Who we are

Rotjan-SEA-S230B-2010-39 Dr. Randi Rotjan (she/her/hers) is a Research Assistant Professor at Boston University in the Biology Department and in the BU Marine Program. She received a B.S. from Cornell University, a Ph.D. from Tufts University, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University; all the while “standing on the shoulders of giants” (see her academic lineage here). She spent 8 years as an Associate Research Scientist at the New England Aquarium, 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, which is a natural climate laboratory and which is 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, and is a Faculty Associate at the Boston University Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future. She is a member of the Board of Directors for The Nature Conservancy – Caribbean, and the Friends of the Middlesex Fells. She lives in the Boston area with her two sweet children, awesome husband, and a yard full of native plants. @RandiRotjan 
Isabela Trumble (she/her/hers) recently earned her  B.A. of Marine Science at Boston University (‘20), inspired by her early exposure to marine science at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. Isabela completed undergraduate research in the Rotjan Lab on nutrient sharing in Astrangia poculata. Isabela also participated in three BU Marine Semesters, and was awarded the 2020 Binland Lee Service Award from the BU Marine Program. During her time as an undergraduate, Isabela deepened her interest in aquaria maintenance and husbandry. Now, as a senior research technician at BU, she maintains and cares for aquarium systems in several BU labs with the goal to facilitate research. Out of the lab, Isabela loves to cook, eat, and give belly rubs to her puppy Leia.  .@IsabelaTrouble
Anna-LiquidNitro-768x650 Anna Gauthier (she/her/hers) 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. Her paper on fluorescent E. Coli being vectored into Astrangia poculata corals on microplastic beads was recently published. Come back to learn more about Anna. :-)  @RatherLargeNerd
Kennedy Dive cert Brian RC Kennedy (he/him/his) is a third 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 time 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, all of whch can be showcased in his first, first-authored paper in Frontiers in Marine Science! Brian has been part of the first deep-sea dives in both the Phoenix and Gilbert archipelagos, in collaboration with Rotjan and others. @BrianRCKennedy    Google Scholar
Jacob Jaskiel (he/him/his) is an incoming PhD student Fall 2020. He graduated from BU (’19) 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. @RascalJaskiel     Google Scholar
Caroline Fleming (she/her/hers) is a first year PhD student and an #NSFGRFP Award Winner. 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 lab. When 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. @cflemsscientist
Brenna Brenna Stallings (she/her/hers) is a second-year masters student. She majored in Biology with a minor in marine science at BU. 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.
craigcookphotos-12-7 Peter Gawne (he/him/his) 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.
Sarah Speroff (they/them/theirs) is an incoming masters student (September 2020) from Cleveland, Ohio. They graduated from Kenyon College in 2018 with a BA in Biology and Environmental Science. Sarah’s passion for ecology has grown through their time studying with the Sea Education Association where they investigated the population dynamics of the Sargassum shrimp. Sarah also spent time as an intern with the New England Aquarium to assess marine mammals and marine fisheries respectively. Sarah is excited to begin research on the hierarchy of climate change driven stress on Astrangia poculata. Fun facts about Sarah: they were a field hockey goalkeeper at Kenyon and now enjoy taking the pitch with their club rugby team in Boston! They also love coffee, cooking, and exploring new breweries around the city. .@sarahsperoff
Ingrid (Allie) Cole (she/her/hers) is an undergraduate member of the class 2021, pursuing a degree in marine science with a minor in African studies. 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 – check out her vlog about her summer 2019 fieldwork! 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! @123alliec
Neha Chinwalla (she/her/hers) is an undergraduate in the Class of 2022 studying earth and environmental sciences, with minors in marine science and political science. She is currently volunteering with the photomosaics team to help trace coral mosaics from the Phoenix Island Protected Area, as part of the 100IslandsChallenge. Neha is also the Director of the Department of Environmental Affairs for BU Student Government and a member of the BU Running Club.
