Lab News

Randi is at sea (December 2023) onboard the R/V Falkor(Too) with the Schmidt Ocean Institute. Check it out:

Brian is at sea right now (Summer 2023) as the Lead Scientist aboard the R/V Nautilus! Check it out:

Congratulations to all of our 2023 graduates! And a special shout out to Abigail Grassick, winner of the College Prize in Marine Science, and to Calvin Yu, winner of the Binland Lee Service Award in Marine Science! Rockstars!

Congratulations to Dr. Brian RC Kennedy! Our most newly-minted PhD (Spring 2023!). Brian did an outstanding job defending his thesis. Go Brian!

Congratulations to Grace Beery, our most newly-minted MS (Spring 2023!). Amazing Grace!!

Congratulations to Grace Newsom and Abigail Grassick, who did a wonderful job defending their undergraduate honors theses in the Rotjan Lab!! Woohooo!!!

The lab had a fun night out at TEDx Boston. You can watch Randi’s TED talk here!

There’s a new lab paper out that features students from Coral Reef Dynamics in 2019, and has a very diverse set of co-authors including  1) All undergraduates enrolled in the course, 2) Five BU Biology PhD students that span 5 different laboratories: Nick Ray, Tina Barbasch, Katey Lesneski, Brian Kennedy and Karina Lord Scavo (Fulweiler, Buston, Finnerty, Rotjan, Kaufman Labs), 3) A BU Biology masters student: Anjali Bhardwaj (Buston Lab) and 4) Two of our Belizean colleagues – Josh Morey and Javon Torres. As such, this paper is a true product of BUMP, and embodies a lot of what we hope to accomplish with our courses. This paper was published open access to make the paper much more accessible to our Belizean colleagues, and to showcase and strengthen our partnership with the University of Belize. Open access fees were very generously supported by the BU Marine Program.

Congrats to Dr. Gauthier, who gave a great talk on “Microbes of the Deep”:

Congratulations to Jacob Jaskiel, who won the 2022 BU Marine Program Outstanding Teaching Fellow Award!

Congratulations to Sarah Speroff, Masters student extraordinaire, who successfully defended a FANTASTIC thesis *AND* won the prestigious BU Biology Department Denton Award our Outstanding Masters thesis! Way to go, Sarah!

We have a new scientist in the house!! The fabulous Dr. Anna Gauthier is now on to a postdoc at the Salk Institute. She did an incredible job defending her thesis. Congratulations, Anna!

Congratulations to Laura DiRoberts and Alexa Dudek, who just published their first paper in the Marine Ecology Progress Series!! Go Laura and Alexa!

Check out these awesome blogs from Rotjan Lab members from the R/V Falkor:

Steve Auscavitch: Mechanisms for characterizing deep-sea coral biodiversity

Brian RC Kennedy: History of deep-sea exploration in the Phoenix Islands

Anna Gauthier: Local vs. global immunity

Randi Rotjan: Crunching corals in the deep sea

Wrap-up blog: 244 coral samples, 14 seamounts, and 2 glass octopuses

The Rotjan Lab (Rotjan, Auscavitch, Kennedy, and Gauthier) is at sea onboard the R/V Falkor with the Schmidt Ocean Institute. Watch our dives live, and check out our cruise! 

Happy Fathers Day to the Dads in the lab! Steve Auscavitch did an awesome Father’s Day video while at sea:

Congratulations to Allie Cole, the 2021 Winner of the Lara Vincent Award for excellence and creativity in undergraduate research! So very-well deserved, Allie!

Kudos to Coretta Granberry, the 2021 Winner of the Binland Lee Service Award for excellent community engagement with the BU Marine Program. Definitely a perfect match, Coretta!

Congratulations to Greg Pelose and Allie Cole for successfully defending their honors theses! Great job!!!

Major congratulations to PhD student Anna Gauthier, co-mentored by the Kagan Lab, for her excellent first author study that came out in Science Immunology. You can read more about it on the AAAS website or BU’s The Brink!

Rotjan Lab PhD Candidate Brian Kennedy gave a great talk at Ocean Protection Advocacy Kids: Protecting Earth’s Final Frontier.  You can watch it here:

Congratulations to Isabela Trumble, who is now our Senior Research Technician! She is working with the Rotjan, Buston, Davies, and Kaufman Labs in the Biology Department. Welcome to the team, Isa! So glad to have you!!

Congratulations Rotjan Lab seniors! We are so proud of you, and had so much fun having Zoom “Senior Paint Night” with you!

Congratulations BUMP and Biology seniors! Well done!

Congratulations to Isabela Trumble, who was awarded the BU Marine Program 2020 Binland Lee Service Award – a major accomplishment honoring the many contributions Isa has made to BUMP during her four years at BU. Well-done, Isa!

