NCBS Affilated Students

Rick Herren

Rick has a B.S. degree in Psychology and Zoology from the University of Florida and a M.S. degree in Biology from the University of Central Florida. He has worked on marine research and monitoring projects for 25 years, including commercial fishery landings, right whale migrations and horseshoe crab mating. Since 1992, Rick has been studying, monitoring and managing sea turtle populations in the Southeastern U.S, which includes 23 straight years surveying nesting beaches and 20 years capturing thousands of turtles on population and conservation studies in bays, lagoons and open-water sites in Florida, Georgia and Hawaii. More recently he spent 10 years coordinating Indian River County’s Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) under a federal incidental take permit for impacts to nesting sea turtles. Rick currently works part-time managing conservation projects for the Sea Turtle Conservancy and part-time for the University of Florida. He is working on his Ph.D. in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at UF in association with the Nature Coast Biological Station.

Rick is on the Board of Directors and a co-founder of Inwater Research Group, Inc. and Coastal Biology, Inc. He recently served two years as the Registrar for the International Sea Turtle Society's Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation. Rick’s research is focused on quantifying the demographics of sea turtle populations in the waters of the Nature Coast using standard and emerging technologies as well as developing spatial habitat suitability models to predict sea turtle abundance.

Nature Coast Biological Station faculty member Richard Herren, portrait photographed on February 6, 2017.
Nature Coast Biological Station faculty member Emma Pistole, portrait photographed on January 31, 2017.

Emma Pistole

Growing up along the southern California coast, Emma Pistole developed a passion for the ocean and marine conservation at an early age. In 2016 she earned her B.S. in Biology and Ecology at the University of Georgia. During her time as an undergraduate student she developed an interest in population ecology and the utilization of genetic techniques to inform research and solve ecological problems. She assisted the Georgia Dolphin Ecology Program with field research aimed at clearly identifying Bottlenose dolphin populations along Georgia’s coast. In addition, she completed a research project under the supervision of Dr. John Wares to investigate the impacts of temperature change on genetic diversity of Acartia tonsa, a species of zooplankton. After graduation, Emma worked at the USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center where she assisted with research aimed at determining species boundaries and geographic distributions of endangered freshwater mussels using genetic techniques.

Currently, Emma is a master’s student with the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources & Conservation under advisory of Mike Allen. Her master’s project focuses on the recent range expansion of Common Snook along the Nature Coast. The goal of her research is to determine if these “pioneer snook” are genetically distinct from the currently managed gulf stock and if the population is supported by local spawning. Her project represents a cooperation between the Nature Coast Biological station, local fishing guides, Sea Grant agents, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation.

Nick Vitale

Nick Vitale is originally from Michigan where he completed his B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife management from Lake Superior State University. After graduating, he worked a number of seasonal positions that took him around the country. One of these positions lead him to Florida, where in 2012, he took on the role at UF as the research coordinator of a long-term wading bird monitoring and research project in the Florida Everglades. Nick was immediately hooked on the beauty of the Nature Coast when he was introduced to the region while assisting with oyster reef research. In 2016, Nick began his M.S. degree at UF in the Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. His research is examining factors influencing shorebird nesting in Big Bend region, specifically how disturbance, predators and habitat changes affect breeding success.

Nature Coast Biological Station faculty member Nick Vitale, portrait photographed on January 31, 2017.
Nature Coast Biological Station faculty member Mark Sandtoss, portrait photographed on January 31, 2017.

Mark R. Sandfoss

Mark R. Sandfoss, PhD Student, UF Biology Department, has a BS in Wildlife Biology from Murray State University and MS in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology from North Carolina State University. His Master’s thesis was entitled, “The Serosurvey of Feral Pigs (Sus scrofa) in Eastern North Carolina”. His doctoral research at UF focuses on the unique behavior, ecology and physiology of insular Florida cottonmouths (Agkistrodon conanti) within the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. He plans to graduate in 2018 and continue to advocate for the conservation and study of amphibians and reptiles throughout the world."

Travis Thomas

Travis Thomas, a Nature Coast native, grew up on the banks of the Suwannee River where he developed a passion for the local flora and fauna. He received his M.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and B.S. Degree in Natural Resources Conservation from the University of Florida. He is currently a PhD student in the Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at UF/IFAS applying fisheries population estimators to better understand aquatic turtle populations. Previously he worked for NCBS where his research was focused on the ecology of several species of aquatic reptiles. Before joining the NCBS team, Travis was a biologist in the Reptile and Amphibian Subsection of the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for 5 years. He has worked on numerous projects concerning reptile and amphibian ecology, spanning many disciplines, including spatial ecology, phylogenetics, population ecology, evolutionary biology, and taxonomy. Travis has published numerous notes, articles, and reports on the ecology and distribution of reptiles, including a paper that described two new species of turtles in the genus Macrochelys.