Erin Dracup (she/her/hers) is an undergraduate student in the class of 2023 majoring in Health Science with a minor in Marine Science. As part of the Rotjan Lab, Erin is working with Justin Fogliasso to research wound healing in mixed-symbiosis Astrangia poculata. Fun facts about Erin: She grew up in Ithaca, New York and got PADI scuba certified in Cayuga Lake! When not in the lab, she loves to run along the Charles River and explore Boston with friends!
Alexa Dudek (she/her/hers) is a sophomore at Boston University. As part of her project, Alexa is working with masters student Laura DiRoberts 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. 
Justin Fogliasso (he/him/his) is a senior studying Biology with a specialization in Ecology and Conservation Biology, and minoring in Earth and Environmental Science. Justin is currently researching wound healing in mixed-symbiosis Astrangia poculata, following up from previous Rotjan-lab Ph.D. student, Liz Burmester’s, research. In his free time, Justin enjoys hiking, cooking, and trying new coffee shops around Boston. @JustinFogliasso
Kelsie Garretson (she/her/hers) is an undergraduate in the class of 2021.  She is an Earth and Environmental Major (with a focus on Ecosystem science) with a minor in Marine Science. In the Rotjan Lab, Kelsie mainly works in taxonomically identifying zooplankton from the Phoenix Island Protected Area (PIPA). She is also working on a project on larval cephalopods from PIPA, in addition to assisting in a deep sea corallivory project with NOAA. Kelsie is a founder and current treasure of the professional environmental fraternity at Boston University, Epsilon Eta. She also works in the Finnerty Lab At BU looking at symbionts in sponges from Belize.  @krebecca3
Cecelia (Cece) Gerstenbacher (she/her/hers) is an undergraduate student in the class of 2021, majoring in Biology, specializing in Ecology and Conservation Biology with a minor in Marine Sciences. She is currently volunteering with the photomosaics team to look at coral distribution in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area as part of the 100IslandsChallenge. Fun facts about Cecelia: She grew up between farmland and the ocean in South Jersey and has always been immersed in nature which inspired her to become involved in conservation. She is also a short sprinter on the BU Track and Field team and is almost always running when not doing schoolwork. cecececewot
Livy Golini (she/her/hers) is a recent graduate (2020), majoring in Marine Science and minoring in Spanish. She is currently working on the Phoenix Islands Protected Area plankton samples here in the lab and loves everything to do with the ocean. She’s recently fallen in love with manatees and their plump figures, and is looking forward to one day snorkeling with them. Fun fact: she doesn’t have a sense of smell, so working with fish is just meant to be. Livy also played for the Field Hockey team here at BU! .@ScienceLivyG
Coretta Granberry (she/her/hers) is an undergraduate in the Class of 2021, pursing a degree in marine science and a minor in earth and environmental science. She is currently looking at coral photomosaics of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area as part of the 100IslandsChallenge. Fun facts from Coretta: she loves traveling and watching nature documentaries whenever she can. @CorettaGberry
Abigail Grassick (she/her/hers) is from St. Petersburg Florida, and is an undergraduate student in the class of 2023, majoring in biology with a specialization in cellular, molecular, and genetics. In the lab, she is a part of the PIPA plankton sorting team. She grew up loving the water and everything in it. When she’s not in class or in the lab, you can most likely find her cheering on Terriers MIH at Agganis Arena. Her other hobbies include hiking, kayaking, surfing, and anything else that gets her out into nature and the water.
Lara Hakam (she/her/hers) is a recent graduate (2020) with a major in Biology and minors in marine science and GIS. She is currently working with both the Rotjan Marine Ecology lab in Biology and Stellwagen Sanctuary using GIS and spatial analysis for a number of projects. She is currently working on the PIPA sperm whale project with Randi, analyzing spatial seabird data for the sanctuary, and working with Suchi Gopal from the Earth and Environment department on an offshore sanding mining and sand lance project in conjunction with Stellwagen and BOEM. When she is working, you can find her birding. Her aspirations are to one day become an ornithologist and work for the conservation and protection of US ecosystems using birds as a focus.
William Kim (he/him/his) is an undergraduate student in the class of 2021 pursuing a degree in Marine Science and a minor in Environmental Analysis & Policy. He is currently working on sorting through plankton samples collected from the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). Fun Facts from Will: When I’m not in school or working, my favorite things to do are SCUBA dive, freedive, and pilot light aircraft. So far I’ve flown the Cessna 172, PA-28, and Cirrus SR-22.
