2019 GIOS Scientists
Middle & High School Visiting Scientists


Middle School Conference:  February 16, 2019

Jessica Nielsen
Conservation Specialist, Coal Oil Point Reserve, UCSB

Jessica manages, monitors, and implements recovery programs for endangered species native to the Coal Oil Point Reserve. Many of the programs are centered on restoration, conservation, monitoring and appreciation.

Linda Chilton
Sea Grant Education Programs Manager, USC

Linda develops and manages a variety of marine educational programs in Southern California that call for the help students, teachers, and citizen scientists. One of USC’s Sea Grant programs, the Urban Tides Community Science Initiative, is introduced in Ocean Institute’s Coastal Citizen Science Investigations program where students can learn and actively participate in the Urban Tides program.

Jennifer Palmer
Wildlife Biologist, Founder of Women for Wildlife

Inspired by her travel, adventure and wildlife research, Jennifer founded Women for Wildlife. Her mission is to create an international voice to support, empower and unite women passionate about wildlife and conservation.

Angelina Komatovich
Aquarist, Aquarium of the Pacific

Angelina is an esteemed aquarist, also known as the “octopus whisperer” at the largest aquarium in Southern California, and the fourth largest in the nation. She has the important job of keeping the animals safe, happy and healthy.

Dr. Sula Vanderplank
Plant Conservationist, San Diego Zoo Global

Dr. Vanderplank is a Postdoctoral Fellow at San Diego Zoo Global working to protect approximately 200 rare, threatened, or endangered plants from Baja California. Dr. Sula strives to determine conservation status for the California flora through seed collection, genetic material, and population data.

Dr. Shannon Klotsko
Marine Geologist, Department of Geological Studies, SDSU

Dr. Klotsko, a Postdoctoral Fellow at San Diego State University, maps faults to determine their locations, geometry, and rupture history. Dr. Klotsko uses the data to examine sea level fluctuations, climate variability, and plate tectonic influences in the ocean.

High School Conference:  March 16, 2019

Dr. Kerry Nickols
Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, CSUN

With a focus on nearshore oceanography, Dr. Nickols studies the effects of climate change. She recently embarked on a 21-day expedition to Antarctica to explore how to battle climate change with the collaboration of 80 other women from 27 different countries.

Dr. Nigella Hillgarth
Environmental Advocate

Dr. Nigella Hillgarth is an evolutionary biologist who has held leadership positions at the New England Aquarium, Birch Aquarium at UC San Diego, and the Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City. During these leadership roles she founded the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life in Boston and developed one of the first major exhibits on climate change in the U.S.  Dr. Nigella has researched behavioral ecology and evolution of birds in Thailand, the Arctic, and beyond. Furthermore, Dr. Nigella uses her love for photography to connect people to the environment and communicate the significance of science in their lives.

Katy Laveck Foster
Site Search and Rehab Coordinator and Communications, the Whale Sanctuary Project

Katy is a marine mammal field researcher with experience in rescue and rehab projects.  Additionally, Katy’s award-winning photography has been featured in National Geographic, and is largely focused on the research and conservation of marine mammals.  Her work has taken her to multiple countries to work with species including dugongs in Indonesia, orcas in New Zealand, bears in the Cloud Forest of South America, and more.

Dr. Ericka Holland
Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, CSULB

Dr. Holland’s laboratory is studying the effects of pollutants on aquatic organisms, particularly fish, through molecular and ecological toxicology. Her team plans to document and evaluate specific pollutants and their impacts on the environment.

Emily Meese
Graduate Student, Shark Lab, CSULB

Emily studies the ecological footprint and activity of horn sharks along the coast of Catalina Island in Southern California. Emily advocates for hands-on research and the importance and conservation of sharks for all ecosystems through mathematics, computer science and engineering.

Katie Nichols
Marine Restoration Director, Orange County Coastkeeper

Katie works to design and implement projects for the restoration of multiple marine organisms and habitats through collaboration with students, volunteers, citizen scientists, and agencies in Southern California. She is interested in resource management and developing solutions to the multiple challenges marine ecosystems face.

Andrea Stockert
Videography Professional, Co-Founder of The Ocean Lab

Stockert’s passion for the ocean has taken her around the world to dive and shoot in a multitude of marine environments. Her love for documentary films led her to co-found The Ocean Lab, which brings live-streaming ocean science expeditions into classrooms around the world using traditional and 360 degree video production.