Sea Turtle Nesting Success Along the Northeastern Florida Coastline

Hayden Garza is from Austin, Texas, where she received her bachelor's degree in biology and a minor in chemistry from Texas State University in San Marcos in 2017. After graduating, she interned at the Texas State Aquarium and took two gap years before coming to Jacksonville University for her master's degree in the fall of 2019. She has always had an obsession and love for the marine environment ever since she could remember, with her earliest memory of an independent study project over the conservation of dolphins and turtles conducted in the first grade. Now, she is currently studying how the addition of artificial light at night from anthropogenic sources could be affecting sea turtle nesting. Whenever she has free time, you can usually find her at the beach. Hayden loves doing anything that involves getting outside and in the sunshine! She hopes to contribute her passion for marine conservation into a career once she graduates.

Caroline Golightly

Golightly, Caroline

Advisor: TBA
Thesis: TBA

Caroline Golightly is from Charlotte, North Carolina and earned a Bachelor's degree in Biology at Randolph-Macon College in 2020. As a graduate student with the Marine Science Research Institute, she is interested in all thing's marine life, including marine mammals, corals, plants and how human activity affects our oceans and marine friends.

Gabriella Gough

Gough, Gabriella  

Advisor: TBA
Thesis: TBA

Gabriella Gough is from Southern California, where family visits to the beach sparked her interest with the ocean. She completed her undergraduate studies with a degree in Marine Science from CSU Monterey Bay before moving to Rhode Island to work at an aquarium. She soon found herself with the Hawaii Marine Animal Response team, before returning to California to earn her Divemaster certification. She is very excited to see what new adventures she will experience while earning her Master’s degree in Marine Biology.  

Clay Hewett

Hewett, Clay

Advisor: Dr. Daniel McCarthy
Thesis: Diet and Resulting Carbon and Nitrogen Stable Isotopic Ratios of a Common Reef Building Polychaete Residing on the Southern Florida Coastline, Phragmatopoma lapidosa

Clay Hewett was born and raised in the Jacksonville area. He received his undergraduate degree in Integrative Animal Biology at USF. After earning his degree, he was fortunate enough to spend ten months in the Florida Keys working with MOTE Marine Laboratory on the impacts of ocean acidification in different benthic invertebrates within the Florida Keys. As a M.S. graduate student at JU, Clay is studying the diet and carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios of Phragmatopoma lapidosa and hoping to elucidate any trends or changes among similar populations extending the coastline, as well as to compare the signatures of geographically close subtidal and intertidal populations. He has always had an interest in anthropogenic impacts on ecosystems and is hoping to continue to research habitats under these impacts and help to influence conservation and policies relating to them! In his free time, he loves to surf, mountain bike, hang out with the pup, and learn to cook new things!

Jackson Hooten

Hooten, Jackson  

Advisor: Dr. Bryan Franks
Thesis: Assessment of White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) Movements in the Northwest Atlantic Using Acoustic Telemetry

Jackson has been obsessed with sharks for as long as he can remember and thus, is dedicating his career to pursuing research to further conservation efforts. He has been scuba certified for more than half of his life and has had the great honor of interacting with over 23 different species of sharks from his research stint in South Africa to his unforgettable experience at Guadalupe Island. After defending his thesis, he plans on joining a PhD program and continuing his studies in shark ecology.   

Mackenzie Horton

Horton, MacKenzie (Kenzie) 

Advisor: TBA
Thesis: TBA 

Kenzie Horton is a native Floridian from Orlando/Tampa. She received her Bachelor of Marine Science degree from the University of South Florida in 2016, where she worked on an undergraduate thesis doing a comparative analysis of the epidermis and goblet cell abundance in four elasmobranch species. She is currently working as a Fisheries Biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in the Fisheries Independent Monitoring program to provide data on managed and non-managed fish using a variety of gear types including small seines, large seines, trawls, and Baited Remote Underwater Video surveys. She recently accepted a position as a university co-liaison for the American Fisheries Society Florida chapter student subunit to help increase graduate student involvement within the society as well as with other graduate students across the state. Her research interests include gaining more experience with telemetry, acoustic monitoring, and data analysis.     