Travis Thomas.  Nature Coast Biological Station.
Harris Holden.  Nature Coast Biological Station.

Holden Harris

For over 10 years Holden’s livelihood has been based on the ocean. As a charter captain, dive instructor, scientist and commercial fisherman, he has developed a multifaceted perspective regarding the marine environment. Holden’s past field work includes research in the British West Indies, the Bahamas, the Florida Keys, coastal Georgia, North East Florida, and offshore in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. At the University of Florida, he studied Zoology and Environmental Science and conducted research on salt marsh ecology under Dr. Brian Silliman. Since graduating in 2009, he has worked for UF’s Aquatic Food Safety Laboratory, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the Center for Marine Resource Studies in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). He has concurrently worked in diving and commercial spearfishing and is currently an instructor and captain for the F/V Native Diver II, a dive charter and commercial fishing vessel out of Jacksonville, FL (facebook.com/nativedivercharters). Currently, Holden is a PhD student in UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources & Conservation, under the advisory of Dr. Mike Allen. His dissertation research will evaluate if, how, and where socioeconomically incentivized harvest systems can function as a viable, long-term biological control agent for invasive lionfish. With the Nature Coast Biological Station, Holden’s research seeks to facilitate sustainable economic development in the Big Bend region through integrative assessments of the population dynamics, fishing impacts and management strategies for the region’s most important recreational fish species, spotted seatrout. As a systems ecologist, Holden hopes to ultimately facilitate sound, cooperative management of shared resources: finding ways to use and steward natural resources and the environment in ways that ensure long-term conservation, utility and functionality.

Former NCBS Affiliated Students

Justin Procopio

Justin Procopio is a Masters student with UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources & Conservation earning a degree in Fisheries and Aquatic Science. Growing up in New Jersey, in close proximity to New York City and the Atlantic Ocean, he has grown a keen interest in the interactions between fisheries and the coastal communities that exploit them. Prior to attending UF, he received his B.S. in Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy at Monmouth University. During most of his undergraduate degree, he worked as a field technician for the NY/NJ Baykeeper assisting with the construction and monitoring of oyster restoration projects throughout Raritan Bay. Currently, Justin is conducting research with the Nature Coast Biological Station focusing on the Spotted Seatrout population of North West Florida. He is developing a population model which hopes to inform biologist on how regulations should be adapted to manage the harvest of species, such as Spotted Seatrout, which exhibit sexually dimorphic growth.

Nature Coast Biological Station faculty member Justin Procopio, portrait photographed on January 31, 2017.
Nature Coast Biological Station faculty member Russel Dame, portrait photographed on February 6, 2017.

Rusty Dame

Rusty Dame is a M.S. student in the UF/IFAS Food and Resource Economics program researching the economics and risk associated with triploid oyster farms utilizing the emerging off-bottom growout method. He analyzes the economic effect of various environmental, producer, and consumer risk scenarios associated with oyster farms along the west coast of Florida using Stochastic modeling via Simitar software. Rusty was born and raised in West Palm Beach, FL where he spent most of his free time snorkeling or fishing along the bridges. He transferred into the Food and Resource program where his interest in marine economics and aquaculture developed and rapidly grew. Due to the funds he received from UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station has allowed him to work with Dr. Charles Adams and Dr. Kelly Grogan on the Triploid Oyster project in Cedar Key, FL. He is currently collecting cost and production data with Leslie Sturmer in hope this research gives potential oyster farmers a realistic view into the industry and a comparison of potential benefits between diploid versus triploid oysters.

NCBS Scholar

Hannah Brown

Hannah Brown

Hannah O. Brown is a journalist, instructor and social scientist. She is currently a PhD student in the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Florida, where she works as the school’s communications manager. She has a MAMC in journalism from the University of Florida and a B.A. in psychology from New College of Florida. Hannah is currently the Nature Coast Scholar for the UF IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station, a fellowship that funds her research on collaboration in oyster restoration projects on the Gulf Coast for three years. She has a background in journalism, writing as a reporter for news outlets such as the Tampa Bay Times, Gainesville Sun and Lake City Reporter. She is also co-editor of an online publication about environmental topics in Florida called The Marjorie.

NCBS Internships On The Nature Coast

Nature Coast Biological Station is partnering with federal and state agencies with UF students to work on research in the Nature Coast region this summer. The list below includes the intern and their partnered host affiliate, which shows what project each intern will be researching this summer.

