Students scrubber diving



College of Science & Mathematics
Master of Science in Marine & Environmental Science


Current Students - 2022 Cohort



Current Students - 2021 Cohort


Previous Cohorts - Current Students

Natasha BestromHi my name is Natasha Bestrom. I received my B.S. in Biology with an additional major in Environmental Studies from Hollins University in 2018. While studying at Hollins, I participated in several research projects studying coral abundance and health, fish biodiversity, and green sea turtle grazing behavior around St. John, USVI. I also explored anthropogenic impacts on the marine organisms within mangrove ecosystems through a study abroad program with the School for Field Studies in Bocas del Toro, Panamá. Ultimately, I focused my undergraduate senior honors thesis on the population dynamics of Acropora palmata (elkhorn coral), in St. John. Here at UVI, I am working under Dr. Marilyn Brandt as a research assistant to re-establish the monitoring program of both Acropora palmata and Acropora cervicornis (staghorn coral), in the USVI. For my thesis, I will be investigating disease in Acropora palmata in relation to enterococci levels in the marine environment.

Kayla Budd - Hello! My name is Kayla Budd, and I am from the small town of Hymera, Indiana. Growing up, I was always fascinated by nature and especially by the ocean. I earned a B.S. in Ecology and Environmental Biology from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire. There the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Acnievement Program encouraged and enabled me to participate in several undergraduate research projects and to study abroad. During an internship at the Charles Darwin Research Station in Galapagos, Ecuador, I reafirmed my love for marine life, research, and marine ecology. My passion lies in finding effective solutions that work both for the environment and for the people who depend upon it. I am currently working with Dr. Richard Nemeth to address terrestrial sedimentation and inform watershed management by engaging the public through a social media app and examine the fate and behavioral changes of  coral-associated cleaner gobies following disease outbreaks. I spend my free time volunteering as part of the St. Thomas Coral Disease Strike Team or photographing the beautiful island I now call home. Contact:

Jenna Cheramie - Hey y’all! My name is Jenna Cheramie and I was born and raised in Houma, Louisiana, 45 minutes south of New Orleans. I graduated from LSU (Geaux Tigers!) with a B.S. in Natural Resource Ecology and Management and a concentration in Wildlife Ecology in the Spring of 2020. While at LSU, I had many research opportunities across the world, including an internship in South Africa studying Great White Sharks, a study abroad program in Mozambique, and a shark tagging trip out of Alabama, all of which allowed me to hone in on my desired field of study in conservation-related sensory biology of sharks! I am an avid scuba diver, adrenaline junkie, traveler, and adventurer. After skydiving five times, jumping from the world’s tallest bungee bridge, and cage diving with Great Whites, my current adventure is in Dr. Rick Nemeth’s lab at the University of the Virgin Islands, where I am studying how differences in foraging habitat affect the reproductive rates of Yellowtail Parrotfish (Sparisoma rubripinne) at two spawning aggregations in Reef Bay, St. John.

Maksym Cohen - Hello! My name is Maksym Cohen and I graduated from the University of San Diego with degrees in Environmental and Ocean Sciences and International Relations. I spent much of my undergraduate career surveying coastal areas for microplastic density and assessing its impacts on local marine life. My background is in physical oceanography and ocean circulation which has led to my interest in the work of Dr. Sennai Habtes. My research at UVI will be centered on the impacts of wave and current action on Red Grouper larval distribution. I hope that work in this field will create opportunities for myself in fisheries in the future.

Lindsay Dade - Hey! Originally from southern Maryland, I'm currently an MMES graduate student at the University of the Virgin Islands. After completing my undergraduate degree at Virginia Wesleyan College, I traveled and volunteered at a Marine Conservation Center in Cambodia, where I learned reef survey techniques and discovered my passion for scuba diving. Since then I've worked as a Divemaster and Scuba Instructor in Barbados, Grenada, and here on St. Thomas. I currently work with Dr. Marilyn Brandt on coral restoration and disease. My interests include how factors such as water quality and disease influence coral recruitment in the US Virgin Islands. 

Allison Holevoet - Hiya! My name is Allison. My undergraduate years at the University of Rhode Island were spent working towards a B.S. in Marine Biology and immersing myself in marine research. Funded by an NSF EPSCoR Fellowship the summer before my junior year, I was transplanting healthy staghorn and elkhorn corals onto shallow, degraded reefs in the Caribbean to document the habitat change of juvenile damselfish. A desire to elevate my research skills led  me to conduct an independent project my senior year concerning the dislodgement force to wave exposure of a tropical gastropod, Cittarium pica. Post graduation, I followed my scientific curiosity of fisheries to the waters of Alaska where I spent three years collecting data for in-season fisheries management. My passion for tropical research and a hunger for my next professional development led me to the University of the Virgin Islands to complete a thesis on novel methods for mangrove restoration with Dr. Kristin Wilson Grimes.

Nicole Krampitz - Hey everyone, my name is Nicole! I am originally from Dallas, TX and, despite being far from the ocean, grew up with a fascination of all things marine. I graduated from the University of Miami in the spring of 2020 with a B.S. in Marine Science and Biology. As an undergraduate, I worked in a coral acidification lab looking at how pH and thermal stress impact coral growth and photophysiology. When not in school, I try to spend as much time as I can on or in the water, whether that be through competitively swimming, fishing, or diving. In addition, I am passionate about volleyball, art, and traveling — which led me to study abroad twice: once in Paris and once in the Galapagos. As a first year MMES student, I’m excited to continue my journey by studying corals with Dr. Tyler Smith and working as a research assistant for the Territorial Coral Reef Monitoring Program. For my thesis, I will be looking at the demographic impacts of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Reagan Mason - Hi, my name is Reagan Mason! I am working with Dr. Tyler Smith for my thesis, looking at the variation in Caribbean coral response to thermal stress and sedimentation! I am also working with the Territorial Coral Reef Monitoring Program with Dr. Smith as a part of a research assistantship. I’m originally from Old Saybrook, CT, where I grew up exploring Long Island Sound. I received my B.S. in Organismal Biology and minors in Spanish and Leadership Studies from Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA. During my time there, I did research on oyster restoration in the Chesapeake Bay, which solidified my interest in marine biology. I also had the opportunity to participate in a National Science Foundation REU at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL, where I worked in the Coral Health and Disease Lab. It was there that I truly solidified my passion for coral research, and started me down the path to the MMES program at UVI here in St. Thomas!

Andrew McGregor - Hello everyone, my name is Andrew! I grew up in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota and received a B.S. degree in biology with a minor in animal ecology from Iowa State University. My interest in marine sciences came from my undergraduate research experiences at The University of the South Pacific in Fiji and the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Lab. I developed an interest in sea turtles while assisting in a project that studied green and hawksbill turtle foraging behavior around the outer Fijian Islands and have wanted to continue studying these organisms in a graduate program ever since. For my thesis project, I will be working with Dr. Paul Jobsis to study the in-water habitat use and movements of hawksbill sea turtles in Brewers Bay, USVI. 

Naomi Scott - Hello! My name is Naomi Scott and I'm a graduate student in the MMES program at the University of the Virgin Islands. I'm originally from Chicago, IL but I earned my Bachelors degree in Biology with a minor in Environmental Science from the University of Tampa. I'm interested in renewable energy so my research revolves around the ways renewable energy sources can be used in aquaculture. In collaboration with Dr. Sennai Habtes I hope to  build a portable aquaculture lab that is powered by solar photo voltaic energy and can be used in the field. When I'm not in class I enjoy teaching Science 100 to undergraduate students and researching new innovations in solar energy. 

Matthew Souza - Hi, I grew up in Massachusetts with the ocean an hour drive to my east and the mountains to my north and west. My childhood was spent camping, hiking and spending time on Cape Cod.  I received my B.S. degree in Environmental Science with a concentration in marine science and minors in biology and environmental anthropology from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. While there I worked as a laboratory assistant in the Byrnes Laboratory and assisted in a study looking at the impact of rising sea levels on salt marsh zonation.  My undergraduate research project examined factors influencing crab species abundance and distribution in Nantucket seagrass beds. After graduation, I worked as a teaching assistant at Shoals Marine Laboratory in Maine. My research interests include the interaction between anthropological impacts and the coastal marine habitats. At  UVI I will be studying the impacts of the invasive seagrass (Halophila stipulaceaon) on the queen conch (Lobatus gigas) under the mentorship of Dr. Edwin Cruz-Rivera.  I enjoy teaching and am currently a teaching assistant in the undergraduate class, Natural World:The Caribbean. My hobbies include skiing, biking, hiking, and anything on the water.

Olivia Diana - Good Day! My name is Olivia Diana. I am originally from Massachusetts but finished my undergrad at Virginia Wesleyan University with a B.S. in Biology. Three months later I moved to Saint Thomas, USVI to pursue my masters and work with Dr. Cruz Rivera on comparing beaches for microplastic density depending on the sargassum density. I completed research on using death assemblages as indications of environmental recovery and presented the work at the International Crustacean Conference 9 (ICC9) in May 2018. I decided to study in the Virgin Islands after study away trips to both Belize and Costa Rica taught me about the ecological importance of protecting the tropical coasts. Contact: