Current Members

Robin Dunkin, Ph. D.

Robin DunkinRobin is a teacher-scientist.  She studies the physiological ecology of large marine and terrestrial vertebrates and now applies the scientific method to improving undergraduate science education.  Robin completed her master’s degree at the University of North Carolina with Dr. Ann Pabst and Bill McLellan.  She then studied African and Asian elephant physiology for her dissertation with Dr. Terrie Williams at U.C. Santa Cruz.  After finishing a postdoc with NOAA and working closely with the STEM teaching community, Robin was hired as an Assistant Teaching Professor at UCSC.  Robin is keenly interested in incorporating STEM practices into both large lecture and active learning versions of her courses to help all students improve core science process skills, bolster STEM identity, and reach their full potential.

  Karolina Wirga

Karolina Wirga2Karolina Wirga is a recent UCSC graduate in MCD bio and is now the marine mammal stranding technician for the LML Stranding Program.  Karolina oversees our Survey Slug Program, an early career field experience for undergraduates.  Karolina completed her senior thesis by investigating baseline levels of domoic acid in stranded marine mammals.




 Gabrielle Lange

gabby langesm

Gabrielle Lange is an undergraduate volunteer for the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. She is currently studying Marine Biology and Bioinformatics at U.C. Santa Cruz. She first discovered the Stranding Network through the Seymour Center's docent program, and has been involved ever since. Gabrielle currently mentors incoming undergraduates in conducting beach survey's, gathering initial data on stranded animals, and collecting marine debris.  Gabby is starting her senior thesis on marine debris in Spring 2018.



Draven Hawk

draven hawksmDraven is an undergraduate Ecology and Evolutionary Biology student interested in marine mammal behavior and conservation. In his current research, Draven aims to quantify mercury contamination in California sea otters through measurement of total mercury concentration in fur, liver and brain from necropsied individuals. In doing so he will also compare variations in contamination from two different otter populations along the California coast and between males and females.






Gavin Houghton

gavin houghton

Gavin is an undergraduate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and has a passion for shark conservation.  Currently, thousands of leopard sharks, hundreds of bat rays, and dozens of members of the lamnid family such as white sharks, mako sharks, thresher sharks, and salmon sharks strand on the California Coast each year. Particularly juveniles of these groups tend to share a carnobacterial infection that could either be naturally occurring or human-induced. While there is a robust network in place to attend to and learn from marine mammals that strand, no such formal network exists for sharks.  Gavin is working to set up a shark stranding network and develop a uniform data sheet, modeled after the marine mammal Level A sheet, that stakeholders can use to collect these important data.  This work is a vital first step to developing consistent, longitudinal monitoring of emerging diseases and threats to these important species.




Past Undergraduate Senior Thesis Students

Kathryn Pelon

Katie Pelon photosmKatie graduated from UCSC with a major in Ecology & Evolution in 2014, earning Honors in the Major for her senior thesis "The Effects of El Niño Conditions on Marine Mammal Strandings in Central California". She then went on to attend the University of North Florida before transferring to Antioch University New England and completing her M.S. in Environmental Education in 2017. During graduate school, Katie created her own small business called Environerd, aimed at communicating environmental conservation science and empowering people to heal the planet through gaming. She publishes her educational games and online courses on her website.



Elena Cholula

elena cholula smElena Cholula volunteered in the LML Stranding network, and Monterey Bay Aquarium while completing her undergraduate work. Since then, Elena has been working at a small animal hospital in the east bay. Starting, September of 2018 she will be attending University of Glasgow for veterinary school and pursue her dream of becoming a veterinarian.




Maia Gougen

maia gougensm

Maia graduated Magna Cum Laude from UC Santa Cruz with a B.S. and highest honors in Ecology and Evolution in June of 2013. During school she also worked as a marine mammal (and cockatoo) trainer at the Marine Mammal Physiology Project. Her senior thesis, Measuring the Resting Metabolic Rate in Cacatua moluccensis: A Pilot Study, allowed her to combine animal training and physiology research. Using positive reinforcement training, Maia trained one of the lab's cockatoos to enter her metabolic chamber and sit calmly so that she could measure a more accurate resting metabolic rate. This was one of the first metabolic rates measured for this endangered cockatoo species. Maia is now employed by the California Conservation Society as an Animal Keeper at the Oakland Zoo. She loves working with Sun bears, Siamang, Coati, Cotton-top tamarins, wallaroos, emus, flamingos and the zoo's education animals (including parrots). She continues to use positive reinforcement training with her animals on a daily to basis to help with their care and applies physiology concepts to inform care (diet changes etc.).


Betsy Davidson

Betsy09b pp flip smBetsy Davidson is an entrepreneur, speaker, scientist, educator, environmentalist and humanitarian.  She worked for over a decade at contribution-driven organizations like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Pacific Whale Foundation, and Walt Disney World.  Now she is a certified high-performance coach helping people to learn to live their best life and help change the world.






Audrey Fry

Audrey Fry

Audrey graduated from UCSC in 2010 with a B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a B.A. in Environmental Studies.  For her senior thesis she researched vaquita metabolics and the nutritional value of cetacean milk while at UCSC.  She then shared her enthusiasm for science and education as a Public Programs Presenter at the California Academy of Sciences, an outdoor educator with Camp SEA Lab, and as an after-school teacher with Mad Science.  Audrey is now a middle school teacher in Sonoma County where she grew up.  She teaches integrated science and is establishing a new Maker elective program.  Audrey hopes to develop scientific literacy and curiosity in her students.



Kristen Hart

kristen hart

As an undergraduate, Kristen was a marine mammal stranding volunteer and did a senior thesis with Robin about latex balloons in the environment.  She then went on to  a Masters of Science at California State University Monterey Bay in Applied Marine and Watershed Science. While in graduate school she  was a TA for a GIS class, worked for Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and was a student assistant for the Research Experience for Undergraduates. In May 2017, Kristen started as the Visitor Programs Manager at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center at Long Marine Lab where she manages visitor education in the exhibit hall and aquarium, orchestrate daily tours, programs, special visitor days, and other walk-in visitor interpretation.  Kristen is excited to be part of a program that is dedicated to educating people about the role scientific research plays in the understanding and conservation of the world's oceans.


Brian Tom

Sean Perry

Krysta Walker

Hannah Ban Weise