2020 GIOS Scientists
Middle & High School Visiting Scientists

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Middle School Conference:  February 15, 2020

Dr. Abigail Cannon
PhD, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Dr. Abigail Cannon completed her PhD studying tropical seagrass beds in the Smith Lab at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  Her experience includes underwater research identifying algae and processing data.

Gabriella Berman
Volunteer Researcher, Bowman Lab, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Gabriella graduated in 2018 from the University of Montana with a BS in Biology. During her undergraduate Gabriella studied how animals adapt to live in extreme environments, and how animal behavior and the environment combine to produce fantastic ornamentation. More recently, she has been conducting postbaccalaureate research under Dr. Jeff Bowman studying polar microbial ecology. Gabriella has proposed a PhD project on community connectivity at whale falls in the deep sea.

Heidi Waite
PhD Student, Sorte Lab, University of California, Irvine

Heidi’s research focuses on understanding how climate change is affecting coastal intertidal ecosystems. Specifically, she is studying how intertidal mussels cope with increased temperatures across their life stages. Heidi is passionate about science outreach and fostering diversity in STEM.

Dr. Jenny Hofmeister
Environmental Scientist, California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Dr. Jenny Hofmeister splits her time between invertebrate fishery management and endangered species restoration. She manages the California spiny lobster fishery, which involves collecting and analyzing fishery and population data to ensure the fishery is sustainable. In addition, Dr. Jenny works to restore abalone populations in Southern California and prevent one species, the white abalone, from going extinct. Dr. Jenny also studies how a major abalone predator, the octopus, moves through its’ environment and uses different habitats.

Dr. Kristen Sakamaki
Veterinarian, Pacific Marine Mammal Center

Dr. Kristen Sakamaki is the veterinarian at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, California. Many of their patients are California Sea Lions, Northern Elephant Seals and Pacific Harbor Seals. Dr. Kristen is responsible for assessing their health, nutrition and hydration on intake into the center, as well as performing any diagnostics and prescribing treatment. She also performs necropsies, sends out tissue samples for histopathology and collects tissue samples for research. Dr. Kristen’s greatest passion is taking animals on the brink of death, rehabilitating them and releasing them back to their ocean homes.

Dr. Regina Guazzo
Scientist, Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific

Dr. Regina Guazzo studies marine mammals for the U.S. Navy. Since whales spend most of their lives below water and produce sounds to communicate over long distances, Dr. Regina records underwater sound over long time periods to learn about whale behavior. She investigates how Navy activity, and natural changes in the environment such as background noise, storms and climate change, impact whale behavior.

Taylor Smith
Graduate Student, Shark Lab, California State University, Long Beach

Taylor is a graduate student studying the metabolism of Pacific Sleeper Sharks, a species that inhabits deep, cold waters in Alaska. Her research has taken her to Alaska where she utilizes respirometers to read the sharks’ oxygen consumption levels. Sleeper sharks have a lifespan of hundreds of years, and Taylor aims to better understand their health and metabolic rate to inform critical conservation efforts. Additionally, Taylor is a key member of both the lab’s Educational Outreach and Jaw Identification programs.

High School Conference:  March 21, 2020

Angelina Komatovich​
Aquarist, Aquarium of the Pacific

Angelina is an esteemed aquarist 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.

Holly Lohuis
Marine Biologist and Educator, Ocean Futures Society

Holly has been a marine educator for over 25 years. She has worked with the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, Ocean Futures Society and Island Packers.  Acting as a liaison between the Ocean Futures Society and scientists, Holly has been diving the world’s oceans with Jean-Michel Cousteau and his team since 1996. One of her many responsibilities includes confirming the factual accuracy of Ocean Futures Society’s documentaries and publications. Holly is enthusiastic to share her personal story of ocean exploration, marine education and environmental advocacy.

Dr. Kristy Forsgren
Associate Professor, California State University, Fullerton (CSUF)

Dr. Kristy Forsgren is a reproductive physiologist and endocrinologist. She leads the Fish Reproductive Biology Lab at CSUF, to study rare, deep-sea, and internally fertilizing fishes. Dr. Kristy enjoys teaching, conducting research and participating in service activities.

Dr. Melinda Nicewonger
National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Dr. Melinda Nicewonger is an earth scientist with a focus on atmospheric chemistry and changes to atmospheric composition. She monitors the abundance and variability in ozone-depleting gases released to the atmosphere through natural climate processes: wildfires, the ocean, and plants and vegetation. Before her work at NOAA, Dr. Melinda took core samples from polar ice sheets, which contain tiny samples of the past atmosphere. With these samples, at the University of California, Irvine, she was able to reconstruct the levels of different gases in the atmosphere over the past 52,000 years, in order to understand the variability of wildfires through time.

Mo Wise
Wetland Scientist, Irvine Ranch Water District

Mo works in the Natural Treatment Systems Department at Irvine Ranch Water District.  She helps treat urban runoff before it ends up in the Upper Newport Bay Marine Ecological Reserve, diverting urban runoff into manmade wetlands located throughout the Irvine region in the San Diego Creek watershed. Wetlands remove pollutants, bacteria and potentially harmful nutrients, which Mo monitors through water quality testing and ecological surveys.

Sachi Cunningham
Associate Professor, San Francisco State University (SFSU)

Sachi is a documentary filmmaker, surf photographer and multimedia journalism professor at SFSU. Her work in environmental filmmaking has spanned from filming a 350-pound blue fin tuna to big wave surfers.  Sachi has been known to swim out into dangerous surf with her camera to make documentaries that can change the way people think about what is possible for themselves and others.

Sam Clements
Lab Manager and Staff Research Associate, Smith Lab, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Sam completed her MS research in the Smith Lab in 2015, where she studied the functional roles of herbivorous fishes on the coral reefs of Maui. In addition to her current role as the Smith Lab manager, Sam oversees the Scripps Ocean Acidity Real-time (SOAR) Monitoring Program. She also assists with a variety of projects, including the 100 Island Challenge, as a coral reef benthic scientist identifying coral, algae and other benthic invertebrates.