Elizabeth Kaeser

Kaeser, Elizabeth  

Advisor: Dr. Jeremy Stalker
Thesis (Unofficial Title): Sand Analysis Around High-Density and Low-Density Sea Turtle Nesting Areas along the Northeast Florida Beaches 

Elizabeth Kaeser is originally from Charlotte, North Carolina. While being a student-athlete, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Organismal Biology and a minor in business from Mars Hill University, in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. Living in the mountains, she got lots of experience with the dynamics of river, stream, forest, and mountain habitats and the organisms that inhabited them. Since arriving in Jacksonville, she has had the opportunity to participate in the study abroad program that took place in Tobacco Caye, Belize, where she learned about and explored the extensive coral reefs and the surrounding habitats and geology. She is working on a thesis project that was inspired by her the research completed in Belize, in hopes it can provide insight into nest site selection, as well as provide information to local governments, consulting firms, and businesses that plan to alter the beach terrain in any way.  

Andrew Kline

Kline, Andrew  

Advisor: Dr. Melinda Simmons
Thesis: Physical Drivers of Primary Productivity in the Lower St. Johns River

Andrew Kline is from Reedsville, Pennsylvania and has been a Master of Science student since Fall 2020. Throughout his childhood, he and his family vacationed to the Outer Banks, North Carolina, where he pondered why the ocean behaves as it does, and what the creatures were there. To fulfill these questions-turned-desires, he attended Coastal Carolina University (CCU) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where he worked with squid otoliths, assessed the physical parameters of a local swash zone and published undergraduate research in the journal, Korallion. His work in the Korallion concerned the density and depth distribution of the long-spined sea urchin and the west Indian sea egg in Discovery Bay, Jamaica. After graduating, he worked as a divemaster for a watersports company in Murrells Inlet, SC and spent time as a mate aboard dolphin cruises, learning to drive a variety of boats. He later traveled to Beqa Island, Fiji to conduct research regarding the coral reefs, mangroves, and shark populations on and around the small island to illuminate the local government of Beqa on the health of their marine ecosystems. Here at JU, his thesis focuses on physical measurements, such as flow and water discharge, of several important tributaries in the Lower St. Johns River system with tide and pairing that with primary productivity data. Once graduated, Andrew would like to become a physical oceanographer and continue growing his knowledge in the vast field of marine science. In his down time, he likes to sing, play piano, surf, travel, workout, hang with friends, and do adrenaline-inducing activities such as blackwater dive, skydive, and bungee jump.  

Anna McClure

McClure, Anna

Advisor(s): Dr. Lena Schulze Chretien and Dr. Bryan Franks
Thesis: Analysis of Movement of Tagged White Sharks, Carcharodon carcharias, from Long Island to Nova Scotia

Anna McClure grew up in Cape Coral, Florida, spending majority of her free time at the beach or out on the boat fishing. She has known since she was 12 years old that she could never be too far from the ocean and that she wanted to work in the Marine Science field. In 2015, she earned a B.S. in Marine Science from Jacksonville University and Spring of 2018 started the graduate program. JU provided Anna with great opportunities as an undergraduate including multiple study abroad trips to the Bahamas and undergraduate research that she was able to present at national conferences. Coming out of her undergraduate, she was still interested in many different fields from climate change and ocean acidification to ecology and computer mapping programs like ArcGIS. Her thesis work has been using Matlab to observe the various trends in white shark populations from Long Island to Nova Scotia and looking into if there is a physical trigger for their migration out of this area. In the future, she hopes to continue working in the environmental studies field and possibly earning a PhD.

Megan Meyer

Meyer, Megan

Advisor: Dr. Nisse Goldberg
Thesis: The Occurrence of Macro Plastics in Tributaries of the Lower St. Johns River

Megan Meyer began the Marine Science graduate program in August of 2017. She is originally from Hawthorne, NJ, and attended Arcadia University in Philadelphia, PA. There, she received her bachelor’s degree in Biology with a minor in Public Health. During her time at JU, she has had many wonderful opportunities, such as spending month in San Salvador, Bahamas taking courses in Coral Reef Ecology and Marine Geology. While there, she completed an independent study project comparing coastal plastics and litter on the windward and leeward sides on the island. She also had the chance to travel to Belize with Dr. Enz where they spent one week diving and learning about marine conservation, and a second week learning about the ecosystem and species of the Belizean jungle. Megan’s thesis research at JU is looking at the abundance of macroplastics in eight different access points along the St. John’s River. In her free time, she loves being outside, hiking, walking the beach, drawing, and scuba diving!

Conor O'Meally

O'Meally, Conor  

Advisor: Dr. Gretchen Bielmyser-Fraser
Thesis: Comparative Study of Metal Concentrations in Blacktip Sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus) Caught Off the Maryland Coast Versus the Florida Coast

Conor O’Meally grew up in Maryland where his passion for marine biology began. He recently graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology. During his undergraduate career, he had amazing opportunities building his knowledge and passion for the marine world. He was able to intern at a local sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation center where he worked with sick and injured sea turtles. Before graduating, he studied abroad in Western Australia and took courses in Marine Ecology, where he was able to see the first-hand positive impacts of Marine Protected Areas. For the last two years, he has worked as a first mate on a shark fishing boat that brings sharks on board for research and educational purposes. This position gave him the unforgettable experience of working directly with sharks and learning about different species. The experience inspired his idea for a thesis project which will be comparing blood, tissue, and DNA samples of blacktip sharks to examine metal concentrations and study the physiological impacts these concentrations may have.  

Victoria Quick

Quick, Victoria  

Advisor: Dr. Melinda Simmons
Thesis (Unofficial Title): Time Series Project Monitoring Water Quality at Eight Different Sites in the Lower St. Johns River and Tributaries 

Victoria Quick is from Norman, Oklahoma. She received her B.S. in Microbiology at the University of Oklahoma (Boomer Sooner!) in May 2020. Her interest in marine biology was piqued by the involvement of water related projects throughout every microbiology lab course she had in undergraduate school. These projects included identifying an unknown bacterium from a water fountain though a series of biological, morphological, and physiological tests, to observing a Winogradsky Column for eight weeks, to starting (thanks Covid!) the beginning of her capstone project with wastewater. Since arriving at JU, she has been gaining field research experience with Dr. Simmons by assisting with a time series project, monitoring dissolved oxygen, pH, salinity, temperature, and chlorophyll and fecal coliform abundance at eight locations on the LSJR. JU has also given Victoria the opportunity to study abroad at Tobacco Caye Island in Belize, where she had hands on experience learning about coral reefs, mangroves, and intertidal ecosystems. Her goal after graduation is to pursue a job where she can utilize both degrees to research and learn more about marine microorganisms. In her free time, she enjoys going for runs, going to the beach, hiking, and hanging with friends.  

Rooney, Jack

Rooney, Jack  

Advisor: TBA
Thesis: TBA

Jack Rooney grew up in the suburbs of Albany, New York and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology at Roger Williams University in 2020. He is currently a first-year graduate student at JU with the Marine Science Research Institute and is looking forward to the opportunities that JU will provide for him! 

Anthony Saccomagno

Saccomagno, Anthony (AJ)  

Advisor(s): Dr. Dan McCarthy and Dr. Gretchen Bielmyer-Fraser
Thesis: TBA

Anthony Saccomagno was born and in raised in North Providence, Rode Island and completed his undergraduate degree at The University of New Haven. He made the jump to Jacksonville University to pursue his Master's degree in Marine Science. Ever since he was a little kid (thanks to the movie JAWS), this is the only career he has ever wanted to do. AJ is an avid fan of the National Football League and enjoys pro wrestling. Go New England Patriots! 

Simon, Rylee

Simon, Rylee  

Advisor: Dr. Daniel McCarthy
Thesis: Ontogenetic Shifts in Diet Composition of Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) Along the East Central Coast of Florida 

Rylee Simon is currently a second-year Marine Science graduate student at JU. She is from Mulvane, Kansas, where her interests in marine science were first sparked by shark week. She received her bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology with a minor in Psychology from Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, however this land locked state didn’t give her the ocean experience that she really wanted. Soon after earning an advanced open water dive certification and a boating license, Rylee traveled to the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Mississippi to take classes and to gain valuable hands-on experiences working with different shark species. She then journeyed here to JU for graduate school, where she had the opportunity to begin a thesis project and to join the study abroad program on a trip to a remote island off the coast of Belize. Her thesis project involves looking at stable isotopes in juvenile green sea turtles to determine what they are eating, where they are eating it, and their potential trophic level on hard bottom reefs. The ultimate goal is to better future conservation efforts. 

Wise, Megan

Wise, Megan  

Advisor: Dr. Gretchen Bielmyer-Fraser
Thesis (Unofficial Title): Comparing Trace Metal Concentrations (and the Neurotoxin BMAA) Between Pelagic Sharks and Benthic Rays

Megan Wise is originally from Toledo, Ohio. While there are no sharks in Toledo, she has loved them and the ocean since she was a child. This love led Megan to Coastal Carolina University, where she received her B.S. in Marine Science. While in undergrad, she discovered her love for traveling when she studied abroad on Semester at Sea! While at CCU, she was also lucky enough to take a shark biology course with Dr. Dan Abel and travel to the Bimini Biological Field Station, where she was able to learn from shark experts, including Shark Doc himself, Dr. Samuel Gruber. This experience helped solidify her decision to pursue shark research as a career and in 2020, she entered JU’s Marine Science graduate program to begin a thesis research project. She hopes to continue with shark research after leaving JU and to combine her love for sharks and traveling one day soon.  