2018 Interns

Anna Swigris

Anna Swigris

Intern Hosts
Tim Jones & Jamie Lentendre

Project Title
Seagrass Monitoring and Assessment-Big Bend Seagrass Aquatic Preserve

Sawyer Downey

Sawyer Downey

Intern Host
Charlie Martin

Project Title
Estuarine Ecology

Cher Nicholson

Cher Nicolson

Intern Hosts
Josh Patterson & Savanna Barry

Project Title
Centipede Bay Oyster and Marsh Habitat Enhancement Project

Samara Nehemiah

Samara Nehemiah

Intern Hosts
Mike Allen & Steve Geiger

Project Title
Bay Scallop Population and Recreational Fishery Monitoring

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Vita Repina

Intern Host
Mark Clark

Project Title
Investigating Strategies, Benefits and Stakeholder Preference of “Living Shorelines” to Stabilize and Ecologically Enhance the Coastline around Daughtry Bayou

Brian Whalen

Brian Whalen

Intern Hosts
Mike Allen & Andrew Gude

Project Title
Improving Recreational Fishing Catch and Release Methods

tyler fogt

Tyler Fogt

Intern Hosts
Caleb Purtlebaugh, Johnny Polasik, & Taj Knapp

Project Title
Fisheries Independent Monitoring - Marine Research

victoria steinnecker

Victoria Steinnecker

Intern Hosts
Mark Hinz & Tom Mirti

Project Title
Water Quality and Springs Monitoring

Rebecca Rash

Rebecca Rash

Intern Hosts
Joyce Palmer

Project Title
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Manatee Monitoring

Amy Oxton

Amy Oxton

Intern Hosts
Steve Geiger & Jennifer Granneman

Project Title
Bay Scallop Population and Recreational Fishery Monitoring

Emma Jablonski

Emma Jablonski

Intern Host
Mike Allen

Project Title
Biological Intern at NCBS/FWC

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Margaret Long

Intern Host
Joyce Palmer

Project Title
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Manatee Monitoring

2017 Interns

Jordana Cutajar

Jordana Cutajar

Intern Host
Darlene Velez

Project Title
Water Quality and Springs Monitoring

Courtney Stachowiak

Courtney Stachowiak

Intern Host
Caleb Purtlebaugh

Project Title
Fisheries Independent Monitoring

Audrey Batzer

Audrey Batzer

Intern Host
Dr. Christine Angelini

Project Title
Building with Nature

William Wolfson

William Wolfson

Intern Host
Andrew Gude

Project Title
Cedar Key NWR Guided Kayak Fishing

Tristen Townsend-2

Tristen Townsend

Intern Host
Dr. David Kaplan

Project Title
Investigating Changes in Coastal Forests Along the Nature Coast

Samantha Tiffany

Samantha Tiffany

Intern Host
Dr. Charles Martin & Dr. Laura Reynolds

Project Title
Diel Variability in Fish and Invertebrate Community Structure

Kimberly Magee

Kimberly Magee

Intern Host
Dr. Savanna Barry

Project Title
Human Dimensions of Recrational Scalloping and Boating in the Nature Coast

Kelly Colvin

Kelly Colvin

Intern Host
Tim Jones

Project Title
Seagrass Monitoring and Assessment-Big Bend Seagrass Aquatic Preserve

Kaley Terrell

Tristen Townsend

Intern Host
Peter Frederick

Project Title
Oyster Research

Kacey Aukema

Kacey Aukema

Intern Host
Dr. Mark Clark

Project Title
Investigating Strategies, Benefits and Stakeholder Preference of "Living Shorelines"

Joseph Littell

Joseph Littell

Intern Host
Dr. Bill Lindberg

Project Title
Application of Habitat Selection Theory and Reef Technology to Fisheries Management

alec_cronin

Alec Cronin

Intern Host
Dr. Savanna Barry

Project Title
Human Dimensions of Recrational Scalloping and Boating in the Nature Coast

2016 Interns

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Cory Gillis

Intern Host
Vic Doig and Larry Woodward

Project Title
Lower Suwannee Wildlife and Habitat Monitoring

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Jessica Van Vaerenbergh

Intern Host
Dr. Bill Lindberg

Project Title
Application of Hatitat Selection Theory and Reef Technology to Fisheries Management

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Hannah Van Horn

Intern Host
Timothy Jones and Jamie Letendere

Project Title
Seagrass and Water Quaility Monitoring In Florida's Big Bend

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Julia Richter

Intern Host
Dr. Mark Clark

Project Title
Cedar Key Living Shoreline Demonstration and Canal Water Quality Enhancement Project

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Lizzie Mayes

Intern Host
Caleb Purtlebaugh

Project Title
Fisheries Independent Monitoring

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