Congratulations to EVERYONE on the end of a crazy semester! We celebrated with an online, zoom magic show. It was amazing. :-)

Congratulations to 2nd year Rotjan Lab graduate student Caroline Fleming, who was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship!! We are so proud!!

Congratulations to incoming PhD student Jacob Jaskiel on two counts: congrats for officially being accepted to the BU Biology Graduate Program, and for being awarded an NSF GRFP Honorable Mention! We are so psyched to have you in the lab!

Congratulations to BU senior Olivia (Livy) Golini, who was awarded the CAS College Prize in Marine Science! 

Congratulations to Rotjan Lab masters student Caroline Fleming, who was awarded an RCN travel grant to go to San Diego to work on modeling the Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB) of Astrangia poculata corals. Great work, Caroline!

Randi went to the Ocean Sciences meeting in San Diego (#OSM20) and presented work from “My Deep Sea, My Backyard” and the recent CAPSTONE analysis with Brian Kennedy and Kasey Cantwell. Chaotic but exhilarating to be around thousands of ocean scientists from around the globe!

Allie Cole was in an awesome vlog about her trip to the Phoenix Islands summer 2019. Great job, Allie! 

Three cheers for Laura DiRoberts, who won the inaugural Denton Award for Excellence in Masters Theses in Biology. Congratulations, Laura!! 

Congratulations to nasters student Caroline Fleming, who was awarded a Marine Technology Society Graduate Fellowship! Wahoo!

Isabela Trumble wrote some awesome blogs onboard the R/V Falkor with the Schmidt Ocean Institute – Check ’em out! Blog 1 and Blog 2

Randi was a recent guest on “The Sea Has Many Voices“. Check out her podcast (and others!).

Who’s at sea in the lab?! Almost everyone, it seems! Allie is on the SSV Seamans headed to the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, Isabela is on the R/V Falkor headed to Hawaii, Coretta is in Indonesia, and Jake, Jacob, Greg, and Alexa have been diving along the Northern US East Coast looking for #AstrangiaThings. So proud of my team :-)

Congratulations to Anna Gauthier, who was part of the recent Proceedings of the Royal Society B paper on corals eating microplasticsrelated press was translated into over 20 languages; we were all humbled and overwhelmed by the response. Let’s do this world, time to clean up!

Randi just got back from the 17th Phoenix Islands Protected Area Conservation Trust meeting. 17th. WOW.

Congratulations to Isabela Trumble, who won the Lara Vincent Research Assistance Award! Yahoo!

Randi was a panelist on “Traditions, Tools and Technologies for Advancing Ecosystem-based Management for the Global Ocean” at the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea

All of the #AstrangiaThings! Isabela, Anna, Caroline and Laura gave awesome presentations at the 2019 Astrangia Working Group meeting, and Laura won a “Best Talk” award. Congratulations Laura and all!

In May, Ph.D. student Brian Kennedy was invited to be a panelist at the European Commission’s workshop on “Marine genetic resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ): bridging policy, law, science and research and development” held in Brussels, Belgium. The main focus of the workshop was to explore and develop possible pragmatic options with regard to the issues that have emerged as part of the BBNJ negotiations. Brian’s talk, presented in collaboration with Randi and with Dr. Peter Girgis from Harvard, focused on the logistical constraints of deep sea exploration and novel ways to use genetic resources for conservation and ecology research. Great job, Brian!

Nice job on your 4th year talk, Anna Gauthier. Well done! ;-)


Graduation is so bittersweet. As Randi said in the 2019 Graduation Video: “I’m so proud of you, but I’m so sad to see you go”.  Congratulations Class of 2019.  You are off to great things, and we will miss you greatly.

Randi won the BU Marine Program Directors Award. Thank you, BUMP…. what a team.

On the road again! Randi gave an invited talk at the UN (on invitation of His Excellency Ambassador Tito and generously hosted by the Fiji mission) on the science and conservation of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area.

And the final defense for the year (drumroll please), presenting the fabulous Master Laura DiRoberts!! 

The Rotjan Lab was very honored to host Nabuti in the lab (from Kiribati) for a few days. He met our students and even worked on the microscope. Just a typical day on the job for the Executive Director of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. Thank you, Nabuti! Ko rab’wa!

Jacob Jaskiel and Emma Martin are icthyoplankDONE! Double-header, back-to-back thesis defenses today…. nice job!! 

Way to go, Hayley Goss! You did a phenomenal job of defensing your senior honors thesis: “The influence of epibionts on herbivorous grazing dynamics in Caribbean seagrass communities”. So proud! And a grateful thanks to committee members Drs. John Finnerty and Alyssa Novak for their help and support today. :-)

Nice job, Caroline Fleming! Caroline has just been accorded an Honorable Mention in the 2019 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) competition, a significant national achievement. Congratulations, Caroline!

