Students scrubber diving



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



MMES 2023 Cohort



Current Students - 2022 Cohort


Previous Cohorts - Current Students

Adeline Shelby, National Science Foundation Scholar - My name is Adeline Shelby and I am originally from Dallas, Texas! I turned a 4-hour drive to the nearest beach to 15-minutes when I decided to go to the University of Miami. I graduated in 2019 with a B.S. in Marine Science and Biology. During my time there I helped conduct research on staghorn coral in an ocean acidification laboratory, interned at the Center for Sustainable Development in Cape Eleuthera, Bahamas, and studied abroad in the Galapagos Islands. I've become particularly interested in coral conservation and restoration. So, I am happy to be interning with Coral Restoration Foundation in Key Largo, Florida this summer where I get to assist with reef monitoring, harvesting, and outplanting! I'm very excited to get to continue this kind of work as a research assistant for Dr. Tyler Smith.

Julia Plotkin - Hello! My name is Julia Plotkin and I am originally from Texas where I earned a Bachelor of Marine and Freshwater Biology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2017. After graduation I dove into the field doing critical habitat restoration and trail access in Southern California with the American Conservation Experience followed by almost 2 years in the Philippines as a Coastal Resource Management volunteer with the U.S. Peace Corps. My passion for community engagement, ecosystem-based management, and stakeholder driven science landed me here in St. Thomas working with the Division of Fish and Wildlife at the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. I am eager to push myself as a scientist in the MMES program while exploring my research interests in blue carbon, habitat restoration, and coastal resilience. I look forward to learning how to best create a sustainable intersection of marine environment and society!

Lila Uzzell - Hey, my name is Lila Uzzell and I was born and raised on St. John, Virgin Islands. I received a B.S. in General Biology from the University of North Carolina at Asheville in 2017, where I researched two pitcher plants (Sarracenia) and their hybrids. After completing my degree, I bicycled across the USA and then began working for the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Conservation & Research Department as their Conservation Assistant & Field Biologist. I love working with rare and native plants, but also have a rooted passion for the marine life I was surrounded by growing up. After three years at the Botanical Garden, I returned to St. John in 2020. When not working at my local dive shop, you can find me outdoors hiking, diving, freediving, surfing, or hanging at the beach with friends! I am so excited to be home and become a part of UVI's MMES program. My hopes are to pursue a thesis surrounding coral reef ecology or mangrove ecology.

Davis Strobel, National Science Foundation Scholar - Hey, I’m Davis Strobel from Charleston, South Carolina. I grew up in a Scouting family, which catalyzed my love for the natural world, and through scuba diving at a young age, I found my life goal of becoming a marine scientist. I attended Arkansas State University for my B.S. in Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation while playing rugby full-time. Since graduating in 2019, I’ve been fortunate to work at some fantastic marine labs in Puerto Rico, the Florida Keys, Hawaii, and the Virgin Islands. Some of my work experience to date has included topics on parasitology, fish behavior, microbial ecology, coral restoration, aquaculture, and educational outreach. My favorite part about this career path is my ability to make direct impacts in and out of the water; whether it’s outplanting coral or teaching youth about marine conservation, I’m in love! I hope to one day start an organization focusing on coral restoration, educational outreach, and eco-tourism..

Laura Palomino - Hi everyone! My name is Laura Palomino, and I am originally from Cali, Colombia. Growing up in Miami, I developed my interest in marine science by snorkeling, scuba diving and sorting through sargassum on the beach. I graduated from the University of Florida (GO GATORS!) with a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Marine Science and have been working in the marine conservation field for the past 4 years. I have enjoyed working for several non-profits, Florida Fish and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Biscayne National Park, and the University of Miami. My background in education, coastal ecosystems, and citizen science has led me to pursue a graduate degree with Dr. Kristin Wilson Grimes. My research at UVI will be centered on mangrove restoration and community engagement.

Erin Hollander - Hello! My name is Erin and I am originally from Northern California. I grew up spending every spare minute outside either hiking, swimming, playing water polo, or boogie boarding in water that is much colder than USVI! Whether it’s open water swimming, snorkeling, or scuba diving, once I’m in the ocean, it’s pretty hard to get me to leave. After high school, I attended UCLA where I majored in marine biology. There, my favorite research experience was spending a quarter abroad in Tahiti studying giant clams and algae! I fell in love with marine ecology (woohoo, algae!) and I am so excited to continue research with Dr. Tyler Smith’s lab. 

Elizabeth Harris, National Science Foundation Scholar - M.S. candidate in the Marine and Environmental Studies program at UVI with interests in coral reef ecology. I graduated with a B.S. in wildlife biology from Missouri State University. During my undergrad, I spent a semester with Sea Semester sailing around the Lesser Antilles, studying coral reefs and oceanography. My thesis project focuses on coral settlement along the shelf gradient. I am the 2021 class rep.  When I am not doing research, I work at the St. Thomas Yacht Club. 