Ian Kwit (He, Him, His) is an undergraduate student of the class of 2023, majoring in Marine Science and minoring in Mandarin Chinese. He is a part of the photomosaics team, working to monitor and record the changes in coral growth within the reefs of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. Ian also assists the Coral Husbandry team in taking care of the polyps of Astrangia poculata kept within the lab. Ian is a member of the BU running club. When he isn’t in class, you can usually find him running along the Charles River or in the BU Library enjoying the quiet and calm atmosphere.
Alexia Lancea (she/her/hers) is a Junior majoring in Biology with a minor in Public Health. She is currently volunteering with the deep sea corallivory project. In her free time, she enjoys walking around Boston to look for cofee shops, or drawing and painting.
Greg Pelose (he/him/his) is an undergraduate student in the class of 2020 (finishing up in December 2020), majoring in Marine Science and Environmental Science. He is currently working on an Honors Thesis in the lab, analyzing coral samples that were collected in Belize with the end goal of quantifying variations in coral polyp structure. He joined the lab in 2017, starting his work with the photomosaics team, a group in the lab that analyzes coral distribution in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area as part of the 100IslandsChallenge. Fun Facts about Greg: Surfing and fishing are two of his lifelong passions; he has spent his entire life exploring marine environments and can not be too far away from them for an extended period of time. He is also a distance runner on the Cross Country/Track and Field team here at BU.
Rayner Perdana (he/him/his) is an undergraduate of the class 2021, currently majoring in biology with a minor in earth and environmental science. He is part of the photomosaic and deep-sea corallivore team in identifying corals and coral predators. Fun facts about Rayner: He is from Indonesia, and received his first scuba diving license at age 11, has an area of the ocean named after him (Rayner’s Point) off the coast of eastern Kalimantan, and knows how to drive stick shift.
Raziel Perez (he/him/his) is an undergraduate senior in the class of 2021, majoring in Marine Science. Originally from Miami, Fl. He relocated to Boston in 2016, where he volunteered at the New England Aquarium as an Aquarist and penguin volunteer. He is part of the plankton sorting team in the amazing Rotjan lab. He is an SSI Dive Guide and is currently working towards becoming a scuba instructor. He plans on continuing his education, pursuing his graduate studies and is also interested in dipping his feet into sustainable seafood farming. Fun fact about Raziel: When he’s not diving for treasure in New England waters, he is training for mixed martial arts tournaments.
Calvin Yu (he/him/his) is an undergraduate student in the class of 2023, majoring in Conservation Biology and minoring in Marine Science. In the lab, Calvin spends his day disentangling plankton from samples collected in PIPA and feeding coral. Enamored with the ocean and its denizens, Calvin is right at home there. While he’s out of the lab, Calvin enjoys wandering the streets of the city to find new places to eat.
Valentina Vaney (She/Her/Hers) is an undergraduate student in the class of 2022, majoring in Biology and minoring in both Environmental Policy and Analysis and Environmental Science. In the Rotjan lab, Valentina works on sorting plankton from the Phoenix Islands and coral husbandry. Fun fact: Valentina grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil where she got scuba certified and has been passionate about the environment ever since.
Emily Veninga (she/her/hers) is an undergraduate in the Class of 2021 majoring in marine science with a minor in computer science. She is currently reviewing footage collected by the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer to identify corallivory in deep-sea corals in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). Fun fact from Emily: she spends a lot of her time with her cats, Charlotte and Georgie, in her apartment watching crime TV shows or listening to D&D podcasts.
Jacqueline (JC) Wihardja (she/her/hers) is an undergraduate student in the class of 2023, majoring in Biology with a specialization in Cell Biology, Molecular Biology, and Genetics, and minoring in Marine Science and the Core. In the lab, JC works on sorting plankton samples from PIPA. Fun fact: she has a pet hedgehog, and in her spare time, likes to knit teeny tiny scarves and hats for him.

Recent lab alumni – Boston University

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. 2018. The impact of autotrophic versus heterotrophic nutritional pathways on colony health and wound recovery in corals. Ecology and Evolution 00:1-12.

Photo of Dr. Liz Burmester by Jackie Ricciardi for Boston University Photography

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

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


Recent undergraduate lab alumni – Boston University