The Research Team

About the Team

Gretchen Bielmyer-Fraser      Gretchen Bielmyer-Fraser, Ph.D.

           Professor of Chemistry; Director of Millar Wilson Laboratory

My primary research interests are in the field of Environmental Toxicology with a focus on aquatic systems. Specifically, my research examines how organisms respond to contaminant (particularly metals) exposure, and analyzes the complex interactions between metals and other chemical components in aquatic systems. Mechanisms of toxicity and effects may differ depending on contaminant exposure route, exposure duration, water chemistry and physiology and sensitivity of the organism. Characterizing how these variables interact to influence toxicity at the organism (survival, growth, reproduction), physiological (ion transport, acid-base balance), and biochemical (enzyme activity) levels are central components of my current and future planned research.

girl smiling Julia Courville 

Hometown: Alameda, CA

Research Interests and Future Goals:

              • Enthusiastic about marine mammals, specializing in cetaceans
              • Noteworthy publication: "A quantitative analysis of microplastics in the gastrointestinal tracts of odontocetes in the southeast region of the United States"
              • Dedicated to unraveling environmental impacts and marine ecosystem dynamics


blonde girl smilingMcKenna Hardie 

Hometown: Thurmont, Maryland

Research Interests and Future Goals:

              • Research focuses on interactions between organisms and natural/anthropogenic pollutants in the environment, reflecting the overall health of oceans.
              • Undergraduate research assessed the impacts of harmful algal blooms and toxins on marine food webs and sentinel organism health.
              • Current research and publication involves analyzing mercury, selenium, and antioxidant concentrations in muscle tissues of sandbar sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus) off coastal Florida.
              • Future goal: Expand research in ecotoxicology, monitoring changing ecosystems and their impact on wildlife and human health.

a man with blonde curly hair smiling with a shark on a boatConor Meally 

Hometown: Ocean City, Maryland

Research Interests and Future Goals:

              • Aiming to collaborate with the National Marine Fisheries and focus on the highly migratory species division.
              • Aspiring to pursue research in marine toxicology, investigating the effects of human activities on coastal and pelagic elasmobranchs as well as significant game fish species.
              • Published paper: Assessing metal concentrations in muscle tissue of Blacktip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus) from coastal Maryland compared to the Florida Peninsula




girl underwater in a mask and gear Rachel Somerville 

Hometown: Rochester, NY

Research Interests and Future Goals:

              • Passion lies in shark behavior and physiology, a fascination nurtured since childhood.
              • Post-graduation goal was to secure a biologist role within federal government agencies (NOAA, FWS, EPA) or esteemed research institutions like Mote or Woods Hole.
              • Accomplished a master's degree from JU in 2019, followed by a position as a biologist with the Army Corps of Engineers in 2022.
              • Publication: Analysis of Heavy Metal Concentrations and Antioxidant Enzyme Activity in Muscle Tissue of Rhizoprionodon terraenovae

brunette girl smiling on the beach Morgan Vervaeke

Hometown: Lafayette, Louisiana

Research Interests and Future Goals:

              • Aiming to analyze the microplastics content in Atlantic sharpnose sharks.
              • Anticipating the opportunity to join the lab and initiate research in the near future.





girl smiling with turtleAshlen Ward

Hometown: Keyser, West Virginia

Research Interests and Future Goals:

              • Research interest lies in marine mammal studies, with a focus on conservation efforts.
              • Current career goal centers on environmental protection and cleanup to positively influence local species over the long term.
              • Publication: Analysis of heavy metal concentrations in tissues of stranded bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops Truncatus) in Northeast Florida, 2016-2021 compared to the 2013-2015 morbillivirus unusual mortality event.


girl smiling in front of a presentationHannah Williams

Hometown: Originally from Akron, Ohio

Research Interests and Future Goals:

              • Specializing in toxicology with a focus on water bodies affected by human activity.
              • Immediate goals include completing graduate studies and conducting research on the effects of hydrocodone on mangrove killifish, aiming to shed light on their interactions and potential impacts.

brunette woman smiling Megan Wise

Hometown: Toledo, Ohio

Research Interests and Future Goals:

              • Currently working on a thesis focusing on studying mercury levels in terrestrial animals.
              • Aspiring to delve into shark research, particularly exploring shark behaviors in the future.


Where You Can Find Us