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Jackie Beight

Beight, Jaclyn (Jackie)

Jackie Beight is originally from Indiana and Ohio. In 2015, she earned a Bachelors in Biology with an emphasis in Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Sciences at Purdue University, where she was given the opportunity to participate in a Tropical Practicum in Costa Rica doing a habitat assessment of local creek systems in the central lowland rainforests. She also got to practice aquatic specimen capture techniques (gill nets, fyke nets, etc.) at Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina. Since then, she has worked as a laboratory technician at a livestock agricultural company focusing on mycotoxin levels in swine feed components. Although currently an M.A. student at JU, she is hoping to transition into conducting a thesis project that focuses the comparison of lionfish demographics between three major invaded areas, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the North Atlantic Ocean to their native habitats of the Indo-Pacific.

Brianna Gullotta

Gullotta, Brianna

Brianna Gullotta may call Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania her home, but has journeyed to Jacksonville to see through her dream of being a manatee mammalogist. She currently has an Associate’s degree in Environmental Science, and a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Science with a minor in Geography. Her hobbies include diving, going to the beach, reading, and working out. JU has provided many opportunities for "Bri", including being hired at the Jacksonville Zoo and gardens, and joining the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine mammal response team.

Aron Hamilton

Hamilton, Aron

Aron Hamilton is originally from Indiana and has a degree in Geosciences from Indiana University. She is here at JU getting a Masters of Arts degree in Marine Science in hopes to use it for a future in education. She is currently working alongside Dr. Simmons and JAXPORT in a program called “Connected” that will allow her to teach people of all ages about the importance of the Saint Johns River.

Kilmer, Evangeline

Kilmer, Evangeline

Evangeline is a second-year graduate student at JU, pursuing a M.A. in Marine Science. She grew up on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaiʻi and completed her Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Concordia University Irvine in California. She will be working in the Marine Science Research Institutes’ wet lab this year. She really enjoys working with marine life in a marine lab/aquarium setting and hopes to continue to do so in her career.

Brandi Philips

Philips, Brandi

Brandi Philips was born in Jacksonville, Florida but as a military brat, she has moved all over and under the mason Dixon line. She is an aspiring marine biologist that doesn't quite know exactly what she wants to do, however she knows that she loves photography and loves to learn as much as she can. She loves all animals, but the ocean fascinates her and makes her wonder. As a current M.A. student with the Marine Science Research Institute, Brandi hopes to do all that she can with the knowledge she acquires along the way to help all ocean animals and to educate those on how to help.

Dual Degree (M.A./M.P.P.)

Warner Buchman

Buchman, Warner

Advisor: Dr. Quint White
Capstone: Evaluating Policy Impact on CPUE of lionfish (Pterois volitans) in the United States and Bahamas

Warner Buchman is a dual degree master's student of Public Policy and Marine Science, dedicating her life to being part of the informed reform and to the protection and restoration our environment. A passion for invasive species ecology earned her an undergraduate degree from Eckerd College, but her interests continue to expand in hopes to explore new opportunities and experiences.

Breona Green

Green, Breona

Advisor: TBA
Capstone: TBA

Breona Green is a Jacksonville native, born and raised. She received her Bachelors of Arts at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL in Coastal Environmental Science in 2018. She is currently pursuing her joint Master's Degree in Public Policy and Marine Science, expecting to graduate in Spring of 2022. Once graduated, Breona hopes to pursue a PhD in marine microbiology, eventually hoping to work for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration as a microbiologist.

Kimberly Trumbull

Trumbull, Kimberly

Advisor: TBA
Capstone: TBA

Kimberly Trumbull is a native of Jacksonville, FL pursuing a Master of Arts in Marine Science. Kimberly grew up in a community that cultivated her fascination of water and marine life. Her fondest memories are those spent on the water with family and marine focused field trips in grade school. Inspired by the Florida lifestyle, she is following her passion for learning about our world’s oceans and hopes to share the wonder and excitement with others. Kimberly holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance from Jacksonville University and currently works in the Alumni Engagement Office for the university.

Ashley Gress

Gress, Ashley

Advisor: TBA
Capstone: TBA

Ashley Gress is a dual Master’s in Public Policy & Master of Arts in Marine Science student. She hopes to go to law school once she graduates to get a degree in Environmental Law.