Kayla Halliday, National Science Foundation Scholar - Hello all, my name is Kayla Halliday and I was raised here on St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. I have recently graduated with my B.S. in Marine Biology in May of 2020 here at the University of the Virgin Islands and I am very excited to be starting the MMES program.  From the time I first learned to snorkel, around the age of 3, I have always been curious and mystified by the ocean and all the creatures that reside there. Over my adolescent and adult years, my passion to protect my home and the waters that surround it grew, which is one of the reasons why I am choosing to further my education. My career goal is to be an ecological consultant here in the Virgin Islands. I am very interested in land/sea interactions and human/sea life interactions. During my time in the MMES program I will be working with Dr. Kristin Wilson Grimes on advancing mangrove restoration. My thesis will focus on the bettering out planting for mangrove propagules.

Zachary Gregory,National Science Foundation Scholar  -My name is Zachary Gregory. I am from Washington State and received a bachelor’s in marine biology from Western Washington University. During my undergrad I found myself fascinated by habitat forming species such as anemones and corals. This fascination led me to many opportunities such as running independent experiments on coral bleaching in the Sea of Cortez and spent a summer aiding in propagation of corals such as Acropora Palmata and Acropora Cervicornis through MOTE Marine Laboratory’s Coral Reef Restoration Internship. I also spent my time volunteering in aiding WWU’s Surfrider Club with beach cleanups and organizing public outreach events. I have spent the past two years working with one of Washington’s native tribe where I have worked on monitoring salmon populations, restored riparian habitat, and aided in climate modeling. I am excited that my path has brought me to the MMES program at UVI, and for the experiences I’ll get during my time at St. Thomas.

Rebecca Gibbel - I am enthusiastic to be joining the MMES cohort and Dr. Brandt’s lab, in order to study coral disease- particularly the epizootic SCTLD that has so seriously damaged the Caribbean reefs.  My early years were spent on Tortola in the BVI, when the reefs were in far better condition and before coral diseases were prevalent.   I earned my bachelor’s degree from Harvard, my doctorate in veterinary medicine from Tufts, and I did a post-doc internship in surgery and medicine at Penn.  Since then I have been practicing veterinary medicine in New York City, but I have always been strongly drawn to environmental conservation.   I’ve worked at the NY Aquarium and learned about land-based coral husbandry, and in a genetics lab at the Museum of Natural History, studying deep sea black corals until the pandemic shut the lab down.   Joining me in this next life chapter, are my dive buddy husband Mark, and our paralyzed dachshund Lola.

Alex Cormack,National Science Foundation Scholar - I’m Alex Cormack, born and raised near Syracuse, New York. I graduated from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry here with a B.S. in Environmental Biology. I’m a Sea Education Association alum, there I sailed the Lesser Antilles studying Yellow Porites and their relative abundance on unhealthy reefs where I really finalized and confirmed my direction toward marine science. I’m excited to get to diving in the Caribbean, as most of my experience has been exploring New York’s lakes and rivers for the last few years. I haven’t finalized my advisor placement or thesis project yet, but I am well versed in coral community dynamics yet open to study something completely new. I am passionate about just about anything underwater and am ready the next leg of my journey at UVI!

Shamoy Bideau - Hey, what's good? My name is Shamoy Bideau, I’m from St. Croix, but was raised in St. Lucia, where I first found my love for the ocean attending youth forums surrounding ocean resource conservation. I graduated from the University of the Virgin Islands with my B.S. in Marine Biology in 2020. I am a member of Dr. Marilyn Brandt’s lab, as a Research Assistant on the SEAS coral restoration project. Through my time at UVI, I amassed new skills which I think are beneficial to my future, but I'm not done yet - always up for learning something new. I'm excited to see what this new chapter holds for me.

Amanda Badai - Hi my name is Amanda Badai. I am originally from New Jersey, however I have resided in the Florida Keys for the past few years. I graduated in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from the University of New Haven in Connecticut. I completed a thesis where I determined if nematocysts from Aiptasia sp. and Cassiopea sp. could inhibit bacterial growth. After college I interned for Mote Marine Laboratory in their Reef Restoration Program where I gained experience in coral husbandry. I then had animal care experience with parrots and manatees at Miami Seaquarium and learned about their manatee rescue program. After Miami I moved back to the keys to become a Biologist at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters where I gained experience in elasmobranch and tropical fish husbandry. Other specialties there were water quality and animal training and manatee rescue. I look forward to studying and gaining more experience in coral disease and research with the MMES program. 

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:

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: