Who we are

Rotjan-SEA-S230B-2010-39 Dr. Randi Rotjan is a Research Assistant Professor at Boston University in the Biology Department and in the Boston University Marine Program. She received a B.S. from Cornell University, a Ph.D. from Tufts, and did her postdoctoral work at Harvard; “standing on the shoulders of giants” (see her academic lineage here). She was an Associate Research Scientist at the New England Aquarium for 8 years, where she simultaneously held positions at UMass Boston and the Smithsonian Institution. She is the co-Chief Scientist of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) Conservation Trust, where she leads the science program for the worlds’ largest and deepest UNESCO World Heritage Site, fully closed to all commercial extractive activities. Rotjan is also the founder and co-Chair of the PIPA Scientific Advisory Committee. She is a member of Women Working for Oceans (W2O) and the Explorers Club. She lives in the Boston area with her two sweet children, awesome husband, and a yard full of native plants.
Cara Johnson is a Senior Research Technician at Boston University. She received a BS from The University of New Hampshire in Marine and Freshwater Biology, and a MS from Florida Institute of Technology in Marine Biology. She served as a fish and invertebrate biologist at various public aquariums across the US before pursuing a Master’s Degree. Her thesis research looked at the transcriptional stress responses of heat shock proteins in seahorses in China. Her current work involves the husbandry and maintenance of all living specimen and their enclosures in the Rotjan and Buston Labs, as well as assisting students in the experimental design and set up of their research. Fun facts: Cara is a former competitive Irish step dancer, loves to travel, is mom to the world’s cutest chihuahua, and is a member of a Spartan Race team (even though she dislikes running).
Anna-LiquidNitro-768x650 Anna Gauthier is a PhD candidate and works jointly between the Rotjan Lab and the Kagan Lab (Harvard Medical School, Department of Virology). She recently was aboard the R/V Falkor in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area to collect deep sea microbes for her dissertation work. Come back to learn more about Anna. :-)
Kennedy Dive cert Brian Kennedy is a first year PhD student in the Rotjan lab. Prior to this, Brian spent 8 years with NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research working on board the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. During his tenure with NOAA he served as NOAA Corps officer and a civilian managing ocean exploration expeditions as well as leading OER’s telepresence efforts. Brian’s research interest are broad, including but not limited to deep sea ecology, ocean exploration and the technology to better access and document the deep ocean. Brian has been part of the first deep-sea dives in both the Phoenix and Gilbert archipelagos, in collaboration with Rotjan and others. 
craigcookphotos-12-7 Peter Gawne has a bachelors from Tufts University, and is currently a Masters student, matriculated through UMass Boston via the UMB-NEAq partnership. He is working on the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, examining how iron pollution impacts reef resilience and recovery (in collaboration with Drs. Jessica Carilli and Sangeeta Mangubhai). Pete is also a full-time senior aquarist at the New England Aquarium, and has been working with Randi since 2010, when he first went to Belize with Rotjan in partnership with the Smithsonian Coral Reef Ecosystems Program.
laura Laura DiRoberts is starting her second year as a master’s student at Boston University.  Laura has a BA in Marine Biology from Salem State University and a BS in Environmental Science from the University of Saint Joseph.  Prior to coming to BU, Laura interned at the Ocean Alliance in Gloucester, MA on the snotbot project.  Her research is focused on symbiotic mediation of nitrogen cycling in the temperate scleractinian coral Astrangia poculata, with a particular interest on anthropogenic nutrient loading. Fun fact from Laura: David Bowie has always been my favorite musician, and I saw him live three times.
 Brenna Brenna Stallings graduated from Boston University in 2017, and has remained in the Rotjan lab as a part-time technician and lab superstar – and will soon be starting her masters degree in the Rotjan Lab (yay!). She majored in Biology with a minor in marine science. She is working on the Phoenix Islands Protected Area photomosaics project as part of the 100IslandsChallenge, classifying the coral cover and hoping to look at the changes in sites over time. She is also helping teach and oversee undergrads who are working on the project with her. A fun fact about Brenna: She is learning to play D&D.
Caroline Fleming is an incoming Master’s student. She recently graduated from College of the Holy Cross, where she worked on the phenotypic plasticity of Lytechinus variegatus sea urchin larvae in various feeding conditions under Dr. Justin McAlister. An ecophysiologist at heart, Caroline has dipped her toes in population ecology, phylogeography, and epigenetics, and hopes to have found her home in investigating the dynamic energy budget of Astrangia poculata in the Rotjan labWhen not in the lab or riffling through the nearest tide pool, you can find Caroline putting her Art History minor to work, or hiking to the top of just about any peak she can find. A fun fact about Caroline: this fall I will be working at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, where I am a curatorial assistant in the Museum of Comparative Zoology‘s coral collection!
 DSC_0250 (2) - Copy Adrienne Breef-Pilz  is an intern in the Rotjan Lab. She received her Masters Degree from Northeastern University Three Seas Program in 2017 and her Bachelors Degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst is Biology in 2013. In the lab she is currently working on a project looking at the behavior of Astrangia poculata under different feeding conditions. She has had the pleasure of representing the Rotjan Lab in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area with SEA aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans, conducting oceanographic research on larval distributions and reef research on coral resilience. Hands down, PIPA is her favorite place to dive. When not diving, Adrienne can be found exploring tide pools or with her nose in a book. 
Chloe Brown Chloe Brown is an undergraduate in the Class of 2020, majoring in Marine Science and minoring in Biology. Chloe works on multiple projects in the Rotjan Lab with her nickname “the everything girl” but is currently working on a coral reef internship in Roatan (she’ll be back on campus in September). A fun fact about Chloe is that she once pet a penguin and found it fluffier than her hyper Siberian Husky, Kona.
Ingrid (Allie) Cole is an undergraduate member of the class 2021, pursuing a degree in both Marine Science and Earth and Environmental Science. She works in the Rotjan lab on deep sea, open ocean, and coral reef fish larvae in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area on an ongoing 10-year project to determine how taxonomic assemblages change across ENSO cycles. This project is in collaboration with Jan Witting at SEA and the Llopiz Lab at WHOI. Fun facts about Allie: she spent a large part of her childhood living in Uganda and still goes back as often as she can to work with her parents. Allie is also an aerial artist and has been training since she was 9 years old in the art of trapeze, tightwire, lyra and many more!
Headshot Cutillo (2) Daniel Cutillo is an undergraduate student in the Class of 2019. He is majoring in Biology, with a specialization in Cellular, Molecular, and Genetics. While most interested in evolutionary biology, Daniel is fascinated by the cellular and genomic underpinnings that diversify all life, including life in the ocean. When he’s not being a scientist, he’s being a soldier, and is part of the Army ROTC Charles River Battalion here at BU. Fun fact: Daniel is an Airborne Qualified Paratrooper and has experience jumping out of military aircraft.
Alexa Dudek is a senior at BU Academy. As part of her project for her senior year, Alexa is helping masters student Laura DiRoberts with her research, studying how the temperate coral Astrangia poculata takes up various forms of nitrogenShe also helps with other projects around the lab in her spare time. A fun fact about Alexa: She has been snorkeling since the age of three and has loved the ocean ever since. 
20180224192945_save Jade Fisher is a part of Boston University’s Class of 2020,  a former biology major now currently studying Health Science with a minor in Japanese Language and Literature. Jade is currently working with the photomosaics team, sorting photos of the ocean floor from the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. Fun fact about Jade: I’m a pretty decent painter! And my favorite outdoor activity is kayaking.
lab bio pic Hayley Goss is an undergraduate student in the class 2019 majoring in Marine Science. Her honors thesis is focusing on herbivory in seagrass communities in Belize. She is looking at interspecific competition and preferential feeding of epibionts in Thalassia testudinum (and just published her first paper in Marine Pollution Bulletin). Last summer she also worked in the lab sorting plankton samples to better understand larval tuna dispersal in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area.  Fun Fact: When not working in the lab, I enjoy skiing, scuba diving and sailing.
IMG_3278 Lara Hakam is an undergraduate (junior) in the biology department. She is working on minors in marine science and GIS. She is currently working with the photomosaics team, under a current UROP award, to look at coral distribution in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area as part of the 100IslandsChallenge. She is a recent awardee of the NOAA Hollings Scholarship. Fun fact from Lara: When I am not working on photomosaics, I go bird watching and hiking.
FullSizeRender (1) Jacob Jaskiel is an undergraduate in the class of 2019 majoring in Marine Science and minoring in Environmental Analysis and Policy. He recently returned from the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, where he helped to collect the 2018 plankton samples (check out the blog on NatGeo Open Explorer!). In the lab, he works with plankton samples from PIPA in order to gather information that may inform future conservation efforts, in collaboration with Jan Witting at SEA. He also co-authored a recent paper on seagrass microplastics. Fun fact from Jacob: I am a huge outdoorsman and I love to kayak, fish, snorkel, camp, and pretty much anything else that allows me to be in nature.
EBY08A1076IMG_2307 Emma Martin is an undergraduate student in the class of 2019, majoring in Biology, specializing in Ecology and Conservation Biology, and minoring in Marine Science. She has a current UROP award. Her honors thesis project focuses on whether and how the distribution of larval deep sea and coral reef fishes in the central Pacific shift in response to ENSO events, in collaboration with Jan Witting at SEA and the Llopiz Lab at WHOI. Fun fact from Emma: I am a huge hockey fan, though I’m not quite as good at skating-Go Bruins!
Courtney Moller is an undergraduate student in the class of 2020. She is majoring in Biology and working towards someday becoming a Clinical Pharmacist. In the lab, Courtney is currently working on sorting the 2018 plankton samples from the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. Fun fact about Courtney: When she’s not in the lab, she is also heavily involved in theatre at BU!
Greg Pelose is an undergraduate student in the class of 2020, majoring in Marine Science. He is currently working with the photomosaics team to look at coral distribution in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area as part of the 100IslandsChallenge. Fun Fact about Greg: Surfing and fishing are two of his lifelong passions; he has spent his entire life exploring in or near the ocean and can not be too far away from it for an extended period of time. He is also a distance runner on the Cross Country/Track and Field team here at BU.
Caterina (Micat) Po is an undergraduate student majoring in Earth and Environmental Science, with a focus on Ecology. She is an international student from the Philippines and is fascinated by tropical ecosystems. In the lab, she will be working on the newly-collected 2018 plankton samples from the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. In her spare time, Micat loves rock climbing, snorkeling, and exploring nature. Her ultimate goal is to contribute to marine conservation back home in a meaningful way.
Sheehan_headshot Siobhan Sheehan is a current junior at Boston University studying marine science and science education. In the Rotjan lab she is working on analyzing ROV footage from recent Phoenix Islands Protected Area cruises on the Okeanos and Falkor where we are trying to describe the feeding behavior of a novel corallivorous jellyfish in the deep sea. In the future, Siobhan hopes to work for an aquarium where she can promote sustainability and share her love for the marine ecosystem.
Student in lecture, General Chemistry 2, March 21, 2018.

Jacob Taylor is a Junior in the BU College of Arts and Sciences, pursuing a degree in Marine Science. Even though he is on a Pre-Medical track professionally, Jacob has always had a passion for ocean conservation from growing up exploring the stunning waterways of the San Francisco Bay. Jacob hopes to gain a complex understanding of coral ecology by working on the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) project.
Isabela Isabela Trumble is a marine science undergraduate student graduating in the class of 2020. She is starting to work on an energy budget for Astrangia poculata, along with incoming masters student Caroline Fleming and in collaboration with Justin McAlister. Fun facts from Isabela: When I’m not studying or in the lab I love to hang out with my dog Leia, travel, cook, and do anything involving the ocean. In the future I hope to continue exploring my interest in field work and to make a positive impact on the world, big or small, everyday.
Julia Winberg is an undergraduate in the Class of 2019. She is majoring in Advertising and has a concentration in Marine Science. She is volunteering on the Phoenix Islands Protected Area photomosaics project in the lab as part of the 100IslandsChallenge. Fun facts from Julia: She is from Block Island, a small island off the coast of Rhode Island, which is where her love for the ocean began as a baby. When not in class, you can find her in Agganis Arena interning for BU Men’s Hockey or watching a documentary about the ocean (or Finding Nemo).

Lab alumni – Boston University

Elizabeth (Liz) Burmester, Ph.D., now a Restoration Scientist at the Billion Oyster Project

Burmester EM, Finnerty JR, Kaufman L, Rotjan RD. 2017. Temperature and symbiosis affect lesion recovery in experimentally wounded, facultative symbiotic temperate corals. Marine Ecology Progress Series 570: 87-99. 

Burmester, E., A. Breef-Pilz, N. Lawrence, L. Kaufman, J. Finnerty, and R. Rotjan. The impact of autotrophic versus heterotrophic nutritional pathways on colony health and wound recovery in corals. In press, Ecology and Evolution.

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Lukas DeFilippo, B.S. Boston University, now a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington

DeFilippo, L., EM Burmester, L Kaufman, and RD Rotjan. 2016. Patterns of surface lesion recovery in the northern star coral, Astrangia poculata. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 481: 15-24 

Sara Edquist, B.S. Boston University, now a Ph.D. student at the University of New Hampshire

Edquist, SK and RD Rotjan. 2012. Testing vacancy chain predictions in Pagurus longicarpus hermit crabs: Does ecological gain and behavioral motivation match environmental context? Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 430: 78-86

Recent undergraduate alumni


Lab alumni – New England Aquarium

Allison Kerwin, M.S., Ph.D., now a postdoc at Penn State University

Sharp, K.H., Z.A. Pratte, A.H. Kerwin, R.D. Rotjan, and F.J. Stewart. 2017. Seasonal shifts in taxonomic diversity of the microbiome in the temperate coral Astrangia poculata. Microbiome 5(120): 1-14

Dimond, JL, AH Kerwin, RD Rotjan, K Sharp, FJ Stewart, and DJ Thornhill. 2013. A simple temperature-based model predicts the upper latitudinal limit of the temperate coral Astrangia poculata. Coral Reefs 32(2): 401-409 

Sarah Abboud, M.S., now at UC Merced

Tania Lemos-Eskin, M.S., now at Brandeis University