Congratulations to Emma Martin, who just won the Outstanding Senior Undergraduate Research Award in Biology. Well done, Emma!


A lab that skates together, stays together! So much fun on the ice.

Thanks to all of the awesome students in the lab, Rotjan was named Boston University Supervisor of the Year for 2019! Thanks, team. Much appreciated (also, taking pictures of shiny plaques is harder than I realized….)
Rotjan recently participated in “Research On Tap”, a series where BU Professors each get 4 minutes to describe their research grouped around a central theme.

Rotjan and Kennedy recently contributed to “All Hands on Deck“, the National Ocean Exploration Forum and Boston Oceans Day co-convened by the MIT Media Lab and the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research in November 2018.






Marine Urban Ecology (#MURBEX) students were recently (October 2018) featured in BU Today.

Rotjan presented scientific highlights from the Phoenix Islands Protected Area at the United Nations during General Assembly week (September 2018). Such an honor to work with the Republic of Kiribati on continued science and conservation of this incredible large MPA.

The annual #Astrangia Working Group meeting was awesome! Thanks to our fabulous co-hosts Koty Sharp and Sean Grace, and to Roger Williams University for housing and feeding all of us. Great talks by Laura DiRoberts, Caroline Flemming, Jamie Dela Cruz, and Isabela Trumble, with awesome work by Liz Burmester, Adrienne Breef-Pilz, and Alexa Dudek additionally featured. Yeah! Incoming BU PhD student, Brian Kennedy, accompanied Rotjan to Tarawa in June-July 2018 for the kickoff to “My Deep Sea, My Backyard”, funded by NatGeo/MIT Media Lab. You can follow the blog or follow the Twitter hashtag: #MyDeepSeaBackyard

A huge congratulations to Dr. Liz Burmester – our first Ph.D. alum! Liz was co-advised by Finnerty, Rotjan, and Kaufman in the BU Biology Department. We are so proud of you! Liz is now a Restoration Biologist at the Billion Oyster Project in NYC. IMG_1378

Rotjan recently attended the 15th meeting of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area Conservation Trust, in Long Beach, CA, with former Kiribati President and current UN Ambassador, His Honorable Teburoro Tito. Welcome to the new PIPA Trust partner, the Aquarium of the Pacific.DaRP1sRVMAEsYHf

Congratulations to Rotjan Lab student, Lara Hakam, who was just awarded a NOAA Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship!

Rotjan is one of the judges for the prestigious National Geographic Marine Protection Prize. Check it out here.

Congratulations to Rotjan Lab students Emma Martin and Jamie Dela Cruz on their recent UROP awards.

We are so honored to be a part of a new video project with Kate Furby (Tiny Beaker Media) showcasing Kiribati, the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, and the very first PIPA Scholar, Tekateteke Metai. Thanks so much to NatGeo and the Waitt Institute for their support. All the feels… Follow along on our progress here. 

The Rotjan Lab is thrilled to welcome Caroline Fleming into the lab as a new masters student, matriculating Spring 2019. Read more about Caroline here.

Submit your abstract by May 1! Pacific Deep-Sea Discoveries: Geological and Biological Exploraton, Patterns, and Processes. Topic Editors: RD Rotjan, D Amon, W Chadwick, S Hammond. Special Research Topic. Frontiers in Marine Science. Still accepting manuscripts (abstracts due 5-1-18)!

Congratulations to Rotjan Lab student, Nico Colletier, for getting an exciting summer internship at Mote Marine Lab.

Our new book chapter is out! We are so excited! Bonaldo, R. and R.D. Rotjan. 2018. A global perspective of parrotfish corallivory. In: The Biology and Ecology of Parrotfishes. A. Hoey, D. Bellwood, and R. Bonaldo, eds. Science Publishers (An imprint of CRC Press / Taylor & Francis Group). 420 pgs. Biology of Parrotfishes

The Rotjan Lab is thrilled to welcome Brian Kennedy into the lab as a new PhD student, matriculating Fall 2018. Read more about Brian here. 

Check out an amazing blog by Anna Gauthier from her recent expedition to the Phoenix Islands Protected Area aboard the R/V Falkor. Anna is a joint PhD student in the Rotjan and Kagan labs.Anna-LiquidNitro-768x650

Congratulations to Rotjan Lab students Emma Martin and Lara Hakam on their recent UROP awards

The Rotjan Lab has a good showing at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, OR in Feb 2018. There were several talks and posters showcasing our work with some exciting collaborators. Rotjan’s talk on microplastics pollution in Astrangia poculata was highlighted in a recent press story.

Happy International Womens Day! Rotjan and collaborators are highlighted for their role in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area in the Republic of Kiribati.Slide1

Recent alumna, Dr. Liz Burmester, answers questions on Reddit in her new role as a Restoration Ecologist at the Billion Oyster Project in NYC. Nice job, Liz!