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Marine Science Graduate Program

Student Profiles


Danielle is a fourth year Marine Science graduate student. Her current research focuses on habitat connectivity, specifically on how marine inputs are subsidizing island food webs in Baja California, Mexico. She has spent 4 summers working on this research in Bahía de los Àngeles, a small fishing town on the Sea of Cortez.

Danielle has worked for the department as a graduate assistant, lecturer, and lab instructor. She also has worked as an instructor with Ocean Discovery Institute, teaching both field and classroom based lessons to 3rd-12th graders.

Danielle graduated from UC San Diego in 2008 with a BS in Animal Physiology and Neuroscience.

Why did you choose USD?

“It gave me the opportunity to both stay in San Diego and continue to conduct research in Baja with Dr. Drew Talley.”

What is your favorite aspect of the USD community?

“Coming from a large school, it is nice to be part of such a small program where you can really get to know all of the professors. Also, having a small cohort serves as a great support system.”

Dustin Chen

Dustin is a first year Marine Science graduate student. His current research focuses on looking at spatio-temporal changes in abundance of larval rockfishes in the Cowcod Conservation Areas. This research has significant implications for the cowcod and bocaccio fisheries, as well as for the efficacy of marine protected areas as a whole.
Dustin currently works as a graduate assistant for the department, helping with lab maintenance and specimen curation.
Dustin graduated from UC San Diego in 2012 with a B.S. in General Biology and a minor in Marine Science.

Why did you choose USD?

After graduating from UCSD, I wanted to stay in the San Diego area and do marine science research. When I learned of the Marine Science MS program at USD and the possibility to work with researchers I met at NOAA Fisheries I immediately jumped at the opportunity.

What is your favorite aspect of the USD community?

I really love the close-knit atmosphere of the MARS department. Compared to bigger universities, it is way easier to get to know your professors and colleagues!

Whitney Sears

Bobby Harrington (4th yr) and Whitney Sears deploying a sediment trap in St. John, USVI

Whitney Sears is in her third and final year of graduate school in the Marine Science Graduate Program.  Her research focuses on the processes that affect marine sedimentation on St. John in the US Virgin Islands and examines how sediment varies in bays below watersheds with human development compared with undeveloped watersheds; in near-shore compared with offshore reef environments; and temporally in response to rainfall.  She has spent nearly four years working on this research on St. John, including a year (2010-2011) working as the primary field technician for the project before later deciding to continue on the project as a graduate student.  Whitney received a B.S. in general biology from Centre College in Danville, KY in 2010 before starting as the field technician for this project later in the summer. 

Why did you choose USD?

“I chose USD because I really loved this project as the field technician and like being a part of a project that had real, direct implications for improving public policy concerning tropical coastal development and protecting coral reef environments.  I was also really excited about living in a big city for the first time and having the opportunity to explore San Diego.”

What is your favorite aspect of the USD community?

“I like that USD, and as an extension, the Marine Science Department is small and allows for a lot of interaction with faculty and other students. “

Elizabeth smith

Elizabeth is a first year graduate student, and is interested in genetics in the marine environment. Previous to coming to San Diego, she worked on helping describe the genetic cascade seen during sexual differentiation in sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria). Elizabeth is excited to get the opportunity to continue developing her molecular knowledge in San Diego, using genetic analyses to identify parents of larvae California yellowtail (Seriola lalandi), in an aquaculture setting. Her work is a collaboration between Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and NOAA Fisheries. Before coming to San Diego, Elizabeth got her B.S. in Biology and Marine Biology minor at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Why did you choose USD?

This program is small and allows for a hands-on approach to conducting science. USD has made it easy to network with other scientists in San Diego that conduct research I’m interested in.

What is your favorite aspect of the USD community?

The breadth of research being done at USD has opened my eyes to topics I’ve never previously known about. It’s really great getting to talk to other graduate students and professors about their research.

Allison yoshida

Branda Cook, Allison Yoshida,
Dr. Hugh Ellis

Alli is conducting her thesis research in the physiology lab of Dr. Hugh Ellis in the Biology Department at USD. She is interested in the metabolism and energetics of a migratory waterbird during the active non-migratory periods. Her field research has taken her to Great Salt Lake, Mono Lake and Salton Sea.

She is originally from Hawaii and completed her B.S. at UCSD majoring in Environmental Systems (Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution).

Why did you choose USD?

I choose USD because of its premier location for marine studies and the intimate size of the Marine Science Graduate Program.

What is your favorite aspect of the USD community?

Since the program is quite small, I've been able to get to know all the grad students. I've made some amazing friends from my cohort as well.




More Profiles Coming Soon...